BDSM 101

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What is it?
BDSM or Bondage Dominance Sadomasochism. Historically it is a coined phrase from the “fathers of sexual deviance,” as I like to call them, the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. For many people, BDSM is a lifestyle choice that they live 24/7 while others choose to be involved just in the bedroom or when they can make time.

Couples involved in the lifestyle enter into the D/s lifestyle (Dominant/submissive) or M/s (Master/slave) lifestyle for several reasons. Those entering into the lifestyle and who desire to live it 24/7 decide to enter into a contract between themselves. By entering into a contract, both the dominant and the submissive are aware of what their responsibilities are. Every contract and dynamic (relationship) is different. Some relationships are lifelong, while others, just like any type of relationship, may last several months or years.

Short term play is called a scene. A scene is role play that has been negotiated between the two people. Another short term arrangement can be a professional who works at a dungeon that been can hired, most commonly known as a Dominatrix (female). There are professional male Dominants, but they are less well known. Professional submissives (male and female) can be hired out as well.

Specific lifestyle philosophies
Most practitioners of BDSM follow two different philosophies:

  • Safe sane and consensual (SSC) which is a term which came from a gay activist organization in the 1970s that revolves around activities that are safe for everyone involved.
  • Risk Aware Consensual Kink or (RACK) which is another practice within the kink community that some people use to ensure all parties involved take individual responsibility for their actions.

 

What It Isn’t
BDSM isn’t abuse. BDSM isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey. There’s a very clear distinction between BDSM and sexual abuse. So what are the most common misconceptions about the lifestyle? Some of the most common misconceptions are:

  1. BDSM is only for white people and that only white people do it. That is very far from the truth. There is a very strong community of black and brown kinky people within most major cities: New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, to name a few.
  2. It’s all about pain. While there are sadists and masochists who enjoy the pain aspect, not everyone identifies with the need to inflict pain or the desire to receive pain.
  3. It’s all about sex. While sexual contact and sex may be a part of some people’s scenes or what they enjoy when they play, for most people it’s not necessary. For most people, like myself, I got into BDSM not for sex but to figure out certain things about myself. I got into the lifestyle for some semblance of normalcy and structure.

What are the Titles?
There are specific titles and categories that most people like to place themselves in based on how they want to be viewed. The most common and most known are dominants and submissives. In general, dominants can be categorized as Masters, Daddys/Mommys, Sadists, or Tops and they are not gender exclusive. Dominants can be either male or female. Submissives can be baby girls/boys, brats, masochists, slaves or bottoms. Another category is called a switch. A switch is a male or female who posses both dominant and submissive traits and tendencies. Other categories are hedonists, voyeurs, exhibitionists, rope tops, bottoms, riggers, and bunnies.

Activities Within the Community
People within the BDSM community have a variety of options that they can enjoy with others who life the lifestyle as well. Some of the most common are:

  • Munches. Munches are get togethers in a neutral, non-kink setting such as a restaurant or bar. People meet to talk, eat, and communicate with others in the community.
  • Play parties. Play parties are parties involving play at a local dungeon that has BDSM equipment to use. Some are open to the public. Often it is a private, invite-only event. Cost can range from free to $40 depending on membership and if there will be someone teaching a technique or speaking on a particular topic.
  • Classes. Classes can be on history, relationship advice, or certain techniques such as how to use implements like a flogger or single tail whip.
  • Sloshes. Sloshes are munches that involve alcohol. Sloshes are held at a local bar or an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages.
  • Conferences. Often throughout the year, across the country, conferences are held at hotels. These conferences may range from just a day to a whole weekend. These events are more in depth in regards to the classes and topics being discussed.

 

My Personal Story
I decided to join an online fetish community (Fetlife) because at the time my best friend had joined, and she said it seemed interesting. Me being who I am (always curious) I decided to join. It was something new and exciting and I am always up for something new and exciting.

When I joined the site, I thought I was going to have a different experience. I got weird inbox messages from men I didn’t know and didn’t care to know. I felt like they were rude, and they talked to me like they knew me on a personal level. I wasn’t having that, so I deleted my account, feeling slightly upset and defeated. My father had recently passed away, and I needed to take a break from everything.

A year later, I decided to come back and give it a try. Something was nagging away at me deep inside. I felt like I was missing something in my life. On the surface I had everything going on for myself. A good job, a house, and my children were doing good. But something was missing. I felt like my life was chaotic. I had goals and things that I was accomplishing, but I needed more structure and more rules.

