How much can you ask a partner to change?
And how do you know if non-monogamy is the right choice for you?
Jess and Brandon discuss these listener questions and share their (imperfect) perspectives in this quickie episode.
This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
Quickie Q&A: Should you change for a partner & how do you know if non-monogamy is right for you?
Speaker 1 00:00:05 You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and Relationship Advice you can use tonight.
Speaker 2 00:00:15 Welcome to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. I’m your co-host Brandon Weir, here with my lovely other half. Dr. Jess,
Speaker 3 00:00:21 Are you ready for a quickie?
Speaker 2 00:00:22 I’m always ready for a quickie. Are
Speaker 3 00:00:24 You though?
Speaker 2 00:00:25 Yeah, I’m usually ready for a quickie.
Speaker 3 00:00:27 <laugh> is all, all we really do is quickies. <laugh> not in the podcast, but I feel like we’ve been squishing sex into smaller Look at your face. Sorry. I’m like, I’m, I’m getting tripped up from my words, but I’m gonna keep going. I feel like we’ve been squishing it into tiny little, what do they call it? Time blocks.
Speaker 2 00:00:44 <laugh> time. We’re time blocking. We’re the Harvard Review. We’re time boxing.
Speaker 3 00:00:47 Time boxing our sex lab, but we’re getting it in.
Speaker 2 00:00:50 We’re smooshing booties and time boxing.
Speaker 3 00:00:52 Bumping uglies.
Speaker 2 00:00:52 Bumping uglies. I
Speaker 3 00:00:53 Don’t like that cuz I think they’re very pretty.
Speaker 2 00:00:55 I like it.
Speaker 3 00:00:56 We’re actually in a hotel right now with, uh, curtains where the, the decor. They really look like Volvos.
Speaker 2 00:01:02 Yes, they do. You brought that up the other night and I didn’t realize it. And you’re spot
Speaker 3 00:01:06 On. I think it’s supposed to be something from the sea, but they really remind me of Volvos. Anyhow, we’re doing a quickie because I am off to Dubai for another couple’s retreat. I feel so good to be working and meeting people and I’m just, I don’t know. I’m having the absolute best time, but have a long couple of flights today. So we have two questions for you and one is about getting your partner to change and the other is about non-monogamy. So big topics, but we’re gonna try and be fairly succinct so that I don’t miss my flight.
Speaker 2 00:01:34 Sounds good. All right.
Speaker 3 00:01:35 What’s the first, so the first they’re asking how to differentiate between getting your partner to stop doing something that bothers you versus trying to change them. So they say we’re told to accept our partners just as they are, but also to speak up if something they’re doing makes us unhappy. So where’s the balance?
Speaker 2 00:01:52 I mean, this totally resonates not with, not so much with me, but just the question is kinda like, at what point are you crossing that line? Right.
Speaker 3 00:01:59 Um, you don’t ask me to change much.
Speaker 2 00:02:01 No. Again, I think we’re constantly having conversations about things. I think I feel like you ask me to change things, <laugh> more things, would that be wrong? I think I’d agree. But it’s you, I think I agree with that, but I don’t feel like you’re trying to change me as a human being, like as a person.
Speaker 3 00:02:16 It’s trying to make you better. No, <laugh>.
Speaker 2 00:02:18 No, but you’ll, I think I’m, I’m thinking more of things that bother you. If I do something to bother you, you’re like, you know that could you stop doing that and this is why. Right. And I’ll be like, okay, I hear
Speaker 3 00:02:29 You like, like breathing too loudly and maybe
Speaker 2 00:02:31 <laugh> and maybe I will and maybe I
Speaker 3 00:02:33 Won’t. Well I think that’s a really important piece before we get into this, is that you can ask anything that you think is reasonable and you wanna try and temper whether or not you’re reasonable, but also your partner doesn’t have to oblige every request. And I think that, I always think about this from an emotional perspective. You know, you want something from a partner in order to help you feel a certain way. I do suggest for all of us, and I know I have to do this to ask ourselves, can you self sooth first? Is there something you can do to deal with this? Or are you dependent on a partner to do it all? And of course, you know, you’re a partnership and this doesn’t just apply to partners. I think this applies to friends parents, to siblings, to anyone with whom you have a meaningful relationship.
