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dating // relationships // connection


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Male Vulnerability: Weakness or Strength?

Loved this exploration with Daniel Mackenzie on why men and women both crave and repudiate male vulnerability.

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Daniel Mackenzie is an author, counselor, and the host of Omega Male. Daniel and I sat down to explore the limitations on male vulnerability due to patriarchy and the cultural scripts conscious men are courageously breaking free from.

“In many ways, it’s hard to know what it means to be a man these days. Vulnerability is seen as weakness and feminine, it’s also seen as a loss of power or control. Under patriarchy, you can be connected or powerful but you can’t be both. Boys are taught at a young age what emotions are acceptable, meaning masculine, and which show weakness and are associated with femininity. The code of masculinity— stoicism, strength, power, & aggression— not just men internalize it, women too. Under this code, men are allowed 2 feelings only, anger and lust. Men are taught to hide, stuff down, and bury their vulnerable emotions. Women say, “I want him in touch with his emotions… but not so much so that he crumbles in front of me. I want him vulnerable but I don’t want to feel like I need to take care of or be strong for him. You’ll never hear someone say, “Be a woman” or, “Woman up.” Femininity doesn’t need to be earned. Masculinity must be constantly proven and can be instantly stripped away.” ~Esther Perel

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Intimacy & Healing Childhood Sexual Trauma with John Romaniello

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I first heard John’s personal story on Connor Beaton’s ManTalks podcast. I immediately reached out to him because he shares with such vulnerability and insight what it’s like to experience and heal from childhood sexual trauma and physical abuse. John and I sat down together to explore:

  • How having an abusive dad led John to be conflict avoidant: “I didn’t know how to break up- I only knew how to sabotage relationships to end them.”
  • How an energy healing helped John uncover the roots of his lying and dishonesty in adulthood
  • How John and his partner unexpectedly navigated a relationship betrayal
  • John’s experience confronting his family about the childhood abuse and their response
  • Why John wasn’t able to be with others’ challenging emotions until he confronted and made peace with his own
  • Why the process of writing a screenplay about his dad was more healing than the decade of therapy John did related to his trauma
  • John’s advice to women whose male partners pull away from intimacy and how shame and safety play a role in the process
  • The power of psychedelics in John’s healing and growth journey
  • John’s advice to people who want to share their story but are hesitant or afraid
  • The hardest conversation John’s navigated around polyamory and betrayal with his partner
  • Why the ego wants to want more than it wants to have

QUOTES

“Fostering intimacy is about creating safety and undoing shame. That process, being in that shame and pulling it apart together, in front of one another, is the most intimate thing in the world.”

“When you grow up in an environment of abuse and violence and you don’t have an example of how to be, the north star then becomes one of opposition. Meaning, I didn’t know how to be a good man so I just dis the opposite of what I saw. If he [meaning my dad] was violent and prone to conflict, then I won’t get into conflict- which meant I was constantly repressing. I didn’t have difficult conversations and I didn’t speak up for what I wanted. That led to a whole host of other problems. For me, it was infidelity because I couldn’t just say to my partner, ‘I’m unhappy, we need to talk.’ I’d push it down and then eventually I’d crack.”

REFERENCED

More on John and his writings at www.johnromaniello.com.


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Normalizing Non-Monogamy: A Conversation with Emma & Fin

Emma and Fin are the creators and hosts of the Normalizing Non-Monogamy podcast, where they share firsthand interviews and stories of people practicing ethical non-monogamy from around the world. Their passion and purpose is to help more people embrace their true selves in relationships, live authentically without shame, and see that ethical non-monogamy is more common than most people think and can be done safely and consensually.

