I was talking with my sister, Mrs. Blue Frost, about how important it is to know what you bring to the table in a relationship, whether it’s monogamous, you’re part of a triad, you’re in a poly dynamic, or you’re grown folkin’. Frost shared that she is continually examining and refining her personal foundation, her guiding principles. We agree that a large part of being successful in a relationship is getting clarity around your own foundation first and then building a relationship foundation with other partners.

You might be saying, “That’s great, Dr. Lori Beth. But *how* do I get started?

I recommend journaling. I know there are all types and sorts of journals and just as many journaling methods. But one really stands out for me, especially when we are talking about building a relationship with yourself.

Manifestation Journaling is when you keep a journal with the intent to bring into your life the relationships, situations, people, and feelings that you are writing about.

I find manifestation journaling to be extremely effective because:

  • It allows you to clarify your intentions.
  • It aligns you with your intentions by bringing your energy to the type/vibration that matches your desires.
  • It helps you to take intentional acts to attract your desires.
  • It works with the laws of attraction so that you attract what you desire
  • It helps you to move away from negative thoughts, beliefs, feelings and into the positive intentional ones that allow for manifestation.

Are you ready?

First, start by setting the environment so that it’s easier to settle into your practice. Clear a comfortable space, turn off electronics and those dreadful notifications, and silence any noise that will distract you.

Second, grab a journal you find pleasing. I have to confess that I’m particularly fond of the WTF Journals. They are well-made, feel good in my hands, are easy to write in and funny AF*.

Next, spend a few minutes on being present (mindfulness done by bringing attention to sensory experiences in the environment). Notice specific sights, sounds, smells, touch until the environment seems brighter and you feel settled and ready to write. Need to settle down a bit and refocus? I like to take some deep, cleansing breaths to rid myself of whatever I no longer need.

Now, allow yourself to write whatever comes without censoring. I know! I snuck in a hard bit here. When journaling, the negative thoughts, concerns, worries often come out on paper first as they are at the forefront of your mind. I advise having some separate paper where you can jot and then discard them.

Begin with a gratitude practice. Write down all the things you are presently grateful for. Then, describe your intentions as if you have already succeeded/manifested them. Be as detailed as possible about how you feel, what you are thinking, any sensory information, and outcomes.

Congratulations! You’ve made your first entry into your manifestation journal.

I like to set aside 10 minutes a day for journaling. Manifesting is a process.

Getting stuck

I get it. Sometimes you just aren’t feeling it or negative self-talk is getting in the way. Never fear. I have some great journal prompts for you below.

One of my favorites is to go through all the domains of my life, starting with myself.

  • How do I look when I am the best me that I can envision?
  • How do I sound when I am the best me that I can envision?
  • How do I feel when I am the best me that I can envision?

Then I move to intimate relationships.

  • Who is my ideal partner (or partners)? I describe them in minute detail!
  • What type of relationship suits me best? (Consider alternate styles like non-monogamy, living on your own, or living with a partner in their home.)
  • What does my ideal sex life look like? Again, be detailed.

When you keep up with this practice, you can expect your life to begin to change to match what you are intending. If you are still manifesting things that are contrary to your intentions, look at your thoughts, your behaviours and make sure they are in line with your intentions. Make sure you have broken down your intentions so that they are really clear and watch for changesJ

Because I specialise in sex, intimacy and relationships, my social media content is often all about sex.  My profile headshot is considered sexy by some because my cleavage is visible.    My bios clearly state that I am a coach, a therapist, an educator, a writer, a speaker, and a media host.  I listen, talk and write for a living.  Despite these clear descriptions, every day I receive personal and blatantly sexual messages on all of my social media accounts.   I get the most inappropriately blatant messages on LinkedIn.

The written messages are annoying.  The unsolicited pictures of penises and vulvas are infuriating.  I don’t know many people who like to receive genital pictures from total strangers.    Not many folks enjoy getting full-body nudes from strangers when they haven’t requested the picture on social media or anywhere else.  I am resilient, so the impact of these messages and photos is minor and quickly disappears.   For people who are less accustomed to receiving this type of social media message, people who have been traumatised, and people who suffer from anxiety, the impact is often intense and lasts for days.

social media

Most of these messages come from men.  I have spent time thinking about why these men believe that their behaviour is appropriate and what they are trying to achieve.  When I am feeling charitable, I think they simply have forgotten their basic manners or their impulse control has temporarily failed.   After all, when people are on the internet or on social media, they can be anonymous, and when anonymous believe that there are no consequences for their behaviour.    They can also feel safe behind a computer, pad or phone screen.  If there is a negative reaction to what they send or post, they simply disappear.   They don’t have to engage with the person they are intruding upon.

