sexual desires

Ten Example Safe Sex Agreements for Open Relationships

From the Ask Me Anything Series:

Do you recommend safer sex agreements with partners to clients?  How detailed should they be?

I am so glad you asked! I see clients come up with all kinds of arrangements about their sexual health.

I’m not going to offer any recommendations here (talk with a sex-positive medical provider to get updated STI information), but wanted to share some of the vast differences among the clients I work with.

Here are a few examples that have worked for relationships I support:

Donnella (28) & Shawn (32), married 12 years, open 2 years, Portland Oregon

“We have agreed to let each other know if we plan to have non-barrier vaginalor anal sex with partners and we tell each other after any oral sex happens. We get tested every three months.”

Allison (40) & Jason (40), cohabitating 10 years open 10 years, Madison, Wisconsin

“Allison has herpes she has to disclose to new partners and that’s often a real challenge because of the stigma and shame related to STIs. She’s lost a lot of potential partners because of it.”

“So far, Jason hasn’t tested positive for herpes so he hasn’t had to disclose, but he tells his partners about Allison anyway just to be honest.”

Shauna (38), Therese (32), & Richard (47), partnered 15 years, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“We only have sex with each other and it’s been that way for years. We’d get tested if any of us started dating someone new and would expect them to get tested too.”

Mark (41) & Holly (44), monogamish married 22 years, Chicago, Illinois

“We only have sex with other people when we’re both present and we always use condoms for vaginal sex (we don’t do anal or oral). We also take extra vitamins in the winter flu season.”

Charlotte (43) & Daniel (46), dating 18 years, open relationship 1 year, New York City

“We ask partners for test results if we think we’re going to sleep with them (before we sleep with them). If they’re not willing to show us results there’s no reason we’d want to be intimate.”

Tony (44) & Rashida (28), swinging together 3 years, Portland Oregon

“We don’t worry about it. We only swing in clean places and only hook up with people when it feels right.”

Heather (36) & Gwen (37), married 13 years, open marriage 3 years, Seattle, Washington

“Heather sleeps with cis-men and uses condoms when they have any penetrative sex. Neither of us use any barriers with other cis-women. We test annually at our gyno exam, but we’re not worried about getting anything.”

Elle (30) & Mikah (30), dating/living together 5 years, playing openly 8 years, Miami, Florida

“We host invite-only play parties at our house where we ask everyone to play with barriers. We provide gloves, condoms, and other barriers as well as clean up supplies for messy play. SO far no one has complained. When either of us has a new partner we use barriers for all sex and fluid bonding except kissing. We both take our health very seriously.”

David (32) & Ryan (36), married 10 years, open marriage 6 months, Naperville, Illinois

“We started on Prep last month and have decided barebacking is an option if we’re both present. We ask every new partner if he’s been tested but they’re on their honor to tell us. We always use condoms when we fly solo.”

Sarah (52) & Hans (56), married 32 years, monogamish 2 years, Evansville, Illinois

“Sarah makes out with other women and sleeps with them and we’re not worried about disease transmission. Hans just watches.”

Gina Senarighi Madison Sex Therapist

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

She coaches online clients all over the world and leads retreats in the U.S.

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Asking Them to Try Something New in Bed

Asking Your Vanilla Partner to Get Kinky | Uncommon Love Couples Counseling in Portland

Despite what we see in movies, no two people share the exact same fantasies and desires.  None.  

Even if your fantasy is similar, details may be off or the desire you share will be different.  I see it every day, one partner desires sex daily, the other twice a day- their desire isn't the same and that's perfectly normal.


Here's the hard truth about sexual desires in relationships:

1. No two people have the exact same desires.

2. There is nothing wrong with you or your desires.

As long as you are among consenting adults your desires are valid.  Period.  

But since our desires and fantasies aren't the same there will inevitably be a time in a relationship when we need to ask for something new to get our needs met.  Here are the four main considerations to think through before asking your partner for what you want:

Remember you are asking

It's vulnerable to ask for what we want- so we often use defense mechanisms without even realizing it.  We use humor, sarcasm, self-deprecation and all kinds of other tactics to take the pressure off- often losing the clarity we started with about what we want. 

I might say "I've been kind of thinking about trying this thing once... but it's not that big a deal." When really what I mean is "I am going to tell you something I have never told anyone, so I am super nervous about it.  But I have been thinking about (insert fantasy here) for years and I really want to try it with you some time.  Would you ever consider trying something like that?"

Because we're asking for something we really want we can forget we're asking for consent.  Challenge yourself to think of this as an invitation to share something instead of a secret disclosure to help you keep grounded when defense creeps in.

Think it through and get specific

Some of the desires I talk through with clients have been secret fantasies for years.  We've replayed them in our heads often enough they've become familiar and we can think we're clear about what we want- even when we're not.  

For example, if I've know I want to try bondage and have been fantasizing about rope play for years.  I know I want to do it and it's so exciting to me I might blurt it out to a partner in a fit of passion.  But I've never actually bought rope, taken measurements, talked to anyone else who uses rope in bondage, or felt it against my skin.  

Before I bring it up to a partner, I need to have a little logistical information in place to help answer their questions (like, where would we get the rope? how much do we need?  your place or mine?  for example).

Consider the impact, comfort, and safety concerns

Similar to basic logistics and specifics, consider the safety concerns involved so you can bring the subject up with consideration- especially if you are interested in more advanced kink play.  Many partners are concerned about scarring, bruises, clean up, and other concerns when the topic is brought up- be sure to put a little thought into the safety concerns your partner may have when you ask. 

Don't be surprised if your partner asks logistical questions or brings up concerns you may not have thought of in advance (the point isn't to become a mind-reader), instead take them into consideration.  "Oh, I didn't realize you'd feel uncomfortable being undressed in front of others.  Let's find a different way that feels better for you."   Will help you two stay connected instead of getting defensive or assumptive.

Ask about their fantasies

Remember your partner has fantasies too.  The more you can practice receiving their desires with the kind of openness you would like to experience the more you two can share and explore.  They may even surprise you!

Gina Senarighi Portland Couples Counselor

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).