[Guest Post] 5 Questions to Ask Before You Open Your Marriage by Minda Lane

I’m thrilled to have another new-to-C&K writer for you today! Minda Lane (she/her) is telling us about what she learned when she first explored consensual non monogamy, and 5 questions you should consider asking yourself before you open your marriage. I found Minda’s story profoundly relatable. I hope it resonates with you, too – whether you’re polyam, monogamous, or somewhere in the middle.

5 Questions to Ask Before You Open Your Marriage by Minda Lane

The prospect of opening a monogamous marriage is, for many people, titillating. If you’re like I was, the potential is so thrilling you might not be thinking with your—ahem—brain. 

Before my husband, Jack, and I opened up, I thought about it privately for months. Marriage and family life had begun to feel too predictable. I started to feel desperate for a break from the routine, from the known. I wanted to feel young and vibrant like I once had, before I started storing Kleenexes in my shirtsleeves and worrying about things like health savings accounts and whether my kid was having too much screen time. 

When I brought up opening our marriage, the conversation went better than I hoped. We quickly ordered every related book we could find: Dating in Captivity by Esther Perel, The Ethical Slut by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton, and various others. But the information was too hypothetical. I needed to dip my toe in the pool before I could relate to what I was reading. 

We decided to go for it. Never mind wading in—sexting, playing with others nearby, or a soft swap (where no penetrative sex occurs.) Jack and I did a cannonball, dating independently, with condom use as our only hard and fast requirement. 

I’ll summarize our experience for you: it didn’t go well.    

To save you the trouble we went through, I’ve prepared a list of questions to consider before you try to open your marriage.

Do you still want to be with your partner?

Plenty of people have an affair because they lack the self-awareness, skill, or courage to tell their partner that they want out of the relationship. There are also plenty of people that seek to have an open relationship for the same reasons. 

You might think you’re sparing their feelings by avoiding the truth, or maybe you want to open your marriage to preserve your options because you’re not sure. Whatever your motives, it’s best to be forthcoming. Tell your partner how you’re feeling. Set them free. You’ll save time, spare yourselves a lot of drama, and maybe even preserve your friendship.

Are you and your partner mutually interested in opening?

It’s not uncommon for couples to disagree about opening up, or about the what’s “allowed” under their new agreements. Perhaps one partner wants to be able to have sex with other people but the other is only comfortable with light flirting or trading photos.

In this instance there are four potential outcomes, and two of them will be determined by the partner that wants more: they can either give up on their desire, or cheat. Or you can break up.

The only way forward together is to continue to talk and work at it. Reading and discussing the material or working with a therapist who is experienced with consensually nonmonogamous relationships are useful ways to ensure the conversation stays positive and productive. If there isn’t full agreement around the new arrangement, trying to open your marriage is going to cause a lot more problems than it can fix.

Have you done your own personal work? 

I had no idea until I started dating again that I had an insecure anxious attachment style, which I learned about in the book Attached, by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A. Insecure anxious attachment is characterized by preoccupation with a love interest, insecurity, need for reassurance, and sometimes consuming worry.

You can imagine the problems that ensue from this dynamic, which I repeated over and over until I finally figured it out. If I’d had this awareness earlier, not to mention processing early childhood trauma to a greater extent, I would have saved myself and Jack a lot of heartache. 

Do you and your partner communicate well?

I always thought Jack and I had great communication. I talked a lot and he listened. What I didn’t realize is that he had a more passive style. His cues were more subtle. Instead of telling me outright something hurt his feelings, he showed it in a facial expression, or by withdrawing.

The first time I hit it off with a lover, I didn’t want to acknowledge that I sensed Jack was struggling with it, because it would have meant slowing down, and I didn’t want to spoil my fun. He did his best to endure the hard feelings and give me space, but it was costly to us both. We couldn’t address the issues that remained unnamed.  

What I know now is: unless you are willing to tell the compassionate truth and give grace to your partner as they share their desires and experience, it will be very difficult to proceed with the kind of transparency needed to prevent issues from cropping up later. 

Practice saying the hard truths before you open your marriage for real (I want you to touch me this way, sometimes I fantasize about so and so, I am afraid that…) and make space for one another’s experience. Consensual nonmonogamy has great potential to nourish your primary or anchor relationship and learning to communicate with more empathy and clarity is one way it can do that. 

Are you in it for the long haul?

Relationships, like people, change over time. New lovers or partners will likely come and go, and when they do, it can cause ripples in the original partnership. But it would be a mistake to reorient your existing relationship for an affair that may fizzle inside of three months. I learned this the hard way—Jack and I had considerable struggles over a connection I shared with a lover. When that relationship ended I was left with a sinking feeling of “what for?”