When I am feeling less charitable, I see these men as bullies.  They are seeking to shock, upset, degrade and objectify.  They don’t care about consent, have no boundaries and no empathy.  They want their needs met, and they want them met now, on their terms and without any reference to the needs of anyone else.    These are the same people who regularly gaslight others.  If confronted on their behaviour, they tell the recipient that it was just a joke or that it is no big deal and that they should relax.    

Women also engage in this type of behaviour but in my experience less often.  It may be that men on the receiving end of pictures of a stranger’s vulva or tits in their social media inboxes are not offended.   I suspect it doesn’t feel as objectifying or bullying.  In my clinical work, the complaints made by men and women who are targeted by women are usually about stalking behaviour including multiple messages, following on all social media accounts and anywhere else they can find the person.   The action is different, but it still violates consent and boundaries.

social media
Businessman taking a picture of his penis with a smart phone.

Here are a few choice examples of social media private messages sent to me on LinkedIn:

This one was sent out of the blue with no previous introduction when I accepted a connection (friend) request.

‘Good Morning in (name of country) now Dr Lori Beth, thank you accepting my invitation. Personally I Love Fingered my arse, then Fornicate my Arse Deep & Hard! I plan to marry a Transsexual!’

What’s wrong with that approach? To start, I have not consented to hear about his desires at all, let alone in detail.   He is not my client.  He is not a friend.  He is not even an acquaintance.  Even on a dating app, this would be considered a lack of consent.    He assumes that by being on any social media platform, being a sex & intimacy coach, writing about sex & relationships, I am consenting to hear about the details of anyone’s sex life.  It also illustrates an entire lack of boundaries.  He is either unable or unwilling to consider what it is appropriate to say to someone on a social media platform devoted to business and work relationships.  Honestly, this would be inappropriate on any social media platforms and dating apps, but it is even more inappropriate on LinkedIn.   

This one sent after I accepted a connection request – I have had many of this type.

‘Hello you are a sexy lady.  How are you?’

And this one, again when I accepted a connection request:

😘😘😘

Both of these illustrate a common assumption that women enjoy being flattered by random strangers.  In some ways, it is akin to construction workers whistling at a woman as she is walking down the street.   Many women don’t mind that type of flattery.  It doesn’t intrude much because the men are at a distance.    These social media messages and images are far more intrusive.  On a social media platform where a woman is showcasing her professional skills and expects to be interacting with professional peers, the objectification inherent in this approach is even more apparent and either annoying or upsetting or both.

boundaries

Then there is this type of message: After telling me he needs some help:

Will you show me how to make an orgasm? You are so sexy.’

Since I describe how I help people regularly on social media, I don’t see these messages as misunderstandings about how I work.  These people lack boundaries and have poor impulse control.   

And finally, I get lots of messages from men who want ‘to get to know me’.  These aren’t blatantly sexual, but they have nothing to do with seeking help, or peer relationships or business of any kind.  They are purely social messages from strangers who have connected to me solely for social reasons.  They speak about wanting to form friendships.  In some of these messages, it is clear that they want to create some sort of romantic or sexual connection. These men have enough impulse control to be cautious in their approach.    These are not people who I have been talking to in a group or who I interacted with in public on LinkedIn.  These are men who request a connection and then when it is accepted attempt to start a social or romantic relationship immediately.

I am sure that there are some women who do not mind this type of advance on LinkedIn or other social media; however most of the women I have spoken with find this extremely irritating.  We are not on LinkedIn to find partners, date or find husbands or wives.  We are on LinkedIn for our businesses or to find a new job or to keep up with work-related topics in our fields.   These messages and requests take time precious time away from our days, even if we are only deleting them.

social media
What a waste of time…

How should you approach someone on social media if you are interested in them?  

If you are on LinkedIn, don’t.  That isn’t what people are there for.   If you think this person is your soul mate, follow them on other social media and talk with them in public until you get to know them better.  

Always start by talking in public and watch the tone of your conversation.  Don’t make assumptions based on the person’s images or their social media bios that they will welcome connection with anyone they don’t already know.  Flirtatious banter is fine when you have already made a connection with someone, but blatantly sexual banter is rarely appropriate with someone you barely know.  If you have never had a private conversation, making sexual suggestions is beyond rude and intrusive – in public or in private.

