Consent in a Committed Relationship
Consent. A word that is most often brought up when you first start dating someone, or when sexual intimacy starts. Many people think that consent needs to be a focus during the early stages of a relationship as you are figuring out what you are and are not comfortable with. While it is important to have conversations about consent at the beginning, it is also important to continue to talk about consent while in a committed relationship.
Why is consent in committed relationships important?
A key part of healthy consent is that it is an ongoing mutual agreement between partners about what they do or don’t want to experience. Just because you discuss consent of a particular action once (for example: your partner borrowing your car), that does not mean that your partner consents to that action for the rest of your relationship.
How we feel about things and our level of comfort can change from day to day. This is why consent is an ongoing conversation. As we age and progress through a relationship our needs or desires may change, even for a short period of time, so you never want to assume that someone is comfortable with an action because they did it once before.
How do you practice consent?
At its core, there are three things needed to practice consent: questions, respect, and trust.
To see if someone is comfortable with an action, it’s important to ask questions. Being open and clear about what you’re asking helps the person know exactly what it is that you want. For example: “Are you comfortable with me using your car from 2-4pm on Saturday to run errands?” is a great way to ask if someone is comfortable with an action. You are clear about what you are looking for, and the other person can easily understand that and respond.
Respect is necessary, because you need to respect the other person’s response. When they state if they are comfortable or not, they are stating a physical, emotional, sexual, material, intellectual, or a time boundary that they have. Respect what they say and stick with that boundary.
Trust is crucial, because it allows people to feel comfortable being honest. If the person trusts you, then you can be honest and know that they will respect your needs and boundaries. This allows people to be more sincere when expressing their true feelings.
Consent is a part of healthy relationships that never goes away. That is why it is an ongoing conversation and needs to happen throughout your relationship. If you feel that things have changed in your relationship as time goes on, or if your partner no longer asks if you are comfortable with different actions, it may mean that things are becoming unhealthy in your relationship. Our advocates are available 24/7 to offer insight and support through call, text, or chat.
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