As much as the collective kinky relationships blogasphere beat the “communication” drum so hard that the stick broke, in practice this is actually really, really difficult. Really, really, really, really difficult. No, seriously, it’s actually almost impossible for some people to just have a productive conversation about kink or about feelings or that thing that someone’s doing that really pisses you off. But, you need to make sure the problem is not you, and I find there’s a lot of self sabotage in trying to talk about stuff and how people try to get what they want from each other.
Situation: “If I don’t tell them, then they can’t say no!”
We like to believe that our friends and loved ones would, when the chips are down, do what’s most important to us. But, as a second best, being refused can feel scary and many people worry that the request itself will have consequences. For example a person who never asks a friend out because it would “ruin the friendship” or someone who explains their vanilla partner would never understand for fear that that person will think less of them.
Doms do this when they’re not sure that the sub will actually pull their weight. It’s a particular vulnerability inherent in D/s, that hearing a sub say “No!” makes you feel no longer in charge. Subs do it when they’re not sure their limits will be respected and they don’t feel strong enough to stand up for themselves, because it maintains the fantasy that the . Pay really close attention here, it’s a warning sign that you don’t trust your partner and their ability to meet your needs, or for the survival of the relationship if you have to face up to not getting what you want.
Suggestion: Frame your request.
Due diligence on how the other party likes to be approached with things is about your only protection from voluntarily locking yourself in limbo. If the request is important, try things like breaking it into smaller questions- for example few vanilla partners are indulgent enough to go 24/7 by next Tuesday, but gradually getting them exposed to your kinks in a sex way is going to work better than blurting out every fantasy you ever had or worse, using their presumed no to justify cheating because they would never understand anyway.
Situation: Arguing while irate/upset
Arguments have a very negative association for most people, being used synonymous for “fight”. Some people burst into tears even trying to broach the topic, and if you’re one of those people I sincerely advise you not to retire from the arena purely on that fact- your communication is valid too. However, there is such a thing as only discussing a problem when it is a big haring deal and how you are feeling is going to come blaring out in your ability to communicate.
A warning sign of this is that your conversations get derailed into other subjects that also bother you, or that things tend to escalate into talking about what this particular thing means as a statement about the whole relationship or the sort of person. Sometimes a problem is symptomatic of a bad personality thing that needs to be addressed , but trying to tackle someone’s entire personality is going to usually be a losing battle.
Suggestion: Don’t hold grudges, but take a long game view.
In relationships, we often get told that issues should be dealt with and be over and done with, but actually processing how you feel can be a lengthy thing. If you feel like discussions tend to go off the rails a lot, it may be helpful to look at the bigger picture and the pattern of the things that needed extra attention. This will help you decide if it’s a big systemic issue that needs to be addressed with some distance from the symptom, or if it’s a case of just needing to vent. Clarifying what the ting being discussed means to you will help you tailor your reaction. After all, you’re not really enjoying being mad, anyway, are you?
Situation: No consequences.
This one’s a tough one. Nobody likes playing games in a relationship and it’s unhealthy to have to manipulate or parent someone outside consenting and select circumstances. But a lot of the time, when people ask for things they don’t offer any reaction other than trying to accept it. This teaches the other party to learn to ignore that person’s requests, since they are all classified as “if you feel like it!” This is not good.
Sometimes this can be the hardest part of getting things done with other people, because often it is easier to eat whatever it is that is bothering you, as part of the price of admission, than have to stand down someone you love. Especially if you have mortgages or children or some such. Especially when you feel like this may escalate into the other person putting consequences up on you that are worse than what you started with.
Unfortunately, if other people demand you’re going to be a doormat, that’s their prerogative. What is yours is your ability not to write “Welcome” on your back in an easily readable font.
Suggestion: Maintain some things that are uniquely yours and your space.
Having an ability to fall back into your own space lets you maintain distance when you need it. This can mean your own study or room, or even a social network that’s not entirely mutual. While the “silent treatment” is childish, a lot of arguments are about things that effect two people, and having zones where you are not utterly dependent on the other person’s moods and whimsy is a healthy antidote to being a hostage- and it sends the message that if you’re with someone it’s a choice done out of love and part of a healthy balance.