Speaker 3 00:03:12 And I think that where I wanna differentiate is between behavior and identity. So asking your partner to change their behavior to me is not the same as asking them to change who they are. So I maybe, I don’t like the fact that I’ll use myself as an example. Like you interrupt when you’re talking, not you. That’s me For sure. Or maybe they leave their towel on the floor. I’m, I’m picking a super simple one. But these are behaviors as opposed to fundamental components of their personality or their identity. So I think it’s fair for you to ask them to alter behavior and then it’s their right to oblige or decline. Right. Just cuz you want something doesn’t mean they have to give it to you. And then I guess on the other hand, I’m picking a different thing. Imagine you don’t like that they’re really social, right?
Speaker 3 00:03:52 Because we run into this all the time and we were just at a, a party and you know, you’re less social than I am. I mean you’re still a pretty social person, but we are with another couple, they’ve been together forever. They’re much much older than us and she is a social butterfly. She’s, she’s basically an older version of me and I wanna be like her when I grow up <laugh>. And then he doesn’t, I mean he’s absolutely lovely, but he doesn’t love to be at a party, but he just comes and he goes off and he smokes his cigar and they’ve been doing this for over 60 years.
Speaker 2 00:04:18 Yeah. And I think to your point, neither one of them seems to be wanting or trying to change the other one. They both seem to accept the situation. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and I don’t mean that like they’re capitulating, but they seem to be like, okay, you go and do your thing mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I’m gonna support you in doing it by being here and <laugh>,
Speaker 3 00:04:35 I’m not talking to people <laugh>. Well yeah, I’m not taking pictures.
Speaker 2 00:04:37 That’s exactly how it sounds. But he, but he does say that or he does feel that way. And I think she does the same by understanding that he’s not going to be the social butterfly that she is in those social environments. So I think going back to your point, I really like the idea that they’re not trying to change each other’s identity, but I could see them maybe saying, having a conversation to a changing behaviors. Like, I’d like you to be more social. Could you try to, you know, have a bit more conversation when we first arrive or,
Speaker 3 00:05:02 But why, why should
Speaker 2 00:05:03 He? I don’t think he should. I’m just saying if if she felt that way and was to verbalize something, you know, she might be able to bring it up in that way.
Speaker 3 00:05:10 Right? Oh no. And maybe she can ask. I mean, I’m not saying there’s like a right or a wrong. I guess if you, let’s say you don’t like that they’re so social, I don’t think it’s fair to ask them to shit, you know, the behaviors like to say, I want you to talk to people less or I want you to thrive less in large groups or I don’t want you to spend so much time with friends. That doesn’t seem fair to me. And I think that if you’re not liking how social they are, for example mm-hmm. <affirmative>, well maybe we can flip it and talk about the other side. I would suggest you think about what is it you’re missing, what is it you’re looking for? Like is it that you actually want them to spend more time alone with and why is that important? So rather than asking them to change a big part of who they are and I think a, a part of, I wanna say sort of their essence mm-hmm. <affirmative>
Speaker 3 00:05:48 As opposed to just behavior. Although I guess everything can be broken down into a whole bunch of small behaviors. I think think about what it is you want and are you, is there something you want more of, of focus on that as opposed to what you want them to do less. And I guess the flip side, and I’ll, I’ll go back and talk about this specific couple where she’s a social butterfly and he is less so over the years of their relationship. Cuz as I said, they, they’ve been married over 55 years. I think they’ve been together 60, I’m trying to count down the Yeah. 60 years. Like they were, they were kids. I’ll say that she’s always gone out. They had this other friend who’s less, um, around these days for his own like, um, health reasons and personal reasons whom she would go out with all the time.