Don’t overshare.  Most people don’t want to know the details of your sexual desires unless they are your lovers (or you and they have agreed to compare desires to see if you might be compatible).  I guarantee you that sex therapists, sex & intimacy coaches, relationship therapists, and clinical sexologists don’t want to know the details of your proclivities if you are not in a professional consultation (which means you have to book an appointment and expect to pay for the meeting). 

Don’t make assumptions. Jerry Belson coined the phrase ‘Never ASSUME because when you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME’ in 1973 in a script for the Odd Couple (season 3, ‘My Strife in Court’).   This remains true.  Don’t make assumptions period.   No matter how open and familiar someone is in their posts, this does not mean they want to be free and familiar with you.  An open style in posting is not an invitation for you to contact a professional for social reasons.

If you don’t know how to set and keep healthy boundaries, learn them.   Boundaries are the lines we draw in our relationships with others that let them know what we are willing to share with them (information, affection, parts of ourselves, intimacy).  Boundaries also let others know what kind of behaviour is acceptable.    When we say that someone doesn’t have good boundaries, we often mean that they are not able to make sound judgements about what they should keep to themselves (information or behaviour) in each situation.   This type of boundary is a self-boundary.  When we talk about setting boundaries, we mean drawing that line in the relationship with another.

Why are boundaries important?  Boundaries allow us to feel safe to have relationships with others.  They allow us to feel comfortable in our interactions that our feelings won’t be trampled upon, that we can be ourselves without fear of judgement, that someone won’t act without our consent.    Dr Meg-John Barker, in an interview with Allure Magazine, says this ‘Most of us were brought up in families where we were made to eat food we didn’t like, to receive hugs and kisses we didn’t want, to pretend to enjoy presents or entertainments that didn’t feel good to us.  Most of us went to schools where the expectation was that we would learn what we were taught was important rather than what we enjoyed….. We were also probably taught to mistrust and/or hide certain important emotional responses like anger, sadness and fear: that we shouldn’t feel those things or that we should pretend we didn’t’.   As a result, we have not learned to identify our wants, needs, feelings and responses and value them enough to set boundaries in keeping with these.   Love Uncommon writes on self-consent, which is a great place to start learning boundaries as an adult (thank you to Dr Meg-John Barker for the suggestion).

Pretend that you are meeting someone in person instead of on the internet or social media.   Ask yourself if you would introduce yourself or start a conversation in this way if you met the person face to face in real life before you send that message, picture or make that comment.  In case this isn’t clear: Would you flash your penis or your breasts at a random attractive person in the street?  

boundaries
Picture of a handsome cock…

Apply the relative test before you send or post.  How would you feel if your sister, mother, wife, best friend – any person of any gender you love receives what you are about to send? Do you think they would be happy about receiving a comment, question, or request like this?  Would they enjoy receiving a picture of a stranger’s penis?  If you answer honestly, you won’t take that approach. 

If you only take away one thought from this article, please make it this: Unsolicited non-consensual sexual requests, messages, innuendo and images make you look like a wanker.  Don’t be a wanker.      

In the 21stcentury, all varieties of consensual nonmonogamy have become trendy.  From Cosmopolitan to The New York Times to The Guardian articles and exposés about polyamory abound. Over and over, I read about the best ways and even the right way to do nonmonogamy and polyamorous relationships.

As a sex & intimacy coach and a psychologist therapist who works with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups, I have spent the past 30+ years helping people to find, construct, create and maintain all sorts of relationship combinations and structures including polyamorous relationships.   As I person who practices polyamory and has practiced ethical nonmonogamy in one form or another since I was 17 and on occasion, unethical nonmonogamy (otherwise known as cheating), I have an insiders view of nonmonogamy as well and I can tell you unequivocally: There is no one true way to practice polyamory or nonmonogamy of any kind.    Each relationship is as individual as a lip print because each individual is unique.

