Q: I think I am interested in non-monogomous relationships/lifestyle, but every time I try to act on it I feel a sense of guilt/shame/wrongness due to monogamous socialization. Any advice on how to decolonize myself to pursue my innate desires?
A: It sounds like you're interested in either a polyamorous relationship, in which you are having relationships with multiple partners at the same time; or an "open" relationship, in which you have a primary relationship partner, but have sex with other people as well. Either type of relationship can be perfectly healthy and beneficial for all members, as long as everyone has consented to having this type of relationship right at the beginning. I think one way to lessen feelings of guilt/shame when having a non-monogomous relationship is to find people who completely share your desire to have these types of relationships. If you have relationship partners that are enthusiastic about having a poly or open relationship with you, then it becomes easier for you to express your own desires without any fear that your relationship partners will judge you negatively. After all, they want the same thing.
Any relationship (and non-monogomous relationships especially) require a lot of communication. When having poly/open relationships, you want to talk a lot with your partners about what everyone expects, and wants, out of the relationship. It's good to set up everyone's expectations and boundaries early on. This lessens the chance of later misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Also, the more you talk about your desires with people who like and respect you, especially those who are also into the poly/open lifestyle, the less guilt/shame you will feel about it. Try to surround yourself with people who are poly/open, both as relationship partners and as friends. This will greatly help you feel more normal and accepted, just as you are.
Q: I've participated in a threesome twice before and I've really enjoyed it. I'm not currently in a relationship; are there any resources/tips for joining/starting casual group sex? Are there already existing secret places to find people interested in the same thing? What's the culture around sex with multiple partners at once?
A: There is a growing trend, especially among young people, to engage in multiple-partner sex and relationships. Sometimes this is referred to as being “poly” or polyamorous, or pansexual. Typically, these types of relationships involve 3 – 4 people (a “tri” or “quad”) and can be just sexual or involve romance/intimacy as well. There are a *lot* or resources available on this online; just do some Google searching and you’ll find a ton. I don’t believe there are any local groups for this, but anyone can start such groups on websites, such as Craigslist, Match.com or Meetup.com. Of course, be careful who you meet online and make sure to get to know them a bit before engaging in an intimate relationship with them. There are also some website devoted to help “swingers” or people who like to partner-swap. Again, you can Google this to find them.
There aren’t established “cultural standards” in these types of relationships. Each tri/quad/poly relationship is unique and requires a lot of open and honest communication to work. I suggest checking out the following resources to help guide you on this part of the poly-experience.
Q: Is it possible for there to be a healthy relationship after a friends with benefits relationship and a threesome? Where the male and female know everything about what the other has done.
A: I’m not really sure of the details of this relationship, but it’s definitely possible to have a healthy friendship or romantic relationship with someone after having sex with them or people they know. A healthy relationship is one that involves communication, trust, mutual interests, and having fun. If you have those things in common with someone, there’s no reason why you cannot have a healthy relationship with them.
If you find that your sexual history impedes one of these things (such as trust), then this is something you can talk about with them. If it’s a good relationship, you should be able to express your feelings and your wish to have a good relationship with them. By being open, honest and caring in your communication with this person, you two can form a more positive relationship or at least have more clarity on what your relationship currently is.
Answers provided by Dr. Ross Avilla
Dr. Ross Avilla has been teaching Human Sexuality since 2013 and has a PhD in psychology from UC Davis. Dr. Avilla is not a clinician and all information and advice offered on this website is for educational purposes only.