How to Ask For an Open Relationship, and More Expert Love Tips

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Ever wondered about the health risks of kinky play or how to broach the subject of branching out sexually with your partner? Instead of trying to navigate those thorny issues alone—or, cringe, through trial and error—we consult our columnist and clinical sexologist and couple’s therapist Dr. Eve, author of the bestselling book Cyber Infidelity: The New Seduction and host of the #CyberInfidelity podcast (downloadable here).

Below, she addresses what you should be aware of if your sex drive is flagging or before you jump into an open relationship. Stumped by your own between-the-sheets conundrum? Send your questions to WTF@stylecaster.com for Dr. Eve to answer in the next edition.

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Q: How Do I Talk to My Partner About an Open Relationship?

A: It’s 2017, and alternative marital agreements are more common than ever—partners live together and have kids without tying the knot, cross-sexual orientation couples are ubiquitous, and about half of all marriages end in divorce. Open relationships are typically consensual and transparent arrangements between partners, which can involve activities like swinging together; each having an independent lover; polyamory; threesomes; inviting a person into sex with your partner while you observe or participate, and more. Couples have open relationships for different reasons, but it often helps to keep things lively and exciting, and can prevent separations with partners for whom monogamy isn’t possible.

This all sounds great, but the reality is a bit more complicated. So, before bringing up the topic, take time to reflect and ask yourself about your motivations and expectations. For instance, are you ready for some real challenges to the instinct of jealousy and to the need to feel like your S.O.’s one and only? Are you prepared to potentially spend hours discussing, negotiating, and contracting agreements? Consider these questions before you open the discussion with your partner—and be aware that he or she may not be excited about the idea, especially at first.

One way to consider broaching the topic is to ask your partner if he or she has ever wondered about the possibility of an open relationship. Before making it personal and concrete—i.e. before asking if your own relationship can be open—you can gauge his or her attitude about the idea. Based on that response, you can transition into your own interest in an open relationship, prefacing that by reiterating the strength of your feelings for your S.O. Making your feelings of love clear may help prevent him or her from getting defensive or insecure, and wondering if you’re looking outside the relationship because you’re not getting what you want from it.

Rather than asking the loaded question in one overwhelming conversation, work up to it by raising the topic in a series of conversations over time. If you’re in sync, you’ll be able to talk about the idea of going open without devolving into a fight. And if you can’t, you have your answer right there, and will need to evaluate whether this is a relationship you want to stay in, if sexual and emotional exclusivity is the only option.

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Q: I Lost My Sex Drive—How Do I Get It Back?!

A: First off, it bears reminding that everyone’s sex drive is highest when meeting someone new. The human brain loves novelty and unfamiliarity. Obviously, this isn’t sustainable over the long-term, so be sure to adjust your expectations of your sex drive if you’re in a relationship. Accept that it’s never going to be as insatiable as when you first met your partner, and that’s perfectly natural and okay. (See the last question about couples who open up their relationships in order to keep things sexually stimulating and fresh.)

Of course, there are other factors that kick your sex drive to the curb, including medications; birth control in some cases (though this is still being studied and debated); depression and anxiety; having kids, and more. Since the causes behind your lowered libido run the gamut, the solutions do, too. A few tips to start with:

  • Adjust your sexual expectations, and focus on quality rather than quantity.
  • Accept that you may feel different down there as you get older or have kids—do kegel exercises to tighten your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Ensure that your relationship is healthy: Anger, guilt, and resentment are some of the biggest killers of desire, so if you’re struggling with any of those issues, know that you and your partner must face those down (perhaps with a skilled therapist) before you can get to normal back between the sheets.
  • Use a sex toy to help yourselves get off—there’s nothing wrong with it, so don’t think of it as a crutch!
  • Remember that date night is essential, and use it as a time to simply connect, without expectation of sex afterwards. When you’re feeling emotionally closer, it’s a lot more organic to get close physically.

For more help getting to the bottom of an MIA sex drive, check out more tips here.

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Q: Are There Health Risks of ‘Facials’?

A: Semen facials—i.e. when a man comes on his partner’s face during sex—originate from pornography, where the act is known as the “money shot,” as apparently this is such a turn-on that many men are willing to pay money to see it happen.

Facials certainly come do with health risks: Many people have undiagnosed and asymptomatic sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can spread to mucous membranes (lips, nostrils, and eyes) when a man ejaculates on a person’s face. Discovering you’ve contracted either a bacterial STI (such as chlamydia), or a viral STI (like herpes) may make you regret participating in a sexy fad or fantasy. And if you were wondering if there are any benefits to facials, there’s no proof that swallowing semen or having it on your face has any health payoff, whether nutritional or aesthetic.

While I respect the right of each of you to consensually choose to have a man ejaculate on your face, assuming it’s consensually agreed-upon beforehand, I can’t help but wonder, how many people voluntarily want semen on their faces? If you are someone who simply loves the experience, more power to you—just be sure you trust your partner and that he’s been tested recently for STIs, so that any facials you’re getting are as low-risk as possible.

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