Open relationships are fascinating to outsiders, many of whom can't imagine being in one.
Open relationships are fascinating to outsiders, many of whom can't imagine being in one.

Not exactly Pollyanna when it comes to polyamory

I was watching the news and a story came on about people living in open relationships and marriages. I was fascinated as these couples, young and old, described living in relationships knowing that their partners were with someone else, or maybe even a few someone elses, any given day of the week.

This isn't polygamy, which is the practice of multiple marriages, it's polyamory, which is just as it sounds -- the practice of taking more than one lover. This quickly had me debating whether these people are masochists looking to get hurt or if the rest of us are the delusional ones, believing that we'll find that one person and never want or need anything from another.

The idea of marriage and one partner for the rest of your existence goes against many of our primal instincts. Watch National Geographic for five minutes and you'll realize we're all here -- lions, tigers, bears and us, to procreate, to ensure the continuation of the species for centuries to come. But, we're more intelligent than cats and bears, aren't we? Not if you look at the evidence. When it comes to humans we don't have sex just to procreate, we like it, we don't know when to stop procreating (come on people, say it with me, "birth control") and most of us cannot separate our hearts from much of the sex we have.

I'm not naïve enough to think that sleeping with more than one person is a new concept or even a bad one. Hell, I went to college; it was practically a pre-requisite. What I cannot seem to relate to is the belief that I'm in a committed relationship or marriage while knowing that one or both of us is sleeping with other people. That's not commitment, its convenience. In fact, it's just dating. You're married, but there are middle school kids in more committed relationships than yours.

Let's not forget a little thing called jealousy. Most people I know can't stand catching their significant other even checking out another person, let alone joyfully waving goodbye kno…

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Initiating a conversation about sex can be as tough as initiating the act.
Initiating a conversation about sex can be as tough as initiating the act.

How to initiate talk about initiating bedroom action

Initiating anything can be a challenge for those on the shy end of the spectrum. Initiating a conversation with someone you're interested in or initiating that first (usually awkward) kiss can make you feel like you may need to swallow your own stomach first. Initiating sex is likely one of the tougher ones, because being rejected in the bedroom can scar your ego and self esteem for some time. Yet we do all of these things based on how much we want the payoff if it goes well.

When it comes to initiation in relationships, the balance often seems lopsided. It's not always severe, but usually one person will take the reins in this area and its business as usual.

If you're the initiator, however, are you left longing for the element of surprise in your sex life? When you know that sex isn't happening until you get things started, maybe it doesn't matter how the rest of the sex goes because you knew it wouldn't have gone anywhere if you hadn't gotten the ball rolling.

If it begins to weigh on you enough that you start to wonder if you two would ever have sex if you never initiated again or if it starts to make you debate the level of desire coming from your partner, then it's time to talk about it.

I'm sure it's tempting to try a little experiment and refuse to initiate -- just to see what will happen -- but I would advise against it. You aren't giving the other person a fair shot; you're pulling the rug out from under them and most likely making them wonder what the hell is wrong, which isn't going to give he or she a whole lot of confidence to throw themselves at you.

Sometimes, not being the initiator isn't about shyness or lack of interest at all, it's about experience. If you've never had to initiate the first kiss, first make-out session or sex, then the mindset could just be... "I've never had to in the past, it's always just happened."

Sure it's a bit of a copout, but if you've only had to show up and sex was there waiting, why would you get on track to assume anyt…

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Economic struggles can throw a curve into a relationship.
Economic struggles can throw a curve into a relationship.

Do relationships suffer when the economy tanks?

Despite the fact that the divorce rate was holding firm long before the economy took a crap on us, the recession is being blamed for a lot of floundering relationships.

It's no secret that when times are tough, bills are piling up and one or more of the parties in a relationship fear being laid off, a relationship can suffer because we are so preoccupied with keeping our heads above water.

At the same time, the economic uncertainty may be keeping couples together because lack of financial flexibility may limit freedom.

It's a complex issue, but these are complex times.

If you're the employed half of a relationship, you may begin to resent the fact that although there is nothing all that glamorous about cashing unemployment checks, you just spent a full day at work while you're significant other may not have changed out of their pajamas until 6 p.m., if at all. You no longer have the back and forth comparisons of bad days or good, obnoxious boss stories to compare or the same feeling at the end of a long work week.

When you're the one unemployed, it can be even harder than being the one at work all day because in times like these, whether you are qualified or not, the options simply aren't there. It's easy to begin to feel like a burden to the other person or even ashamed and unwanted. It's easy to let the mundane day-to-day get to you and become depressed at the lack of prospects. While the day of your partner may fly by, you've had nothing to do but sit, think, send out more resumes for jobs you're overqualified for and lose yourself in books or television to avoid the reality of your own situation. It's tempting to watch the screwed-up lives of those on daytime television to make you feel better about yourself, but beware, it's an easy addiction.

If you're in a serious relationship, or you're either living together or married, my suggestion to the unemployed would be this: show your great appreciation for the one bringing home the…

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Asked to count sexual partners, men tend to inflate and women subtract.
Asked to count sexual partners, men tend to inflate and women subtract.

Sex by the numbers

Like our age or our weight, there is little number is one we tend to lie about. Men like to inflate it and women like to subtract a few, because we all know the stigmas and double-standards associated with your number of sexual partners.

Much like drinking, sex is something I'm glad I experienced before college (but not too much before) and, more specifically, with someone I cared about. I would've been a lot more naïve about the emotional and physical effects, if I hadn't.

That's not to say that there haven't been times when I wished I'd waited until I was more mature and better able to handle some of the consequences. I've even wondered how it would feel to save that first time for the one you were going to marry. Nice in theory, but it's a comforting feeling to know you're physically compatible with someone in bed before you get hitched. I don't think sex is everything, but it is a pretty important thing in my book and if you're planning to spend the rest of your life having sex with one person, wouldn't you like to know in advance if you're on the same page in that department?

Through feminism, the sexual revolution and the evolution of spring break, we still see women as needing to be virtuous and innocent. We want to believe the same girl that gives great blow jobs didn't get great at it through experience, but rather amazing God-given talent. Hey, whatever helps you sleep at night. The women in porn are fun to think about, but does that fantasy mesh with reality? No one gets that excited about sloppy seconds, let alone sloppy 63rds.

At the same time, we look at men with high numbers of sexual partners not as potential STD petri dishes but as "players," the guy all girls want and all guys want to be. Through college and after, I have pondered the reasons behind this age-old double standard. Why are sexually experienced men "players" and sexually experienced women "sluts?"

A girl I went to college with had had sex with 18 men by the…

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