3 Sexual Issues to Keep in Mind As You Explore Ethical Non-Monogamy
Are you new to exploring ethical non-monogamy and wonder about potential sexual issues that could come up? I’m so glad you are seeking out support! Today I am going to share 3 sexual issues that could come up in ethically non-monogamous relationships and how to work through them. This is the final part of my series on ethical non-monogamy, so if you missed prior blogs, be sure to check them out!
1. Safe Sex Practices
Safe sex practices are important in any relationship! If you are opening up your relationship, you’ll want to be intentional about safe sex practices since you may be interacting with more partners. More partners = more risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and more people impacted by sexual safety practices. Here are some things to keep in mind around safe sex:
- Educate yourself! Unfortunately, many folks do not receive comprehensive sex education. This can result in lacking awareness about how STIs can spread, what birth control methods are effective, and so on. Be sure that you and your partner(s) are educated by seeking out comprehensive sex education resources.
- Ensure you and your partner(s) are getting tested regularly for STIs. Testing should be done anytime you or a partner have a sexual interaction with a new partner and at least once per year if you have no new partners. You can get STI testing done with your primary care provider or a local clinic such as Planned Parenthood.
- Create space for discussing safe sex practices with your partner(s) and ensure you are all on the same page. Some questions to consider include:
* How often will we get tested?
* Do we expect to share STI testing results with new partners?
* What safe sex practices will we use with partners for STI protection?…birth control?
* Do we expect new partners to maintain the same safe sex practices with their other partners?
* Can we have regular check-ins about safe sex practices in our relationship(s)?
2. Varying Sexual Relationships
No two sexual relationships are the same. And when you’re engaging in ethical non-monogamy, comparison may start to come up. You may wonder if your partner is having a more fulfilling sexual connection with another partner. Or maybe you find yourself comparing your partner to someone else in the moment. All of these comparisons make sense, and they can really get in the way of being present and connected. So what can you do to keep comparison from getting in the way?
- Remind yourself that it’s normal! If you are hard on yourself or your partner for having these feelings, you’re likely to get stuck in shame and guilt. Rather, invite some gentleness and self compassion towards yourself and your partner(s). Know that it’s okay to have these feelings. Sometimes, giving yourself permission to feel what you feel results in the feelings easing up.
- Set the intention to be present and connected as you enter a sexual interaction with a partner or partners. If you are more in the moment, taking in the sensations and feelings you are experiencing, you can experience more pleasure and connection. And if you are embodied, connected and experiencing pleasure, comparison is far less likely to come up.
- Appreciate the uniqueness of each connection. Every sexual relationship is going to be different. And with that, there will be special things to enjoy and appreciate about each one! Consider what you enjoy about your sexual relationship with each partner and allow yourself to embrace the diversity in your connections.
3. Sexual Fatigue
Ethical non-monogamy is not all about sex. In fact, you may have completely non-sexual relationships with all or some partners. That being said, there may be increased opportunity for sexual connection when engaging in ethical non-monogamy. And with more opportunities for sex, you may find yourself experiencing sexual fatigue. So what can you do when you feel low sexual energy?
- Remember that you don’t have to meet all of the sexual needs of your partner(s). A wonderful part of ethical non-monogamy is that there are more people to meet the various needs you and your partner(s) have. If you’re not in a space to meet a partner’s sexual needs, that’s okay in any relationship. In an ethically non-monogamous relationship, there is the added benefit of your partner(s) being able to get these needs met with other partners.
- Enjoying non-sexual touch and emotional connection. Sex is often a way to experience pleasure and connection with others. There are so many ways to experience pleasure and connection with partners, including non-sexual touch and emotional intimacy. If you are feeling lower desire or energy for sex, consider exploring non-sexual touch (such as cuddling, hugs, massage, etc.) and expanding emotional intimacy (such as sharing feelings, getting curious about each other’s experiences, and setting intentional connection time). These ways of interacting can be so connecting and you may find that this meets you and your partner(s) needs for connection without having to focus on sex.
To review, here’s things you can do to be mindful of potential sexual issues in ethically non-monogamous relationships:
- Be educated about safe sex practices and openly communicate with your partner(s) about how to integrate these practices into your relationships.
- Know that comparing sexual partners is normal and allow yourself to focus on appreciating the diverse experiences you can enjoy with each person.
- Remember that you can get needs for connection met in other ways if you’re feeling low sexual energy.
If you’re still feeling unsure of how to navigate these or other sexual issues in your ethically non-monogamous relationships or just want to dive deeper, consider reaching out to an affirming and informed sex & relationship therapist.