Celeste & Danielle Offer Sex and Relationship Coaching for a Passionate, Connected and Fulfilling Life

“He is totally there for me, is an amazing father, and also supports me in getting my sexual and emotional needs met. Why would I go anywhere else?!” – says one of our female clients about her husband.

“I feel like I’m getting to have the college years I always dreamed of, but was too shy to enjoy.” Her husband’s comment in response.

We love these quotes because they challenge many of the assumptions people have about non-monogamous relationships and highlight the importance of honest outsourcing. Although our clients are experiencing sex outside of their marriage, it is not cheating or an affair. They are completely committed to each other and ultimately are not going anywhere that would threaten their bond. They might be outsourcing sex, but they are fully invested in love, and they are in awe of their primary partner. Part of their strength comes from supporting each other in all of their desires, whether they can meet each others needs or not.

This example of honest outsourcing may sound appealing, intriguing, or insane. What we want to emphasize that there is no one-size-fits-all relationship model that works for everyone or every couple. The more you consciously co-create your relationship, the more likely it is to last. We’ve all heard about high divorce rates, and seen (or been a member of ) unhappy couples that stay together. Playing by the rules does not always lead to happiness or longevity.

Many unhappily coupled or married folks outsource dishonestly by having affairs or seeing sex workers. Despite these high rates of failure, people rarely ask, “Yes, but do monogamous relationships really work?” Monogamy is rarely scrutinized as a relationship model because, as a culture, we think of monogamy as “normal,” “natural,” or “right” and believe that staying monogamous with one person forever is the only truly successful relationship model. The belief that a lifetime of monogamy is the only way sets people up for a lot of pain and failure, as even most monogamous folks (a few unicorns aside) will generally have more than one partner in their lifetime.

We are not here to argue about whether or not monogamy is the way humans were meant to be. (For interesting discussions on monogamy and non-monogamy, check out Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, as well as Strange Bedfellows: The Surprising Connection Between Sex, Evolution and Monogamy, by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton.) Different relationship structures work for different people. Some people will actually be more likely to sustain relationships if they are non-monogamous, while for others monogamy is an essential component to relationship longevity.

The most challenging relationships seem to be those in which one person desires monogamy while the other desires some form of an open relationship. For these relationships, especially, it is essential to make a distinction between monogamy and commitment, since people often confuse these terms. You can be highly committed to your partner and not monogamous, and you can be completely monogamous without being committed. Commitment means being dedicated to working through the challenges that show up in every relationship. It means being aware of your own feelings, needs, and capacities and communicating instead of building resentment.

There are many reasons you might consider honest outsourcing as opposed to dishonesty or divorce. It can allow you to enjoy the depth of understanding and support that a long-term loving connection offers while also experiencing the excitement of new partners. Bringing in new people can often reignite passion between you and your partner. It can also make you feel accepted in all of your desires, which helps you feel more loving towards your partner. It can increase the stability of the relationship because no one needs to leave or lie in order to get their needs met. As our clients experience demonstrated, by going outside the marriage they were actually giving themselves less reason to ever truly “go anywhere else.”

Whether you acknowledge it or not, some desires get met in your primary relationship, and some desires you outsource. We are not talking about the kind of economic outsourcing that Donald Trump promises to end if president (even though his own line of suits is manufactured overseas), we are talking about how desires can be fulfilled across different relationships. If this is negotiated openly and honestly it can be wonderful, and non-exploitative, for everyone involved.

Outsourcing can allow you to get what you need without putting all of the pressure on one relationship to give it to you. Many times you outsource desires without even thinking about it; the outsourcing doesn’t even show up on anyone’s radar because you are both fine with it. For example, perhaps you love salsa dancing but your partner hates it, so you have a group of friends who you go dancing with. Maybe your partner is relieved to never have to go again. Or maybe you like to talk a lot about your feelings, but your partner has a lower tolerance for feelings-based conversations, so you have a best friend you call when you are emotional and need some support. Problems arise when you have a desire that is not being met in the relationship but that you or your partner are not okay with you outsourcing. There is a big cultural taboo about outsourcing sex, but sex isn’t the only thing that people feel uncomfortable outsourcing.

The same examples as above can play out very differently, causing friction and long term issues. Let’s say you still love salsa dancing, and your partner still doesn’t want to do it with you but also doesn’t like the idea of you doing it with someone else. Or you may not feel very supported by your partner emotionally, but they don’t want you to share feelings with your friends, especially if you are talking about your relationship. You might be very extroverted and want to go out a few nights a week, and your partner only wants to go out once a month but gets very sad and frustrated when you go out without them. These are all examples of places where you could outsource, but doing so feels threatening or hurtful to your partner.

In all relationships, we are in an ongoing negotiation of desires, boundaries, and capacities. Each of us needs to honor the other’s desires and be as honest as possible about our own, knowing that we will sometimes feel disappointment in the face of differences.

In the following series we will talk about how people handle sexual outsourcing in their relationships in a variety of ways (polyamory, non-monogamy, open-relationships, infidelity, affairs, cheating). Some people choose to outsource dishonestly which can have many negative ramifications even if this outsourcing is never discovered. We encourage everyone to try and negotiate outsourcing honestly. While this might bring up fears, in the end, being open and honest about your needs brings the highest likelihood of long-term connection and personal fulfillment.