When I was 17, I had no language to talk about polyamorous relationships.  My first polycule (all the people in relationship with one or more members of the group), was made up of 3 permanent members and a fourth rotating membership depending upon who I was dating at the time.    We didn’t know we were creating a polycule.  We didn’t even know we were practicing consensual nonmonogamy. Initially, we reluctantly formed a triad because the both women did not wish to give up their relationships with the solo man.   The relationship between the women grew strong though not often sexual.  We formed a polyfidelitous triad at first and then, I was encouraged to bring in a second male to the polycule.  The other woman in the relationship was more comfortable when I had another man to relate to besides her live-in partner.  I was the person allowed to be involved sexually with others and encouraged to bring appropriate dates/partners home.  

polyamorous relationships

If D had been asked to describe the structure of our relationship, she would have said that she was J’s primary partner and I was his secondary partner.    Chances are, J and I would have agreed.  To her, it was important that it was clear that she was the person to whom J gave priority.  Her needs and wants came before mine.   We all accepted that this was necessary in order for the triad to function well.    At that time, I would have described my relationship with the two of them as my primary relationship and any other polyamorous relationships as secondary as I prioritise time with them over dating others.

Later in life, I took the role of the secondary a number of times and found this difficult at times and wholly fulfilling at others.  For me, having a hierarchy highlighted how time and responsibilities were prioritised. It had nothing to do with how much love and commitment existed in my relationships.  

polyamorous relationships

The other factor in how my polyamorous relationships were structured, was and remains my involvement in power exchange/ authority transfer relationships.  These are by nature hierarchical.  In all power exchange dynamics, someone is leading and someone is following.  Someone commands and the other obeys.  Someone holds the authority and/or power and the other surrenders authority and/or power. 

You cannot take the hierarchy out of power exchange dynamics.  When people are in power exchange dynamics and also in polyamorous relationships, there will always be hierarchy.    The amount and strength of the hierarchy may vary but it will always be there.  For some people, this is not a problem at all.  For others, hierarchy is seen as inherently either problematic or even bad.

It is currently popular in polyamorous circles to criticise anyone who sees their relationships as hierarchical or who organises their relationships in a hierarchical manner. People frequently say things like ‘Love has no hierarchy’ and ‘All polyamorous relationships should be equal.’    Many polyamorous people become vexed at the mention of prioritising one relationship over another.  Using the terms ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ can get a person excluded from some polyamorous groups.

Yet almost all relationships are organised in hierarchies.  We may not openly admit it but we all prioritise our relationships and our time.  We cannot help but do this.  I may love equally but I cannot honestly say that I would give equal weight to the needs of the partner I see four times a year and the husband who shares my bills, my home and looks after me when I am ill even if both relationships involve a lifetime commitment.  The responsibilities in each relationship are different.  If my husband and my lover both expressed a need for me to be with them on a particular day, it is likely that I would prioritise my husband as long as the needs were equivalent.     

Let’s consider an example:

My husband is having surgery on 4thDecember.

My lover is moving house on 4thDecember and would like my help.

My priority would be my husband.

If it were my husband who was moving house (assuming I was not) and my lover who was having surgery, I would negotiate to be with my lover if possible as having surgery is a weightier need.  

But what if we are looking at simply choosing who to spend holidays with:

Both my husband and my lover want to spend my birthday with me.  If they don’t agree to do it all of us together, I would see my husband as having priority – even if we were not in a power exchange dynamic – because my responsibility to him is higher.  This gets even more complicated when we have more than one or two polyamorous relationships.

Part of the reason that it has become de rigueur to insist that all relationships should be equal is that jealousy can be such an intense issue around perceived inequality.    Quite a few of my clients have brought in problems with managing the division of holidays, time, activities and often social media posting because one or more partners are unhappy unless everything is ‘completely equal’.    In reality, it is often not only impossible to divide things completely equally but not desirable either.  Partners who do not live with each other don’t often want an equal share of the dull stuff.  They don’t want to split household chores, or other monotonous tasks like budgeting, car maintenance, errands for work.  They want an equal share of the fun stuff – holidays, nights out, attending work ‘do’s, date nights and weekends, birthdays, Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s/Easters, summertime, winter breaks etc.   

How does the person who is doing the errands, caretaking and the other mundane stuff feel about equally splitting the fun time but not the responsibilities and the other things that often form the day to day pattern of a committed long term relationship? Usually not so happy, in my experience. I frequently hear ‘Why should I give up half of my holiday time with my wife/husband/significant other to their other lover when that lover isn’t paying part of the bills or sharing taking my person to medical appointments or looking after the dog?’

