Great news! You just found out the person you like – likes you. Woo Hoo! Soon after, you become “official” and while reaching that level is different for each couple, it usually goes one of three ways.
- One of you slips up and accidentally uses the word “boyfriend”, “girlfriend”, “partner”, or other. You talk it over and you both feel this designation is appropriate and what you want.
- People ask you to define what your relationship is. You talk it over between the two of you and decide on the appropriate term.
- You have the “define the relationship talk”, which usually involves anxiety on one or both sides.
Generally, becoming an exclusive couple involves having serious conversations. This can cause some anxiety, and for some is seen as a one of the “tougher” conversations to have in a relationship. Will my partner feel the same way? What if the person doesn’t? Ugh. After this conversation and realizing you do both feel the same way, the rest of the relationship is smooth sailing, right?
Wrong. As I travel speaking, I come across couples that have trouble communicating about their relationship and the intimacy within the relationship. Some people have told me they have trouble asking a partner, “Am I meeting your intimate needs in this relationship?” Too often, a partner is afraid asking such question will imply you are “lacking confidence” or “are inexperienced.” The irony is that being afraid to ask the question is a sign of lacking self-confidence. A self-confident person likes to ask. The person doesn’t take offense to receiving feedback because they want what is best for each of them individually and the relationship as a whole. The sure way you get that helpful feedback is to ask.
Some people have told me that they cannot tell a partner, “No”, – for fear the partner may view you as a prude. When you hear someone afraid of being labeled a “prude,” let the person know, “You deserve to have boundaries. You deserve to ONLY engage in sexual intimacy when you want it, how you want it, and with whom mutually wants it with you. And if someone is going to label you a ‘prude’, remember you deserve to be in a relationship with someone who respects you – not degrades you for having a voice.”
Creating mutually amazing experiences should not be a massive struggle; it should not be something that causes overwhelming anxiety (a little nervousness is normal – the hormones alone can create those feelings).
Here are 2 common reasons why people don’t ask more detailed questions about intimacy in a relationship.
Fear– They fear how their partner will react. They project their own anxieties on their partner and consciously or unconsciously stop themselves from talking to their partner. They especially fear rejection and the act of being rejected.
The irony? Your relationship could be heading for an ending you didn’t see coming because you let fear dictate your choices and thus didn’t learn how each other was truly feeling. If you had addressed the fear by talking first, you might have easily overcome any concerns and had an amazing relationship.
Anxiety– Sometimes one party has anxiety. The person genuinely fears asking the question and not the necessarily the outcome. The person will try to avoid all serious discussions with the partner and will rarely initiate the conversation.
The irony? Your relationship is likely to have MORE anxiety because of all the unknowns not being discussed.
So, how do you talk to your partner?
First, remember this is your PARTNER. This specific person likes you and has expressed interest in investing in a relationship with YOU. Would you intentionally want your partner to feel uncomfortable by an action that you are doing? Hopefully not. And that wanting for each other to feel comfortable deserves to go both ways. Your partner DESERVES to know if any action he or she is taking is causing harm to the relationship.
Second, we are all awkward in relationships – in some way. Anyone who has ever been intimate has been awkward. Think of a time where something awkward happened between the two of you. In healthy relationship between confident partners, you laugh and move on. That is what people who respect each other do. Instead of not saying something or asking a certain question, own your awkwardness. Share openly and ask respectfully.
Finally, remember that relationships are built on communication and respect. You should be asking first and respecting each other’s boundaries throughout the life of a relationship no matter how short or long of a time period you’ve been together. Talking to your partner should be fun. You should be able to share anything and ask any questions.
If you show an interest in creating a mutually amazing consensual relationship by talking openly with your partner (about your wants, needs and dislikes), your partner will know that he or she can come to you as well!
*If you do have a genuine fear of how your partner will react if you try to talk openly, examine the reason why. Will they hurt you if you say something your partner doesn’t like? Has this person been disregarding your needs, forcing you to do things you don’t want to do or threatening you? If it is safe for you, go to the Domestic Violence Hotline webpage to get help http://www.thehotline.org/ or call 1-800-799-7233. If you are in fear of your safety, clear the call from your cell phone log when you are finished.