Ideally, when the inevitable waves of New Relationship Energy, fear, and envy come, you can ride the waves together, knowing that difficult emotions can exist without requiring action. Jealousy, frustration, sadness, grief… consensual nonmonogamy is likely to trigger a host of feelings between you. In those times you have to lean into the love, tenderness, humor, passion, and friendship that drew you together in the first place. Honor one another, be true to yourself, and remember that lust is fickle, but love is enduring.

About the author

Minda Lane is a freelance writer based in Seattle who has recently completed a memoir relating her experience of nonmonogamy. Follow her on Instagram @monogamishbook or @mynameisminda.

If you enjoyed this piece, supporting the blog via the Tip Jar helps me keep bringing in awesome guest writers to share their wisdom with you all!

Reflections on Four Years

Yesterday (11/11/20) was the fourth anniversary of my relationship with my secondary partner, The Artist. This year has not been easy – we only live an hour from each other, and at the time of writing we haven’t seen each other in a little over 9 months. (For context, in non-pandemic times our average was once to twice a month.)

In honour of them and all they’ve given me in our time together, I thought I’d share a few reflections on our relationship.

It’s possible to have a secondary relationship that is truly, deeply joyful

Years ago, I wrote a defence of hierarchical polyamory and how people need to lay off judging it as Always And Absolutely Unethical. I said at the time that I was happy being The Artist’s secondary partner, and I stand by that now.

We have no desire to be each others’ primary partner. We each have our person that we live with and have entangled our lives with, and we love them very much. What we have with each other is different.

When people decry secondary relationships, it’s usually because they’ve been in one where they got burned. And I’m sorry for that, because I’ve been there. But this relationship has affirmed what I’ve always believed: that it’s possible to have a secondary relationship that is loving, nourishing, and joyful.

Because secondary doesn’t mean “just sex” or “less important” or “I don’t really care about you.” In the last four years, The Artist and I have had some amazing experiences together and shared mutual care and support in crises. We’ve held each other up and we’ve had each other’s backs. It might be secondary, but it still matters. A lot.

Taking it slow works out well sometimes

There’s been a post sitting in my drafts for over 2 years that I might publish eventually that explores this point in more detail. The working title is Fucking is Easy, Loving is Harder.

Because it took me a long-ass time to fully open up in this relationship. I got very adept at slamming a lid on my real feelings, keeping my emotions in check, because I was still convinced there was a catch. That I liked them more than they liked me, that they’d get bored with me, that I’d fuck it up. Saying I love you took me just shy of two years.

Because love is high stakes. The highest. Letting someone in is fucking hard when you’ve been hurt multiple times, especially when you’re an abuse survivor. By taking it slowly, my brain had time to catch up to my heart. And the trust we built was real, not based on impulsivity or rushing headfirst into something without thinking it through.

We can get through a lot

As I mentioned at the start of this post, we haven’t seen each other since February (it’s now November.) We currently have no idea when we’ll be able to see each other again. The UK is back in lockdown, and COVID-19 cases are still soaring. At this point, I’m expecting the total length of our separation time to stretch to a full year or more. If it doesn’t, I’ll consider that a pleasant surprise.

Is it easy? Fuck no. Does it suck? Yes. A lot. But have we got through it so far and do I believe we’ll keep getting through it? Yes and yes.

It’s not all been hot sexting and mushy online dates, either (though there has been some of that.) Some days, it’s been nothing more than an “everything sucks, but I love you” message. Of course there have been moments I’ve wondered if our relationship could survive this, if the long separation will result in them deciding they don’t need me any more, if one of us will just get too fucking depressed to keep this thing going.

But overall? I feel like if we can survive nine months to a year of lockdown, we can survive a lot of things.

I love them super-much

Basically, I think that’s what I’m trying to say, here. This is a fucking weird love-letter, but it’s a fucking weird year, so this is what I have right now.

I love you, sweetheart. Here’s to the next four.

Want to help me keep (over)sharing my love/sex life with you all? The tip jar is open!

Pancakes

I love making people pancakes the morning after a night of filthy sex.

I don’t know quite when this tradition or this association started, but it’s now firmly entrenched in my mind that an overnight date should ideally end with a lazy, late-morning pancake breakfast.

Food is one of my love languages. I love the ritual of making a loved one a cake for their birthday (or, let’s be real, any other special occasion.) Adding flour and eggs and chocolate chips and infusing the whole thing with love. I love dashing around the kitchen whipping up a feast for a group of friends. God, I miss dinner parties. Years ago, I taught myself how to cook vegan (I wasn’t yet even vegetarian at the time) because a dear friend adopted strict veganism overnight and it seemed like a good way to show support.

And I love making pancakes the morning after the night before. Whether we’re grinning at each other across the kitchen table with filthy, hot memories still fresh in our minds, or balancing trays on our laps and trying not to spill syrup on the bed, there’s something delightfully intimate about eating breakfast together.

