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28 April 2011

How to share a lover

Monogamy not working for you? Maybe it is time to explore non-exclusive relationships. Here are a few helpful tips on how to go about it.

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Sometimes it happens by design, sometimes it’s unplanned. Sometimes, just maybe, it’s one of those accidents of fate drawing us on into the unknown, on a journey towards greater self-knowledge, greater integration and vastly expanded possibilities. Including more people in your love life will lead to an exponential increase in whatever is at the core of your attraction.

First, leave your preconceived expectations and judgements at the gate. That goes for excessive concern about what others will think, too. Learn to discriminate between form and substance. Happiness in a relationship comes from a shared experience of love, not from an external appearance or image of perfect coupledom.

Ask yourself: how do I feel in this relationship? Trust your gut. If you have an inner certainty that you are engaged in a loving and joyous union, chances are your partners will agree with you. If you have doubts, check them out with an open-minded friend or unbiased therapist.

Second, do not tolerate deception, secrecy or lies. This doesn’t mean you have to broadcast the most intimate details of your love to the world at large, but cheating hurts everyone involved. Many people embark on multiple relationships without consulting their spouses or lovers because of their own guilt, jealousy or fear of rejection. In order to reap the benefits, it’s essential that all parties have a clear and accurate understanding of what’s going on.

If you or your lovers won’t risk telling the truth to all of your partners, do everybody a favour and stick to monogamy. It is best for your lovers to know and trust each other; that is, to have their own relationship, independent of you. It’s also a good idea for all of you to spend some time together. If your lover refuses to participate in efforts at joint communication, try to identify the underlying obstacles. If there’s no willingness to grow here, beware.

Third, clarify your own values and goals in life. Be consistent and communicate these to others. Don’t mislead potential lovers by changing your intentions with your moods. If it’s a priority for you to keep your life simple, predictable and uncomplicated, you probably won’t be motivated to commit the necessary time and energy to maintain inclusive relationships. More than one lover doesn’t have to mean an endless marathon encounter, but it does require sensitivity, self-awareness, empathy and clear communication. If you don’t already have these skills, you will have to develop them. Involvement in more than one intimate relationship tends to accelerate the process of personal growth and to intensify external activities.

Seek out others who share your wants, needs and dreams. Don’t try to force a round peg into a square hole. Make a list of the costs and benefits of your preferred relationship structure. Visualise it as you would like it to be. Ask yourself: how must I change in order for what I want to become a reality?

What about HIV/AIDS?
Many people these days are fearful of choosing a polyamorous love style because of concerns about exposing themselves to HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

If fear of disease is the only factor motivating your choice of love style, consider this. A closed circle, whether of two or six or twenty healthy, trusted partners can make polyamory just as “safe” as monogamy; perhaps even more so since the couple who have sworn to be monogamous may be more likely to lie about outside affairs and less likely to frankly discuss their sexual histories with prospective lovers than those who are openly polyamorous.

A safe sex circle or condom commitment can be entered into by a number of partners who first take appropriate steps to see that they are free of communicable diseases, and then agree not to have unsafe sex outside the group or engage in other high risk behaviours such as intravenous drug use. Each group will have to define what specific behaviours fall into the category of unprotected sex. If anyone slips up they report this to the group and are then quarantined until they can renew their clean bill of health.

Of course, it’s also possible to share sexual energy without penetration or exchanging bodily fluids, and this is also a good alternative to fear-based monogamy.

The bottom line is that creating a healthy body, mind and spirit will offer you more real protection than relying on one or more partners who may make promises they fail to keep. A highly functional immune system, a sex-positive attitude and your own ability to discern when and with whom it’s appropriate to engage with sexually offer you the security you need to love freely in our modern world. Exercise good judgment, but don’t let exaggerated fears keep you from listening to your heart.

Condom commitment:
An agreement to confine exchange of bodily fluids and barrier-free intercourse to a closed group which has previously been screened for STIs.

So the bottom line is: If you are going to do it, do it responsibly.

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