When we are love-, intimacy-, or sex coaches, we often have the opportunity to reflect on our erotic lives and the erotic lives of others. We get to listen to many ideas and opinions about relationships. Moreover, we have the opportunity to observe many different types of relationships.
Over my life, I have had the opportunity to have good and no-so-good experiences in ethical non-monogamy. I have researched the practice of ethical non-monogamy for the last five years. In addition, I have coached individuals interested in or living consensual non-monogamous lives for close to five years as well. Sharing my reflections on or experiences with ethical non-monogamy is in no way an attempt to say that I have an expertise in ethical non-monogamy. What I am attempting to do is to help you and I aspire to greater heights in our erotic worlds. Hopefully, we can learn from our personal pasts and the lessons of others to create unique, loving relationship forms for ourselves that empower and strengthen us. One of my clients recently taught me to look at ethical non-monogamy life like a baby looks at learning most things: enthusiastically, shamelessly, and fearlessly.
My client Mindy (not her real name) is a 72 year old Jewish woman from New York City. She looks 20 years younger than her age. Her mind is sharp, and her enthusiasm for life is contagious. Mindy is starting her non-monogamous life now, at 72. She and her husband agreed to an open marriage, and she has already had an experience with a lover. I am coaching her as she integrates ethical non-monogamy into her life and explores its possibilities for her life. Many times I coach folk who are having difficulty in their non-monogamous lives; in addition, I often share my personal learning experience from my past non-monogamous experiences. Couple that with how seriously I take my research on ethical non-monogamy and coaching, and I think that the result is that I may often mistakenly fail to communicate that I believe that ethical, consensual non-monogamy is joyous and fun, not just work. For the individuals who can create the “right” erotic somatic mythology; the thoughts, the somatic knowledge, and the heart (emotions and compassion); ethical non-monogamy is the way to live, the way to be.
Mindy’s enthusiasm came from the desire to live and explore, to see the world in a through new eyes. I am thankful for her willingness to see the world through new eyes. For many people, living an ethical, consensual non-monogamous life requires them to see the world in new ways. Your non-monogamous life, in many ways, may depend on how much of your older, guiding erotic mythology you are able to or willing to let go. You may have to ask yourself some of the following:
· Will I have to redefine what loves means to me?
· Do I/we need to create a new vocabulary to describe my/our new life?
· Can I find enjoyment in, not only my pleasure, but also in my partner’s enjoyment with me and others?
· Do I have to be my lover’s best kisser, best at oral sex, best fuck…?
The answers to such questions do not have all be answered before you start your non-monogamous experiences or when you first start. Some of this answers will come as you experience your ethical non-monogamous life. However, I do think whether you are new in a non-monogamous life or you have had many non-monogamous experiences over years, you should face your ethical non-monogamous life, your life with the enthusiasm of an explorer.
You will not always now what you are going to face. On the other hand, you have to have faith that you are on your path. You cannot be on any other path but yours. As an explorer, you may have to change directions, move more cautiously, and face unbelievable obstacles. Explorers know that hardship may come; however, they also know that life is an exploration whether you travel millions of miles into uncharted territories or you simply want to improve as a better parent, employee, lover, daughter or son, or whatever.
Working with Mindy reminded me to express to you to live your ethical non-monogamous life without shame. She reminded me that my dedication to the non-monogamous community is not a shameful act. Societal, cultural, and family traditions often dictate what our individual sexual lives “should be”. It is certainly not my place to tell you to disregard your traditions. Conversely, I AM saying that your choice to live a sexual life that goes against some of your traditions is not a shameful way to live. It does mean that you are responsible and that you are accepting the consequences of choices.
My client did not flaunt her sexuality, but her experiences as a woman who has lived into her 70s gives her a remarkable courage and sense of ownership. Her decisions and the consequences of her decisions she owns. It does not seem that she makes decisions without thinking; on the contrary, she makes choices that may affect her life in many ways with her eyes open, while wearing the mantle of ownership. Mindy has seen the ups and downs of life, reared children, and lived a monogamous life for many years. She is now at an age when shame of her sexuality just does not resonate in her heart any more. She has shared her non-monogamous life with close friends of hers, and she reports that the increased vulnerability between friends has strengthen their friendships thus far.
Mindy is not asking for permission to be non-monogamous. Is that where the same comes from? Do we think that we need permission to feel the ways that we do sexually and emotionally? I think there is some truth to the origins of shame coming from us believing that we have to have approval to be sexual or sexually unique. We need approval to talk dirty, to want a spanking, to be something different than heterosexual, and to live non-monogamously. Hell, I give you permission! I give myself permission to be unique. However, I DO NOT give you permission to bury your head in the sand, not acknowledging that there will be consequences to the erotic choices you make or communicate.
Try not to be ashamed or guilty that you desire ethical non-monogamy, even if it angers or hurts those you love. Of course, acknowledge your pain for hurting those you love, but your desire is nothing about which to feel guilty or ashamed. My ex-girlfriend felt great amounts of guilt for expressing her bisexuality and non-monogamous desires to me. In retrospect I wish I could have separated her desires from my feelings better. I was angery because non-monogamy was the not the story that informed my actions then. Today, as I coach folk in non-monogamous relationships and as I study consensual non-monogamy, I could not be happier about the exposure, not because I believe non-monogamy is better or more natural than monogamy, but my studies freed me of my shame about sexuality, regardless of my desires. It gave me the courage to want to help others in areas of their lives where they may find no other outlet or help.
You see I am on your side. There are consequences to me serving the consensual non-monogamous community and living as a sex coach. My culture, family, and friends question me as I serve you. My actions go against many of my traditions that where the foundation of my thoughts and actions. However, my exposure to ethical non-monogamy and subsequent research of it freed me from many feeling of guilt and shame. I see myself in my clients, in all of them. What I saw in Mindy was the ability to lover herself, to release herself from past pain, and to grow. I have those abilities. You do too. Though your non-monogamous experience may not always be good, you must remember that none of your life experiences will always bring joy. To measure non-monogamy at such a high standard is be putting yourself in a position to never live non-monogamously successfully.
I want you to be fearlessly in your non-monogamous lives…. Hmmmmm…. Maybe, fearless is not the right word. Fear has some things to teach us. However, living an ethical, consensual non-monogamous life can be a revolutionary act, whether you swing or live a ploy life, or you fall within the spectrum between the two poles. Consensual non-monogamy has the potential to change how family is structured, how we view love, and how we view sex for all sexual orientations. Consensual non-monogamy has the potential to change traditional views about women and their desires. I love the potential for revolution, yet revolution only comes when individuals face their fears of being different of being revolutionary. Their beliefs in their individual stories outweigh their fears.
Working with Mindy reminded me to be revolutionary and to help others face their fears. I am not asking anyone to “come out” as living a non-monogamous life. I am telling you that is okay to be afraid of living a consensual non-monogamous life, and it is okay to face your fears, so you can live a life that validates who you are and how you feel.
Thank you Mindy
Dr. Nwachi Tafari,
Director of the Consensual Non-Monogamy Community, Inc.