An Accurate History of Marriage?

I spend lots of time in sessions talking with folks who wonder why some of the most common ways we do committed relationships doesn’t work for them.

Why do we do marriage for love, and what is love anyway? What happens when love changes over time?

And why do we split household tasks the way we do? How can we create a more egalitarian breakdown than whatever our families modeled? How do we keep equality erotic?

How can we break out of these normative partnerships?

How do we build something intentional instead of defaulting to practices we know don’t work?

One of the first steps in intentional change is growing awareness, and WOW do I have a great resource for you this week. Hidden Brain, by Shankar Vedantam, recently covered the history of marriage and it is FULL of great information about how we ended up with many of the cultural norms about marriage that we currently practice.

Taking a closer look at the ways we practice love and commitment, the practices we consider “normal” helps us use discernment about if and when we want to choose them today.

Listen here:

And let me know what you think. How does knowing this history change what you want to practice? How does it affirm the practices you’ve already chosen? Which parts of this hostory apply to your relationship experiences?

Myths of Mongamy

myths of monogamy | truth about monogamy

It is not uncommon for people to seek me out to prove to their partner either monogamy or non-monogamy is right or wrong.  They want me to settle the disagreement- and unfortnuately, on this I have to disappoint.  

I don't hold either relationship model to be inherently healthy or righteous and in ten years of supporting nontraditional couples I can honestly say I've seen people get hurt in both monogamous and open relationships.

All too often people default to monogamy because it's mainstream and accepted and they think it's easier.  But operating on these myths leads them to some of the bigger problems in monogamous relationships.  

Read through the most common myths of monogamy I see and notice which resonates for you.

Monogamy is morally right and ethically sound

You don't have to look far to see that assumed or default monogamy isn't working out well.  Statistics range from 50-80% of "monogamous" relationships experience infidelity at some point.  

Just saying your monogamous doesn't mean you'll be honest, respectful, or caring in your relationship. The ethical part shows up in how you communicate and maintain your relationship over time- not in how many people you connect with.

Monogamy is natural

Plenty or research has shown most animals in nature are non-monogamous.  But beyond that, most people will tell you "I can't imagine being with one person for the rest of my life."  

This doesn't mean everyone should be in an open relationship. But it does mean the mainstream definition of monogamy (I'll only be attracted to one person for the majority of my years) doesn't work.  

If monogamy is going to work out, couples need to discuss what their expectations and boundaries are if and when other attractions and curiosities pop up (because they are natural).

Anyone can do monogamy well

Again, the infidelity rates I mentioned above alone can squash this assumption. Just agreeing to be monogamous isn't enough. Relationships require work (even if you only have one at a time).

And monogamous or not, most of us aren't given lots of great tools to navigate healthy relationships.  Maybe we lack healthy relationship role models, or we're embedded in a culture filled with toxic relationship norms- either way, most of us need help and clarity to learn to do relationship swell.

Talking with a partner about what the specific boundaries of your unique monogamous commitment are is critical to navigating long-term monogamy and staying together.

Monogamy is reassuring

Monogamy agreements by themself cannot bring you the security you might wish for in intimate relationships.  This is often why even in monogamous couples partners feel insecure or need continual reassurance. 

Instead of just agreeing to a monogamous norm, have a clear discussion with your partner about what might happen if either of you feels attracted to another.  How would you hope a partner might handle that situation and respect the boundaries of your relationship?  

Getting clear together and then following through on your agreements is the only way to the security you seek together.

You complete me

The other way I hear this myth from folks is believing I can meet all my partner's needs.  This is ineffective and unhealthy for four big reasons:

1) It sets me us for failure because I cannot possibly be all those things.  

2) It sets you us to either avoid exploring some of your needs or hide them from me.

3) It increases pressure on both of us to offer more than we can. It can really drain our reserves if we're the only support for the other and we're less likely to have healthy boundaries between us.

4) It decreases the likelihood we'll create healthy nourishing friendships, collegial relationships, mentorships, and other relationships.

Even if you never choose non-monogamy, it is essential you have a rich social network of support beyond your relationship that "completes" you.  

