How To Negotiate Boundaries

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I haven’t dated much and I am in a relationship with someone who has more experience than I do. Are there certain things that he is going to expect that I like to do or know how to do? What if I don’t? Do boundaries exclude these basic things? Help!

This is a great question! Boundaries are lines that you draw – like limits – in the bedroom. You always need to talk about your boundaries with new partners because it is unlikely that any two people have exactly the same boundaries. Boundaries can include both things we are uncomfortable doing, things we have tried and don’t like doing, things we absolutely hate, or even things we just don’t feel like doing that day. Boundaries can change over time – they can change immediately. Keeping a clear picture of what your partners boundaries are is very important.

How well do you know your partners boundaries?

Does your partner like to be called names? Are there certain names that are triggering for them to hear?

Does your partner like rough sex? How rough is “rough” – don’t talk on a scale of 1-10, discuss specific acts that you are interested in doing, and develop a safe word. (A safe word is something you can say to stop whatever it is you are doing immediately. Safe words are necessary within rougher play.)

Are there any sexual acts that your partner absolutely does not like to do? Are there any sexual acts that they have had a bad experience with in the past? Are there some things that your partner does not feel very confident with?

Does your partner use protection? What kind of protection does your partner want to use? Condoms are not always an assumed boundary – though they should be, particularly with new sexual partners. Talk about safety and sexual health when you discuss boundaries.

There are not certain things that your partner should “expect” you to do, but of course some people do develop a set of things they consider “normal” and they may not think about it. For many people, oral sex is a great example. Some people consider oral sex a regular part of their sexual routine. Others consider oral sex to be more intimate, or even something that they don’t like, or aren’t comfortable with. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy your sexuality.

Boundaries do not exclude basic things. We always need to seek consent with our partners. It is especially important to pick up on small and subtle cues with new partners who we may not know as well yet. It is also not expected that you know everything. Communicating what you like, what you know you don’t like, and everything in between, is very helpful in making sure that you have an open and healthy dialogue about your sexuality. Don’t be afraid of expressing how you feel. If your partner isn’t open to hearing it or pressures you in any way to do things that you are not comfortable with, that is not the right relationship for you to be in.

The important thing to remember is that every relationship starts fresh. Just because your partner might have more experience than you do, doesn’t mean he knows anything about your body. He’s going to have to learn, too, and you’re going to learn together.

Good luck!

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