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How To Practice Consent In Long-Term Relationships (and Why It Matters)

Consent is vital in ensuring there is respect and communication in a relationship. It can be described as an agreement between two participants or more. Most often, we think of consent in terms of sexual activity. Consent should be clear, and freely communicated so there are no crossed wires. 

Consent is therefore an agreement or permission. This can be verbal, or expressed through actions, as long as it is clear.

Common Areas Of A Relationship That Need Consent

Sexual Intimacy

Consent can be withdrawn at any time if participants no longer want to engage in this activity. Even in mid-sexual intercourse, someone may no longer want to do it. 

Consent also eliminates any feelings of entitlement that one person may have over the other. Your body is your own, and only you can decide what you do with it and the same goes for your sexuality. Even if you have been in a relationship for a long time with your partner, or even if you are married to the other person, you do not owe them sex without consent.

Boundaries Within A Relationship

In other areas of a relationship, consent is important because it is also a respectful thing to do. You should never assume that something is okay just because you have been together for a while. For instance, you might think that it is okay to go through your partner’s phone without them knowing about it. By asking if it’s okay to do something, you are showing that you respect the other person and your relationship together.

photo of a man and woman sitting side by side talkingWhy Does Consent Matter?

It ensures that everyone is on the same page, and wants the same things. By practicing consent, you will also have better communication with one another, and demonstrate that you are honest and respectful of the other person. All of this leads to better sexual and stronger emotional relationships. 

How To Practice Consent In Long-Term Relationships

Even if you have been in a long-term relationship with someone, and had sex multiple times, you should always ask first. You should never assume that someone is ready to have sex just because you’ve done it with them before. Even if you are married! Sometimes, someone may just not be in the mood to be intimate for whatever reason. 

Consent doesn’t even have to be about sex. It’s about personal boundaries. Do you consent to have your partner go through your phone, or enter your physical space? Consent is ongoing, it is not a one-time thing. You should always check with your partner if certain actions or behaviors are okay with them so that you do not overstep or break their boundaries. 

To practice consent in your relationship, make sure you explicitly ask questions. Is it okay if I do this? Do you want to have sex? Is it okay if I look at your phone to look something up?

If your partner says no, then respect that they feel comfortable enough around you to do so. 

Learning how to set physical and emotional boundaries in any relationship helps to ensure that it will stay healthy and long-lasting. When boundaries begin to be crossed too often, it can lead to resentment and conflict within the relationship. Even when you have been together for a long time, you should never settle into the idea that you just assume something is okay. It is better to be repetitive and ask about things than it is to hurt your partner.

If you are struggling to set boundaries in your relationship, reach out to us for couples counseling. We can help you create a better space for both of you.