There are more options than ever before.
We live in a world where, for the first time in human history, women, men, and nonbinary folks have an unprecedented opportunity to fully embrace the love lives they crave.
Medical advances (birth control, abortion, antibiotics, vaccines, DNA testing, fertility treatments) have revolutionized our sexual and reproductive health. There have been significant cultural shifts toward greater personal self-actualization, gender equality, and acceptance of alternative sexual and relational identities and lifestyles.
We have dating and hookup apps, social media, easy and frequent travel, and easy access to porn and sex work. We have a better awareness of consent and a better understanding of pleasure (and technologies to help with it) than ever before.
But it’s still not that easy to live authentically.
The sheer number of possible relationship alternatives can be overwhelming and confusing. Many sexual lifestyles remain highly stigmatized, and sexual shame remains pervasive.
Social norms about what’s acceptable keep shifting, and a backlash against increasing equality, diversity, and inclusion is spreading around the US and the rest of the world. Extreme views on both sides often drown out more moderate voices in the middle. Misinformation and lack of information abound.
Sex and love are not a one-size-fits-all solution, but how do you figure out what’s right for you and your partner/s? And how do you make it happen in a healthy, safe, gratifying, and ethical way for everyone involved (especially if your desires are a bit outside the box)?
You know there’s a better life for you.
Maybe your current love life is sort of okay, and you could keep going like this if you had to. Maybe it’s insufferable, and you can’t bear to stay in it another day. Maybe it’s even pretty good, and many people would happily trade places with you. But no matter the case, you know this can’t be all there is.
Deep down inside, you’re sure there’s more. More to explore, more to experience, more to enjoy, more to expand into. Especially in this day and age when so much is possible that was never possible before.
You see your friends, neighbors, or even random strangers on the Internet who seem no more worthy than you living their lives fully. The last thing you want is to go to your grave without having tasted more of what this wondrous new world has to offer. Or, worse, without having ever even tried to.
I’ve been where you are.
And I couldn’t settle for mediocre.
Instead, I’ve spent my whole life exploring, experiencing, enjoying, and expanding. I’ve been to all corners of the sexual and relational universe, reaped all the potential benefits, seen all the potential harm, and made (almost) all the mistakes in each of those corners.
My entire career has been focused on optimizing the time spent in these different corners of the relational universe to achieve the best results for everyone involved.
I’ve now distilled healthy, pleasurable, ethical exploration into a replicable science and an easily applicable process. Let me show you what’s possible.
Unique relational dilemmas…
Malik and Kyra
Malik and Kyra have had an awesome relationship for the past six years. They’ve been primarily monogamous, although they’ve played with other people together casually a couple of times over the years. But now that they’re talking about marriage and kids – and especially since that last play party in London went horribly wrong – Kyra has been saying she wants to be entirely monogamous.
Malik is highly sexual, kinky in a few different ways, bicurious, and wants to explore both with and without Kyra. Kyra likes sex and has enjoyed their past excursions, but she’s not as kinky as Malik, and something is holding her back. She’s afraid of the life Malik dreams about.
Malik faces a heart-wrenching dilemma: If Kyra is set on monogamy for their future marriage, can he commit to a lifetime of repression and sublimation to keep the best relationship he’s ever been in?
OR should he end the relationship to continue exploring his sexuality in hopes he finds a more compatible partner to build a family with?
Jun, Steven, Li-Mei, and Kao
Jun and Steven have been happily married for 20 years, though there was always something missing, especially for Jun. Meanwhile, Li-Mei and Kao have been happily married for 15 years, though there was always something missing, especially for Li-Mei.
For the past year, Jun and Li-Mei have become remarkably close, and the families (with two children each) have deeply integrated into each other’s lives. And then, a month ago, it was revealed that Jun and Li-Mei’s relationship wasn’t merely a close friendship; it was a full-blown romantic relationship, a secret love affair carefully concealed from their husbands for the last year. Steven and Kao are in shock; they did not see any of this coming and certainly didn’t consent to it. They don’t want nonmonogamy for themselves and aren’t sure they can handle it for their wives.
