Sex Gets Real: Episode 46

Gina Senarighi joins us for a compelling interview about relationship counseling and the keys to making relationships work in the long run

Holy crap. We have the fabulous and amazing Gina Senarighi from Amplify Happiness Now and Uncommon Love PDX on the show for a killer interview on relationships, kink, poly, jealousy, shame, sex, and all the things she sees in her therapy practice with couples who are struggling with so many things we all struggle with.

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Episode breakdown

  • 0:42 – Meet Gina Senarighi from Amplify Happiness Now and Uncommon Love PDX – our guest on today’s episode.
  • 2:56 – Gina shares her story on how she got into couples’ counseling, with a focus on queer, kink, and poly issues.
  • 3:19 – What if you’re young and queer and in a very rural area? Gina talks about what they did to find community in college.
  • 4:30 – What do you do when your therapist tells you you have to break up because your libidos are mismatched or your kinks or desires?
  • 5:36 – Dawn talks about what her former therapist said when she started a non-monogamous relationship.
  • 6:59 – We find out that there’s a thread of truth to the belief that women tend to struggle more with poly and non-monogamy.
  • 7:33 – We find out what the most common reason couples come to a couples’ therapist is.
  • 7:43 – People say they want to communicate better in relationships, but that means about a million different things. But it usually means one or both partners have gotten distant from each other and are looking for ways to reconnect.
  • 8:19 – It can spell trouble for your relationship if you’re more task oriented or home management oriented than oriented towards fueling their inner fire or passions.
  • 8:30 – This quote is one of the most powerful things we’ve ever heard on the podcast: “When you start to lose yourself, it’s really hard to connect with anybody else or it’s hard for your partner to have anything to connect to. SELF CARE, PEOPLE!!!!
  • 8:47 – We have these fantasies in our culture that magically our partner is going to have the same amount of desire as we do.
  • 10:02 – What if your desire is mismatched? Should you end the relationship? Is that the end?
  • 10:28 – “I desire pizza more often than my partner does…” That doesn’t mean the end of the relationship when that desire is mismatched, so why is sex so loaded?
  • 11:09 – What’s Gina’s advice for people who want to introduce new things into their relationship and never have before?
  • 11:39 – You will fuck this up. You will fail. You will make mistakes. Gina talks about what that means and the importance of acknowledging mistakes as you try kink or non-monogamy or open relationships.
  • 12:01 – Have you created a plan for how to weather mistakes and awkward moments and yucky feelings as a couple?
  • 12:34 – After action reports are critical. They aren’t easy at first, but checking in after you try something new can make or break future sexual adventures.
  • 14:16 – Will things still go wrong if you do all the prep work in the world? Yes. That’s just the nature of relationships and risk.
  • 16:28 – What is polyamory? What does non-monogamous mean or open relationships mean? Dawn and Gina weigh in.
  • 17:59 – Dylan wants to know if swingers just fuck or if there’s ever feelings involved? Isn’t it just wife swapping?
  • 20:04 – Sometimes rules and labels can be somewhat arbitrary, but they can be important for some folks. Gina talks about clients she has who are in non-monogamous relationships or open relationships who are passionately NOT swings or polyamorous.
  • 20:26 – Is it important to have community if you’re in a non-traditional relationship or engage in non-traditional sexual practices?
  • 21:44 – Let’s talk about shame when it comes to sex, desires, and fantasies.
  • 22:24 – Gina talks about Brene Brown’s amazing work around shame and vulnerability. If you haven’t checked it out, listen up and then watch her TED talk. Pronto.
  • 23:04 – At a training, Gina actually asked Brene Brown what she thought about using Brene’s model and research to help people with shame around sex and sexuality.
  • 23:24 – How to get rid of shame every time… but it does take an act of courage.
  • 23:35 – Gina tells us about another researcher who digs into shame and self-compassion named Kristin Neff over at
  • 25:31 – Dylan thinks you should just come out and say “I love dildo sex and anal sex.” Boom.
  • 27:29 – Find out the key to building trust in a relationship when you have scary things to say.
  • 28:15 – Partners often want this when you share new information, especially about sex or issues you’re struggling with.
  • 28:40 – Oh, shit. Now I’ve got to figure out how to wear a strap-on.
  • 31:03 – Jealousy. What is it? How do you work through it? Gina weighs in because it’s a common issue for her clients in their relationships.
  • 35:00 – Gina models how she worked through a recent issue with her sweetheart, how she made the ask for what her needs are and how they negotiated.
  • 36:07 – Dawn confesses to her own feelings of jealousy in her relationship and the importance of having a safe container to express her fears with her partner in order to work through them.
  • 37:35 – Don’t be that crazy, draining, ugly person who has serious jealousy and rage issues, people. Just don’t. It’s abuse. Plain and simple.
  • 38:18 – The truth about life as a couples counselor is that most couples wait until it’s too late to seek help.
  • 38:54 – Gina talks about how people come into her practice wanting to be fixed in a single session or two when problems have been growing for years (even decades), and that’s just an unrealistic expectation. If you’re willing to do the work, which is WORK, then it can be transformative for your relationship. But there isn’t an overnight fix.
  • 39:31 – Do non-monogamous couples tend to be more ready to do the work when they seek couples counseling?
  • 41:37 – Gina talks about another fantasy we believe in our culture about long-term relationships: that the agreement you had when you first started your relationship holds forever without checking back in at all. You rewrite business contracts, so why not relationship contracts?
  • 44:16 – The key to a great relationship is a willingness to grow together, to realize things will change between you, and finding a way to allow for that.
  • 45:33 – What if you want therapy or counseling or coaching if your partner doesn’t? Gina shares some thoughts.
  • 47:45 – Check-ins are scary in a relationship, but if you do it regularly, it becomes a practice and it becomes really easy because it’s low level issues and simply maintenance rather than HUGE issues with years of build up.
  • 49:09 – Therapy isn’t the best place if you want to stay together. It works best if it’s way upstream of the break-up conversation, so you can figure out how to do relationship better.
  • 49:54 – Gina has some great booklists on her website, like this one for newly open relationships, or this one on love and relationships, or ten fantastic reads for couples.
  • 50:29 – When you elevate yourself and offer vulnerability or new tools for strengthening your relationship, it helps facilitate change in your relationship, too.
  • 53:17 – Dawn wrote a blog post on negotiating edge play for Gina’s blog last year. Have you checked it out?
  • 53:37 – Stay tuned for Gina’s new Mindful Makeout program on Uncommon Love PDX!

And be sure to pin, share, and Instagram this bad boy

We are rocking a phenomenal interview with couple's therapist Gina Senarighi from Amplify Happiness Now and Uncommon Love PDX. We talk about counseling, relationships, taking risks, jealousy, kink, non-monogamy, vulnerability, and some of the keys to making a relationship successful. All that and more on episode 29 of the Sex Gets Real podcast.

  • Dawn
  • February 15, 2015