It’s only been recently that I’ve started to learn what a no feels like in my body. It tenses up, it shuts down, I cringe, I pull away, I nervously laugh, I look off into the distance to where I want to run. I noticed this started happening in my relationship with my partner of 4.5 years every time he would initiate sex. It took me a few months to finally choke out the words that I don’t feel like having sex with him. I had so much guilt and shame. I wanted a reason why. I came up with all sorts of reasons for it: maybe I’m sexually monogamous (because I have another partner that my body is a full yes to fucking all the time), maybe my hormones changed when I went off birth control and we aren’t compatible anymore, maybe we’ve been through too much hard shit that it’s just not sexy anymore, maybe I lost respect for him when he was working out his shit, maybe I’m a serial monogamist doomed to repeat this cycle forever. Maybe none of it’s true, or all of it, or some of it. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I read my body’s signals and I listen to them. I don’t want to fuck him, or kiss him, or sometimes even be touched by him, right now. Maybe that will change, maybe it won’t.

It’s hard enough to be in tune with yourself and your body, and then speak your truth and then it’s even harder to see how your boundaries impact people. Finally, I asserted myself without feeling like I needed a *valid* explanation. I said “I don’t know why, but I need you to not touch or kiss me or try to initiate sex. My body screams no every time you do and I want to listen to it.” All he could do is respond to my new boundary. He was hurt. He wanted things to be different. Hell, I wanted things to be different, but they just weren’t. I wanted to fix his hurt, to purge my guilt, to ease my fear of losing him. But I found that listening to myself is more important that maintaining any relationship.

Being poly helps, because I let go of the idea a long time ago that one partner can meet all my needs or that a romantic relationship needs to look a certain way to mean it’s working. But we all still have conditioning. What if I never want to fuck him again? Is he still my partner? Will he still stay committed to me and I to him? Will we each get pulled away by our interest in other relationships that are sexual/romantic? We don’t know. But I’m willing to find out. After a few days, he told me he was really impressed and proud of me for being brave enough to communicate this.

I’m grateful to get to flex this muscle in this relationship that is safe enough to explore my boundaries and strengthen my voice. And I already see how it ripples out to all my relationships and interactions. I’ve been practicing sitting with my response in my body and then asserting it. Do I want to go to that workshop? No. So I say so. The leader asks if another day is better. I sit with it. Do I feel like finding another day to fit it into my schedule? No. So I say. I’m just not drawn to it right now. A friend is having a get together and all my favorite people are going. There should be no reason for me not to go and I’m actually free that night too. But I don’t feel like going. I could make a up a reason but instead I just say, a night to myself sounds way more fun. Some good friends are planning a trip to CA in a month. Idk why, but I just don’t feel like planning it or worrying about travel anytime soon. So I just said “count me out, I’m not feelin’ it.” Instead of mindlessly clicking “maybe” on all of these FB events, I sit with it and if I’m not into it, I click “ignore” or “not interested” and I get a little rush of pride for being so decisive. Besides, I can always change my mind!

Consent and communication are important values in the poly community. It’s so liberating to be asked what you want and then welcomed to express what that is truthfully. And you get more practice in poly because there are more suitors  Now I’ve started leading with what. A guy came up to me the other day when I was really connecting with a few of my girlfriends at a festival. I wasn’t being intrusive but he did say hi and started to ask me how I was doing. And I said, “I’m really involved in this conversation so I’m not interested in having any small talk with you.” I couldn’t believe what came out my mouth! It was so clear and firm. At first I thought *omg what a bitch* but in hindsight I’m SO impressed with myself. That’s not bitchy, it’s firm and it’s loving to myself and my friends, and even that person that I clearly set a boundary with.

It’s simple, saying no to things I don’t want means I’m saying yes to myself. And the clearer I get, the more alignment I have, and the more space I make for things that are a full yes to come to me. I can’t wait to keep practicing!

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