Whether you acknowledge it or not, some desires get met in your primary relationship, and some desires you outsource. We are not talking about the kind of economic outsourcing that Donald Trump promises to end if president (even though his own line of suits is manufactured overseas), we are talking about how desires can be fulfilled across different relationships. If this is negotiated openly and honestly it can be wonderful, and non-exploitative, for everyone involved.
Outsourcing can allow you to get what you need without putting all of the pressure on one relationship to give it to you. Many times you outsource desires without even thinking about it; the outsourcing doesn't even show up on anyone's radar because you are both fine with it. For example, perhaps you love salsa dancing but your partner hates it, so you have a group of friends who you go dancing with. Maybe your partner is relieved to never have to go again. Or maybe you like to talk a lot about your feelings, but your partner has a lower tolerance for feelings-based conversations, so you have a best friend you call when you are emotional and need some support. Problems arise when you have a desire that is not being met in the relationship but that you or your partner are not okay with you outsourcing. There is a big cultural taboo about outsourcing sex, but sex isn't the only thing that people feel uncomfortable outsourcing.
The same examples as above can play out very differently, causing friction and long term issues. Let's say you still love salsa dancing, and your partner still doesn't want to do it with you but also doesn't like the idea of you doing it with someone else. Or you may not feel very supported by your partner emotionally, but they don't want you to share feelings with your friends, especially if you are talking about your relationship. You might be very extroverted and want to go out a few nights a week, and your partner only wants to go out once a month but gets very sad and frustrated when you go out without them. These are all examples of places where you could outsource, but doing so feels threatening or hurtful to your partner.
In all relationships, we are in an ongoing negotiation of desires, boundaries, and capacities. Each of us needs to honor the other's desires and be as honest as possible about our own, knowing that we will sometimes feel disappointment in the face of differences.
In the following series we will talk about how people handle sexual outsourcing in their relationships in a variety of ways (polyamory, non-monogamy, open-relationships, infidelity, affairs, cheating). Some people choose to outsource dishonestly which can have many negative ramifications even if this outsourcing is never discovered. We encourage everyone to try and negotiate outsourcing honestly. While this might bring up fears, in the end, being open and honest about your needs brings the highest likelihood of long-term connection and personal fulfillment.