If I’ve let you stay over (or I’ve stayed over with you,) it means I trust you to see me at my most imperfect. It’s one thing to get dolled up and go out to a restaurant and then go home and fuck and slip out before we fall asleep. It’s another entirely to let you see me with bed hair, morning face, pre-coffee blearly eyes.

A lot of my sex is pretty casual, but I still care deeply about everyone I get naked with. Whether we’re long-term partners or friends who also fuck occasionally, I want you to know how loved and valued you are. Making breakfast is my little way of saying “I want to do all kinds of hot and dirty things with you. But I also want to hang out in our pyjamas and eat pancakes with you.”

If you enjoy my work, you can always buy me a coffee or shop with my affiliates in the right-hand sidebar to help me keep the blog going.

You Can Be Both Abused and Complicit in Abuse: A True Story

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
– Hans Christian Anderson

TW: this post is about abuse

One late afternoon in spring of 2015, I went to meet my then-metamour in a coffee shop. Talking to her was a last resort in a tangled, confusing mess of a situation that I couldn’t find my way out of. Our shared partner had become increasingly unstable, volatile, and verbally and emotionally violent towards me, and I had simply no idea what to do.

She called me her sister, and in some ways we were closer than close. We shared not just a partner but a coven, a plan for our little polycule’s future, and sometimes even a bed.

In other ways, though, there was always a wall between us that we could not scale. That wall was made of a lot of things. Of the fact that we both knew that, if push came to shove, he would choose her. I simply did not compare, as I was told frequently. Of the fact that I was a kind of human shield to her, someone who took the worst of his heat and terrifying temper away from her. Of the fact that I was afraid of her, because I knew she too could yell me into submission if I did anything she didn’t like.

Still, I turned to her because I thought she might be the one person who could get through to him. I’d seen how, sometimes, she was the only person in the world he’d listen to. So we sat across from each other, at a quiet corner table, and I quietly told her, in as few words as possible, that I’d realised I was in an abusive relationship with her husband.

I’ve never forgotten, and I doubt I ever will, the icy chill that ran through my body when she met my eyes, sipped her coffee, and asked calmly, “am I supposed to be surprised?”

That might have been the moment that I realised I was on my own. She was the final ace I had to play, the one person I thought might actually be able to help me. Instead, she told me that she’d known for years that he was abusive. She’d learned to live within it, she said, so I should too. I should be stronger, be better, be more loving. Remember everything he’d been through, his painful childhood and his fucked up family and all those girls who rejected him.

I didn’t have to be another source of pain for him. I didn’t have to be another brick in his wall of hatred and distrust of the entire world, especially women. Instead, I could help heal him. I could be one of the good ones. All I had to do was be quiet, be good, be better. Swallow my needs and my feelings and just smilingly let him be what he was.

That day, that conversation, was one more little step in my journey towards the inevitable end resolution of I cannot do this any more. Less than a week later, I left. Even as she counselled me to stay, what she inadvertently did was give me another of the series of little pushes I need to leave. Because I realised I had two choices: live within the system he’d built for me, or get out of it. It was never going to change.

No longer satisfied with just surviving day after day, I decided to get out.

Even after I’d left him, she struggled to retain access to me and piled on the pressure for me to stay. “How could you do this to us?” she asked me, even as we held each other and cried in her living room. “How could you choose someone else after all this time?”

What I wanted to say, and didn’t, was that it wasn’t about choosing someone else. It was about choosing sunlight and freedom and flowers over an oppressive cave where I could barely breathe and there were rocks just waiting to fall on my head. I didn’t say any of it. I just told her I was sorry, got out of that house as quickly as possible, and didn’t look back.

What I realise now is that she – my metamour, my friend, my sister – was both complicit and a victim. I do not doubt that he behaved abusively towards her, probably for most of their two plus decades together. I also see now that she behaved abusively towards me. She directly enabled him, counselled me with variations of if you could just be better he wouldn’t hurt you countless times, and did her fair share of yelling and threatening and intimidating me herself.

In the classic, endless, fucked up circle, the abused became the abuser. There’s a part of me that left because I didn’t want to end up an abuser, too. I do not forgive her, but I also hope that she will get away from him someday. I still feel guilty sometimes because I couldn’t save her. In the end, all I could do was save myself.

Quote Quest badge for a post about being both abused and complicit in abuse

This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

Loving Someone You’ve Loved Forever

“We had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”
– Louis de Bernieres (from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin)

I won’t knock New Relationship Energy for a second. It’s fun and it’s wonderful. Who doesn’t love that part at the beginning of a new relationship, where you’re feeling each other out, learning each other’s bodies and minds, figuring out how you fit?

