Q&A with Dr. Zhana

If you don’t know me, I’m a professor of Human Sexuality at New York University and the author of Open Smarter – an online course for individuals and couples who are curious about nonmonogamy and open relationships.

I have been in open relationships my whole life (first non-consensually and then consensually later in life).

To learn more about nonmonogamy and how not to implode everything, keep reading…

Q: Are open relationships right for everyone?

A: Absolutely not! Nothing in sex and relationships is right for everyone; monogamy certainly isn’t, but neither are open relationships. We’re all very different in our personalities, desires, needs and boundaries. Different relationship structures are going to work for us differently.

That’s why it is so important that we know ourselves and understand how we function (and other humans) so we can find something that is a good fit at this point in our lives. This is exactly what my Open Smarter course is about.

Q: Tips when first thinking about opening up one’s relationship?

A: My number one tip is don’t do it alone in a vacuum!

Open relationships are more complex than monogamous ones; there are no role models and there is very little information. It’s easy to fuck up open relationships and cause a lot of pain and suffering for everyone involved.

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Take some time getting educated. Read some books, listen to podcasts, take a course, work with a CNM therapist, connect with other CNM folks and community, talk to your partner at length, take as much time as you need and go as slow as you need to go.

*CNM = Consensual Nonmonogamy

Q: Can open relationships be one sided?

A: Absolutely! There are so many different ways to have an open relationship. Open/mono or poly/mono is one of those ways. It can work if the monogamous person is happy not having extracurriculars and is okay with their partner doing it. It’s totally possible!

When couples negotiate open relationships they often think that the rules for the two partners have to be the same. They don’t! That’s not the point  – you don’t want the same things. The ideal relationship is where each partner gets what they want, even if it is different than what the other one wants.

Q: How do you balance the needs of multiple partners?

A: That may be one of the trickiest things about navigating open relationships. You do it by having open, transparent communication about what people’s needs are, what you can realistically give them, and a lot of empathy and compassion.

Q: What advice can you give to solo poly people dating open couples?

A: This is obviously a much bigger conversation, but my quick and key advice is you have to be very assertive with expressing your needs and setting your boundaries because couples privilege is real. So many couples don’t even realize they have that privilege and in their attempt to preserve the special nature of their coupledom, they don’t realize how these agreements and rules they have may negatively affect another person.

Q: How to get over jealousy?

A: This is the single most common question I get about open relationships, and I hear you! Jealousy is so hard! Even for someone like me who is not a very jealous person as a baseline. When I’ve felt it, it hurts!

But jealousy is an emotion, and like other emotions we have some control over it. We’re not powerless against it. Don’t be afraid of jealousy. If used correctly, it can be a pretty powerful vehicle for personal and relationship growth.

Q: How to overcome insecurities?

A: Generally speaking, you do it by setting a container or limits around your openness that feel safe and comfortable, then gradually pushing past that with help of a supportive and reassuring partner, CNM therapist and community.

These questions were asked by the Skirt Club audience in prep for the workshop I taught on nonmonogamy.

What’s Skirt Club?

Skirt Club is a private, members-only club for bisexual & bicurious women that has over 16,000 members worldwide! To learn more about Skirt Club, check out this blog post where my audience asked the founder of Skirt Club questions about who can join Skirt Club, how inclusive/exclusive it is, what is their purpose, focus and more!

*Please note: Skirt Club is a feminine energy-focused space.