One thing we often forget about when we talk about consent is feelings. Good old-fashioned, raw and irrational feelings. Feelings — like doubt, insecurity, and jealousy— sneak into even the most committed trusting relationship and we have to account for the possibility that being open-minded doesn’t always work for everyone. Or more accurately, just because you’re open-minded, doesn’t mean you can open your relationship.
I often talk about consent in terms of trying new things with a partner or tools for uncommitted hook-ups, but what about third party consent? What I mean is, how do you navigate situations when your partner gives you a free pass to hook up with other people?
1. Rejecting the offer
You could just say no. Do not to do anything you don’t want to do. This is pretty straightforward, but sometimes you can’t help your curiosity. When will you have this chance again? That’s not to say you are seeking outside parties or that your partner isn’t enough. It’s simply that, now that you have permission, why not? If you can come up with even one reason why you shouldn’t go through with it, you may want to consider rejecting the free pass.
2. Rescinding the offer
From the other side, if you are the person giving the pass, it’s ok to change your mind. You should feel comfortable enough with your partner to say, "Hey sweetie, I don’t want you to do that anymore. I've changed my mind." Because minds do change. It doesn’t mean you are waffling or being unfair. It means you thought about it longer and realized that it was no longer cool for you.
As the recipient of the withdrawal, it sucks, but you’ve got to be understanding and patient. This is prime time for a conversation about what your partner felt when they gave the pass and when they took it away.
3. Renegotiating future guidelines
Now, let’s say things do go down. You then have to decide if you want to ever try it again and if so, how will you do things differently or the same. You must decide how you will navigate these things in a way that is suitable for both you and your partner.
4. Removing the option from the table
You may also want to consider removing the option completely from the table. Your relationship is the most important thing. Why do something just to do it if it’s gonna hurt your loved one?
The key is clear communication and constant checking in. Not hints and inferences, but clear articulate, “I no longer want you to do this” or “I am feeling weird about this, can you call me?” There should be no confusion about what is needed. So what if it doesn’t go like you planned? Conversations leave people on the same page and help them process what’s going on. With clear and effective communication, you may be able to add a new dimension to your relationship.
Photo Credit: Robin Corps
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