So I jumped back on the website and joined a few groups. I joined groups that mainly catered to submissive women. I learned a great deal about what true submission was. It wasn’t just doing what my mate wanted me to do, and it wasn’t just making his dinner. I soon met my first Dominant. The relationship changed me for the better. He taught me so much and also challenged me to learn why I was in the lifestyle and what I ultimately got out of it. Through self discovery and research that he required, I learned that being a submissive required so much strength. I willingly submit to another person’s will. To trust that that the other person has your best interest at heart that is true submission. That relationship ended, but I went on to have other D/s relationships, and they all taught me a little bit more about myself and what I needed. I’m grateful for my journey.

Do you have experience with BDSM? Comment below or send us your story!

Further Reading
Story of O by Pauline Reage
Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman
9 ½ Weeks by Elizabeth McNeil
Exit to Eden by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure
Belinda by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure
Claiming of Sleeping Beauty series by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure
Something Leather by Alasdair
The Wet Forever by David Aaron Clark

Mr. & Misogyny

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Although the title is meant to be witty and slightly humorous in the name of starting a conversation, the people I’m describing can be quite the opposite. You know them. Or maybe you ARE them. The forced OPP couple who have deemed it “Unicorn season”. The Hoteps who insist their “secondary” single girlfriends date only them while they themselves are married. The wife who only wants to play pillow princess to, but could never marry or take a relationship serious. Even the LGBTQ couple who fall into heteronormative gender identifications in which the feminine party is viewed as less than, or subservient to the masculine or otherwise dominant one.

For some reason or another polyamorous people are sometimes looked upon as more enlightened and or evolved than the general monogamous population.

Some of us will argue that monogamy is actually the devolution of the natural order of things, but I can agree that the ability to connect to and love more than one person in these times is hella progressive.
But to think that these poly-oriented people don’t each come with a customized set of very human and sometimes downright oppressive belief systems is not a stretch, it’s just incorrect.

I can only speak for my experiences , and those that have been shared with me from other non mono people. I listen to the stories of women and men who try to love these people, only to be treated as less than, or even as some kind of disposable object, here for the entertainment of those who subscribe to these ideals. The worst of these stories end in abuse, self esteem issues and other emotional and psychological damage.

I myself have my own tales to tell, as a masculine leaning androgynous queer person in a largely hetero community, (many woman I date are married to men) I have been made to feel as though my relationships are invalid. As if my presence in a married woman’s life was temporary, a phase she was going through, and not to be taken seriously. And not just by the men in these scenarios.

I’ve seen men and women alike flip out over wives for even wanting sexual encounters with men, but won’t push to meet or otherwise interact with me in the same situation because “men are different”. As if somehow my vagina makes me safe. Or not as bad. Or anything less than capable of doing just as much damage as my male counterparts. How cute, my girl has a girlfriend!

How do we move past misogyny in a society in which rape, domestic abuse and other atrocities are often blamed on the victims? How do you convince a woman her internalized misogyny is toxic to free thinking, womanist or feminist types, and this may be why nobody wants to “inbox her man if they aren’t eating her p*ssy” as one meme I saw suggests?

Here’s an idea; by not entertaining that mess. Say no to the date with the dude that insists you wear heels and know how to cook. Don’t hook up the woman who lets you know she could never go beyond sex with a woman. Let the woman who expects you to pay for the date know, men can be treated too. Call out the LGBT folks who belittle those who don’t fall into their already marginalized hypocrisy. Y’all need to check yourselves. This ain’t the 50’s!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for living your truth unapologetically. We are in a free thinking society in which one can do what they please, and some folks are OK with varying schools of radical thought. This is all good! But instead of forcing these hyper masculinity based belief systems on the rest of us, find each other and be happy. Let Mr. and Misogyny take their forced OPP elsewhere. Let the rest of us poly in peace and equal love.

What’s your take? Share it with us!

Ask Aunty: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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Ask Aunty is a regular feature of Black & Poly where real people ask about their polyamorous relationships. Aunty is here for you, so ask away!

Dear Aunty,

I'm trying to convince my husband to be poly. He doesn't mind if I step out on him, but he doesn't want to have an open relationship where he knows my partners. He's afraid of all the attention I'll be getting. He agreed that I can date as long as he doesn't know, but I feel like I'm lying to people. What do I do?