If Jun and Li-Mei don’t want to give up their special love connection and newly found sense of freedom and same-sex attraction, does this mean a divorce of two beautiful marriages, families, and extended families they’ve worked so hard to build and nurture for decades? None of them wants that either. Is there a solution?
Rajesh has been single for 11 years now. He has always liked his independence and was never entirely sold on the idea of marriage despite his traditional Indian upbringing. He held off his family’s efforts as long as he could. Eventually, he succumbed to their pressure and married someone they all thought would make a great wife and a mother (beautiful, well-educated, and family-oriented).
When it quickly became apparent the two had very little else in common – their sexual incompatibilities looming large for him, they quietly dissolved the marriage only three years later, with amicably shared custody for their two-year-old son. Rajesh was elated to become a dad and has excelled at it, but he was also happy not to be in a committed relationship. The effectively “solo poly” lifestyle of multiple more or less casual sexual partners but no committed relationships suited him well.
Lately, though, especially after the pandemic, he’s started to feel the loneliness creep in. He’s begun to wonder if it may be time to think about a relationship again. But that’s a scary thought. Relationships require a lot of work, compromise, and scariest of them all, monogamy. And he’s not willing to give up his sexual freedom. What to do?
These are just a few common issues clients face.
People come to me in all sorts of relational scenarios, faced with all kinds of dilemmas that at times seem unsolvable, often as they’re nearing a major crossroads.
I approach each new case as the beautifully unique mosaic and ecosystem it is, made up of the same raw materials of human psychology we’re all made of, just arranged differently.
We decipher your unique configuration, design the closest to your dream love life available, and then develop the skills you need to implement it well.
…Require unique solutions.
Malik & Kyra
They contacted me, and I met with them separately and together. Malik is torn; he loves Kyra but has just started feeling comfortable and confident enough to explore. Why would she want to take that away? Talking to Kyra, we uncovered a toxic mix of relational trauma, sexual shame, fear of abandonment, and body issues that all come together to make it difficult for her to feel safe in her sexuality. And that last experience in London showed her she can’t entrust her sexuality to Malik, since he failed to protect her when she needed him most.
The two had some profound healing to do before the question of nonmonogamy could even be discussed appropriately. We set a three-month moratorium on nonmonogamy conversations to focus on healing Kyra’s sense of security and safety. The two worked intensely on healing with their couples and individual therapists and more slowly on developing and implementing a strategy for safe, nonmonogamous exploration with me.
Six months later, Kyra is a lot more open to nonmonogamy than she ever thought possible, and within the year, she and Malik were engaged to be married. She worked through many of the fears holding her back, and he stepped up and learned how to be there when she needed him. They now have an explicit Open Monogamy agreement for how they will start exploring nonmonogamy (slowly) and how they will navigate nonmonogamy once they have children (very carefully.)
Jun, Steven, Li-Mei, and Kao
I met with Jun, Steven, Li-Mei, and Kao in separate couple sessions and with each member individually to assess their needs, fears, and limits. Over three months, it became clear there was no putting the genie back in the bottle for the wives, but there was also very little interest in breaking up the families. Luckily, both husbands softened up to the idea of nonmonogamy enough to give it a shot.
So we agreed on a test period of three months where Jun and Li-Mei can see each other once a week alone, and once a week, the families can all hang out together. Neither will be pursuing any additional casual or committed relationships on their own.
During this time, Kao and Li-Mei attend a couple of play parties together where they only play with other women and see how that feels. Steven, for whom group play sounds too overwhelming, will try his hand at casual dating on his own. Both couples are going to work on rekindling their own diminished erotic passions.
We found sex-positive, polyamory-experienced individual and couples therapists for Jun and Steven and Li-Mei and Kao, respectively. We connect both couples to people from their ethnic and religious backgrounds who’ve been practicing polyamory, so they no longer feel as isolated.
