Saturday, July 21, 2012

Open Relationship

Dear Jim and Felicia,

My husband and I have been struggling in our relationship for the past several years. We have been married for seven. Since we seem to struggle regarding sex a lot we are thinking of opening our relationship to see if that helps. What do you think? C.J.

Dear C.J.

Opening your relationship will probably not help, will most likely cause a lot of pain, and may be the first step toward the end. Of course, I do not know you and so everything I am saying is with a grain of salt, but do be careful!

Attachment experts say that human beings are meant to be monogamous. What this means is that when you have a good, securely attached relationship, it will feel painful to share your partner with someone else. That is why people who are really attached and trying to have an open sexual relationship (often for idealistic reasons) generally end up spending copious amounts of time processing — trying to stay attached within the situation and to not feel so much pain at the same time.

I have met a few people in my life who do seem able to have a deep primary relationship while sharing their partner, but most that I have known are manifesting an "avoidant attachment" and attempting to balance their underlying loneliness and insecurity by having more than one egg in the basket.

When an individual in a couple is not securely attached (read as, does not know in their bones that their partner is holding them in their heart and mind), he or she has two choices, attempt to draw the other closer, or close down and move away. It is these two choices, acted out on an unconscious level, that leads people to struggle in their relationship in the first place.

So, speaking generally, I would say that couples who are struggling with their relationship are "acting out" when they open their relationship — acting out their underlying disconnection in a symptomatic way. When behaviors are symptomatic they are painful because symptoms are the body's way of telling us that we are going the wrong way or doing the wrong thing.

That being said, I do believe that fully functioning couples need to find ways of stoking the fires of their own eroticism as part of maintaining a passionate connection in a long-term committed relationship. Flirting, sexy dancing, going on exciting vacations, trying sexual experiments and having stimulating friends are some ways of doing this. Always remember though, if you want to foster a great committed relationship, the things you do to increase your erotic energy must be tolerable for your spouse. He (or she) must feel securely attached enough so that what you are doing does not make him question your loyalty.

Good luck,


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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ask Jim & Felicia


This blog is designed as a place for you to ask questions about Erotic Partnership, sexuality, relationship, and Erotic Partnership programs (see Please send your questions using the email panel on the left and we will selectively post answers here.  Please note that all answers are general comments and are not intended as advice or psychotherapy.

We look forward to hearing from you,
Jim Matto-Shepard Ph.D. and Felicia Matto-Shepard  MFT.