Date Anyway or Date Truthfully?

Dear DADT,

Your husband wants DADT--don't ask, don't tell. DADT works for some people when they understand why they don't want to know. Your husband is insecure, no doubt, and he wants to pretend he's satisfying you in every way. That's not true and you know it. You have sexual and emotional needs, and you already know one person can't meet all of them.

By asking for DADT, he's consenting to a poly relationship. Consent is the key. Take the deal and keep talking. He really doesn't want to know what private parts were where when, but tell him how happy you are. And always remind him that he's still your boo thang.

He still may get jealous and demand you end all the side relationships. Too late, honey. You will hurt your partners, yourself, and even your relationship with hubby. Aunty has been on the bad side of the veto and you can bet those numbers are blocked.

Keep being honest and open and you’ll show him how poly can make everyone happy.

Aunty

Do you have a question for Aunty? Comment below or use our contact form!

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Bi, Poly, Slut, and Muslim: Reconciling and Understanding It All

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Maya is an Arab-American polyamorist. Here she shares her story of sexuality, mental illness, and the power of family.

I’m a 26 year old woman, and I was born and raised in southern California to first generation Arab-American immigrants. My parents were very religious when I was young, and my siblings and I were taught to pray and fast. We all attended a religious private school at our local mosque for quite some time. At six years old, I asked my mother why I should believe in god if I couldn’t see him. She replied with the standard, “well, that’s what faith is.” I was completely dissatisfied with that. I wanted more, and I realized then and there that religion would never give me more.

Things shifted dramatically for my family following the September 11 attacks. It was a jolt that we needed, something that underscored a very distinct problem within our religion. My parents did a ton of research, which led to my mother deciding to remove the headscarf. Within our community this was such a dramatic and daring move, I can’t even explain it. With my family shaken but thrust into a period of real digging and exploration, life went on. In middle school, I began having little crushes on other girls in my class. I remember watching a certain Beyonce music video over and over, not really knowing why I liked it so much. I never acted on my feelings and didn’t bother telling anyone, mostly because I knew I was attracted to boys too. So my homosexual tendencies weren’t really at the forefront of my mind.

Once I had finished up high school and began to attend college, I began to struggle. Having been labeled as this bright and happy girl for so long, I crashed when I was left to my own devices because I realized that that wasn’t really me. I had so many unanswered questions, and I was very confused about who I was or where I fit in. I’d always been an emotional eater, so I gained a lot of weight during my first year of college. I also began noticing other women more often, possibly because my self-confidence was near-zero around men. I still wasn’t ready to address my bisexuality.

After finishing up college and successfully coming out to my parents and family with an overwhelmingly positive reaction, I moved away from California for graduate school. This was my first time ever living completely alone. Up until that point, I’d always lived with my siblings or immediate family. I gained a lot of weight once again (60 pounds in one year!) and drank a lot. I did well in school, but that was the only thing in life I was keeping somewhat organized. I was struggling in a very real way. Toward the end of my first year of grad school, I met a woman in my program whom I liked, and I finally had my first kiss at 24 years old. It was sensual, soft, and fulfilling.

That summer, I left to travel overseas and have weight loss surgery. I’m 5’6″ and my highest weight was 236. Since then, I’ve lost over 80 pounds. I returned to complete my second year of graduate school and this is when my period of “heavy dating” began. I went on four or five dates per week. I drank a lot during my dates, even though I wasn’t supposed to be drinking at all right after having surgery. It was reckless and unhealthy. I would fade after seeing someone a few times, because I was afraid of having sex for the first time. I’d never been confident about my naked body. Mental images of perfect, cellulite-free models haunted me and made me feel like shit about myself.

I graduated from my Master’s program and got a job in academia. I began drinking even more. I was seeing someone who I didn’t really care for, and after a long day of drinking and smoking weed, I decided, fuck it! We had sex on July 4th, 2016. My body was on fire; it hurt so much. I was bleeding profusely. We got out of bed afterward and sat outside to watch the fireworks. He began discussing the war in Iraq and made some comments regarding the murder of civilians that still make me shudder. He topped it all off with some xenophobic and racist comments about Arabs and Muslims, knowing full well what my religious background and ethnicity were. I left his house like I was dreaming, in so much physical and emotional pain that I didn’t know what to do. I went to work the next morning and texted him that I didn’t want to see him anymore. I don’t think about him at all.