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In this conversation, Emma and Fin joined Leah to explore:

  • The different types of non-monogamy (swinging, polyamory, monogamish, etc) and how they vary
  • The biggest mistakes couples make when trying to open up
  • Challenges they’ve experienced in their relationship while exploring non-monogamy and how they navigated them
  • The greatest benefit of non-monogamy in their own relationship

GROUP MEMBER QUESTIONS

  • I tried online dating and it wasn’t working so I’m willing to try swinging. How and where do I begin? How do I explore it safely as a single woman?
  • Do you have any tips on knowing if you desire polyamory or an open relationship because you identify with its values, and wanting poly because you’re dissatisfied in your relationship?
  • Does you think jealousy is natural and innate, or largely stemming from how we’re raised and our cultural conditioning around monogamy? And how have you navigated jealousy surfacing in your relationship?

REFERENCED

  • Leah’s Poly Story on the Normalizing Non-Monogamy Podcast: https://www.normalizingnonmonogamy.com/post/episode146
  • Normalizing Non-Monogamy Monthly Virtual Meet & Greet: https://www.normalizingnonmonogamy.com/meetandgreet
  • Quote by Dossie Easton, author of The Ethical Slut: “We have been taught to find polyamory frightening. We need to start being curious about our feelings, where our emotions come from, and why we are feeling them. We were raised to believe that the feelings that are aroused if our partner has sex with or is interested in some else are intolerable and beyond our ability to control.” Often the response is then to slam on the breaks. But avoiding feelings and conversations that we think will hurt us actually blocks our healing and our growth. They’re also generally the conversations that deepen our relationships and bring us closer to our partners.


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Sex Q&A with Tristan Taormino

In this candid Ask Me Anything Q&A, the renowned sex educator and author Tristan Taormino joined me to explore the below topics.

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  • Why it’s so erotic to explore taboos in a sexual context
  • Why some people are drawn to kink & BDSM, and others are drawn to tantra
  • Female orgasms: types & experiences
  • Anal play & prostate massage
  • Healing from sexual trauma
  • Non-monogamy as a response to infidelity
  • Polyamory: orientation or choice?
  • Why it’s so much harder to receive than give sexually
  • Why lust and disgust play together so closely
  • Attachment theory & open relationships

Referenced:

  • Neuroscientist Dr. Nan Wise’s book, Why Good Sex Matters: Understanding the Neuroscience of Pleasure
  • Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy
  • Urban Tantra by Barbara Carrellas
  • Betty Dodson’s book, “Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving

Tristan Taormino is an award-winning sex educator, speaker, podcast host and author. She’s the executive producer of the Sex Out Loud podcast and the creator of the Sex Educator Boot Camp, a training program for sexuality professionals. More on Tristan at: http://tristantaormino.com and http://tristantaormino.com/sex-out-loud/about

Leah Marshall is a relationship junkie and the founder and leader of the Esther Perel Discussion Group on Facebook, a community of over 12,000 members from across the globe who regularly discuss relationships, intimacy, sex, desire, and infidelity. She’s also the creator of Song Therapy, a video series which breaks down the relationship dysfunction in popular songs. You can connect with Leah on Song Therapy at https://hiitide.com/song-therapy.


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Poly Perspectives: The Experience of The Third

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What’s it like to be a third person entering an existing couple’s polyamorous relationship? What do common non-monogamy norms like having restrictive rules on secondary partners, practicing hierarchy, exercising veto power, and don’t ask don’t tell policies feel like? In this candid conversation with the founder of Loving Without Boundaries, Kitty Chambliss, I shared some of my personal experiences with the above and how they shaped the types of open relationships I now explore.

Topics Covered:

  • Opening up What are some well-intentioned steps many couples take that can be unintentionally hurtful to a new person?
  • Unicorn Hunting
  • Rules & Permission-Granting in Polyamory
  • Hierarchy and Couple’s Privileges
  • Reporting: What’s the line between disclosure and privacy?
  • Labels (Primary Partners, Secondary Partners, Thirds)
  • Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT)
  • Veto Power

CLICK THIS LINK TO LISTEN IN.

ABOUT LEAH MARSHALL

Leah is a relationship junkie and the founder and leader of the Esther Perel Discussion Group on Facebook, a community of almost 12,000 members from across the globe who regularly discuss relationships, intimacy, sex, desire, and infidelity. And she’s the creator of Song Therapy, a video series which breaks down the relationship dysfunction in popular songs. You can connect more with Leah on YouTube Channel and through Song Therapy.