When a dominant/submissive or power exchange dynamic is added into the mix, this becomes even more complex.  By its nature, a power exchange dynamic is hierarchal.  Therefore the person who is in the dominant position is the one who ultimately has the control over all the relationships the person in the submissive position forms if the power exchange/ authority transfer relationship is a full time (24/7) relationship.  In this case, the only person with agency is the one in the dominant position.  

I have written about this model of non-monogamy and polyamorous relationships before and called it the loaner model or in my case, the time share model of non-monogamy.  I am in a 24/7 power exchange /authority transfer relationship with my husband who is my owner.  As my owner, he is the one who has the agency and authority to control any other sexual, BDSM, or romantic relationship that I have because I have surrendered authority for all aspects of my life to him.  I am in two other relationships at the present time.   My husband says I am a time share because each of my other partners have a number of weeks per year with me.  They are literally granted a share of my time based on their desires and my husband’s agreement to grant these desires.  Should it no longer suit my husband for me to have a relationship with someone or for me to spend that amount of time per year with someone, he has the right to change or end any agreement.

Some people who practice polyamory have been horrified by my description of the non-monogamy that we practice because the hierarchy is extremely clear.  There is very definitely inequality between my relationships. There is no inequality in how I feel about my other partners.  I love all of them.  There is inequality in how much time I spend, whose needs get priority, and where my responsibilities lie.      All parties consent to this arrangement and on that basis, why should anyone be judgemental? 

In addition, when I break down how they divide their time, decide who gets what priority in any given situation, hierarchies are illuminated even in the relationships of the people I have met who are most adamant that there should be no hierarchies in polyamory.    Though this surprises them, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.  It is nigh on impossible to divide time equally between a number of people even with the best will in the world.  Life doesn’t present us with equal challenges.    We have a wide variety of blessings and challenges and though our love is infinite our time and energy are finite.  Ultimately, we have to make choices.  If we are hell bent on creating total equality, we will end up spending an inordinate amount of time working to do this.   And we spend an inordinate amount of energy judging people for having hierarchies in their non-monogamous relationships.  

In my experience, a better way to expend the energy and spend the time is on creating rich loving relationships that meet as many needs as possible, looking at where needs intersect and how we can balance our relationships in ways that responsibilities, needs and wants are as in balance in each individual relationship.  The less time we spend comparing within our relationships, the better.   Increasing our communication skills, including our negotiation skills is a better use of our time.    Learning how to identify our own needs and differentiate them from wants is paramount as well to creating balanced relationships.  

polyamorous relationships
handsome young muscular man with two women in bedroom

Why is it fashionable to trash hierarchies where ever they are found?  Perhaps looking to larger mainstream culture and politics may give us answers.    Hierarchies are often seen as binary: Rich/poor, good/bad though they actually run primary, secondary, tertiary.  There are many levels not just two.  If we are able to keep this in mind and also recognise that there are multiple hierarchies in any given set of relationships – different priorities at different times for different events, activities, contexts, then maybe the reality of the hierarchies in our lives will no longer be seen as negative.      Instead we can look at them as simple structures that enable us to order our lives and relationships so that it is easier to find and maintain balance.

This is in update to my article done in January 2017. I have had more feedback on this blog post than on any other. Many people have written to get advice on their individual situations. This illustrates how complex it is to find an arrangement that works when dealing with a mixed poly/mono couple or poly/mono relationships. The short answer to the opening question is: Yes. It is possible to make polyamory with a monogamous partner to work. Both parties need lots of self-confidence and excellent communication and negotiation skills. Parties need to be secure about and in their relationship as well. Finally, they need the motivation to do the on going work to keep their relationship successful.

Poly/mono relationship

Often people who are monogamous don’t understand why a person would want to be non-monogamous and this can lead to feeling that a polyamorous partner is looking to replace them or that if they just work hard enough, the person will become monogamous.   If the relationship started as a monogamous one and one partner has changed, it is often very hard for the one who has remained monogamous to manage that shift to poly/mono relationships.

 It is the polyamorous person who will find themselves with the responsibility to help the monogamous person feel as safe and secure in the relationship as possible.   Good communication, the ability to set boundaries and stellar negotiation skills are essential to the relationship working at all.

