Monthly Archives: May 2016

Writing Tip: Self-Disclosure



Recently a reader who was enjoying the way I handled my own self-disclosure in The Polyamorists Next Door (where I talk about how my interactions with the polyamorous community affected my life and my research) contacted me to ask if I had an opinion about how zie might handle self-disclosure in zir own writing as both a member of and research investigating an altsex community.


Because it might be useful to other readers as well, I am including my response here:


The short answer is it depends a lot on what you are writing and for whom. In academic writing, if it is directly relevant to what you are writing then it is good to disclose up front (introduction &/or or methods section) what exactly is happening with you so as to give the reader context and a little bit of spice to keep them interested. Not in a salacious way and only when relevant, but a bit of self disclosure can make something that would be dry a little more engaging to read.
However, if it is not directly relevant then it can seem awkward and self-aggrandizing — look at how interesting I am! Me, me, me, and by the way, me.
Alternately, if you are writing for a more popular, non-academic audience, then I would definitely have a lot more of your own experience and identity as a way to structure the work, draw in readers, and establish yourself as a persona/brand across multiple writings. If you are thinking of a book, I would start with a chapter on who you are and why you are even studying this, plus your own experiences and identities (including both sexual and academic, to what ever degree you think appropriate in each circumstance).
If you are writing a research monograph then I would include a section of the methods section on your own relationship to the topic and the field, and how if at all it affected data collection, analysis, and findings. That sucks, because no one can claim objectivity in research with any legitimacy, but sex researchers who are part of altsex communities are expected to account for bias in a way that heterosexual researchers studying marriage and not called to account for their own involvement in heterosexuality. You have to give the context because it will appear sneaky if you don’t, and readers will wonder so you might as well tell them up front so they are not distracted by it for the whole book.
Do you want help with your writing? Dr. Sheff provides a wide range of writing services and academic coaching to help you ghost write your book, publish your thesis as a journal article, or turn your dissertation into journal articles and a book.


Filed under Uncategorized, writing

Response to “I want to be poly and don’t know how to bring it up to my spouse”



One of my readers of my Psychology Today blog recently asked a question that I have heard many times, in many different settings: “I want to be polyamorous but I am not sure how to bring it up to my spouse.” Because the question is so common, I wanted to post the response here for the many others who wonder the same thing.

B asked how to approach his wife of 10 years whom he loves deeply about opening their relationship to allow him to have sex with others. B explained that his wife had lost interest in sex when pregnant with their first child and now they had sex only about three times a year when she gives in so he will leave her alone. That is not enough for B, who identified himself as a very sexual person miserable about neglecting his feelings and desires.



This was my response:

Hi B,

I am sorry you are in this situation, it sounds very painful for both of you. In order to give you advice I would need more information about what you mean when you say: “She has been seen by doctors before about the issue, with no advice or medication that would change our situation.”

By “the issue,” do you mean low sex drive? Have you two talked about why she does not want to have sex? That is key information, and without knowing if it is an issue of sexual orientation, body image, child hood abuse, hormonal imbalance, or any number of things my advice is by definition rather general.

Even with this limited information, I do have three suggestions for you.

1. Try something new: Instead of the kind of pressure that leads her to “fold to my will because she just wants me to leave her alone” try taking intercourse off the table completely and focusing on other ways to be intimate in order to build intimacy and trust. I am talking here about not only cuddling and non-sexual affection, but also massage, hair brushing, deep listening, eye gazing, and spending special time together. Once you have built up some no-pressure intimacy and emotional trust, you can try knew things sexually focused only on her satisfaction. Get a vibrating toy and explore the clitoris with a lot of patience and variety. If sex is only about you and what you want, bending to your will with no thought of her pleasure, then it is no wonder she is not excited to do it. Making sex about her pleasure and desire can make it a lot more fun for her, something she might be more excited to do more often.

2. Communicate honestly about needs and try hard to meet them: If your wife feels well loved, seen, heard, appreciated, and that her needs are being met, then she is much more likely to feel OK about you directing sexual/emotional/relational energy to other people. In contrast, if your wife feels overworked, under-appreciated, demeaned, rejected, dismissed, or starved for attention, then the idea of you giving your positive vibes away to someone else when she already doesn’t get enough herself is not going to be popular. She will only feel comfortable sharing if she feels like she has gotten enough in the first place, so focus on communicating about what you each need and how to best meet those needs.

If she is unable to communicate about her needs, feelings, and desires, then it is highly unlikely that your wife will be able to communicate enough to sustain a poly relationship. Poly relationships require a lot of communication about feelings, talking about what people want and don’t want to happen, how people are going to spend their time and money, and how to protect against sexually transmitted infections. If you two can’t talk about your own relationship, then focus on improving your communication before involving another person.

3. Get some professional guidance: Understanding the reasons behind sexual reluctance and considering if/how to approach consensual non-monogamy can be an incredibly challenging endeavor that promises pain, personal growth, and the unknown. Seeking support to deal with the underlying issues can help make the difficult process much more manageable.

If the root of the sexual reluctance is physical (vaginismus) or psychobiological and expresses primarily in a sexual setting, then consider seeing a sex therapist. You can find one at AASECT directory or a poly-friendly sex therapist at the Kink Aware Professionals list.

If her sexual reluctance is rooted in family issues, body issues, relational history, or trauma, then consider seeing a counselor or therapist to deal with the underlying personal and relational issues.

If her reluctance is based in her feeling of not getting her needs met, not being seen validated or understood, or an inability to communicate her needs, then consider relationship coaching with me. I provide one time sessions and ongoing coaching for people considering or trying consensual non-monogamy, BDSM, and other relationship styles. I am happy to talk to you on the phone, meet with you via Skype, or in person if you are in the Atlanta area.

However you decide to deal with your relationship challenges, I wish you both the best in your endeavor.


Elisabeth Sheff




Filed under consensual nonmonogamy, Families, Gender, love, marriage, non-monogamy, open relationships, Polyamory, Psychology Today, relationship consultation, relationships, romance, sex, sexuality, Uncategorized