Relationships: How to get the Intimacy and Sex You Want

Relationships: How to get the Intimacy and Sex You Want

by Matt Cengia
Jan 11, 2024
Tags #BDSM #Consent #Relationships #self-discovery
Relationships: How to get the Intimacy and Sex You Want

We humans are a weird bunch. We have these bizarre conventions and habits that we've developed as a society and they don't always help us get our needs met. In this article, we'll go over how to help let people know what you do and don't want from them so you can remove some of the guesswork from your relationships. This can be a little tricky to get the hang of, but once you start practising it, you'll start seeing its benefits.

What's the secret? Communication. Using our words, rather than relying on people to read our minds. Shocking! I know. As I said, it can be harder than it sounds so let's dig into understanding why this is important and why we're often so reluctant to just talk about stuff like this.

What are wants, needs, and boundaries?

We have all sorts of relationships in our lives. We have relationships with work colleagues, family members, friends, intimate, romantic or sexual partners, BDSM play partners and others. As a society, we tend to form ideas around what each of these types of relationships includes and what is or isn't acceptable within them. For example, many people would expect that if they were feeling down or having a hard time their spouse would be available to support them. On the flip side, most of us wouldn't think it's socially acceptable to rock up unannounced on the doorstep of a colleague and ask to crash on their couch for the night.

Wants and needs are things that add value to us within a relationship. Physical intimacy and affection, emotional support, financial assistance with shared living expenses, companionship etc. An important distinction is that wants are negotiable. We might be willing to go without them as a compromise for other things we value but needs are non-negotiable; if we don't get them, they're a deal-breaker for a relationship.

Boundaries are limitations or restrictions on things we don't want or aren't comfortable with. They go hand-in-hand with wants and needs. These are distinct from rules which are things we tell others they can or cannot do (not ideal since we can't control the actions of others), while boundaries are our limits.

For example, a rule might be "You aren't allowed to date anybody else while you're dating me" but, a boundary might be "I need to be in a monogamous relationship."

The key difference is that unlike the rule the boundary states what you need without telling others how to behave. This makes it clear that if they do behave in a certain way (i.e. decide to date others) it's a deal-breaker for you and you can't be part of a relationship like that and, you will need to walk away for your well-being.

Why is communicating wants, needs, and boundaries important?

Model photo of hotboiyo.We all have ideas about what to expect from the different types of relationships in our lives but those ideas vary from person to person. One person might think their sexual partner doesn't look at porn because they have an active and fulfilling sex life and may consider looking at porn "cheating", while the other partner sees nothing wrong with this at all.

This can lead to conflict in relationships when we don't see eye to eye, and depending on how big the misunderstanding is, might end the relationship. When we can clearly express our expectations and limits, it's much easier for our partners, friends, family members, and colleagues to meet those expectations and respect our limits or boundaries.

The results of this can be amazing. Suddenly the people we care about don't have to guess how to treat us, because they can just ask, which makes it more likely for us to get what we want. This could be anything from telling a partner that we need one or two nights a week to ourselves, or them telling us that they want to pursue a non-monogamous relationship with somebody of a different gender to explore their bisexuality.

There may also be cases where we express a need to somebody and they decide they're unable to meet it for whatever reason, which may change the dynamic of our relationship or result in ending the relationship completely. That can suck, but it's usually better to know that you're not a good match with somebody than to get frustrated trying to stick a square peg in a round hole (innuendo not intended!).

Why do we often fail to communicate clearly?

OK, so if this communication thing is so good, I hear you ask, why don't we do it more regularly? The answer is two-fold but quite simple: firstly, we're often not taught that we're allowed to express what we do or don't want. For example, we're often told as children to do things that make others happy, even if we don't want to, like hugging that relative we don't like. Secondly, we're sometimes afraid to speak up about what we want. Rejection hurts, and it's much more obvious that a rejection is happening when it's in response to a clear and direct request.

If I mentioned in passing to my boyfriend that I thought the woman we were just chatting to at a bar was hot and could’ve been fun to get to know, and he didn’t agree or seem particularly interested in the conversation, I could just let the matter drop. If, however, I were to ask my boyfriend if he’d be interested in a threesome with that woman, and he said “no,” that could hurt more or be more disappointing. After all, I was vulnerable and shared a pretty intimate desire, and he shut it down immediately. This is a totally fair boundary for him to set, but can still feel like a painful rejection.

How do we improve our communication?

When it comes to getting better at communicating our needs, it just comes down to practice. Taking a more active role in crafting our relationships and interactions is a great start. Sitting down with a partner and discussing what our expectations are to ensure we're on the same page can be incredibly valuable, and there are plenty of online resources to help with this.