Both parties will need to understand the other person’s world view. If they are truly committed to each other, they must spend time and work at understanding as fully as possible.   Relationships where each person’s goals and expectations are different are difficult relationships.  In order to make them work, both people will have to put in lots of effort.

poly/mono relationship
Macho cheating on his girlfriend with other woman

Essentials for a Poly/Mono relationships to work:

1 The poly partner is clear about what her version of poly entails.  

Not all non-monogamy is the same.  Some relationships are hierarchical – there is a central relationship that takes precedence and other relationships come after in the list of priorities.  Other polyamorous  relationships are egalitarian so priorities are juggled regularly.   Some polyamorous relationships involve only casual relationships outside of the original relationship.  If you want the type of polyamory where all of your partners and their other partners are friends you need to be clear with your monogamous partner that this is your expectation.     

To be friends with other partners requires a very high level of security as a person and also security in the relationship.  It is often easier to feel less threatened if you don’t see and talk to another person who is sexually involved with your partner if you are by nature monogamous.

2  The monogamous person understands that his partner is not seeking other  relationships  because something is missing in their relationship.Often the monogamous person feels that his partner would not be looking elsewhere if he was better at x, y or z or if he changed his body shape, hair or something else.  This has nothing to do with why the partner is polyamorous.   Understanding this leads to  feeling personally more secure. If you believe that your partner finds you lacking and that is why she is looking for another partner, your self-esteem will dip and you will find it hard to feel secure in the poly/mono relationships.  

3  The couple create rules and boundaries for their relationship and for the other  relationships that the polyamorous person enters into.   Lots of monogamous heterosexual couples do not create rules and boundaries for their relationships.  They  leave most things completely unspoken and have lots of expectations based on theirupbringings, previous relationships and societal influences.  This often leads to problems in relationships and difficulty working through issues that arise.      Relationships can work for many years before expectations and a lack of clear boundaries become a problem.  In poly/mono relationships issues arise quickly if these areas are not clearly discussed, negotiated and spelled out.     I see this as the blueprint for the relationship because blueprints are detailed plans with lots of boundaries, measurements, and rules.  

Plans can be changed as a building is being constructed.  Modifications are agreed upon because something won’t work in practice or because someone changes his mind.  The changes are discussed and agreed and added to the blueprint.  

4  Areas that form part of a good blueprint

Time management:  Will the relationship be prioritised?  Are there special days or events that need to be spent together?  Will you spend the night with other partners?  

Living arrangements:Are you living together or are you planning on living together? Can you bring other partners to spend the night in the home you share together if you share a home together?  If you don’t live together, will the poly partner possibly live with one of her other partners?   Is the plan to get married or form a civil partnership?

Children:If you already have children together, how will you manage other partners? Will the children meet them or spend time with them?  If you don’t have children, do either of you want them?  If one of you does and the other doesn’t how will that be managed in the relationship?  If the poly person is the one who wants children will she have them with another partner?

Sexual limits and boundaries:Are there activities you reserve only to the two of you? What will you do in relation to safe sex?  Will there be fluid bonding between the two of you and with no one else?  How often will you get tested for STD’s? 

Information sharing:Will you talk with each other about the other partners in detail? Does the mono person want to hear details?  Does the poly person feel comfortable sharing details?  How much information will be shared with other partners?

Public acknowledgement of the relationship:Will other partners be public?  What about social media?  What explanation will you give people like family and friends?

Partner choosing:Will the mono partner have the right to say no to a potential partner who feels threatening to him?  Are there limits on who can be chosen based on marital status, age or perceived complications?  

Desires, wishes, dreams:Draw a picture of how you wish the relationships will look in 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and 5 years.  Look at this plan for non-workable parts, issues that might arise, areas of potential problems and try to find solutions or alter the plans. 

There is a lot to consider when creating this blueprint.  If you aren’t great at communicating about difficult complex issues, I suggest having a number of  sessions with a sex and intimacy coach.  A coach can help you both find the language and build the negotiating and communication skills and this will give you a better chance of creating a relationship that works for both of you and any partners who come along in the future.  

Coaching can also help you gain strategies to manage any intense emotions that arises.  Many people have only a small set of emotional management strategies and this can be limiting.  You can expand your repertoire and with practice become an expert at managing emotions and stress.

You also need to take the time to work on any baggage you carry from past relationships so that you have a better chance of making this complex relationship work well. This can be done in coaching in some situations and in therapy in other situations. If you have a long history of problematic relationships, you are better off examining this history sooner so that you don’t repeat the same patterns in your current and future relationships.

poly/mono relationship
Sex Coach, word cloud concept on white background.

Poly/mono relationships can be rich and fulfilling as long as you are able to put in the work and you treat each other and the relationship with the respect and care it deserves.