Speaker 3 00:06:25 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, he was the person. And I think it’s great that you have other friends, other companions, other relationships. So yeah. I, I think it’s impossible to accept a partner a hundred percent as they are if you include every single behavior. I think we do need to make requests of others to ensure social bonding and order and connection. And it is really important to speak up and voice your, your thoughts, your preferences, your desires. And it’s important to listen to what they have to say. And again, neither of you has to oblige every request. You simply need to start a dialogue to cultivate that compatibility. Because every couple I look at who is so happy after so many years and so compatible, it is not because of sameness, it’s not because of the same type of person. It’s because they’ve cultivated that compatibility through understanding, through flexibility, through understanding. It’s a big part of it is getting like, you don’t have to meet my every need. Like sometimes I’m gonna want something from you and a mom want it real badly and I’m just gonna have to let it go if you’re not gonna meet that need.
Speaker 2 00:07:24 And I think it’s also a part of e accepting that there are gonna be times when you’re gonna do different things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> like I noticed that in, in our relationship, there’ll be times where you’re like, you know what? I want to go out and I want to go and see my friends and have a drink or, you know, go out and play Frisbee or do whatever it is you wanna do and, and I don’t want to go and I don’t go mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think it’s okay. You have to accept in that environment, in my opinion that I’m not gonna come and you do of course. And I have to be okay with maybe disappointing you by not going, if you wanted me to go,
Speaker 3 00:07:52 I love when you come out with me and sometimes I, I like when you don’t, like, sometimes it’s nice to just let loose and be a different version without you. Or also, for example, on my end, not have to worry about you sort of. So like, if we are out together and
Speaker 2 00:08:05 Do you worry, do you worry about me?
Speaker 3 00:08:07 <laugh> not really worry about you, but I pay attention to you. I feel like I wanna make sure you’re having a good time. I’m sort of like that with everyone. It’s a problem. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> for me. But let’s say you wanted to leave, I might, you never pressure me to leave, but I might be thinking, oh, I might as well go home with him. Whereas if you don’t come am I’m gonna stay out all night, which is good for me sometimes not good for me in the morning sometimes.
Speaker 2 00:08:24 And again, and just to go back to what I was saying, there are times where I’m like, I’m going to leave now and I’m totally cool if you stay out with your friends mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because I’m making a decision that works for me. If you want me to stay bec for some reason, then please let me know. And, and I’d be willing to consider it. But also I can do my own thing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like even with you, I can do my own thing.
Speaker 3 00:08:43 And we’ve talked about this before, but I just, I think like if we separate behaviors into core identity personality, I think that’s sort of how we draw the line. And I know that that’s not like a perfect test or a quiz, but of course there’s many, many shades of gray here. So I hope that helps a little bit. Okay. We have to get onto the next question because we’re moving. All right. This person asked a super simple question, how can I know if no monogamy is the right fit for me? And I think really important question is, have you asked the same of monogamy? Ooh. Right.
Speaker 4 00:09:18 Ooh, <laugh>. Thanks. This some matrix stuff. You gonna like flip it around?
Speaker 3 00:09:21 No, but really I think that we have to ask ourselves, well, why is monogamy a good fit for us? What appeals to you about it? What concerns you about it? What fears and hesitations do you have?
Speaker 2 00:09:31 Do you just want to write a pros and cons list?
Speaker 3 00:09:34 Sure, sure. I have no problem with that. I, I don’t think we ought to look at non-monogamy as an alternative. I think we have to look at it as one of many choices. And anytime we’re asking ourselves questions or second guessing ourselves, I think it’s good. I think it’s always good to kind of reflect a little bit more, but I wish we would do the same around monogamy. And I think it’s useful for everyone kind of, regardless of relationship orientation to critically examine sociocultural norms of romance. Right? Like the myth of finding the one and living happily ever after. You know, for some people, definitely non-monogamy is a matter of practice mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But for others it’s a matter of identity. So the difference between I’m in a mono non-monogamous relationship, or I practice non-monogamy versus I am non-monogamous. And I think, you know, some of us have more or less opportunities or privilege to embrace practices that are farther removed from that charmed circle.
