As our world becomes more complex, alternative sexual lifestyles, such as non-monogamy, have become increasingly popular. I sat down with Moushumi Ghose, a licensed California therapist and advocate for sexual freedom, to talk about how one can navigate through this new territory. Moushumi, who goes by Mou, is a member of American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and Kink Aware Professionals (KAP), who knows a thing or two about non-monogamy. Check out our convo below.
What brought you to this particular niche?
I grew up in a very suburban upper white middle class neighborhood in San Francisco, [where] everybody was the same and I totally did not fit in or understand it. Fast forward to my graduate program at Pepperdine University, one of my girlfriends in my human sexuality class said, ‘You should totally be a sex therapist.’ I was like ‘oh I never even thought of that.’ I had another friend who had known me since high school, was also living in LA and having issues with her boyfriend and she said, 'I told him you was my sex therapist.' I was like ‘oh wow you’re the second person to say that.’ So I started exploring it and I got licensed in California and I opened my own private practice and everything sort of fell into place
What are the exact terms that fall into the scope of an alternative lifestyle?
Originally when I started out my focus was going to be LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenders) and coming out. Another thing that became really popular a few years later was non-monogamy. All these different things like swingers became popular in the media. Other lifestyles I had to become familiar with was kink, BDSM (bondage, dominance/submission, and sadomasochism) and things like that. There is so many.
See definitions below:
Swinger- non-monogamous behavior, in which both singles and partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity.
Kink-unconventional sex practices
BDSM- a variety of erotic activities involving bondage, dominance, submission and sadomasochism.
How does an individual know if this lifestyle is for him or her?
That’s a great question because a lot of what I see in my practice is one person will be like ‘I’ve been non-monogamous forever’ and s/he is with a partner who has never done this before. The partner probably understands the concept, supports it and wants to do it, but either because of some conditioning, the way that s/he is raised, prevents everyone from understanding and being able to live a non-monogamous lifestyle. I’ve heard some people’s theory is that it’s similar to gay and straight being on a continuum. Non-monogamy and monogamy are also on a continuum. Biologically speaking, some people are just born more non-monogamous than others. Whether it’s learned or biological is still to be determined.
In your expert opinion, why do you think some people prefer being in a non-monogamous relationship?
I think a lot of people think it’s just an excuse to have your cake and eat it too. Biologically speaking after nine-18 months of dating someone new the novelty wears off and then we get comfortable. Fast-forward four or five years, you’re really comfortable in a relationship, but maybe you’re not having as much sex anymore. Maybe you need some spark, some excitement in your life. The reality is you’re probably not going to get it from your partner, not everybody is. Not saying it’s not possible or doable. Some people recognize that for them that novelty is absolutely a must. It doesn’t mean they want to breakup with their partner, it doesn’t mean that admire or respect their partner any less. It doesn’t mean they love them any less. They just need a little bit of extra spark. For those people, a non-monogamous lifestyle structure, where they can be honest. It’s all about that. You need to be honest. You need to be honest with yourself. You need to be able to talk about insecurity, jealousy, etc because it comes up all the time. It’s not an easier lifestyle, it’s definitely a more complicated lifestyle, but it might be more ideal as oppose to practical.
What problems do you think one should consider when thinking about non-monogamy?
Transitioning is a longer process for some people, so recognize you’re going to get jealous and you’re going to get insecure. Don’t avoid talking about those feelings and addressing them because if you push them under the rug and go along with it because your partner really wants this lifestyle it’s going to show up in other ways you know anger, resentment, crazy things people do when they’re angry. The other issue that I’ve seen also is people using this label to kind of go and do whatever the f**k they want, you know what I mean.
So, how do you know that your partner is not using this term as an excuse? What signs should we look for?
Instead of looking for signs you negotiate. Like hey, you know I’m cool with this if we do this once a month, everything is predetermined and there is no intercourse or you can have intercourse but you can’t kiss, you know or no over nights. Set boundaries and negotiate those on a regular basis. If those boundaries are broken then you have an issue. Then you’re dealing with a betrayal. Then you move forward as if it’s an infidelity because at the end of the day what is cheating? It’s the breaking of an agreement.
Okay, so what are some tips to breaking the news to your partner that you want to live a non-monogamous lifestyle?
I say broach the subject slowly. Be honest about that you’ve done it before or that you’re curious about it and leave at that. Then maybe another time you mention it again and you ask if s/he has thought about it. Then be careful because a lot of times a partner might say no, and the other person takes it as gospel and never brings the subject up again and then the person is bitter and miserable. Just remember it’s a conversation and just because s/he say no today, doesn’t mean s/he will say no tomorrow, a year from now etc. If this relationship is important to you then you need to negotiate what you need. What your wants, desires and needs are and if your partner cares about you s/he will try and meet you half way. That’s what a relationship is reciprocity.
Mou now sees clients in New York City. If you’re looking to transition to non-monogamy, in desperate need of sex therapy or would like to attend a workshop contact Mou at email@example.com. Let her know The Prim & Perverse referred you.
Follow Mou on Twitter| @MoushumiAmour
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