My girlfriend and I have been dating for about a year. We have a great dynamic and have always had amazing sex. I have a foot fetish and told her about it from the start. She is totally OK with it and we have incorporated it into our sex life here and there. I understand that it is new to her, but I wanted to try some more things with her slowly, and I asked her if she can sometimes initiate. She has her own quirks and although I don’t quite like some of them, I let her do them anyway and sometimes initiate them because I know it brings her pleasure. But when I talked to her, she said that I made her feel inadequate by asking. She believes that there is no point because it would feel weird for both of us. But if she really liked me, wouldn’t she want to try to leave her comfort zone? Isn’t that what lovers are for?
Every couple must navigate the divide between each other’s tastes and idiosyncrasies … and not only regarding sexual behaviour. It is part of the task of deepening bonds between you and learning the rules of compatibility. During this process, the style of negotiation can become more like a power struggle. One or both partners might start feeling coerced, ignored or frustrated. You are still at a trial and error stage. You have not yet discovered each other’s limits, or even your own. Try to be patient because this process always takes time. And it has to be OK for either of you to say: “I’m not comfortable with this.” You will find that your experimentation will sometimes be acceptable to your partner, and at other times you will be shut down. Fortunately, you seem to understand that there will probably have to be quid pro quo in terms of tolerating each other’s “quirks”, in your words – but it is important to remember that there is a fine line between doing something you find distasteful out of love or a sense of duty, and feeling coerced and resentful. Keep checking in with each other to make sure important boundaries are not crossed.
•Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.
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