But for me, the best things in a relationship have always come with time. Things like learning how to move around each other in the kitchen as we make a meal together. Knowing exactly what treat to bring back from the store to make the other’s day a bit brighter. Hearing I love you in words like “drive safely” and “you need to rest“. A whole shared language of jokes, memories, experiences, trips, fights and resolutions, fucks, films, friends, and so much more.

And sex with someone I’ve loved forever? For me, that’s where the really good stuff is. When there’s no pressure to be perfect. No worries about what if we don’t fit, what if it doesn’t work, what if what if what if

No fear I won’t be good enough, because they’ve already seen me at my worst and they still love me. Knowing that if I don’t come, they won’t think my body is too finicky or complicated. Knowing that if a body makes an unsexy noise, we’ll laugh it off and carry on. Being 100% certain that if I say no, they’ll respect it and still love me. Not being scared to take my clothes off, because I know they find me hot, stretch marks and body hair and all.

All other things being equal, I’d far rather have sex with someone whose body I know. Someone who knows mine. The creativity that comes with keeping the lust and the spark alive over years. Morning sex when we’re still half asleep, afternoon sex when we’re both working from home, giggly sex when we’re just on the right side of tipsy, sex club sex when we’re getting off on showing off.

I’ve never understood people who think long-term relationships are boring, that forever love is unexciting, or that sex with someone you’ve loved for years has to be less passionate.

So yes, casual sex is fun and NRE is wonderful. Give me the breathless excitement of fucking someone for the first time. Give me the heart-skipping moment when one of us finally moves to kiss the other. Bring it on – I love that stuff. The ability to enjoy that stuff over and over, without hurting anyone, is part of why I’m polyamorous.

But more than that? Far more than that, give me waking up next to someone I’ve loved for years. Bodies that can keep rediscovering each other every time we come together, again and again and again for years. Give me the two puzzle pieces that know they fit together.

Give me roots that have grown together underground. In the face of all that, the pretty blossom is just decoration.

Quote Quest badge, for a post about loving someone you've loved forever

This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

[Guest Blog] What Cats Can Teach Us About Boundaries by Quenby

It’s a rare gem of a guest pitch that can say something incredibly important and make me giggle my ass off at the same time. That’s why this idea from Quenby went into the instant “yes!” pile. As a consent nerd and self-obsessed cat lady, I love the way they manage to nail the essence of both cats and boundaries in this piece. Let’s dive in…

What Cats Can Teach Us About Boundaries

Recently I was discussing boundaries with my datemate AJ and they said something that stuck with me. “When it comes to physical affection, I’m a bit like a cat!” (no, this isn’t a piece about kitten play!). This was a cute moment between the two of us, but the more I think about it, the more I think cats actually can teach us a few important things about setting boundaries.

It can take time.

You don’t walk straight up to a cat and pet them, you give them space and let the cat come to you. Whether it’s your first time meeting someone, or you’ve been dating for a while, sometimes you need to give your partner space. As someone who tends towards physical affection, this took me some time to get used to, and it’s something I still try to check myself on. But I try to come in without expectations, and give a partner time to relax and adjust to my presence. Letting them come to me can help ensure they’re comfortable and helps build the trust needed for us to feel safe lowering our inhibitions and exploring different forms of affection. And otherwise you’re just chasing a disgruntled cat around the house.

If a cat wants to be stroked, they will let you know.

If they want a belly rub they will let you know, and if they want food they will definitely let you know! Affection must be given and received on terms that everyone enjoys. You have to pay attention to your partners verbal and non-verbal signals, and take cues from them. As part of this we can also draw in the idea of love languages (the different ways in which people show that they care for each other.) Ultimately you need to communicate with a partner and find the ways you can express affection in a way that everyone appreciates. Because otherwise it’s not about your partner, it’s not about sharing a connection, its just about taking what you want from the other person.

Sometimes when you’re petting a cat they’ll suddenly stand up and walk away, because they’ve decided that they’ve had enough.

For consent to be meaningful, it must be continuous. Consent is not a singular moment, it doesn’t mean agreeing to something and then being obliged to stick with it. If you stop enjoying something, it’s always ok to stop. It can be hard to remember this when you’re in the moment. When your partner is right in front of you, excited for something that you also really wanted moments before, it can be hard to speak up. But (and lets say it together this time) if you stop enjoying something, it’s always okay to stop! And if your partner doesn’t respect that, they are in the wrong. And that leads us neatly to the final lesson.

Cats aren’t generally aggressive unless provoked first

But if you don’t follow these rules they will lash out, and those claw marks on your face will be your own fucking fault. If somebody fails to respect your boundaries, then you are entitled to be pissed off at them. Whether or not they crossed that boundary intentionally, they’ve fucked up and must take responsibility for pushing those boundaries. You have a right to establish boundaries and you have a right to enforce those boundaries.