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I Was Unicorn Hunted! 🦄

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I was honored to be a guest on to the Normalizing Non-Monogamy podcast and share my first experience with polyamory, as a third person entering into an existing couple’s relationship. I spoke about how it feels to navigate the strong emotions and fears that arise in the established couple as they sense their dynamic forever changing, as well as the importance of having strong boundaries, deep self-awareness, and consistently showing up for yourself. If you’re exploring opening up and are curious to hear what it can feel like to experience a couple’s rules, hierarchy, privileges, and fears, I share candidly about all of the above in this episode.

“As painful as it can be to feel the sense of loss of someone who’s exploding your world, there’s no better feeling than honoring yourself and your needs and not self-abandoning to save a connection that’s really meaningful for you. I would say to anyone who’s going through a similar situation, there’s so much value in being aware of your needs and showing up for them.”

~Leah Marshall, Normalizing Non-Monogamy podcast

If you’re exploring opening up and are curious to hear what it can feel like to experience a couple’s rules, hierarchy, privileges, and fears, I share candidly about all of the above and more in this episode.

ABOUT LEAH MARSHALL

Leah is a relationship junkie and the founder and leader of the Esther Perel Discussion Group on Facebook, a community of almost 12,000 members from across the globe who regularly discuss relationships, intimacy, sex, desire, and infidelity. And she’s the creator of Song Therapy, a video series which breaks down the relationship dysfunction in popular songs. You can connect more with Leah on YouTube Channel and through Song Therapy.


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Relationship Endings with James & Riya

James and Riya are the creators of the Open Lifestyle channel on YouTube. After a 7-year relationship, they recently uncoupled and were generous enough to share their journey and their process.

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We touched on:

  • How and why they decided it was time to end their romantic connection
  • What conscious closing rituals they incorporated
  • How they each process and move through grief and loss
  • Their core relationship needs
  • The difference between love and attachment
  • Why shared interests and love for one another sometimes isn’t enough
  • What they each see as the purpose of relationships

INTERVIEW QUOTES

“There is an aspect to an open relationship which can get in the way of growth. We both knew the truth that we weren’t meeting each other’s core needs. An open relationship can give you the excuse of, “I can get those needs met elsewhere” which is true, but for the core values that you need in your life, it’s not true.” ~James

“The last act of pure love we can have for one another is to not hold on to what was but look at what is and what needs to be. The breakup can be the last act of love of setting each other free. This is attachment versus love- I love you but I’m not attached to having to be in your life. The love I have for you means that when it needs to end, it can end.” ~James

CLOSING RELATIONSHIP RITUAL

“The way people leave the previous relationship, the quality of the breakup, is really at the heart of how people start their next relationship- how much they will trust, how they will collaborate, how they protect themselves, how they anticipate what will happen, and how much they bring these invisible exes with them. A meaningful closing might be sharing:

  • Here are the things that I take with me from what we have lived together
  • Here are the things that I hope you take with you from what we shared
  • Here is what I wish for you
  • Here is where I think that I could have done better

How people start and end relationships are incredibly important psychological bookmarks of their relational life.” ~Esther Perel


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Navigating Jealousy with Kitty Chambliss

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Kitty Chambliss is the author of the Jealousy Survival Guide, where she offers insights and techniques for managing jealousy with grace and self-compassion. Kitty joined me for a candid conversation on navigating the feelings of jealousy, envy, fear, insecurity, and loss that arise in our relationships, both monogamous and polyamorous. You can learn more about Kitty and her book at: https://lovingwithoutboundaries.com/

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Here’s the processing model we discussed to get beneath the jealousy to the deeper feelings causing it: “When ____ happens, I make it mean ____________. My fear is that means I am ____________ and that eventually __________ will happen.” Example: “When my partner dates and emotionally connects with another person, I make it mean _____ and _______. My fear is that means ______ and that eventually _______ will happen.”