That same week, I met someone at a bar and had a one night stand. From there, I had roughly fifteen casual sex encounters (thankfully I always used protection) over the next two months. I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted in bed because I didn’t know what I wanted, so I often ended up being used by people just to get off. I was very aware of that.

I began to feel distinctly bored, empty, and unhappy. I’d been going to therapy and taking antidepressants for years because I’d always been anxious and sort of depressed, but combining the alcohol with prescription drugs was not working well for me. I fell into a pit of depression, HARD. I couldn’t focus on work, so I was falling behind. I was calling my parents long distance every day at lunch to cry over the phone. They didn’t know what was going on and I wouldn’t tell them because I was so ashamed that I was drinking and having sex. I switched medications, and that’s when the shit hit the fan. Suicidal thoughts overwhelmed me. What pushed me over the edge was receiving a formal warning at work. I planned to kill myself that afternoon. I picked up a bottle of liquor from the store on my way home and had a Xanax prescription waiting for me at the pharmacy. I was driving to the pharmacy when I unconsciously reached for my phone. Seriously, I don’t even know how or why I did it. I don’t remember.

I called my mom, who lives in a timezone twelve hours ahead and was asleep. She woke up and picked up the phone. I was sobbing so hard I thought I would never stop. My heart was broken and I had to finally ask for help. I did. My mom, a very mild-mannered and soft-spoken woman, is the strongest person I know. She asked me to promise her that I wouldn’t hurt myself. She asked if I would throw out the bottle of liquor and just go home and rest for the day. She told me that she was going to support me no matter what. That my whole family was standing behind me if I would let them. We agreed that it would be best for me to quit my job and move back to California to figure things out. I hung up the phone, and the time was 5:02pm. The pharmacy had closed at 5.

At 6am the next morning, I received a phone call. It was my brother, and he was in front of my apartment building. He had taken a flight across the country with two layovers so that he could get to me as soon as possible. Still dazed and feeling worn out from the day before, I fell apart when I saw him. We were headed back to California within a week.

I was not myself for a while after that. My parents came to visit me a couple of weeks later, and I could tell they were shocked when they saw me. I was on a heavy dose of benzodiazepines; I wasn’t eating at all; I was smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee around the clock. I’m sure I must have looked dead behind the eyes. I was having lots of sex, still sort of meaningless and unsatisfying, but I had a lot of time on my hands and I was restless. I jumped into bed on the first date pretty consistently, and I could never really figure out why I still had so much energy when I was being so active with so many partners. Now I know that it’s because the sex didn’t hit me on any emotional level, so while it was physically draining, it didn’t affect me mentally. I was always overthinking, not at peace, and generally unhappy.

Strangely, and I think this is important to mention because of this post’s topic, I have never felt guilty about having pre-marital sex. On the contrary, I’ve always been pretty opposed to the idea of getting married and settling down, so this just seems to be the only viable way to live my life.

I had my first meaningful sexual relationship around October of last year. I was still fragile and recovering. I hadn’t had a drink since mid-August, before my breakdown. I was being weaned off my medications and doing okay. That’s when my partner brought up the question of exclusivity: did I want it? My knee-jerk reaction, much to my surprise, was no. I enjoyed our relationship but I saw no need to restrict myself from seeing other people. He was definitely monogamous, and the breakup was drawn-out and unhappy.

Since then, I’ve learned to be selective about taking on partners. I’ve learned to ask for what I want in bed. I’ve learned to be a good lover and a mature partner. I identify as solopoly because I need a lot of time to myself, and the pressure of a primary relationship feels like too much at this point in my life. That being said, my experiences have been fantastic. I’m assertive, mostly dominant, and I have found some remarkable people who like to play with boundaries and explore some crazy fun things with me. It feels insanely good to be giving in bed, to be kind to someone in some small way, like gently stroking their neck or giving them a kiss when they least expect it. The intimacy that comes along with sexual contact is something I struggle with, because I went without it for so long. I am learning to open up and let my guard down with partners.

It mostly happened during the unhappiest time of my life, but there you go. My story. And maybe my point in spilling all this is to say that we can all rise up and that each one of us can break free and find a place of comfort, of satisfaction. I found mine in polyamory. I can never completely reconcile my cultural identity with my sexual identity, but I can definitely find some peace in specific places that I’ve created for myself.

Have you struggled with faith, mental illness, and sexuality? Share your story!

