Many clients at my office come in struggling with boundaries. Often, when something sexual is new and available, we can get a little carried away, over excited, or overzealous prior to establishing clear boundaries around sexual play with our partner(s). This has gotten many relationships into trouble. Erotic conflicts (sexual conflicts of interest) can leave partners feeling alienated, wondering if their sexual needs and wants will be met, or whether their personal boundaries will be respected.
When couples and partnerships come in hoping to bridge the gap between different sexual preferences, are looking to explore a new sexual avenue, or even open their relationship, creating a structure and expectations for individual and shared sexuality is paramount. It is not uncommon for many individuals to have differing sexual needs and desires. Clearly understanding the meaning behind these needs helps to clarify how the relationship can support each individual feeling authentic and alive (sexually), as well as establish what each partner is comfortable with and what they are not.
For instance, if you are newly interested in power play (someone being dominant, another being submissive), establishing the role of each participant, understanding the type and purpose of the play, attaining consent from your partner, and developing clear and collaborative boundaries that protect and ensure the limits of the experience for each person can help the relationship build safety. Without creating a structure and agreed upon set of expectations for sexual play, assumptions can get the better of people and ruin experiences, and at times, even create trauma.
If you find yourself in a new partnership, or in a situation were clear sexual boundaries have not been established, collaborating with your partner to develop limits where each of your needs can be met can help bring clarity to the relationship and lessen sexual pressures. While creating rules, boundaries, expectations, and new understandings of one another’s sexuality is tremendously useful, there are many times where partner preferences or sexual needs are beyond another’s limits. Relationship conflicts can arise. Stay tuned for a brief discussion of mismatched sexual preferences where your partner’s sexual needs are beyond your comfort zone, or are a deal breaker.