While not without challenges, the initial three-month test period was deemed a relative success by everyone, so it was extended, with some modifications, to six months, then to a year. A year and a half later, the relationship between Jun and Li-Mei is still ongoing, and both couples are thriving in their Poly-Open arrangement for Li-Mei and Kao who continue to go to play parties together, and Poly-Mono arrangement for Jun and Steven which they settled on after Steven decided he really wasn’t interested in pursuing other partners. Both couples are having the best sex they’ve ever had with each other.
Rajesh and I met weekly over the course of a month to examine his relational needs and his fear of commitment. Much of his resistance toward a committed relationship boiled down to two issues: his belief that serious commitment means complete sexual monogamy and his discomfort with his partner being with other men. Though, he’s aware the latter would be hypocritical. But as he’s getting older, and all his friends have married and built families, the novelty of constantly chasing new partners has worn off.
He’s ready to change the paradigm and give committed romance another try. Through our work, Rajesh discovers that his options are not either-or, that he could have both love and freedom if that’s what he wants. But he also realizes it’s unlikely he’ll find a committed partner who will let him have the freedom he wants without enjoying the same for herself. If he wants both, he’ll have to do some personal growth work.
We set him up with profiles on dating apps that cater to nonmonogamous folks and connect him with his local nonmonogamous community, where he starts to meet the right kind of women for him. We curated a list of resources to help shift his thinking. We introduced him to a nonmonogamous men’s support group and a nonmonogamy-positive therapist, which helped him undo the possessiveness of his patriarchal upbringing and taught him the art of being a good partner. Four months after our initial session, Rajesh started dating someone he was really excited about. The anti-relationship spell has been broken, and he’s confident he no longer has to make either one of those painful tradeoffs.
Every relationship is different.
There really is no cookie-cutter solution when it comes to sex and love. What might be absolute heaven for me might be absolute hell for you.
There’s also no standardized process that everyone goes through in the same way; these are all bespoke solutions custom-tailored to the unique individual and contextual needs and limitations of those involved.
When you hire me, it’s a bit like hiring a detective to solve an often complex and convoluted case. But with all of the options and tools available today, there’s a good chance there is a better life for you. You deserve to feel the power and fulfillment of living your dream love life.
What is Relationship Consulting?
Relationship consulting involves providing expert guidance, advice, and support to individuals, couples, or groups seeking to enhance, navigate, or troubleshoot their relationships. Just as people might seek consultants for business strategies, relationship consultants offer expertise in improving personal and interpersonal dynamics. Think of it as a Deloitte or McKinsey for your relationships.
Consultants play a few key roles in this process. They help resolve existing conflicts by offering expert insight and an objective viewpoint, assisting clients to see patterns or issues they might be missing due to a lack of knowledge or emotional involvement. They also provide guidance for preventing potential problems in the future by engaging in strategic long-term planning. And they often emphasize and encourage personal development since individual growth significantly contributes to the relationship’s health.
It’s important to note that relationship consulting is distinct from individual or couples therapy. While therapy addresses deeper emotional and psychological issues, consulting primarily provides practical advice, tools, and strategies for improving relationship dynamics. Consulting is suitable for individuals, couples, or groups seeking guidance for specific relationship challenges, personal growth within the relationship, or proactive relationship enhancement.
What is Relationship Consulting with Dr. Zhana like?
Every consultant has their own area of expertise and specific approach to solving problems. Mine is a data-driven process of finding and implementing strategic, innovative, win-win solutions for your intimate relationships to maximize pleasure and minimize suffering for everyone involved.
Using my proprietary, science-based LoveSmarter™ method, I guide you through a customized process to discover the most authentic sex and love life for you, then map out how to implement this vision in a way that is as pleasurable, safe, and ethical as possible for all. Over the course of several sessions and a mix of quizzes, questionnaires, and writing assignments, we’ll accurately and objectively assess your relational present (needs, fears, context), dig into your past to understand how it’s affecting your present, and project that knowledge into likely future scenarios.
