Has Your Non-Traditional Relationship Become Complex and Confusing?

Are you part of a polyamorous, open, or swinging relationship? Are you and your partner(s) into fetish play, BDSM, kink, or other out-of-the-box forms of sexual expression? If you are in a group relationship, is unclear communication, a change in the relationship dynamic, or blurred boundaries creating friction, insecurities, and hurt feelings for one or more partners? Perhaps changes in how you relate to your gender identity or sexual orientation has shifted and caused confusion for your partner and uncertainty within the relationship. Maybe you are in a polyamorous relationship and are struggling to figure out how each of your partners work into the dynamic. Perhaps your partner is increasingly into BDSM and fetishes and you are wondering how to keep sex safe and/or if their desires and forms of sexual expression have become harmful, extreme or even inappropriate. You may have been part of a relationship that was working well for some time, but a new sexual or emotional configuration or complexity may have one or all of you feeling uncertain, confused, unsatisfied, or even angry. Do you wish you could talk about sex and emotions openly and create agreements that nourish and fulfill everyone’s emotional, physical, and sexual needs and desires?

Blurred boundaries, unmet or unspoken expectations, and communication breakdowns in any kind of relationship can lead to feelings of insecurity, loneliness, confusion, and stress. And, this can be especially true in more multifaceted and nuanced relationships. Whether you are in a committed partnership of two, or trying to navigate a relationship with multiple partners, struggles with communication or connection can make anyone feel lost and even a little scared. While you may be enjoying aspects of a progressive lifestyle, you and or your partner(s) still may not know how to effectively work through uncomfortable conversations, set and maintain clear expectations and/or boundaries, or navigate a complex dynamic.

Non-Traditional Relationships and All Their Complexities Are Increasingly Common

Non-traditional relationships and more dynamic forms of sexual expression are becoming increasingly common, enjoyed, and accepted. While conversations about these kinds of relationships and interests may still not be mainstream, kink, poly, and BDSM communities are flourishing around the United States, and members of these communities are committed to education, exploring nourishing forms of sex, and learning about and engaging in sex that provides the most enjoyment and safety.

Problems in non-traditional relationships usually occur when communication becomes implicit rather than explicit. When people assume their partner(s) are okay with certain activities, break agreements, start keeping secrets, or suddenly shift the dynamic of a relationship, problems can arise, confusion ensues, and feelings get hurt. These relationships often take more intention and effort than traditional relationships, but when done well, can provide profound rewards, enjoyment, and emotional and sexual nourishment. The good news is that with the help of a skilled, open-minded, and sex-positive therapist, you can identify, explore, and address the complexities of your relationship and create agreements that support everyone’s needs.

Non-Traditional Relationship Counseling Can Help You Create a Nourishing, Healthy Relationship

If you and your partner(s) are committed to the therapy process, progressive, non-traditional relationship counseling can be extremely effective, productive, and often enjoyable. You have already made the conscious choice to engage in a non-traditional relationship and/or out-of-the-box forms of sexual expression. Working off of those agreements and getting everyone in a room with all issues on the table opens up the space to engage in open, honest, and thoughtful conversations about the expectations, needs, and desires of everyone in the relationship.

In non-judgmental, safe, and confidential sessions, we can work collaboratively and honestly to create thoughtful, detailed agreements that fulfill everyone’s needs. In therapy, we are able to make space for everyone in the relationship, and in this space, all pain points can be expressed and addressed. This helps build trust and promote feelings of vulnerability, empathy, and intimacy. As new agreements are forming, we can help you ensure that they are coming from nourishment and abundance, rather than a place of fear or emotional poverty.

If you and your partner(s) are engaging in kink, BDSM, fetish play, or other kinds of non-heteronormative sex, we can help you get clear on expectations, needs, desires, and boundaries. There are safe and highly enjoyable ways to engage in these forms of sex, and we can provide you with information and help you create detailed agreements that feel good for all partners.

Once your learn how to communicate more openly and effectively, we can work together to create a communication strategy that you can use as your relationship continues to evolve and grow. Often, there is a trial and error period, which can help you identify what works and what does not. By addressing all the issues head-on, you can feel nourished, supported, and empowered to work through challenges as they arise, rather than feel confused and uncertain.

Because every relationship is unique, my approach is to help everyone involved explore and cultivate what best addresses and supports their lifestyle, personalities, histories, needs and therapeutic goals. We are compassionate, completely non-judgmental, and sex-positive, both personally and professionally. We believe that when we take the initiative and responsibility to learn about how our actions and responses impact our partner(s) and our relationship, we can truly learn how to best be in each other’s care.

With support, guidance, and the willingness to engage in the therapy process, you can learn how to express sexual interests and emotional needs in a way the feels nourishing and abundant, which can become a deeply fulfilling transpersonal, spiritual practice in and of itself. It is possible to cultivate a relationship that feels joyful, pleasurable, and safe for everyone.

You still may have questions or concerns about counseling for non-traditional relationships…

I am worried that I will feel shamed or judged for my relationship and/or sexual interests.

We take a completely non-judgmental and non-prescriptive approach. Not only do we think that all kinds of sexual expressions and various types of relationships can be healthy, we also believe that they can prosper. From a personal standpoint, we are a sex-positive gay male and pansexual female who have engaged in various forms of relationships and sex. Professionally, there is not much we have not heard. Both personally and professionally, we believe that all kinds of relationships and forms of sexual behavior can be healthy, joyful, connected, and safe.

We tried working with a couples therapist, but it did not really help. How will working with you be different?

We take an approach in which you get to define what agreements and kinds of boundaries you create in your relationship. Our role is to support you and your partner(s) so you can be and feel as healthy, nourished, and satisfied as possible. We also know that every relationship is different and requires a unique approach for finding what works in your arrangement. Essentially, all partners have an active role in not only creating agreements for the relationship, but also in the therapy process itself.

One of our partners is skeptical of counseling and does not want to attend.

In all honesty, therapy is most effective when all partners are present and willing to engage in the process. While we will work with individuals as well as couples, triads, and groups for relationship counseling, when all parties are present, the return is much more meaningful. This one partner may just need a little convincing and encouragement. We hope you can express to them how important open communication is in a relationship. We are also open to speaking with them by phone to discuss the benefits and safety of this type of counseling and how it can make a big difference in navigating the complexities of a non-traditional relationship.

from the blog

Scott Church, MA, LPC

You can have a healthy, safe, and satisfying relationship. You do not have to navigate relationship challenges on your own. We provide couple/relationship counseling in Broomfield, Colorado. We invite you to email us to discuss how we could best work together and answer any questions you have about our counseling services, or log in to schedule an appointment.

-Scott Church, MA, LPC, NCC, CST
-Caroline Leach, MA, LPC