Meeting Her

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Take a sneak peak into the BDSM lifestyle in this sample of the posts available to our Patreon subscribers. This post contains adult content and language.

I’m preoccupied today. I have a ton of shit to do but the only thing that I can think about is my Sir.  The TV is off and the portable heater is making a whirring noise in the living room. The two smoke detectors beep back and forth off and on every few minutes like they are sending imaginary signals to each other.  I turn the pages of the magazine that I’m reading out of boredom, anxious to receive a text from him. I’m waiting for a reply back that he acknowledges what I’ve said. Why is this man such a mystery? I wonder. I pick up my cell phone from off of its charger to see if he’s even sent me a message back. I do this several times over a few minutes. I throw down the cell phone, feeling frustrated.

Stupid phone, I want to say out loud, but it’s not the phone that I’m mad at I guess, it’s him. I wonder to myself should I call or just wait for him to text me back. I stare at the phone again. The light is flashing green and that could mean a Facebook message or a text. I pick up the phone and realize it’s not a text, just a status update on Facebook. “Ugh,” I say and throw the cell phone back on the couch. I’m annoyed that he hasn’t texted me back. I know that he’s out and most likely hasn’t even seen the message or is too busy to reply back.

Then my thoughts turn to “maybe he’s busy with her. The “her” that I’m referring to is my new sub sister or his new “slave bitch” as he jokingly refers to her. I feel no jealousy because I know I’m an alpha sub and his bottom bitch. I was there from the beginning and I will remain there. Like he tells me all the time, this is bigger than marriage and we’re in this shit for the long haul. I also promised him that I would never leave him ever again. I’ve left him and our relationship before in its beginning stages. More often than not, I felt unfulfilled in our dynamic because I was so new to the BDSM lifestyle itself. I also wanted and needed more attention than he was giving me at the time.

Am I an attention seeking little brat? I would ask myself. Yes, I am, I finally admitted.  My cell is set on vibrate, so once I feel it vibrate and the message light is on, I’m all smiles. “Finally,” I say out loud to myself. The house is empty except for my sleeping teenage son in his bedroom. The message button lights up. There are three letters that I’ve used to refer to him from the beginning and they are SIR.  Anytime a text comes through or I get a phone call from him, my heart starts to pound and I get excited. I’m excited because I’m in his thoughts enough to know that he has reached out to me. During the day he’s busy hustling, as he calls it, so he’s away from the house for up to ten hours at a time.

The message is clear and to the point. It says, Are you ready to meet my other sub? I responded back to the text defiantly, Is she ready to meet me, that’s the question. Yes it was a smartass remark, and he would probably smack me later for it, but I didn’t care.  Previously he told me that I needed to get my jealousy together before I met his other sub. He uses the term sub and slave interchangeably at times, but it doesn’t confuse me because I know most of the terminology even though I’ve been in the lifestyle just a little while. I’m slowly turning from being a submissive to being his slave. These are two totally different things and I want to maintain some control over myself and my life, and by being his slave I can’t do that. It’s called a total power exchange, and basically it means giving up total control to your dominant.

 

What happens next? Our adult content is available to Patreon subscribers. You can read the rest of the story for just $1!

Ask Aunty: Seeking Bisexual Mate

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Ask Aunty is a regular feature of Black & Poly where real people ask about their polyamorous relationships. Aunty is here for you, so ask away!

Dear Aunty,

How do I find a polyamorous woman to date? I have a wonderful wife and we just agreed to open up our relationship. She's bisexual so I'd be happy to meet a woman to date both of us. But where do I find women?

Seeking Bisexual Mate

Dear SBM,

I'm ​going to ignore half of your question because the last thing you want to do is post in an online forum that you're LOOKING FOR A BISEXUAL FEMALE FOR YOU AND YOUR WIFE. Poly people are tired of hearing from unicorn hunters and you'll get your head snatched off every time you mention it. There are many ways to do poly, and a closed triad is not for newbies!

*Calm down Aunty. Deep breaths.* Finding a new boo is as easy as it was when you found your wife. You mean you didn't find her three months after you joined Match.com? I'm shocked! You probably dated multiple women before you even knew what you wanted. Then you learned to approach your wife like the lady she is--none of that “can I holla atcha?” Polyamorous women are smart as well as sexy, so you have to be more than a smooth talker. Know your needs and wants. Know what makes you a great catch, and know what type of agreements you would have between you two. (She's probably not going to agree to only date you and your wife. Too many horror stories, Aunty can tell you.)

