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Strategies To Support Non-Monogamous, Polyamorous Patients

Bianca Palmisano interviewed me for this great piece on working therapeutically with non-monogamous & polyamorous clients for PsychiatryAdvisor.com. Check it out below!

One in five single Americans are or have been in a consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationship. The growing number of non-monogamous people in the United States suggests that therapists and social workers need to be ready to address alternative relationship styles like polyamory, open marriages, swinging, and casual hookups in their practices. While non-monogamy may seem like an unwieldy topic to broach, in most cases, practitioners won’t need to change much about their approach to counseling in serving this community.

Do I need a certificate to do this?

Non-monogamy can have rules and meanings as varied as the clients who practice it, just as traditional relationships are all complex and unique. This is good news for therapists, says Yana Tallon-Hicks, MA, a relationship therapist and sex educator. “As therapists… we already know that each couple has their own ways of defining intimacy, trust, commitment, and even what a relationship is. Chances are, if you got all of your couples together for a dinner party and asked them to define sex, commitment, or what marriage means to them, you’d get some wildly different responses and quite the heated dinner conversation!”

 

It can be helpful for practitioners to have some basic understanding of the different flavors of non-monogamy, but it is more important to understand “that all relationships are self-defined and on a spectrum of health,” Tallon-Hicks continues. “[This understanding] gives us the freedom of knowing that even if we don’t have a lot of experience with non-monogamous clients, we already know how to meet clients where they are and let them lead us through their own definitions and meanings of what makes their relationships tick.”

Non-monogamy….That’s like, cheating, right?

While personal understanding of non-monogamy varies greatly, it can be useful to have some basic working vocabulary on the topic…continue reading…

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After the O’s: Anal Aftercare

Yana Tallon-Hicks

My sexpertise for b-Vibe 

 

What is Anal Aftercare?

Aftercare — the intentional care-taking of a sexual partner after sex, typically by the penetrating, partner on behalf of the receiver — thanks our partners for sharing themselves with us and reminds them that our concern for their pleasure and well-being doesn’t stop with the orgasms.

Though aftercare has been championed by the kink community, all sex involves an exchange of power. And anal sex, especially so. Anal pleasure has long been rooted in shame and taboo. This makes anal sex extremely hot, but also, extremely vulnerable. Learn why anal aftercare is just as important as having anal sex.

How Do I Perform Anal Aftercare?

Anal sex aftercare doesn’t need to be overly sentimental or grand — it just needs to be an intentional display of appreciation and responsibility. Whatever you do, follow our aftercare general rule that the higher you fly, the softer you should pad the landing. While gently fingering someone’s ass during sex might require a simple “How’s your tush feeling?”, a long session of anal penetration will likely require much more. Here are our golden rules to anal sex aftercare:

First, check in.

The penetrating partner (sometimes identified as the Top) should recognize that their endorphins and adrenaline are likely to be lower than their partner who just received anal sex (the “receiver” or the Bottom). This means that the receiver may not yet be able to feel if they are sore or mentally present enough to ask directly for what they need as they bask in their after-sex glow.

anal-sex-aftercare-tips-01

Aftercare is most seamless if you’ve talked with your partner before anal sex, about what they typically like to have available after anal sex. If you don’t know your partner’s anal aftercare plan, giving them a hydrating drink (avoid alcohol) and a blood-sugar-raising snack (like a chocolate or fruit) are good choices.

Take care of that tush.

Anal tissues are delicate and it’s normal for them to be a little sore after sex. Gentle baby wipes can easily clean up, while an Epsom salt bath can feel purifying, pampering, and practical for sore muscles.

Praise your partner.

Anal sex can make someone especially vulnerable. So, remind your partner about all the things you liked about having anal sex with them…continue reading…

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b-Vibe: Anal Training 101

My sexpertise for b-Vibe

Yana Tallon-Hicks 

 

As anal sex becomes less taboo, people of all genders and sexualities are taking more of an interest in tantalizing the tushy. But no matter how excited you are about the prospect of entering through the backdoor, take some time and care to find your way into what has notoriously been an exit-only opening. Anal training can help.

What is Anal Training?

Anal training is exactly what it sounds like: taking time, care, and certain steps to help your body acclimate to anal penetration.

