Consent in a Committed Relationship
Consent is a word that is most often brought up when you start dating someone or when sexual intimacy starts. Many people think consent needs to be a focus during the early stages of a relationship as you figure out what you are uncomfortable with. While it is important to have conversations about consent at the beginning, it is also worthwhile to continue talking about consent in a committed relationship.
Why is consent in committed relationships important?
Healthy consent is an ongoing mutual agreement between partners about what they do or don’t want to experience. Just because you discuss consent to a particular action once (for example, your partner borrows your car) does not mean that your partner consents to that action for the rest of your relationship.
How we feel about things and our comfort can change daily. 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 action because they did it once before.
How do you practice consent?
Consent requires three things: 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 you want. For example: “Are you comfortable with me using your car from 2-4 pm 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 and respond.
Respect is necessary because you need to respect the other person’s response. When they say they are comfortable or not, they state a physical, emotional, sexual, material, intellectual, or 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, you can be honest and know 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 fades away. That is why an ongoing conversation must happen throughout your relationship. If you feel that things have changed in your relationship as time passes, or if your partner no longer asks if you are comfortable with different actions, it may mean that things are becoming unhealthy.