Speaker 3 00:10:26 And some of us also have more time and resources, like even money to be able to manage multiple relationships simultaneously because non-monogamy can be financially burdensome when it involves, you know, travel like a partner in a different city, maybe multiple residences, maybe shared parenting, and at other times, non-monogamy could be financially supportive because you might pool in a different way. But I’ve, I, that’s a topic I really would love to explore with somebody in the field who specializes in, in the finances of non-monogamy, because I am seeing so many couples where that is becoming the, the most challenging issue.
Speaker 2 00:11:02 Well, I love the idea of not looking at monogamy as the default. Like I think that that is what a lot of people do is just like, well, we’re going to be monogamous. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but more importantly the gray area that exists maybe between those two. Like if you were to say black and white, it’s monogamy or non-monogamy. But I’m like, if you start having a conversation about all the things that you do and don’t like, or maybe that, that appeal to you in between, maybe you find some other version that works for you or that works for the two of
Speaker 3 00:11:29 You. Right. And I guess that gets into how you define monogamy. Yeah. Right? Yeah. Is it that strict? My bottom line is if you feel you have the capacity to love more than one person at once mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which I think most of us do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> non-monogamy may work for you. And I think that you also have to have a willingness and a capacity and a, i I think a willingness to learn because it’s an ongoing thing. You never figure it out to work through these, these range of emotions. I think no non-monogamy might be a fit, although that’s, I think, essential in all relationship arrangements. But there tends to be more conversation around vulnerable feelings I find among non-monogamous people. I’m not saying that’s what the data says, that’s just what I’ve found. And then I think there’s the practical side. So there’s the, there’s the personal side.
Speaker 3 00:12:13 Can you love multiple people at once? And then there’s the practical side. Do you have the time and the resources to manage multiple relationships? Right? Because they could range from casual to nesting to living together. And then I think you could consider non-monogamy. But I think really where you wanna start is, first of all, if you’re thinking about non-monogamy, it’s probably a con a decent consideration for you if it’s already on your radar. If you’re asking yourself this question, I think it’s something you probably want to explore, at least from a self-reflection perspective. But again, I would think about what appeals to you about it? What concerns you about it? What excites you about it? What fears and hesitations do you have? And answer those questions. It’s just four simple starting question for both monogamy and consensual, non-monogamy or non-monogamy.
Speaker 2 00:12:56 You’ve also said a couple times, don’t just go and drop something on your partner. Like, I’ve heard you say that in the past.
Speaker 3 00:13:01 Well, this person may or may not be partner
Speaker 2 00:13:03 N no agree. But it was just the idea that it’s like once you’ve done the self-reflection going to your partner being like, this is what I want to do. Right. You know what I mean? Which could be, I mean, if somebody were to all of a sudden come and drop something on me like that, I, I might be like, whoa, what? Hey, uh, can I have a second to reflect on this? And can we have a moment to reflect on it together?
Speaker 3 00:13:20 Right. So I guess it’s about asking, you know, is this a good time? There’s something I wanna talk to you about kind of prepping them and knowing that that first conversation that you have, if you do, if you’re, if you maybe are in a monogamous relationship and you’re looking to shift in a different direction, that first conversation you have may not be indicative of how the rest of the conversations are going to go. You’re going to have difficult conversations, you’re gonna have upsetting conversations. And I think when we look at things and experiences and arrangements that are outside of the charmed circle, the most like privileged type of relationship or privileged, you know, monogamy obviously is, is at the top of the hierarchy in, in our, at least in western culture. So I think when we look at anything that’s outside of that charmed area, we’re so afraid that something could go wrong, but it’s okay for things to go wrong.
Speaker 3 00:14:06 Like, it’s okay if you get in a fight. It’s okay if you feel jealous. It’s okay if you feel insecure. It’s okay if there’s serious tension between the two of you. And that might have happened even if you’d remained in the charm circle of monogamy. I see this all the time with, for example, threesomes. When people are asking me about threesomes, like, what if this happens? What if I feel jealous? What if I freak out? What if we get in a fight? What if, what if, what if? And I remind them like, have you ever been in a fight? Have you ever felt jealous? Like, what are you trying to do? Protect yourself, insulate yourself from every possible negative experience, every possible challenge to the relationship. If you try and do that, you’re, I think first of all, you’re setting yourself up for failure. And I’m not saying, oh, go have a threesome.
