One of the most common topics I explore with my clients in psychosexual coaching sessions is communication – including the question of how to do it.
“It’s all very well identifying this boundary or need, but how can I communicate it to my partner(s)?”
“How do I tell someone I’m not interested in a romantic connection with them without being an arsehole?”
“How would I even begin to articulate this desire?”
These are all questions that are fairly common in a container that is focused on bringing the seeker into deeper relationship with self – especially when the intention behind that enquiry is often to be in more sustainable, pleasurable, and/or co-creative relationships with others.
This is particularly true for clients who are in existing relationships. If the relationship is in its early stages, the impulse to please, perfect, perform in order to keep this new connection may get in the way of setting vital boundaries, or expressing aspects of yourself that you fear may not be acceptable to the other person. If the relationship is well established, then patterns of behaviour, shared habits, and ways of communicating or miscommunicating are also likely to be well-established, and it can be hard to imagine breaking those patterns or bringing something new to the table.
One of the many reasons I weave intimacy and ritual together in my writing and work is because the first step of ritual magic is Creating Safe and Sacred Space. Put simply, this is the process of carving out space and time, and doing things that make that time and space feel special, liminal, set apart.
For folks in new connections, doing this can help create a container that feels safer and/or more permissive to speak about subjects that may be challenging or charged.
For long-term partners, especially live-in partners, it can afford a space outside of the shared day-to-day – the feeling of being on a date, or the openness required to try (expressing) something new.
In this post, I’m going to be touching on Creating Safe and Sacred Space for the purpose of communicating with a partner, and offering a couple of tips and tools that can help with broaching tough or tender topics.
Let’s begin by exploring what Creating Safe and Sacred Space might look like to you from a practical perspective. Once you have invited each other to have a conversation, and touched on what you wish to talk about so that everyone has had a chance to consent to the subject matter, you might discuss the following questions:
First, where would you like to be for your conversation, and how much time do you think you need?
One way to answer these two questions is to reflect on scenarios or environments that have felt supportive and generative for your communication in the past. Do you have a knack for getting into deep conversations over something tasty in a cafe, or do you feel safer exploring big subjects in the familiar environs of your own home? Does it feel important to be sitting opposite each other, or do you find it easier to flow into conversation when you are side by side and moving together – on a long walk or drive?
On the other hand, have you ever noticed how long it takes you and your partner to have important conversations? How much time does it usually take you to resolve arguments, or make a big decision together? How long have some of your more significant conversations needed to find their way to a place that feels complete? What might you need to put in place in order to give yourselves an amount of time that feels spacious, rather than squeezing the conversation in?
Now, what do you need from your environment to be able to relax and feel connected?
One way into this question might be thinking about your senses: Is the sight of mess going to distract you – does tidying up need to be part of making space for you? Are there particular scents or sounds that help you relax? Do you want to feel cool or cosy – what’s needed to support with that? Do you need a hot or cold drink to help you feel grounded and present, or is there something delicious you would like to share as you talk? Is there anything in your immediate environment that you’re finding overstimulating that could be changed?
Finally, is there anything that denotes special and/or sacred space to you?
This could be something that reflects your own faith or connection to the sacred – candles, offerings from nature – or something that reminds you of the love you share – mementos, meaningful music. Consider including this as a source of support when you create a space together for your conversation.
If you find it difficult to know where to begin when it comes to charged or significant conversation, here are a couple of ways in that you might consider trying:
Your intentions are the summary of your aspirations and your ambitions for the conversation. They are aspirational in that they express how you hope the conversation will go, and/or where you hope the conversation will lead. They are ambitious in that they might speak to how you plan to conduct yourself in the conversation, and how you hope to feel and/or behave on the other side. For example:
My intention for this conversation is to talk about what happened between us on Saturday night, so that we can better understand each other’s experience and feel more empathy and connection.
My intention for this conversation is to share openly and honestly, and to resist the temptation to just show you the parts of myself I think you like.
Setting an intention is a great way to communicate with your partner what it is you are hoping for from the conversation. Hearing your partner’s intention can be a source of clarity and reassurance before tackling potentially challenging subjects. And sharing your intentions, and perhaps deciding on some shared ones, is a step towards ensuring that you will traverse this conversation together as allies, rather than adversaries.
What’s Here Now?
One of my favourite ways of showing up, sharing openly, and sinking into the depths of the subject relatively quickly at the start of a check-in or a challenging conversation is a little exercise called What’s Here Now. You can read more about What’s Here Now in my book Igniting Intimacy: Sex Magic Rituals for Radical Living and Loving.
In essence, this structure invites you to sit or lie comfortably opposite your partner, to take a few moments to make eye-contact and breathe together… And then to begin asking each other “What’s Here Now?”. For example, Partner A might ask “What’s Here Now?”, and then Partner B takes a breath, focuses on what they are feeling, and shares a word or sentence to that effect. Both partners might take a moment to breathe with that, not needing to respond or fix it, just witnessing that this is how Partner B feels. And then Partner B asks “What’s Here Now?”, and Partner A responds. This continues until the exercise feels complete, and/or the urge to move out of the structure and into dialogue is strong for both people.
We’ll be exploring structures like What’s Here Now as part of Sex Magic for the Lovers this autumn, alongside other rituals big and small for nourishing and deepening intimacy. Find out more here, and contact firstname.lastname@example.org to express interest in attending with your beloved.
Gratitude is another way to open to one another – and to the space between you, and to the sweetness that is here, now, even as you wrestle with questions that may have sharp edges. It can feel hard to access if you’re coming towards a conversation that is particularly charged, but it is one small and simple way to connect in with the care you feel for each other, the care you intend to treat each other with. You might begin your conversation by taking a moment to thank the other person for being here. You might begin a weekly check-in by mentioning three things you have appreciated about the other person that week. You might close a tough or tenderising talk by expressing appreciation to your partner for sticking with you through it. Take a moment to look up, to see the other beyond the confines or conflicts of the moment, to give thanks for each other’s existence, and for the love that you share.