Many have outlined the lessons that can be learned from the Ashley Madison hack in terms of personal privacy and internet security. Others see the site hack as an example of justice being served in what they see as an increasingly immoral world. While we always promote honesty in relationships, we are less interested in passing judgement and more interested in the relationship lessons that an affair can bring to the surface and how these do not always end in despair or divorce.

Ashley Madison’s cleverly manipulative tagline “Life is short: Have an Affair” is appealing because it offers a shortcut to getting certain needs met. Instead of communicating your desires with your partner, it implies an easy fix for getting your sexual desires fulfilled. This equation does not take into account how time consuming and heartbreaking it can be to process an affair with your partner. This is a lesson many Ashley Madison users are now learning the hard way, and maybe others can also take this lesson to heart before they cheat.

As a society, we think of cheating as the ultimate, unforgivable sin. But we see so many different problems surface in relationships that can be just as damaging such as withholding love, sex, or affection. As the “injured party,” the person who was cheated on may feel self-righteous and refuse to consider how their behavior may have contributed to problems in the relationship in general. They may refuse to have any compassion for the ways that their partner’s denied desires or fears and wounds led to the affair. When this happens communication becomes limited to a loop of apology and blame, which does not allow for a couple to reconnect.

It is undeniable that finding out about an affair can be extremely painful. Your partner, in whom you’ve invested so much trust, has lied to you and broken an agreement. At the same time, if you want to recover from an affair, it will not help to think of one of you as the helpless victim and the other as the evil perpetrator. Once cheating has been discovered or confessed, both parties need to decide if they want to face the process of looking at the issues in the relationship (and the affair as a symptom of these issues) rather than labeling the person who had the affair the cause of the problem.

For some people, those who find it unthinkable to actually communicate their desires to their partner, an affair might present a unique moment of crisis that can help save a struggling relationship. It can be a moment where honesty comes flooding out in all directions. We have helped many couples turn relationship crisis into an opportunity, and finding out about an affair, or even an attempted affair, puts most couples in a crisis. We agree with Ashley Madison in that “life is short”, which is exactly why honestly communicating your desires is so important.

​OK, let us start by saying that these may not actually be easy, but neither is having an affair and all of the residual problems that follow which can lead to a break up that neither party truly wants. So now that we have been honest with you, we think you can tackle number 1.

​1. Be honest – The best way to avoid an affair is to be honest about your desires up front as soon as they arise or once you have overcome your sense of shame for having them. For this to work best, you and your partner must create an ethic of acceptance around each other’s desires, even those that are scary or threatening. Some people are afraid to even share their sexual desires or talk about the possibility of being with someone else because they fear that their partner will judge them, stop loving them, resent them, or begin watching their every move to make sure that they are not seeing anyone else.

​2. Negotiate your Relationship Contract – Evaluate your Relationship Contract frequently and look at the boundaries you have set in your relationship or your resistance to certain sexual desires and practices. See if there has been any movement in those boundaries or if you are willing to explore the possibility of shifting them. If you do decide to expand your boundaries, it is important to do so slowly and with lots of communication. It is also important to remember that trying something out to see if it is okay with you does not mean agreeing to it forever. When working with couples on shifting boundaries, we always emphasize how important it is that people not go beyond their boundaries and shift into resentment.

​3. Make room for disappointmentt – Make room for each other’s disappointment when yours or their needs are not being met. Often, if you are merely allowed to openly and shamelessly ask for what you want and receive the support of your partner in having those desires, that can be enough. Then, even if it is beyond your partner’s capacity to allow you to meet those desires out in the world, they at least understand that you are disappointed, and you can feel loved and accepted by them.

​4. Turn a threat into an opportunity – You might also see if there is any part of your partner’s desires that you can play with or explore through fantasy and role play. If your partner wants to have sex with other people, you might dress up, pretend you are someone else, and have them pick you up for a night of sex. You might have a secret affair with your partner, complete with afternoon rendezvous, or you might go out cruising together and check out whom you’d each like to pick up. If your partner desires threesomes or group sex, you might come up with a hot threesome or group-sex fantasy to whisper in their ear during sex.

For some people, just having their desires heard and accepted will be enough. Others might not be satisfied with this solution, and their partners will need to listen to their disappointment or discuss outsourcing. The longer desires go unspoken and unheard, the stronger they are when they come out, so early acceptance is important.

Not everyone is attracted to people other than their partner, but it is normal and common when people are. The idea of being attracted to others or that your partner is attracted to others might scare you, or might feel like something you don’t want. The fact is that many people are attracted to different people other than their partner, emotionally and sexually. If you look at it as a fact of life, talking to your partner about your attractions to others can actually enhance intimacy. You can share what you feel about these attractions and any insecurities or fears that hearing about each other’s attractions might bring up. It is also okay to set boundaries around what you do and don’t want to hear about your partner’s attractions to others. When you make room in your relationship to honor the possibility of outside attractions and the feelings they create, it can help you stay connected and engaged with each other instead of developing separate lives where you keep your attractions hidden. This may help prevent affairs from happening.

Some people are comfortable with monogamy while others feel much more themselves in non-monogamous situations. They may feel fully satisfied with their partner and still want to have sexual or emotional connections with other people. But because there is limited social acceptance of non-monogamy, these people usually feel that they have no choice but to agree to monogamy if they want a long-term relationship. Some people don’t realize that they want to be with more than one person until later in life, when they have already entered into a monogamous marriage. Eventually, their desire to be with someone else may win out and they may end up having an affair.