In our article Smart Erotica: The Modern Couple's Playbook we outlined seven conversations that our Lifestyle Inventory Check-up (LIC)© coaches couples to have to ensure a fun and productive erotic lifestyle experience (click here to take it at SDC.com for FREE).
The LIC guides you through a series of essential discussions that include the following:
- Unfiltered Communication
- Sexuality vs. Eroticism
- Routines & Rituals
Regardless of where you are on the erotic lifestyle continuum — from newbie to veteran, hot monogamy to CNM or even polyamory — the LIC and its “7 conversations” are essential tools that keep your relationship safe and lay the foundation for romantic pluralism that is quickly going mainstream in our culture with just over 20% or 1 in 5 people participating in a “consensual non-monogamous relationship” (Kinsey Institute and Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 2016).
Have You Had a “LIC” Lately?
The first step in preparing for the erotic lifestyle is to ask smart questions of yourself first and then your partner by having several crucial dialogues that this article series will guide you through.
There are seven (7) specific “conversations” made up of “smart questions” you and your partner should ask yourself to make sure the nuclear reactor of the erotic lifestyle “lights” your relationship house for years and moments to come!
Importantly, the LIC can be used for newbies or senior veterans in the erotic lifestyle. Communication characterized by vulnerability, depth, full openness, and transparency are prerequisites for trust, and mutual respect — the stuff strong and fulfilling relationships are made of.
Quick coaching tip: Ask yourself these questions without judgment and with curiosity!
Here is a description and key questions to ask as you prepare yourself and your relationship for the path ahead:
Your first task is to ask yourself the “why” question and be clear and explicit with each other as to what “purpose” participating in the erotic lifestyle serves for each of you. This is essential to decrease the anxiety of vulnerability around the normal questions this decision will trigger like, “Do we have a problem I don’t know about?” or “Why do you desire someone or something that I can’t give you?” The answer to these questions provides emotional safety that creates the certainty necessary to explore freely absent the fear something is missing or “I lack what my partner is wanting.”
- Why am I interested in the Erotic Lifestyle?
- What is/are your personal reason(s) for choosing to participate in the Erotic Lifestyle?
Are you trying to fix a problem or put something into your relationship that is missing? If so, what’s missing? Are you complying to please or placate your partner?
2. Unfiltered Communication
Some of the strongest couples we work with are those committed to an erotic lifestyle. Why? The vulnerability they create with each other. Couples in the lifestyle who use the experience to enrich their relationships have NO MISSING OR INCOMPLETE conversations! They talk about EVERYTHING in an emotional climate of non-judgment, mutual respect for differences (even if they feel weird or scared to say it out loud) and are open and curious versus secretive about their desires, motives, needs, fantasies, and experiences they want through the erotic lifestyle.
Success Formula: Vulnerability + Emotional Safety = Trust & Bonding
- Can you speak openly about all topics or do you censor yourself and say what you think is safe and acceptable?
- What are your real desires, wishes, fantasies, arousal needs and what does ‘erotic play and fun’ look like to you?
- What conversation “should” happen BEFORE you experience an erotic encounter together?
We believe conflict is opportunity and growth waiting to happen — IF — you know how to fight well and fight fair! It is important to set the conditions for success in the erotic lifestyle by accepting upfront that what is — IS meaning that “shit happens” and you cannot predict or anticipate every nuance that will occur. You CAN minimize those situations by asking smart questions and committing to a process for “how to” resolve conflict better (stay tuned for another article and video series on that!). The commitment is not to have all the answers but to turn toward one another to learn and grow from each experience you encounter on the journey together.
- What is our strategy for positively dealing with breakdowns and/or disconnects?
- How will we ‘repair’ if a conflict or disagreement happens? (e.g., specific action steps you will both take regardless of what happens)
- How will we deal with incompatible interests, preferences, and likes? (e.g. ‘I like to play with other couples’ vs. ‘I only want to watch others play’)
4. Sexuality vs. Eroticism
A critical distinction we teach is the difference between Sexuality vs. Eroticism: Sex is more about frequency, duration, quality, and performance, whereas Eroticism is much more about desire, imagination, creativity, and connection. Another way to understand the difference is that with sexuality you bring technique and tactic to improve it. With eroticism, you bring soul and sensuality to it. Both are necessary, but neither is sufficient to have a satisfying and fulfilling relationship that meets both people’s needs.