This is intended as a light-hearted take on a serious topic – obviously human relationships are too complex and nuanced to be comprehensively explained by cats. But I think that the core lessons I’ve drawn out in this piece are a good starting point. Make time and space to develop trust, listen to what each person is saying. Above all respect the right to boundaries, and respect that those boundaries might change

However, it is also important to recognise that cats are not perfect models for consent practices. Below is a non-comprehensive list of lessons my partners cat really needs to learn on this subject.

What cats CAN’T teach us about consent:

– You should ask before showing someone your asshole, I’m sure it’s lovely but that’s not a dynamic I want to explore with you.

– Stabbing someones thighs should be discussed ahead of time. There are nicer ways to ask for attention you vicious little cutie.

– Climbing into bed while a couple are having sex is considered rude. Yes, we both love you, but in a very different way to how we love one another.

Quenby is a queer perfomer, writer, and activist. If you liked this post you can check out their blog, or follow them on FB and Twitter @QuenbyCreatives.

The Love Stories That Weren’t

I don’t believe in “The One”. I’m a hopeless romantic, yes, but I’m also something of a realist. The mere fact that there are nearly seven billion people on this planet makes it absurd to me to think that there is exactly one person designed for everyone to love. I mean…

“It’s just mathematically unlikely that at a university in Perth
I happened to stumble upon the one girl on Earth
Specifically designed for me!”

– Tim Minchin, “If I Didn’t Have You

Aside from the sheer numerical absurdity of the idea, my own experience shows that “The One” just isn’t a meaningful concept. I’ve loved a number of people in my life. Not all of them were healthy for me – some were pretty terrible – but the love I felt? That was real. And it isn’t retroactively less real because I don’t love them any more.

I say that Mr CK is the love of my life, and that’s true. But that doesn’t mean he’s the only person I’ve ever loved or could ever love. It doesn’t mean I think we were somehow predestined to find each other and be together. It means that in this chaotic world, we did find each other and he’s the person I have chosen to spend my life with – to walk hand-in-hand with along the path of life, hopefully until one of us runs out of heartbeats.

Don’t you think the idea of choice, of choosing each other again and again every day, week, month and year, is more romantic that a notion of some pre-determined fate? I do.

I’m also very aware that, for all the people I’ve loved or been in relationship with in my life, there are others which could have happened, and didn’t for whatever reason. So this is for the almosts, the maybes, the “right person, wrong time”s. The love stories that weren’t.

There was the one who was my first “what if…?” We were seventeen and I was already in a relationship. I didn’t have any kind of language for non-monogamous feelings, so I thought I was bad and wrong because I couldn’t stop thinking about someone while in a relationship with someone else. I don’t think he ever realised his crush on me was reciprocated. We’re friends to this day and he was one of the first people I ever came out to as bisexual.

There was the one who was significantly more fundamentally-monogamous than I am. We knew it had no long-term potential, but we were powerfully drawn to each other anyway. He and I danced around each other, kissing and pseudo-dating and doing kinky play and pretending it was all very casual, for the better part of two years. At one point, we were talking on the phone almost every night. He used to call me Kitten. I used to say “I love you” after he’d hung up.

There was the one I got on a train and traveled six hours, on little more than a whim, to meet. This woman who looked like a 1950s pin-up model and kissed me with lips that tasted of green tea. I was recently out of my first same-sex relationship and exercising the age-old wisdom that the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. She was curious, and her husband graciously gave her a one-night pass with me. I just wish I’d known the pass was only for one night.

Then there was the one with whom the chemistry was so intense and so immediate that I felt the zing from across the room. Though ultimately it amounted to little more than a single very hot scene, it’s a memory I cherish.

There was the one who I shared just one incredible date with. I remember looking at him across the table of my favourite Thai restaurant, wishing I could pour the moment into the empty wine bottle, cork it and keep it forever. I never did learn why he ghosted me afterwards. That one hurt for a long time.

I don’t like the concept of “the one who got away”. It has too many weird implications for me – and, again, is too tied into this notion of There Can Be Only One Real Ultimate Love. I prefer to think about it in the sense of how much possibility there is in the world. None of us, even the most polyamorous, could ever possibly explore every single possible love that might theoretically be out there in the world for us.

But isn’t that abundance of possibility just wonderful?

Masturbation Monday: Why People in Relationships Should Still Masturbate

One of the most enduring myths about masturbation, and one of the ones that I most wish would die, is the idea that people in relationships don’t – or shouldn’t – masturbate.

Seriously, this is such an enormous crock of bullshit.

I’m here to tell you that masturbation is healthy, natural and good for you – whether you’re partnered or single. Let’s look at some really good reasons to engage in some self-love regardless of your relationship status.

Your only lifelong sexual relationship will be with yourself

Relationships come and go. Even if you’re with one person monogamously for your entire life, there will be times when that person can’t or doesn’t want to engage in sex. For most of us, we’ll go through periods of being in relationships and periods of being single throughout our lives. But whoever else is or isn’t in our lives (and beds,) our longest and most enduring sexual relationship will always be with ourselves.

