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February 23, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 08
 
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Ask Michael
Ask Michael
by Michael Raitt, MA - SGN Contributing Writer

Michael, my Partner and I have been in a monogamous relationship for just over 6 years now. We are thinking of opening it up and having a three-way. Hes a little nervous and I keep telling him not to worry. How should we handle this?

Michael: Couples opening up a relationship is usually a big deal. This step can bring up feelings of fear, insecurity, and/or trust issues. If you decide to go ahead with this, I would have you think about a few things. First, the priority must always be the relationship and the two people in the relationship. You and your partner should begin talking about what you are going to do to prevent either of you from feeling left out or not important. There is nothing worse than feeling like your partner is having more fun with the other guy than with you. Although you will want a little spontaneity, you and your partner can be talking openly and clearly about what behaviors are acceptable and which are not -- both inside the bedroom and when it is over. For example, is continued sex or a friendship acceptable with the 3rd person?

Second, be very clear with the third party about expectations. If you and your partner know this is only a one time event, be clear with the 3rd person that this is what it is and no friendships will develop out of this and no other sexual activity will happen. All parties have to commit to this and each person has to access their own personal ethics to maintain these boundaries. Any boundaries/expectations that you and your partner agree to have to be maintained. It can be devastating to a relationship when one person breaks the agreement. Make sure everyone knows what the expectations are.

Plan some time within a few days for the two of you to reconnect  sexually and emotionally. Talk some more about what it was like and how each of you are feeling about the interaction. Is there still some insecurity, fear, or jealousy?

Each of you in the couple must agree that you are doing this willingly. No one should be feeling pressured to do this! If someone is feeling pressured, be honest about it and postpone the three-way until you have worked through the concerns. Feeling pressured into this, when one really doesnt want to do it, can lead to long-term resentments and can slowly poison a relationship.

So, remember, your partner  and the relationship  is the number one priority. Agree to, and set, clear boundaries and expectations with all parties and stick to those. Make sure there is no pressure and check in with each other after.


Michael, I am a 37-year-old Lesbian. I am in a good relationship and we get along well. I have friends and family and have a full time job. With everything going so well, I think I should be happier and I am not. I dont ever feel very happy. I dont feel depressed but dont know why I am not happier.

Michael: Sometimes people think depression is a very heavy, suicidal, cant get out of bed and function feeling (and for some people, this is very true). This scenario would be classified as a major depressive episode but this doesnt sound like what you are experiencing.

Depending on how long this feeling of not being happy has been going on, you may be experiencing a low level chronic depression that is called Dysthymia. People who suffer from dysthymia experience a low level, long term, more-often-than-not feeling of being down. Not so down that they cant function, but just not very happy.

You should explore this with your doctor and/or therapist. They can help you determine whether it is dysthymia or if something else is going on (some medical conditions such as low thyroid can leave people feeling down).

If it is determined to be dysthymia, you should discuss with your doctor whether you would be a candidate for a low level anti-depressant.

Anti-depression medications help stabilize the brain chemistry. Therefore, if they are prescribed, you should always take them as the Doctor orders. Do not go on/off/on/off. This kind of pattern does not help stabilize the brain chemistry.

Certain people can go 6 months to 1 year then get off the medications and feel better over the long term. Others may take the medications longer. Always defer to your doctor to decide which is best for you.

Exercise, proper diet, and balanced life are all factors that are important in feeling better. Assess your life and make the necessary changes. Sometimes, we dont have to feel better to do things; we have to do things to feel better. Also, continue to intentionally focus on positive, joyful things in your life.

Michael Raitt, MA, LMHC, can be reached at 206-325-4113, by email at askingmichael@comcast.net or by visiting www.michaelraitt.com.

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