Establishing Consent in An Early Relationship

Consent is very important in any type of relationship. If you have just entered a new relationship, its important to have these conversations early on so that there are clear understandings going forward. Consent is only present when there is a clear and enthusiastic “yes”. If your partner is not saying anything or says “maybe”, that is not a yes. If you do not want to do something, or if you are not comfortable, you have every right to use your voice and say it. It can sometimes be difficult to navigate how to get your voice across in a new relationship, so here is a combination of methods that could help you.

Quick note: do not feel nervous or shy to start this conversation – it is one that you will look back on and be thankful that you had it early on. This removes any room for one of you doing something to make the other feel uncomfortable in the relationship from the get-go, as you both know where each other draws the line. And if they do it even after having this conversation, then they’re not the one.

 

First, clearly set your boundaries. 

It’s important for both people in a relationship to know what their partner is and is not comfortable doing. This way, the other person can act based on that knowledge. Make sure to also tell them what you do and do not like, giving them the chance to inform you of their likes and dislikes. You can use this conversation to talk about things you’re into and what you’re not interested in trying – make sure you lay all your cards on the table and encourage your partner to do the same (if they feel comfortable). This will help both of you build sexual and emotional relationships that both meet your needs and make you both happy.

 

Implement safe words.

Safe words can be very important and useful in relationships. They act as a way to tell your partner you are feeling uncomfortable, or you do not want to go any further, without having to say the sometimes difficult words. I know sometimes it can be difficult to interrupt your partner to tell them you’re not comfortable and you want to stop, so safe words act as an easier way to do this. They do not even have to be related to the situation that's going on, they can be anything from colours (The Traffic Light system is a very popular one, with red = stop etc), to random items of food (Banana, for example). Another method could be tapping your partner a couple of times. Whatever you choose, just make sure it's easy to remember and that the meaning of the safe word is accepted and known by both of you.

 

Never feel like you need to have sex just because you are in a relationship. 

Sometimes we feel like if we don’t become intimate with our partner it will upset or hurt them, therefore creating a subconscious pressure in our heads to do it anyway. This is not the case. You and your partner are both allowed to say no, you do not have to engage in any activity that you are not 100% into. Having these conversations and telling your partner that you don’t feel up to it is very important, make sure you tell them honestly about how you’re feeling and encourage them to do the same when they don’t feel up to it. If it's shrugged off or if they try to go further while disregarding what you have said, then that’s a problem.  

Red flags to look out for

If your partner assumes that because you have said yes previously that you have automatically given consent, they are wrong. Being in a relationship does not automatically equal consent. Consent must be given each time and can be retracted at any time.

Following this, if you’re in a new relationship, just because you may have done something with your last partner does not equal consent for this relationship. As I mentioned, consent must be given each time and is not ongoing.

If your partner doesn’t ask if you are okay with what is happening.

If you are silent when asked if you want to go further or if you are comfortable with what’s happening, and your partner doesn’t stop. (Consent is “yes”; staying silent or saying “maybe” is not consent. The absence of “no” does not mean “yes”. If your partner doesn’t respond when you ask them if they’re ok with what’s happening, you should stop immediately.) 

Your partner pressures you into going further than you want to go, or makes you feel like you “owe” them – you don’t.

They react badly to you saying no or not giving immediate consent.

They ignore non-verbal cues that may show that you’re not consenting.

 

Consent is very important in every relationship, whether that be long-term or a new one. Having these conversations with new partners sets clear boundaries on either side and is important when entering a new relationship. Always look out for red flags because you deserve to feel comfortable and be listened to.