Polyamorous relationships come in an infinite number of configurations. For more about how different open relationships might look including an owner loaner relationship, you can find one of my articles hereand a seriesof podcastshere.

D/s relationships are ones in which dominance and submission are the primary feature.  D/s relationships are authority transfer based relationships because the submissive gives authority over part or all of their lives to the dominant.  Full time authority transfer based relationships are Master (Mistress)/slave or Owner/property or Daddy/boi/girl or Mommy/boi/girl.  

Some D/s relationships involve bondage and discipline or sadism and masochism but others do not.  The feature of the relationship which turns both parties on is the power exchange (authority transfer). One person is in charge and the other agrees to submit to their rule.  Submission can be part time, sexually only for example, or it can be full time (e.g. in all aspects of the relationship).  D/s relationships often have clear structures, with rituals, rules and expectations all spelled out.  Many people who engage in them gain pleasure from all of these aspects.  The submissives enjoy giving up control and being led by someone else.  The dominants enjoy the control over their partners, having someone do as they desire. This is a simplistic description of what both parties might get out of the relationship.  For more on these relationships, listen to this seriesof podcastsfrom Sex SpokenHereand D is for Dominant from the A to Z of Sex ®podcast.

owner loaner

D/s relationships can be very straightforward or very complex.  Some include significant role play as well as the exchange of power.  There are marriages that work on these principles as well as long term living together relationships.  However, it can be difficult to maintain these roles when living with someone full time especially if the person who is in the submissive role is dominant in the outside world (at work, within the household, the main bread winner).   As a result, in some relationships, the D/s aspects become watered down which often leads to dissatisfaction on the part of both parties.   

A solution to managing this dissatisfaction is to make sure that there is specific time set aside for D/s.  As long as this is a substantial enough amount of time and it is ringfenced so that the rest of life does not intrude, this will work for many relationships.

Owner Loaner

One solution to this situation is to consider opening up the relationship. A couple can agree to engage in D/s play with other partners and not each other or with other partners and still engage with each other.  Deciding who will do what with whom can require some intricate negotiation.  When done properly, this is a great solution that increases everybody’s enjoyment and fulfilment.  

One issue that arises is the need for a person to have agency and autonomy to create and manage multiple relationships.  When one is in a hierarchical relationship, the person who is in the dominant role is the one who is in charge.  If that person is giving authority over what relationships their partner can form, then the submissive does not have the agency to form additional relationships or continue them.   Non-monogamous relationships for people in hierarchical relationships can look different depending up on if their hierarchical relationship is full time or part time. Non-monogamy in part-time D/s relationships can run the gamut from simple dating through to relationship anarchy to polyamorous arrangements.  

Myra and Robin were involved in a D/s relationship for 10 years before they moved in together.  Both are high powered business women, running their own companies for over a decade each. They met at a Women in Business event and the connection was instant.   They quickly discovered that they lived in the same state.  Their first date highlighted their desires.  Myra quickly took control and Robin revelled in her submission.  They talk each day and meet each weekend to spend time together.  Their relationship grows and deepens and finally they decide to move in together.  

At first things work well.  Weekends are the time that they set aside for the D/s side of their relationship. During the week they look like any other couple living together.    Robin sometimes finds it difficult giving up control on the weekend, especially on weeks where she is travelling for work.   But things are still working and they are both still happy together. After 6 months living together, Myra decides to take a sabbatical.  She is working on a book and needs the time to write.  They agree that Robin will be the main bread winner for those 6 months.   This is when the D/s relationship truly begins to break down.

The women came to see me when Robin found it too difficult to submit to Myra. They were both upset by this change and were motivated to look at how they could make sure their relationship would survive and thrive.  After 4 coaching sessions, Robin raised the issue of opening the relationship.  She proposed that they both seek to create a D/s relationship with someone else.  At first Myra was resistant to this idea, concerned that they would lose one of the best facets of their relationship.  After some negotiation, they decided to choose partners for each other and were clear about the limitations.  They decided to restrict the relationship to D/s in the bedroom. After a few false starts, they found situations which suited both of them.   After a month of exploring new D/s relationships, they told me the spark had come back between them and they left coaching.  In this situation, they were each involved in negotiation and setting the limits of other relationships.