Anal training can be done solo or with a partner and can be an incredibly erotic experience. Preparing yourself to stretch your limits can add “oomph” to a playful power dynamic, a dominant/ submission relationship, or even just a Sunday night in the shower.

How Do I Anal Train?

1. First, get your brain on board.

The thought of anal play can be quite scary to people. When it comes to anal training, there is a lot of misinformation, taboo, and stereotypes that can confuse and cause a lot of fear.

The first step of anal training is to be mentally relaxed.

…and what’s the first thing your body (and butt) does when you’re scared? It tightens up. Which is no way to welcome in a penetrative object. Being mentally relaxed, well educated and consensually excited to dive into the deep end is essential.

Rather than aiming to start with penetrative anal sex (meaning penis/ dildo inside the butt), start off with a sexy anal massage. Analingus aka rimming is also a great way of anal training if you’re with a partner.

2. Familiarize yourself with your fanny.

Before partners get involved, try practicing solo anal. Massage the outside of your anus and maybe even dip the tip of your finger in your own bum while you’re alone in the shower.

Learning about the anal anatomy can be a huge benefit prior to performing anal play

Locate the two layers of the anal sphincter muscles (the outer one pushes things out, and the inner one sucks things in) and practice breathing and bearing down on your finger to help the first one relax. Feeling well-versed in your own body will increase your confidence when partnered up.

3. Get wet.

Your anus doesn’t self-lubricate like the vagina and the butt’s tissues tend to be less elastic. This makes using lubricant for all kinds of anal play essential. No lube means no fun…continue reading…

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He’s Monogamous, I’m Polyamorous — Can This Work?

Hi Yana!

I’m currently in a mono-poly relationship. My primary partner is monogamous and has no interest in being with other people. He is reading More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert and is searching for resources when feelings of jealousy or envy come up. We’ve known each other for two years and have been dating for three months. I was already dating my current girlfriend when he and I started dating, and I have also ended a relationship with a boyfriend while we’ve been together. He says his biggest fear is what might happen when I meet someone new and fall for them, since that hasn’t happened yet. But I know it will, and now I’m afraid of it happening, too.

How do I stop freaking out about hurting my amazing partner while still being my autonomous, polyamorous self? We love each other and we want to put everything into making this last.

In a Poly Predicament

Dear Poly,

True: monogamous/polyamorous relationship structures can be extra tricky and take a lot of work.

False: they never work.

However, they certainly thrive stronger and longer if built on a sound, ever-updated structure.

It sounds like your primary has been (very naturally) struggling with jealousy for the short few months that you have been together. It also seems like he’s developed enough jealousy-coping strategies to at least manage these strong feelings about partners who were already on the scene when he arrived.

The idea of having a new person show up can rock the boat even with seasoned non-monogamous folks, and can definitely feel like you’re waiting for a huge, catastrophic other shoe to drop when you’re unfamiliar with non-monogamy or are naturally monogamous like your primary is. Will he be replaced? When will this happen? What will happen when this happens? Who will it happen with?

First, validate these scary feelings he might be having. It’s important for each of you to confirm for the other person that the differing, but intersecting fears you have are natural.

Then, reinforce the power you have to handle change in your relationship by making some plans to support each other before, during, and after that change…continue reading…

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Should I Date Someone I’m Not Attracted To?

Dear Yana,

I met a girl on a dating app. It was sort of an accidental swipe, but we started chatting and met up. She was really cool to hang out with, but physically, I didn’t find her very attractive. We kept talking and started spending time together.

Now it has been a couple of months, and I’m having some reservations. Even though we really enjoy spending time together, I’m just not attracted to her physically, and it is starting to take a toll. She’s getting more attached, but this is becoming more of a mental block for me. I feel like Shallow Hal, and if it wasn’t for the lack of physical attraction, things would be great.

How do I get over this? Am I just being shallow?

— Getting Too Deep in the Shallow End

Dear Too Deep,

For most people, attraction is an instant, uncontrollable urge that tends to be physically motivated. Emotional attachment and intimacy, however, is usually a slower burn. If your initial attraction sticks as you get to the know the person, it can fan those emotional attachment flames, or perhaps your automatic attraction will fizzle and fade over time.

Or maybe you’re like so many of us in the Happy Valley, and you sleep with a lot of your friends, as friendship ripens to sexual attraction — the kind of attraction that creeps up ivy-style between you and your bros when you least expect it (even though, let’s be real, everyone else around you totally expected it).