Speaker 3 00:14:44 But what I’m saying is, if you try and insulate yourself and your relationship from every potential negative, you know, tiny little experience, it’s gonna be really challenging. Right. And you can’t, in the end, you’ve had fights before and fights arguments often lead to better understanding, to better relationships, to more excitement even moving forward. So I don’t think we need to a, avoid all of the negative experiences, but I hope that helps a little bit. Definitely a big topic. And there are, you know, there’s, there are books and resources out there that you can check out. Definitely some podcasts even that focus just on non-monogamy. But if you’re asking yourself the question, is non-monogamy a potentially right fit for me? I think that, uh, you’re probably going down the right path and you should keep exploring it and explore both sides. Explore what appeals to you about monogamy as well, and then figure out what works for you.
Speaker 3 00:15:31 Because it’s not just about who you are or what you’re capable of, it’s also about what fits into your life. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right? Like I, I think about, for example, I don’t feel like I have the space for any more, many more <laugh> relationships in my life. I, I feel like between all the love, all the family, all the friendships, this intimate relationship, I feel that the relationships, how do I say this? I feel like I’m kind of, I don’t wanna say at my capacity, but I don’t have a ton of space at this moment in time. In a year it might be different. In two years it might be different, but at this moment in time, I feel like I don’t even have enough time and energy to give to everyone who’s in my life. I feel like I’m not keeping up. I feel like I’m not holding up my end of the bargain, even in some cases. And that, you know, space to something different that I perhaps <laugh> should work on in terms of shifting my lifestyle. But you also have to think about the practical side. So yes, could I be non monogamous? Absolutely. And is this the right time for me? And the same thing goes for monogamy. Some people don’t have the space for monogamy in their life right now.
Speaker 2 00:16:29 Yeah. I mean, I, I’m, I’m thinking everything that you’re just saying, and to me the, the underlying element there is time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it’s not about love, it’s not about your capacity to love. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it’s not about your capacity to want or desire something else. It’s about time. Mm-hmm.
Speaker 3 00:16:40 <affirmative> and emotional energy.
Speaker 2 00:16:42 I would have a hard time right now, I think if, you know, you were to come to me and say that’s what you wanted, I would have a hard time right now because of time. I mean, you’re
Speaker 3 00:16:50 Talking specifically about polyamory, right? Like multiple love. Yes. I think like other forms might work for us cuz you know, it might be sex or something like that, that may not, um, take as much time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> or ongoing commitment. Of course there’s still emotional investment there. Of course there’s still care for anybody. But yeah, I think that it, it may or may not fit your life. And again, no monogamy is like this huge umbrella. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Right. Are you talking about polyamory? Are you, and what type of arrange arrangement are you talking about? Are you talking about some sort of like casual relationships, casual dating, solo polyamory? So you have all these options and I, I hope you go and explore.
Speaker 2 00:17:24 Yeah, yeah. Lots to chat.
Speaker 3 00:17:25 Okay. We have to run. It was a short one at Quickie, but still longer than we lost most of the time in bed. Right. <laugh> brag.
Speaker 2 00:17:33 Brag. Super cool
Speaker 3 00:17:34 Folks. We have our webinars, our video courses Blow your partner’s Mind, mind-Blowing oral. We’ve got all that [email protected] and you can save with Code Podcast. So if you’re looking to learn, if you’re looking to learn about Mindful Sex, my favorite program, if you’re looking for a last longer in bed program, and if you’re looking for mind-blowing oral, it’s all [email protected] and the code to Save is podcast and we are out. Thanks babe for the quick chat. Thank you. Thanks for hanging folks. Have a great one.
Speaker 1 00:18:04 You’re listening to The Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your Life.