Masturbation is how we build a positive sexual relationship with ourselves. It gives us the tools to satisfy ourselves sexually without the need for anyone else. It contributes to positive sexual self-esteem, increased pleasure, and better mood. Masturbation is awesome!

Masturbation can improve your partnered sex

There’s nothing sexier than a partner who knows exactly what they like and asks for it. And you know what masturbation does? Teaches you what you like!

Exploring your own body gives you the tools to tell – or show – your partner how you like to be touched. And this isn’t a one-and-done thing, either! Remember that our bodies change throughout our lifetimes for many reasons, and that can include our sexual desires changing. Masturbation helps to keep your knowledge of your own body sharp. It also reduces fear of change in your body, because you already know how to roll with it and adapt to meet your body where it’s at.

It can take the pressure off – for both of you

Relying on one other person to meet all of your sexual needs can be a LOT of pressure for both of you. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, exploring with other people is off the table – but exploring with yourself absolutely shouldn’t be.

If having sex with your partner is the only way to get your sexual needs met, that creates an environment that is more likely to lead to coercion or pressure – even if unintentionally. But if you have a rich sexual relationship with yourself, if you’re feeling the need to get off but your partner isn’t up for sex, you can masturbate and take care of business without any pressure or resentment.

Masturbating doesn’t mean your partner is “failing” or that your sex life is bad

Something I often hear is “why does my partner need to masturbate? They have me!” This is compounded by disparaging jokes about people who masturbate after sex, about sad lonely people who masturbate because they can’t get a partner, or about people jerking off to porn when their partner is in bed because their sex life has died.

In more than 15 years of being sexually active, I’ve realised that the amount I masturbate has almost nothing to do with the amount (or, frankly, the quality) of partnered sex I’m having. Some people even report that they masturbate more when they’re having tonnes of yummy partnered sex. Orgasms beget orgasms, after all!

Your partner masturbating probably has nothing to do with you or the quality of your sex life together! Because…

Masturbation can fulfill a different need to partnered sex

Even during times when I’m having tonnes of partnered sex, I still feel the urge to masturbate. This is because it fulfills a completely different set of needs. Partnered sex is about the connection, the dynamic, the interplay between me and my partner(s) as much as it is about the physical sensations. Masturbation can be about anything from exploring new sensations in a completely pressure-free and private way, to simply getting off as quickly as possible so I can go to sleep.

Partnered sex is about both (or all) of us. Masturbation is just about me. Call it “me time,” call it “self care,” but keeping things that are just for ourselves is so important.

The bottom line is that masturbation and partnered sex are different activities and they meet different needs. I love and desire both for completely different reasons.

Your body belongs to you

A relationship is a mutual and consensual exchange between two (or more) people. It does not imply ownership over the other person, their body or their sexuality. (Unless that’s your kink – but even then you know it’s a game really, don’t you?)

Whatever your relationship status, your body is yours and you don’t need anyone’s permission to enjoy or explore it. If your partner thinks masturbation is a form of cheating, that’s a red flag for controlling behaviour and you should consider leaving. The person who tries to control your sexual relationship with yourself is likely to exhibit abusive behaviours in other areas of life.

(Again: I’m not talking about kink dynamics here – I have an orgasm control kink, after all! But the point of a kink is that it’s for fun and you have the ability to opt out of playing the game if you want to.)

No-one owns your body but you. No-one else gets to control what you can and can’t do with it.

If you have a vulva and are new to masturbation, I really recommend Jenny Block’s book The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex.

The Masturbation Monday logo


Masturbation Monday is a meme created and run by Kayla Lords. Click the logo to see what everyone else is getting off to this week! If you enjoyed this piece, please consider buying me a coffee to show your appreciation… or join my sexy patron community on Patreon!

The Kinky Love Languages: Quality Time

This is the third in a series of five posts covering the five love languages as applied to kink and BDSM. If you don’t know your love language, take the quiz linked above to find out! Today, we’re talking the love language of Quality Time!

A person whose love language is quality time is all about spending meaningful, one-on-one time connecting with the people they love. In some ways, it can be the easiest of the five to give – but in long term relationships, quality time often falls by the wayside in favour of “just generally being in each other’s space.” It can be especially difficult if your relationship is long distance, or if you work long hours, have children, are on a limited income, or otherwise have factors in your lives which make spending time together difficult.

But you CAN do it! Read on to learn some ideas for your kinky dynamic.

How to love a submissive whose love language is quality time

As a submissive, their undivided time and attention is one of the greatest things my Dominant can give me. I need to feel wanted in a relationship, and planning quality time with me – and following through on it – is a huge way for my partners to show that they love and value me.

