Monday, April 5, 2010

Guest Blogger: In Response to 'Learning to Negotiate'

In my previous post for the Guide, I laid out some basic guidelines for beginning negotiation on a date. A fellow friend, artist, and poet, Darryl Ratcliffe, wrote a response which made me realize that I had left out one of the most important aspects of negotiation: emotional well being.

First, a disclaimer: Darryl and I have been artistically and emotionally dancing (with occasional stumbles) for eight years now. He’s a highly insightful poet, writer, and activist—Guide readers should also check out his powerful piece about living in rape culture.

In his response to my piece, Darryl writes:

“Now that has been said - although it is always important to communicate with our potential sexual partners, it is even more important to communicate with ourselves. How we negotiate a physical interaction is far less important than how we negotiate our own emotions.”

And he’s absolutely right. Dating takes a certain modicum of self-knowledge, and you need to know what your own limits are—and what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a long term partnership and the hottie you took home is only looking for a one night stand, the only way you’ll know that is to discuss your desires honestly. And if someone is dishonest and ‘plays’ you—well, they’re probably not someone you want to see again anyway. If you don’t think you can handle a hook-up emotionally, then don’t hook up. If you learn it the hard way, then don’t repeat your mistake. The way that you can know whether or not your partner just wants to hook up is by negotiating—and by setting limits as to how physical or emotional you’ll get, depending on what you want.

Negotiation isn’t just a strategy for first dates or hook-ups. It’s a way to facilitate your interactions with romantic partners in a mature, calm way—whether they’re someone you just want to make out with for an evening or they’re your potential life partner. The unspoken script that I spoke about for first dates can also become one in marriages or long term partnerships. Once you fall into a routine with a lover, negotiation can be a way to grow as lovers and try new things. Ultimately, negotiation is a way of creating or re-sparking connections in a consensual, respectful, and joyous way.

1 comment:

Sam said...


"Dating takes a certain modicum of self-knowledge, and you need to know what your own limits are—and what you’re looking for."

Yes, and no. Of course it's important to be aware of oneself and one's desires. Yet let's face it: They can change. Common example - falling in love. Even if you're dead certain you only want to have a one night stand it's completely possible to wake up the next day, or week and think "I wanna see that person again". But you didn't know about that preference before. So "dishonesty" in such "negotiations" can also simply be a matter of shifting preferences.

I think there's a lot to be said for being able to speak in a reflected manner about one's own and one's partner's desires. But it's not going to miraculously cure everything that can go wrong in human comunication and relationships.