In relationship anarchy, relationships are not bound by rules set by society or culture but are only bound by rules set by the people involved. In relationship anarchy, hierarchy between relationships is avoided.  This can cause issues when a relationship is hierarchical depending upon whether that relationship includes control over other relationships.     However, if this is not the case, then relationship anarchy starts with putting yourself first and then being very deliberate about your relationships – making conscious choices about them at all time.

In full time D/s relationships, the person in charge is also often in charge of whether there are other relationships as well.    Because of this, the person who is in the submissive role does not have the agency to begin, continue, or end relationships with others.  All relationships are had with the permission of the dominant.  One dominant woman I know talks of being an owner and therefore loaning out property rather than her slaves having separate autonomous relationships with others.    

In the ‘Owner Loaner’ Model, the owner sets the rules for the other relationships that their property might have.  The owner may do all of the negotiation, be an integral part of the negotiation or give the property the details about what is acceptable and allow them to do the negotiation.    No matter how the negotiation is organised, the owner is the one who is giving permission, not the property.    Morloki describes this as a ‘Time Share Model’ where the other interested parties can ‘request regular rental weeks during the year.  Chosen family rentals can be had with special terms’.  

If other relationships are not included in the hierarchal relationship, then the other relationships are negotiated directly and terms are agreed between the participants only.  Each relationship has rules about other relationships, whether it is hierarchical or not.  

For some this raises issues about consent.  In this type of relationship organisation, the owner gains the consent of the property to loan them to others and the parameters of any loan (and therefore any other relationship), are negotiated between owner and property.  The owner then restricts the terms of any loan to those the property has consented to as part of their relationship agreement (owner loaner model). Property can still withdraw consent at any time and this is made clear to any other playmate or partner during negotiations.  Property cannot agree to extend the terms of a loan relationship.  This is negotiated with the owner.

Jeff and Cindy are in a full time Owner/property relationship.  At the beginning of their relationship, they negotiated the possibility of other partners – intimate partners, emotionally intimate partners, play only partners – as part of their long term relationship.  A few years into their relationship, Cindy met Larissa.  Jeff negotiated with Larissa to loan Cindy to her for a full BDSM relationship including sexual contact.  Jeff prefers an owner loaner model and that relationship worked well for two years until Cindy felt that Larissa was no longer meeting her needs as agreed to at the beginning of the relationship. She spoke with Jeff about this in detail and Jeff ended the relationship as he felt that this was simply causing stress for Cindy (his property).  In this case, Cindy spoke with Larissa first and said that she wanted to end the relationship.  When Larissa didn’t take this well, Jeff stepped in to make sure it was ended properly and with as little rancour as possible.  Three years later, Cindy’s first love got in touch with her.  She asked Jeff if she could see Bob and also if she could see where a relationship with Bob might go.  Jeff agreed to the date and when it went well, he agreed to loan Cindy to Bob for an emotionally and sexually intimate relationship for an indefinite period of time.  Two years later, the relationship continues.  

In some M/s or O/p relationships, the dominant partner will introduce other people into the relationship on specific occasions.  When this is the case, it will have been agreed between the parties when they set out the terms of their relationship.  Josh likes to bring people home to have sex with Jeremy, his long term slave.  The people he brings home are really clear as to who is in charge and what the rule are.

Some people become polyamorous because they discover an interest in dominance and submission and want to enter authority transfer or D/s relationships but their partners have little interest in exploring with them.  They choose to open their relationships.  In my experience many of these relationships are poly monogamous relationships.  For more on poly monogamy see my article here.  These relationships can work well however couples need to communicate well and negotiate extremely well in order for them to do so.  Coaching helps couples learn the communication and negotiation skills needed to create exciting and well-functioning poly monogamous relationships.

It is currently trendy to avoid hierarchy when it comes to relationships, particularly in the non-monogamous community.  Hierarchical relationships can be extremely exciting and satisfying whether they are part time (D/s) or full time (M/s, O/p).  For people who have multiple relationships that include one or more hierarchical relationships, the relationships can look like ordinary polyamorous relationships where all relationships are separately agreed and negotiated and maybe even equal when it comes to time and attention or they can be owner loaner relationships where the Master/Owner/Dominant is loaning out the slave/property/submissive to the people with whom they have other relationships. Consent and negotiating boundaries is more complex when D/s and non-monogamy are mixed and more time may be needed to get relationships off the ground, but these relationships can be very exciting and fulfilling in the short and long term.

Want to learn more about the DS in BDSM, non-monogamy and combining the two? Sign up for a discovery session with me hereor email loribeth@drloribethbisbey.com