One obvious, and super fun, way to love your submissive whose love language is quality time is to plan and carry out a fun kinky night with them! This might mean staying in and getting your kink on in your bedroom, or it might mean taking them out to a fetish club, kinky event or play party.

Not all your quality time together has to be active play time, of course. Snuggling on the couch can be just as meaningful as a full scene, and can show your submissive that you love them as a person and partner, and not only as a kinky plaything. Of course, if you want to make a low-key date night kinky, you could always order your sub to wear a butt plug throughout the movie or edge three times before you take them out to dinner…

In smaller ways, a good way to show love to your submissive is to carve out small pockets of time in your day just for them. If you live apart, a nightly phone-call will mean the world to them. If you live together, a few minutes each evening where you cuddle and talk about your day can help you to feel connected amidst your busy lives.

Finally, ritual can be an incredibly useful tool if your submissive values quality time highly. This could encompass a task (“make my coffee for me each morning then sit quietly and cuddle with me while I drink it,”) or could have a play element to it (“five spanks every night before bed.”) Equally, it could be a simple connective ritual like watching an episode of your favourite TV show together last thing in the evening or setting aside Friday nights to be your glass-of-wine-and-debrief-of-the-week time. Whatever it is, the predictability and regularity of it is likely to be comforting and meaningful.

How to love a Dominant whose love language is quality time

It can be tempting, as a submissive, to think that showing up and getting beaten is all you need to do to make your Dominant happy. This really isn’t the case, though – especially if their love language is quality time! Quality time needs to be intentional, deliberate and, well, quality. When you’re spending quality time together, make sure that you’re showing up ready to completely focus on your partner.

Don’t expect your Dominant to do all the date planning, either! Just because you’re the submissive, doesn’t mean you can’t take charge of making plans from time to time. Most Doms want to be wooed and taken out on dates just as much as most submissives do.

If your Dominant likes surprises, tell them you’re taking them on an adventure – and maybe the barest bones info on what to wear or pack – and do all the planning to make something cool happen for the two of you. You can easily view making plans and taking them somewhere that will make their eyes light up as an act of service. If they’re not a fan of surprises, ask their permission to treat them to a date night/day/weekend doing any activity they want to do.

Another possibility for your Dominant is to give them the gift of you, completely available with no interruptions, for a period of time to have their kinky fun with. “I sent the kids to a babysitter, my phone is off, dinner is taken care of... and I’m all yours for the whole night!” What a yummy and wonderful gift.

Additional tips that are good for anyone

Regardless of dynamic and role, quality time is key to all relationships and this is especially true if this is one of your main love-languages. Whether you’re a Dom or a sub, the best gift you can give to someone whose love-language is quality time is an evening, day or weekend of your undivided attention where you can do fun things together and enjoy being in each others’ company.

If you’re long-distance or live apart, quality time will by necessity be harder to plan – but you can manage it with good scheduling and a little help from modern technology! Skype dates, phone dates, IM-dates, regardless of whether you are doing long distance kink or just catching up on your lives, can go a long way to bridging the quality time gap left by distance.

Planning quality time is also a part of this love-language. This might be sexting about all the kinky things you’re going to do when you’re next together, or it might be looking through a brochure and deciding where you want to go on holiday – or anything in between. Having plans to look forward to can be an amazing boost for your relationship and can make you both feel loved, valued and wanted.

Finally, a word on what not to do. Being flaky or cancelling plans is the worst thing you can do to someone whose love language is quality time! Emergencies happen occasionally, of course, and flexibility when they do is important. But making plans and sticking to them is paramount and if you frequently cancel, blow your partner off or mess them around, they’re going to start feeling unloved and unimportant.

What’s your favourite way to spend quality time with your partner?

If you’re enjoying this series, you can show your appreciation by buying me a coffee or joining my sexy patron community on Patreon!

The Kinky Love Languages: Giving & Receiving Gifts

I started this series months ago with Words of Affirmation and then it fell by the wayside along with many other things as I coped with the overall garbage fire that was 2019. But we’re back and today we’re talking the love language of gifts! Let’s go. (And if you don’t know your love language, take the quiz to find out!)

A content warning that this post does discuss spending money, so if that’s difficult or stressful for you please feel free to skip this one. I have tried to be mindful of different budgets and provide a range of options for each suggestion.

Giving and receiving gifts is often regarded as the poor cousin to the other four main love languages. Those who feel an affinity with this method of showing and receiving love tend to be derided as materialistic, shallow, or throwing money at a relationship in lieu of actually making an effort.

However, I believe that is unfair. The people I’ve spoken to for whom this is a primary love language take care to point out that it’s not about the money spent or the value of the gift. Instead, it’s about the love and affection that goes into picking out the perfect thing for your partner.