Let me get to the point: It’s okay not to be attracted to someone. And it’s okay to feel attracted to a person initially and have that desire grow or fade over time.

But there is something inside of you that’s not sitting right, Too Deep, a little piece of you that feels like maybe you’re being an asshole. I’m guessing that this woman you speak of does not nestle neatly into the box labeled “beautiful” by conventional standards?

Are you an asshole if you dump this girl? I’m not sure if that’s for me to decide. But I can tell you how I make sure that I’m not being an asshole…continue reading…

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How to Be Curvy and Confident

Hi Yana!

I’m a chubby cis-woman in my late 20s. I lately worked through struggling with my body image and relationship to food while healing from years of disordered eating. I’ve been doing really well lately, but sadly one of the things that used to trigger my eating disorder was negative body talk from my family in regards to romantic relationships (i.e. you’ll always be alone because you’re fat).

I’m still in therapy, but I was wondering if you have any helpful advice for people who have dealt with negative body talk from family? I try to remind myself that their opinions don’t need to affect me, but I still keep waiting for rejection whenever I’m dating someone. I find that this makes me very anxious: I need lots of reassurance and validation from partners.

Meanwhile, I’m hesitant to bring this all up with the people I date because I don’t want to put my family’s B.S. on them. I often feel tense and I’m sure that my partners can sense it. I don’t want to over-share or strain my relationships, but I still want to be honest and open, and feel secure.

How can I help remind myself when I’m feeling vulnerable that I’m still lovable?

— Trying to Rock My Body

Dear RMB,

First of all, I’m sorry this familial abuse happened to you. And I’m also happy to hear that you have such great resources and resiliency.

I recently had the absolute joy of doing an interview for Curve Magazine with sex educator and self-proclaimed curvy girl Elle Chase (ellechase.com) about her new book Curvy Girl Sex. (June 2017 issue, curvemag.com, for the article.) I could not recommend it to you more.

In it she states that mega-mistake No. 1 is to “let your date determine your dateability.” That is to say that you and your body are worthy of love, affection, admiration, romance, and sexual pleasure inherently. You don’t become worthy because a date says this is so.

This level of self-love is a tough message to internalize, in general, but it’s especially difficult for people who have been incessantly told that it isn’t true. Please do add my name to your growing list of people telling you that it is true indeed: your body is great the way it is.

As humans, we thrive on connection, and so its opposite — rejection — is painful and terrifying for most of us. This means, RMB, that you will certainly not be the only one in a new romantic relationship who is navigating the line between exposing your vulnerabilities and seeking reassurance…continue reading…

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How Do I Ask Him to Rim?

Hi Yana,

I’ve been with my husband for a long time and there’s one thing in the bed we did kind of once that I’d like to do again, but I feel weird about asking for it. Basically, I want to be rimmed, but as this is something I would not want to do for him, I feel like I can’t ask it of him for me. I mean, poop comes from there! and yet, it feels amazing (we did it once on a drunken night years ago). How do I ask my husband for this? Is it okay to ask a sex partner for something you wouldn’t do yourself? I know it’s unlikely he’d ask me to reciprocate — he’s not into butt stuff for him. Still I feel uncomfortable asking for this.

— Um, How ‘Bout the Bum?

Dear ‘Bout the Bum,

Rim jobs are cool. They’re naughty, but not too naughty, high stakes yet low stakes, unassuming yet direct, and, if your husband was drunk last time you got one – probably a bit of an accidental slip of the mouth down south. The thing about happy drunken accidents like this between established lovers* is that you sort of have to bring it up intentionally after-the-fact if you’d like a repeat performance without rocks or a twist.

There are plenty of things we do with our sexual partners that we don’t necessarily want to perform ourselves or perfectly reciprocate. This isn’t necessarily an issue of fairness, but is more an issue of individuality. Partners don’t order the same dish at a restaurant, wear the same outfit to work, or opt for the same workout playlist. So, why do we expect the bedroom to be a well-balanced scale?

Well, sex has been set up by long-standing game metaphors: we make it to bases, we return the favor, we score, we lose our V-cards, and we get some. But what if it was just as celebrated for us to give some, share something, or customize our sexual interaction to perfectly suit our partnership [insert nerd emoji here]? … continue reading…