Always be honest about your situation. Monogamous women don't understand that you’re not looking for a side chick. Even if you have to explain "polyamorous" a million times, you want her to know exactly what she’s getting in to. If you just want the occasional threesome, let her know. If you want someone to move in and help take care of your kids, make that clear too. That's why polys love the c-word--communication.

Remember, a polyamorous woman doesn't want to be the topper on your wedding cake. She wants fulfilling relationships with individuals, not the perfect couple from Monogamy Land. Accept that the women you will find may already be dating other partners with their own commitments and agreements. She may not be interested in your wife at all. That doesn't mean you two can't have a healthy relationship. You just have to change your image of the ideal poly woman, especially if you're imagining a bisexual sex goddess. (That's why they're called unicorns, honey. They don't exist.)

So how do you find a woman? Go to online dating sites. Visit your local poly community. Talk to other polyamorous people. Find a woman you like spending time with and see where things go. If she hits it off with wifey, that's great. If she doesn't want to move in to your future poly household, that's fine too. Let go of expectations and enjoy the journey.

Or else.

Aunty

Do you have a question for Aunty? Comment below or use our contact form!

Doin’ It and Doin’ It and Doin’ It Well

Ruby Bouie Johnson responds to recent coverage of polyamory in the national news.

I’ve had several weeks to reflect on the recent coverage of polyamory in a few national media outlets, ranging from the very conservative to the center-left. Though the presentation and tone varied between them, they all managed to be grossly misinformed about the philosophy and practice of polyamory and consensual non-monogamy. Over the last 14 years in direct clinical practice, and the last 3 years in private practice, I can say with confidence that folks who come into my office for relationship therapy, love and care for each other. These individuals seek therapy to educate themselves, mediate their conflicts, and establish agreements to move forward within their relationships, whether they are in a monogamous relationship or a polyamorous relationship or anything else on the relationship continuum.

Let’s concisely dispel the myths.

1. Polyamory is not polygamy.

2. Polyamory is not polyfuckery.

3. Polyamory is not about subjugating monogamy.

4. Comparing polyamory to monogamy and monogamy to polyamory leads to frustration and insult.

5. Qualifying “natural” or “normal” to a persons’ way of loving, living, and being is bullshit.

6. Polyamory is not unnatural, barbaric, or savage.

7. Polyamory does not subjugate or oppress women.

Furthermore, what I read is highly unrealistic about how open relationships work in the real world. What I read was stories of irresponsible remedies to a marriage or partnership that was disconnected. These were stories of infidelity that segue into an open relationship. This is an infrequent way for healthy polyamarous relationships to begin. One of the core tenants of open relationships is consent; real consent, not “apology after the fact”. Clinically, I work with couples that have begun a non-monogamous relationship dynamic in an attempt to recover from an infidelity. The lack of confidence resulting from the deceit and secrecy often disrupts the relationship. In my experience a significant majority of these relationships have irreparable damage. This is not because polyamorous or non-monogamous relationships are unstable, but because deceit and secrecy are highly destabilizing to any relationship, whether it is a monogamous relationship or not.

Let me share with you some ways that healthy more-than-two relationships actually function.

1. Communication, Communication, Communication. Let me be clear, it’s not talking at the other person. It’s about being present, open, and willing to understand the wants, needs, and desires of the other.

2. The ability to negotiate. Negotiation is a skill and art. One must have a range of skills that they are bringing to the table. Some include: trust that the other person has their best interests at heart; genuine expression of needs; lastly, and for me this is the most important, a shared meaning of the end goal.

3. Commitment. Commitment is not a simple commitment to the other person; it’s a commitment to all that are involved within the relationship network. The commitment to be safe, responsible, and honor agreements.

4. Each person must recognize when they need to nurture their relationship with their own selves. For example, when someone starts to identify irritability and short-temperedness in themselves, they must check themselves before they wreck themselves.

5. It’s important to understand that this is about not about accommodating a perceived need for “equal sharing”, it’s about fulfilling the needs of everyone involved, which are never all going to be the same.

As I read this list, these suggestions for best practices with healthy relationships are applicable to lovers, friends, family, coworkers, etc. It’s not a mystery how to make relationships work best. These principles apply to and yield healthy polyamorous relationships just as much as they apply to and yield healthy monogamous relationships. As long as we treat each other with dignity and worth, let’s get it on, baby.

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.