The “gifts” in this context do not have to be big, expensive and extravagant presents – nor probably, in most instances, should they be. This love language is about paying attention to the things your partner loves or what they need, and giving them things that reflect that care and attention. Buying their favourite brand of tea before they sleep over, bringing them a bar of chocolate after a bad day, or picking up a cute trinket you saw for £1 because it made you think of them all come under the “giving and receiving gifts” love-language umbrella.

So how can this one relate to kinky dynamics?

How to love a submissive whose love language is gifts

In my experience, very often what submissives want more than anything is to feel truly seen and known by their Dominants. Another thing that is very often important to submissives is to feel taken care of. The love language of gifts gives you, as a Dominant, tonnes of opportunity to provide for these basic and important needs.

So pay attention to what your submissive likes! Listen for cues, watch the things they lust after or buy for themselves. Take note of things like any favourite colours, foods, hobbies or artists. That way, when you have cause to buy them a present – for a special occasion or “just because” – you can get them something really perfect.

Is your submissive always working hard and barely taking time for themselves? You could give them a gift which says “I’m giving you permission to relax” – say, a nice bath bomb or the latest issue of their favourite magazine? Perhaps the heating in their apartment is wonky, so you buy them a big snuggly blanket to keep them warm on cold days. Have they been wanting to write more? A beautiful notebook might be the perfect present.

Sexy gifts are also a great option, if your relationship includes sex! Why not surprise your submissive with a new vibrator, masturbator, or super pretty dildo? They’ll think of you fondly every time they use it!

Finally, consider the meaning of gifts that signify your relationship and importance to each other. You’ll need to negotiate its meaning fully, of course, and I don’t advocate springing this on someone without discussion – but for many submissives, their collar will be the most precious gift they ever receive. If that’s not right for your relationship (or they already have one,) then other options might be a special piece of jewellery, a harness, some beautiful underwear, or even a kink toy that is only for the two of you to use together.

How to love a Dominant whose love language is gifts

A good way to think of this is to frame the idea of giving the perfect gifts to your Dominant as an act of service. Many Doms love the idea of a submissive who pays attention and can anticipate their needs. Notice what their favourite snacks are and make sure you have them in. Bring them a coffee when you meet them at the end of a long day. Stressed out Dom? Buy massage oil and read up on how to give a really good massage. As with any other partner, keep notes on their favourite things and use this knowledge to guide your gift-giving.

A way to take this a step further, if you’re so inclined, is to make it your mission to seek out something special for them that they haven’t been able to get. Is there a book they really want that’s out of print, an edition of a game that’s no longer made, or a limited edition version of something that would make their eyes light up? If you have the chance, making an extra effort in this way can be a profound show of love – and service.

Kinky toys and tools are absolutely ideal gifts to give Dominants, too. Pay attention to what things they pick up and admire when you go to the fetish market together, or what things they’ve mentioned they really want to try. File this information away for later then, when you have occasion to give them a gift, you can surprise them with something that they’ll get endless joy out of using (on you, naturally.) Have you ever given a sadist a new whip as a present? I recommend it.

And kinky presents don’t have to stop at physical things. What about a ticket to a kink event you’ve been wanting to go to together, or a course of lessons in rope, whip technique, or some other skill they’ve been wanting to learn?

If you wish, you could even turn giving gifts to your Dominant into a kinky thing in and of itself. I am far from an expert in “financial Domination” and it’s something I encourage you to be extremely careful with and set firm limits around… but if the idea of showering your Dom with gifts and treats as part of your submission, or pretending you are being “made” to do it, gets you off then this can be a fun thing to play with.

Additional tips that are good for anyone

At the end of the day, most people love to receive the kinds of gifts that show thought, consideration, and a true knowledge of who they are. Regardless of whether you’re kinky or vanilla, a Dom or a sub or something else, you can show love to your partner by giving them the occasional well-considered, well-timed gift.

If you’re in a long-distance relationship, consider gifts that help your partner feel connected to you. This could be as simple as sneaking a shirt that smells like you into their luggage before they leave, or as elaborate as buying them a fancy app-controlled sex toy for use during your sexting sessions.

Homemade gifts are almost always wonderful. So if you have a talent, use it! I own two paintings and several pieces of jewellery made for me by my partner The Artist, and I absolutely cherish these things. I’ve made everything from chocolate chip cookies to knitted items for loved ones, and they’re always really well received.

Finally, gifts don’t have to be physical items! Something I treasure immensely is when a partner gives me a gift of an experience for us to do together. This could be buying dinner at their favourite restaurant, going to see a show together, or almost anything that they’ll love doing and love doing with you. This works particularly well for anyone who sits at the intersection of “receiving gifts” and “quality time” in their love languages.

What’s your love language? Has your Dominant or submissive ever given you a really amazing present? Tweet me or tell me about it in the comments!

Affiliate links appear in this post.