What happens when our boundaries aren't respected? “If we are discouraged from saying ‘no’ or having a sense of self in general, or if our ‘no’ is violated repeatedly, we learn that we are not allowed to have boundaries,” says Deesha Narichania, an NYC-based mental health professional. “And in turn, boundaries equal rejection, abandonment, violence, or helplessness. ” When a child is unable to form a healthy sense of themselves as a result of childhood trauma, they may approach future relationships from a place of hurt and replicate similar dynamics.
When a friend told me about the time a date choked her without asking if it was okay, it became apparent how often people don’t realize how crucial asking for consent is to having fun and safe sex. “It might be useful to articulate boundaries upfront in the form of exchanging fantasies, or yes, no, maybe lists, or having online forms of sex first,” says Barker.
Dulcinea Pitagora, a NYC-based psychotherapist and sex therapist, says that healthy boundaries are a collection of a person’s wants and needs as well as “hard and soft limits that combine to support optimal physical and mental health and strong relationships. ” But just because they’re necessary doesn’t mean everyone knows how to assert them.
It’s important to reflect on our own sexual boundaries and needs, as well as how we can communicate with our partners effectively.
It’s important to remember that implementing them is a skill, albeit one that takes practice. “Much like we can pick up a new instrument, sport, or language later in life, we can retrain our muscles, nervous system, and minds to set and keep boundaries,” explains Narichania.
All sexual experiences should be approached as an act of care between those involved, and the boundaries and needs of all participants should be at the forefront of the experience.
It’s important to assess how you think about boundaries in the first place — if you have been raised to think of them as either a punishment against you or something you didn’t deserve, you may not even realize that you have poor boundary skills to begin with.
Sometimes, however, this isn’t the case, and you might find yourself not only navigating being triggered but also facing a partner that isn’t capable of handling the heightened environment — and the fact is, even if you’re not dealing with prior trauma, communicating boundaries in bed can often be a minefield.
Think of each other’s boundaries as a road map for sexual pleasure and emotional wellbeing within a relationship, and remember: Boundaries around sex differ from person to person.
Meg-John Barker, a psychologist and the author of Rewriting the Rules, tells Allure that we live in a non-consensual culture. “Very few of us have families, friendship groups, communities, or workplaces which encourage us to tune into — and assert — our boundaries,” they say. “Much like we can pick up a new instrument, sport, or language later in life, we can retrain our muscles, nervous system, and minds to set and keep boundaries.
That said, talking ahead of time and being upfront about these experiences can create an environment where your boundaries, needs, and desires are heard and, hopefully, respected.
There should be mutual respect when it comes to each other’s needs, from understanding the desire for space, to asking for consent to send nudes, to knowing which sexual acts a person is down to engage in.
Once we have a better understanding of our own boundaries and the trauma that has informed them, it becomes easier to communicate with our romantic partners how to assist us during a flashback — and maybe how to avoid them altogether.
Let’s explore what boundaries are, why they’re necessary for both our everyday lives as well as our sex lives, and how to bring up these delicate topics with sexual partners.
It's important in all relationships, but can be especially crucial if you've had trauma in your past. https://t.co/9cjZ0vOWCT— Allure (@Allure_magazine) November 29, 2019
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