- What type of sexual experiences are you interested in pursuing alone/together/with others? What are your primary/secondary turn-ons and turn-offs?
- What type of erotic experiences turns you on/off that you want to explore? What erotica would you like to have more/less of in your relationship?
- Where on the monogamy-polyamory continuum are you most/least comfortable?
Relationships thrive or dive on the clarity of their boundaries. Essential for positive erotica in the lifestyle is for there to be mutual understanding, full and complete communication, and explicit conversations about “what’s OK and what’s not OK” in all aspects of the lifestyle that you have interest in exploring together. This is where it gets down to the nitty-gritty of what your “emotional safety zone” looks like, why it’s that way, where the comfort zone is, and where the red zone of NO-GO enters the picture. Boundaries are ESSENTIAL because they give a couple a blueprint and permission for how to manage the intense arousal and incoming exposure to stimuli in erotic lifestyle situations. They serve the purpose of “keeping certain things in” and “keeping certain things out” that are aligned with your core values, driving needs, and fantasy/imagination — all a delicate alchemy that must be carefully balanced for success.
- What am I comfortable with/not comfortable with, how often, where, and why? (e.g., partner preferences, three-ways, couples, f/f, m/f/m, f/m/f, kink, voyeurism, play together/separate) — be specific and no holding back here!
- What do I need to feel physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually safe? Why is that important?
- Are there any ‘rules’ that would decrease anxiety or uncertainty I have about any part of the lifestyle experience?
OK, now that you are aligned, have unfiltered, transparent conversations, a plan for breakdowns and conflict, a map of interests, likes and preferences, and clarity around boundaries to keep your relationship safe and thriving, you need to know exactly what you’re signing up for — what are the “Dos” and “Do Nots?” Now, this is less about “rules and conformity” and much more about mutual respect and permission to which you consensually agree. Then, choose to honor on behalf of respect for your partner and the relationship you value. There’s always three people in every relationship — You, Me, and US — and all parties need a voice and representation, which is especially true for those who adventure into the exciting and sometimes risky terrain of an erotic lifestyle.
- What specifically are we agreeing to do and/or not do and why? (e.g., Be descriptive — “we only play together in the same room,” or “we can play at the same party in different rooms”)
- What happens if something we agree to doesn’t happen as we agreed? How will we address breakdowns and/or misunderstandings?
- If one of us wants to change the agreement, what and how should we accomplish that?
7. Routines & Rituals
Preserving the integrity and sanctity of your love is core to nurturing your relationship bond and crucial to a healthy, enduring partnership — regardless of where you fall on the erotic continuum. At Soul-Mates For Life, we teach that it’s not about “finding” the right partner, but rather, about “becoming” the right partner for who you are with. That asks some things of each individual in a partnership (more to come in another video on this!) but begins with “rituals of connection” that are unique to your relationship. We recommend before going into an erotic lifestyle situation to have exclusive bonding time with one another (e.g., good sex, mutual massage, date night, taking the Lifestyle Inventory Check-up (LIC)© and talking about it) to form an anchor experience you can use in grounding your playtime. Remember: ideally, the erotic lifestyle is not designed to replace something but to add to an already stable and fulfilling relationship that enhances what you already enjoy. We also suggest that after an erotic playtime a “ritual of connection” is used to integrate, process, and reconnect between you, ensuring that you learn, grow, process, and evolve together on the amazing journey a lifestyle experience can offer to couples who choose it.
- What are some of the most fulfilling and meaningful ways you connect with each other?
- What is your primary “love language,” or how you experience love and connection together (stay tuned for another video on Love Languages!), and what specific actions can your partner take to “speak” it?
- What will be your “ritual of connection” before and after erotic playtime together?
Stay tuned if you want to take the actual Lifestyle Inventory Check-up (LIC)© and walk with us through the next series of articles that will coach you on each of the seven (7) conversations of the LIC.
We work with couples committed to having an extraordinary relationship of their choosing and would like to be your relationship tour guides as you embark on the journey ahead. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or want more information!
Dr. Jay and Liseth
Soul-Mates for Life