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Opening up as the world opens back up

Timaree answers your questions about sex, love and relationships

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Sex advice shouldn’t be syndicated. We wanted a local feel to ours so we’ve enlisted the sound advice of resident sex professor Timaree Schmit. Have a question about your love life that needs answers? Email her at asktimaree@philadelphiaweekly.com. | Image: Redlite photos

Q: My girlfriend and I have been dating for over a year now, and from the beginning of the relationship, we were on the same page that we didn’t want to be monogamous. Three months into the relationship, COVID hits, and we decide to move in together, even though right now we are back into our separate apartments (she loves living in a city and I own a house in South Jersey). We are planning on moving in back together once I take care of some things with the house.

My question is: We have technically been monogamous for over a year. Do you think bringing people into our relationship can cause any problems? We have discussed the possibility of hanging out with other couples that share our same views to get more information and experience, but finding them is not easy.

“This year gave a lot of Americans a crash course in poly-like negotiations, which may prove to be useful as the world opens back up, weather improves, and we launch into the horniest summer in decades.”

The last year has really put a cramp on dating, especially for non-monogamy and swing culture. 

Most of us have drastically locked down our socializing, some lovers have had to go long-distance. Yet, some feisty folks have persevered (to varying degrees of caution), like the swingers convention in New Orleans that turned into a super-spreader event (badoomchish!) or the warehouse orgy in France that was shut down by police. 

In many ways, people with experience in consensual non-monogamy (CNM) have had an easier time navigating social pods in the pandemic. Those who have been in polyamorous relationships have (hopefully!) had opportunities to discuss shared risks for sexually transmitted infections and their responsibilities not only to their partners but to those in their extended network. 

This year gave a lot of Americans a crash course in poly-like negotiations, which may prove to be useful as the world opens back up, weather improves, and we launch into the horniest summer in decades. Some will remain cautious or bask in their newfound love of staying home, but others will be chomping at the bit to party, ready to lick faces and make up for lost time. 

All that is to say: You and your girlfriend will be far from alone in opening up your relationship in 2021. 

To directly answer your question about whether this change will “cause any problems,” the answer is unequivocally: Yes. Any meaningful relationship change – even largely positive ones – will come with difficulties. Conflict is a normal and healthy part of any relationship, regardless of its structure. The key to sustainability is ensuring everyone involved has a say in the operations and feels respected and supported. 

Since both of you expressed interest in non-monogamy from the jump, that presents a much easier path forward than if one of you were presenting the idea for the first time. On the upside, you have the advantage of a year’s worth of trust and communication building. On the downside, you’ve habituated to a monogamous existence, and breaking out of any routine is challenging, even as it may also be exhilarating, liberating and super fun.

“Often we anticipate something will feel differently than it actually does, and over time, our emotions about things shift, so be ready to renegotiate boundaries over and over again, as this journey progresses.”

There are many tactics to converting a closed relationship to non-monogamy, all of which should be discussed honestly with your partner(s). Share what you hope for and what fears you have, listening to hers as well. Operate from a place of always checking in on feelings and then make structural choices based on what works for you two, rather than straining to fit in a structure. Often we anticipate something will feel differently than it actually does, and over time, our emotions about things shift, so be ready to renegotiate boundaries over and over again, as this journey progresses. 

From a practical level: It’s tough to find ideal matches in dating, but there have never been more opportunities for finding like-minded folks. Maybe your first foray into swinging is with a couple you meet on an app, but later, you develop friends in the scene with whom you can regularly party or even form committed networks. Soon enough the play parties and sex clubs will be open again, if that’s your cup of tea. The idea is being OPEN to experiences and dynamics as they present themselves. 

So far, you have successfully managed to weather a really trying year, under annoyingly unprecedented conditions. If you two can handle a pandemic as a team, there’s a good chance you can work together to do something far more enjoyable. 

Have a question for Timaree? Send an email to asktimaree@philadelphiaweekly.com.

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  • Timaree Schmit Headshot

    Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.

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