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Yes and no: Importance of consent in a healthy relationship
When you say no to your partner, there’s always a chance that they’re going to take it personally. Your ‘no’ may spiral them into a dark hole of thoughts like: ‘what if he isn’t attracted to me anymore’, ‘what if she’s having an affair with someone else’, ‘what if we’ve lost the spark’, ‘what if I’m not satisfying her anymore’—which eventually lead to feelings of resentment and create a dreaded distance
Consent has an everyday role to play in a healthy relationship: long-term or not. In most cases, once the headiness of the honeymoon period where everything is marked through the lens of rose-tinted glasses wears off.
Couples, for better or for worse, progress into the next stage of their relationship: settling into comfort. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that your sexual appetite takes a hit, and that things aren't as exciting as they used to be. But, you may find yourself 'not as in the mood' as before. In fact, even during the honeymoon period, there may be times where you just don't feel like having sex with your partner and that is nothing to apologies for. But here's the million-dollar question: how do you tell your partner you don't want to have sex—without hurting their feelings?
Rejection is another heavily loaded word. Many people equate 'no' with the feeling of rejection. That opens a pandora's box brimming with fears: anger, insecurity, and low self-worth. When you say no to your partner, there's always a chance that they're going to take it personally. Your 'no' may spiral them into a dark hole of thoughts like: 'what if he isn't attracted to me anymore', 'what if she's having an affair with someone else', 'what if we've lost the spark', 'what if I'm not satisfying her anymore'—which eventually lead to feelings of resentment and create a dreaded distance.
Communication is key
Whether you're in the initial stages of your relationship or celebrating decades of togetherness, communication is the key to keeping things together. So, if you're in a situation where your partner is suggestively and enthusiastically initiating sexual contact and you don't feel like it, communicate that to them. Tell them politely but firmly that you aren't in the mood and that in no way reflects on them. Stress on the fact that this isn't a rejection—a far cry from it in fact—and that they shouldn't feel insecure or threatened. Be honest and don't leave room for second thoughts. They'll appreciate you all the more.
Go gently into the night
While you don't owe your partner any reason for not wishing to have sex (it is your body and your choice), it is important to recognise that the 'no' could be taken in many ways. So do make an effort to be kind and approachable when you're broaching the subject. Even if you've had a long and exhausting day and you're feeling cranky to the core—don't be aggressive or rude in your 'no' to their invitation. Explain to them, gently and kindly, that you aren't feeling up to it and that you hope they understand. In most cases, they will.
Intimacy beyond sex
While having sex with your partner brings you to the peak of physical intimacy, it isn't the be-all and end-all of a healthy relationship—even physically. If you're saying no to sex with your partner, suggest other ways of intimacy: cuddling and watching a movie, holding hands and going for a walk, a bear-hug can do miracles in making it clear to your partner that you aren't retreating from their physical touch.
Innovate, Imagine, Initiate
It's important to note that there is never a time you need to feel guilty for saying to no to sex with your partner. But, make sure that it isn't a pattern where your partner is expected to be the one initiating sex every time, because if they've been turned down repeatedly, they may be a little wary of approaching you suggestively again. In a situation like this, take charge—be the one to initiate, make them feel special and wanted. The ball, in most cases, is in both the courts.