Take a minute to consider these monogamy myths and which may have informed your views on relationships and let me know if you'd like to dive deeper into them 1:1.  I'm happy to talk with you!

polyamory vs monogamy | MONOGAMY EXPERT

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • resolve sexual disconnection
  • change unhealthy communication and codependent patterns
  • open your relationship and practice polyamory with care
  • keep passion alive in long-term relationships

Call me for a free consultation to rethink your relationship.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

ASK ME ANYTHING: Comparing Myself to Others

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.

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This Weeks Relationship Advice Question:

Let's see, I'm in a monogamous relationship (and super happy about it. It's the right person).  I feel super embarrassed about being jealous sometimes. I do healing work with people -so shouldn't I have this one figured out by now?  My jealousy seems to stem from comparing myself to other women something I've been doing since I was a little girl. This is the biggest problem: I compare myself. It sets the stage for jealousy and deep shame. 

Oh my gosh, I am so glad you wrote about this. Comparison (and related shame) is a HUGE part of the work I do with so many people.  So many of us get caught up in comparison traps and end up feeling small, or reacting with jealousy.  

[side note: I often daydream about what a wonderful world this might be if more of us were set free from limiting beliefs and diminishing emotional experiences... I digress...]

I wonder what might happen for you if you sat with your comparison a little bit.  I think it might have something to tell you.  Try asking it a few questions in meditation and journaling whatever responses come up.

Ask your comparison:

How is it serving you?  Is comparison protecting you in some way?  Does it think it's being helpful?

What does your comparison really need?  What is it looking for?  What does it want?

Is your comparison traveling with other emotions?  Often envy, admiration, bitterness, desire, curiosity, aspiration, jealousy, insecurity, or fear might be traveling alongside comparison- who is there for you now?  

I imagine your comparison has a message for you about what you really need, want and are feeling.  Comparison might be the thought pattern on the surface, but by giving it a little space we can really see what's underneath- and take more meaningful action.  

I know there are times my comparison is all about my admiration for another.  Sometimes it's a reminder of an aspect of myself I want to grow.  Other times it tells me where I want to nourish a relationship.

Ultimately a dedicated self-compassion practice is one of the most solid antidotes to comparison I've seen (I talk a lot about this in my Daring Way workshops and retreats if you ever want to join me).  

Until you're able to join me at a workshop I highly recommend taking a look at the following resources and tools to fortify your self-compassion practice:

Self-Compassion, by Dr Kristin Neff

The Gifts of Imperfection, by Dr Brene Brown

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

relationship advice | comparison in relationships | marriage advice

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

Why People Open Their Relationships

One of the questions I am asked most often by friends and colleagues is why people choose open relationships.  

There are a lot of paths to choosing nonmonogamy and each is uniquely personal.

Many of my clients come to an open relationship model for different personal reasons, but here are a few:

  • We don't believe in the traditional monogamous married formula for relationships.

  • I like watching my wife have sex with another man.

  • My partner is bisexual and I want him/her/them to be able to have relationships with folks of a gender different than mine.

  • I am interested in a specific kink that my partner just doesn't like.  She wants me to be able to explore this fantasy.

  • We don't believe people are naturally monogamous- look at the 66% infidelity rate among monogamous marriages in the U.S.

  • It's exciting to flirt with other women with my husband.  We often have similar taste in women, so it made sense to date them together.

  • I don't believe it's possible for one person to meet all of another's emotional and physical needs.

  • Legal marriage isn't our definition of relationship success.

  • My partner is physically unable to participate in certain activities I really enjoy.  Because we're poly I can do those things with other partners.

  • I wanted to start a family and my girlfriend did not but we really loved each other.  Having an open relationship allowed us to create a different relationships structure and now I am also partnered with my daughter's mother.

  • I have always loved multiple people- finding polyamory meant I could talk more openly about it and be honest with partners.

  • I cheated on a lot of my previous partners and didn't want to have a dishonest relationship anymore.  Now I am up front and clear with partners.

  • My boyfriend is into a lot of hardcore BDSM play and I want him to be able to play while I build my play skills for safety.

  • We both have fluid sexual identities and want to be able to grow our commitment to each other as our sexualities grow and change.

  • I don't want the pressure of meeting all my partner's emotional and sexual needs.

  • I don't believe in valuing one relationship over all others.  

  • My husband is gay and we have a child.  We decided to stay together but have other partners because we love each other and want our family to stay in one home.

If you are thinking about opening your relationship and need help set up a free consultation to see if working with me is right for you.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationshipsjealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).