This enables us to correctly identify your relationship dilemma and properly situate it within the larger context of your life so that we can go through the three steps of the LoveSmarter™ method:
- Choose the closest to a win-win scenario that is possible for you.
- Map out the best path to that chosen destination.
- Create an achievable, actionable plan for how to best walk that path.
An individually curated selection of reading, listening, and watching materials will supplement our sessions in providing you with the knowledge you need to navigate this journey confidently and connect you to local and global sex-positive communities and to some of my other clients and students to further facilitate the transition to your new life.
No more blind trial and error. No more fear and shame. No more isolation and loneliness.
We’ll leverage universal scientific truths combined with your unique psychological make-up and life circumstances to custom-design your ideal love life, whatever that may look like.
What kind of consultant are you?
- I absolutely LOVE solving relationship problems. And my knowledge, experience, data collection skills, systems thinking approach, and unique science-based framework make me really good at it. It allows me to get to the bottom of the problem quickly, getting past the specific details of any situation (i.e., the trees) to see how it fits into the big picture of the past, present, and future (i.e., the forest), so we can accurately identify your ideal win-win solution and the best way to get you there.
- “Battle-tested”: I’ve studied relationships and what makes them thrive at some of the world’s most elite universities, and I’ve lived in all of the relationship types, some more happily than others. There’s no one more qualified to help you find the right one for you.
- I’m extremely open-minded, nonjudgmental, and inclusive. Virtually nothing in the world of sexuality and relationships phases me; if you’ve wanted it or done it, I’ve most likely been there (or somewhere very close.) People quickly lose their shame about their intimate lives after working with me.
- I’m a straight-shooter, honest, and direct in my communication (sometimes to a fault.) Periodically, what I tell you is not going to feel great. But that’s okay; not everything in life needs to feel good. There’s often more to learn in the pain than in pleasure. I firmly believe we can’t solve any problems without accurately representing reality, so you can always count on me to tell you the truth, and I expect the same in return.
- I’m quick and efficient in my communication and our work. Time is our most valuable resource, and I hate wasting it – yours or mine – with a vengeance. My goal is to get you out of my practice as quickly as possible. I don’t want to work with you longer; I want to work with you smarter.
Let’s work together.
If your relationship situation is relatively simple, you’re highly self-motivated, and/or on a tight budget, then LoveSmarter™ University is for you. Learn more here.
If your relationship situation is more complicated, you know you need a nudge on your path to personal and relational growth, or your funds are more abundant, consider signing up for my private consulting package.
Therapists like to say that one session is often worse than no sessions. The same applies to my relationship consulting. My ability to help you resolve your relationship situation is incredibly limited when I have the minimal information a single 60-minute session can provide. The best way to start working with me is to book me for a Starter Package that includes several virtual sessions, the Open Smarter course, and a comprehensive self-assessment questionnaire. That way, I can really get to know you so that I know how to best care for you. After that initial deep dive, we’ll decide on a continued meeting schedule that best meets your needs and will typically decrease in frequency from weekly to bi-weekly to monthly.
Not everyone has a major relationship dilemma they need help solving over several weeks or months. Sometimes, you just have a few quick questions about sexuality and relationships in general or your sexuality and relationships in particular. If this is you, you might consider coming for a 60-minute session.
Don’t let fear and shame keep you from designing the love life you fantasize about. Only the life you truly crave is worth living.
I do NOT take any insurance plans. I do sometimes have sliding scale rates available. Ask me about it during your free consultation.
I am NOT a sex or relationships therapist, counselor, or coach, but I will work with your therapists, counselors, and coaches (and any other people helping you become your ideal self) to make sure we’re all building toward a common goal.
I do NOT work with people with untreated mental illness. Please seek help from a psychiatrist or a licensed therapist if you’re struggling with an acute or unmanaged mental health condition.