Sexologist Dr. Lindsey Doe has a great video about the concept of a Want/Will/Won't list which can be used to hash out desires in all aspects of a relationship (be it choosing what sex acts you enjoy doing with your partners, to deciding where you might like to buy a house).

The Relationship Anarchy Smörgåsbord is also useful for intentionally choosing what you'd like a particular relationship to contain, as is The Wheel of Relationship Needs.

When it comes specifically to sex, MojoUpgrade has a pretty comprehensive survey of different activities that you can work through with a partner to negotiate new and exciting things to do in the bedroom.

The BDSM test can give you and your partners more insight into your preferred BDSM roles. The great thing about MojoUpgrade is that both you and your partner fill it out separately and it then only lists the activities you're both into, meaning you won't be "outed" to your partner about being into something particularly unusual unless they're into it as well!

Personal User Manuals are yet another more general way to communicate how we work as humans, and how we prefer to interact with others, which can include our needs and boundaries too.

These are just a few of the resources out there for helping to define wants, needs, and boundaries; there's so much more information out there if you use the right search terms!

Another thing that's simple to do but can be helpful for a sex or BDSM activity is just having a quick chat beforehand to find out what mood each participant is in, and what sort of vibe they're looking for.

Are you each looking for something rough, or gentle? How do you each want to feel? Are there any things that you're usually OK with that are off the table today for whatever reason? This helps to avoid incorrect assumptions leading to misunderstanding and a less-than-fun time for everyone.

Likewise, checking in after a scene or activity to see how each of you enjoyed it is a valuable and important way to debrief (unless you're already de-briefed, of course! *wink*) and discuss what you each enjoyed, what did or didn't work well, and what could be done differently next time.

For example: "That was fun, but the angle we were at for that sex position didn't work great for me, so let's try to find a slightly better position next time!"

Artistic reflection.

Putting it all into practice

Right, well so far we've covered what wants, needs, and boundaries are, why we struggle to express them despite their importance, and some tips for getting better at expressing them. Now let's look at some concrete examples of how to go about this:

Andy wants to try some impact play with their partner Casey (this is Andy's "want"). Neither of them has done that before. Andy has decided they want to minimise sharp stinging pain on sensitive body parts, don't want any visible marks that can't be covered with clothing, and certainly no permanent scarring. Casey states they're interested in trying this out with Andy, but they're only comfortable with trying spanking at this point (Casey's "boundary"), so after some negotiation, they decide on some light butt spanking to see if they both enjoy it and will check in regularly and work their way up from there. They also agree that they'll check in after their spanking scene as part of their aftercare and a debrief.

Jaden tells their partner, Glenn, they'd like to spend more together (Jaden's "need") because they're not getting enough intimacy to meet their emotional needs. Glenn considers this but realises that with their current life commitments, they actually can't afford to commit more time to Jaden at the moment (Glenn's "boundary").

They discuss this to try to find a solution that could work for them both. Jaden suggests that they could get their additional emotional needs met by somebody else by trying out non-monogamy. Glenn is hesitant to try non-monogamy but accepts that Jaden's needs are valid so decides to give it a shot and check in about it in a few weeks to see how they're both feeling about it. After that, they can decide whether to continue with a non-monogamous relationship, or whether they may have to break up and each get their needs met elsewhere.

Max tells their BDSM play partner, Ryan they're interested in trying wax play (Max's "want"). Ryan discloses to Max that they've had a bad experience related to candles in the past, so they're not comfortable doing that with Max (Ryan's "boundary"), but says they'd be happy to try some other forms of temperature play with Max if that is acceptable. Alternatively, Ryan could talk to some other BDSM friends who might be interested in giving Max an introduction to wax play.

They agree to try some temperature play with ice blocks to start with, and if Max decides they still want to try wax in future, Ryan will put the call out to their network to see if anybody would be interested in partnering with Max for a wax play scene.

The key to all of the above scenarios is clear communication, curiosity, open-mindedness, and a willingness to discuss options that work. for all involved parties, and sometimes consider solutions a little outside the box.

Hopefully, this article gives you some idea about what wants, needs, and boundaries are in the context of interpersonal relationships. They're important because we can't get our needs met if we don't clearly state what they are, and we aren't always taught how best to do that. We've covered some ways to start conversations around these topics and suggested some resources to help structure those discussions. Finally, we've given some example scenarios that could be used as templates. Now it's your turn to live your best life and ask for what you want in all of your relationships.

Best of luck!

Matt is a committed and neurodiverse sex and relationship nerd with a focus on communication, consent, and empathy. They have lots of experience in polyamory and other non-monogamous relationship styles, some of which is documented on their blog.

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