Source: http://polyweekly.com/jealousy-toolbox-and-then-what-exercise/


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Why I Choose Polyamory ❤️

Honored to sit down with Freja Njorden and Steve Makohin to dive into my ever-evolving journey with polyamory. We covered:

  • Common mistakes couples can make when first opening up
  • Belief systems normalized in monogamy that need to be released to embrace polyamory
  • Poly rules 
  • Is “don’t ask don’t tell” ever a good idea?  
  • Leaning into jealousy and the fears beneath it
  • Privacy concerns
  • And more!

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REFERENCED

Processing model to get below the jealousy to the fear underneath:

“When _______ happens, I make it mean __________. My fear is that means I am __________ and that eventually ________ will happen.”

EXAMPLE: “When my partner falls in love with someone else, I make it mean she will love me less and eventually leave me. My fear is that means I am not enough and that eventually I will be alone.”

Can be powerful to complete solo and then talk through it with your partner. Source: http://polyweekly.com/jealousy-toolbox-and-then-what-exercise/

Closing Quote by Esther Perel:

“We sometimes will give up discovery, novelty, or passion for a permanence that may not really exist. In our efforts to secure love, we sometimes will sap the very erotic vitality out of our relationships. We will, when faced with the persistent mystery of the other, react not with openness, surprise, or joy but with anxiety and want in some way to narrow ourselves and narrow our partner and make them known predictable entities so that we don’t ever have to be too surprised. But in the process, we will lose the very mystery and erotic vitality that drew us to them because in order to see your partner in their element, you have to be able to tolerate that they’re not there with you, giving up their freedom for your security.”


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Understanding Polyamory & Open Relationships with Dr. Eli Sheff

Dr. Elizabeth Sheff is a pioneer in the study of polyamory and the author of The Polyamorists Next Door, Stories from the Polycule, When Someone you Love is Polyamorous, and Children in Polyamorous Families.

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Polyamory is the practice of more than one intimate relationship with more than one partner, with the informed consent of all partners involved. It’s also referred to as consensual or ethical non-monogamy. It’s a life philosophy that love is not zero sum- that me loving one person doesn’t necessarily detract from my ability to love another, and may even amplify my love for everyone involved.

TOPICS COVERED

  • Common poly types and structures? How is poly different from open relationships or swinging?
  • Knowing your poly “why”
  • The difference between rules and boundaries
  • Mono + poly relationships
    Navigating feelings of jealousy, envy, insecurity, + fear of loss
  • Processing model to get below the jealousy to the root fear: “When ____ happens, I make it mean ____________. My fear is the above means I am ____________ and that eventually __________ will happen.
  • Triads, unicorns, + unicorn hunting
  • Don’t ask, don’t tell?
  • Disclosing polyamory to children

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN IN.

EPISODE QUOTES

“We now come to one person and ask them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, give me security, but give me excitement, mystery and adventure all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think that sex toys and lingerie is going to save us.” ~Esther Perel

“Every organism & every company knows it needs to reinvent itself continuously or else it fossilizes but the notion of flexibility, fluidity, & adaptability in relationships is more unusual.” ~Esther Perel

“Open relationships make a lot of sense but they’re not for everybody- they demand a massive amount of egalitarianism. They requires two people who are sovereign, who can choose for themselves and not one person imposing it on the other. Cheating happens all the time in open relationships. People will always cross boundaries. Transgression seems to be part of relationships period. Consensual non-monogamy is not a protection device against transgression. It’s a philosophy, a way of thinking about sexuality and freedom and the centrality of the individual within a relationship. We need multiple models- there is no right one.” ~Esther Perel

ABOUT THE HOST

Leah Marshall is a relationship junkie and the founder and leader of the Esther Perel Discussion Group on Facebook, a community of almost 12,000 members from across the globe who regularly discuss relationships, intimacy, sex, desire, and infidelity. She’s also the creator of Song Therapy, a video series hosted in partnership with the hiitide app which breaks down the relationship dysfunction in popular songs. You can connect with Leah on her YouTube channel and on Song Therapy.