Unless you are one of those lucky people who just happens to be with someone who wants to have sex exactly the way you do, the art of negotiation is an essential skill. By that I mean that you need to be able to listen to what your partner is saying without taking aboard any judgments, and you need to know what you want, and be able to express it clearly to your partner in a manner that s/he can hear. Then you need to take appropriate action so you both get what you need. Normally, what gets in the way of clear negotiation is fear of making ourselves vulnerable to negative judgments, or anger that arises (or usually, has already arisen) because we are not getting our needs met. In an ideal relationship, in an ideal world, you are not afraid of what anyone else thinks because you know it says more about him/her than it says about you; and you have not allowed anger (or resentment which is the same thing) to build up because you have addressed it as it arose. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and we generally have to learn these kinds of things through experience, because no one is teaching us.
Respect is integral to good communication and therefore to a healthy relationship. I don’t just mean respecting your partner, but also respecting yourself and your own needs. The one is just as important as the other, because if you don’t respect your own needs, you will be a needy person, and the manifestation of that isn’t usually attractive. You both have your own lives and yet you are able to demonstrate your love for each other, take risks, and consider new ideas. You honor whatever it is the other wants, even though it may not be what you want. That requires operating consistently on every level from a place of trust and love. This does not mean you are certain your partner will never leave you. On the contrary, you know that your partnership may not last a lifetime, just because we live in a world where change is the only constant. But you know that doesn’t mean your life will fall apart and it doesn’t mean your partner will stop loving you. Love has very little to do with whether a relationship lasts a long time; that has more to do with compatibility and the ability to communicate.
Good communication cannot occur in an atmosphere of fear, even if it’s only an undercurrent. Most of us have to deal with fear on some level, or with some of its close relatives such as anxiety. Some of my friends have described me as fearless because I am a keen kite surfer, which is a fairly extreme sport, but the fact is that I am very familiar with fear. I have learned how to step outside the feeling so that I can look at whether it’s valid or not, and whether I am willing to allow it to motivate me. That ability is an important one to cultivate.
Fear and self-esteem don’t go together. If you want to stop being afraid of other people’s judgments, you must develop self-esteem, which means you must know that, no matter what happens, you always deserve to be treated with respect (and so does everyone else). That can be a long slow path and often requires help. If you’re lucky, you find yourself in a healthy relationship with a partner who is respectful of you, and that teaches you what respect is. If you don’t have a partner or close friends who can do that, go to a group such as Alanon, or find a therapist.
Sometimes the fear that’s getting in the way is about being alone in the world: your motivation is not to have a healthy relationship but to prevent your partner from leaving you. You are willing to disrespect yourself and ignore your own needs in order to keep your partner. If you can honestly admit to yourself that that is true for you, and you don’t like it, then you are halfway to changing it. Again, the answer is often to get support from other quarters. Make a proactive choice to spend time alone on a regular basis, and do things you love; get a life that carries on without your partner. Involve yourself in charity work, take classes in creativity, work with animals—whatever turns you on. Many of us are afraid of growing old alone, but in this day and age you don’t need a partner or even a family in order to avoid that. There are many other options.
Most of us have inordinate fears around sex. Men and women are afraid they won’t be able to “perform” (a word that inspires anxiety and does not belong in the bedroom) . Our ideas of what a correct performance is and our attempts to conform to that prevent us from being spontaneous and truthful about what we really want. Many of us are at least a little afraid of being completely truthful and trying new things. You have to learn to acknowledge any fearful motivations and put them to one side, setting the intention of being present and real. This applies to communication on sexual matters as much as it applies to discussing what you are going to do today or for this lifetime. Sex is a metaphor for life, outlined in neon lights so that any false-ness has immediate consequences which will inevitably prevent any lasting satisfaction. What do you really want from a sexual exchange? If it is to get the most joy possible (for instance), your best approach is to relax and encourage your partner to relax, which allows both your bodies to express themselves freely. Both of you have much more chance of experiencing true, deep pleasure that way than by trying to do things “right” according to some rote method.
Now apply that to your daily life.
Mikaya Heart (mikayaheart.org) is an award-winning author and a life-coach, using shamanic methods to teach people how to operate from a place of trust instead of fear. Her last book was The Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women; her next book is Life, Lies, and Sex: A User’s Guide to Being in a Body.
- Sex and Relationships with Mikaya Heart: Breaking Up (dangerouslee.biz)
- Sex and Relationships with Mikaya Heart: Understanding Rape (dangerouslee.biz)