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  • Writer's pictureKaren Bigman

Revolutionizing Relationship Communication: Insights from Open Relationships and Kink

In our quest for lasting love and fulfilling relationships, there's an irony that's hard to miss. While we painstakingly negotiate our lives' milestones—from wedding bells to the first home, and the decision to have or not have children—we often skirt around the most significant aspect: communication. It's the bedrock of any relationship, yet the art of articulating our needs, desires, and boundaries tends to be overlooked.

This notion struck me during a recent lunch with my friend, a divorce attorney in New York, who shared insights from an article he wrote about redefining divorce narratives. The conversation sparked an intriguing thought: If we adopted the communication strategies of couples in open relationships and kink communities, could we revolutionize conventional relationship dynamics?

The prevailing story is that divorce symbolizes failure. However, the real downfall is not the separation itself but the breakdown of communication. In traditional relationships, discussions about money and sex—two of the most critical aspects of our lives—are often avoided, leading to unresolved issues that can strain the partnership. On the contrary, couples practicing consensual non-monogamy or engaging in kink navigate these conversations with remarkable openness and frequency. Their relationships thrive on explicit agreements about desires, expectations, and boundaries, setting a foundation for genuine understanding and respect.

My journey to becoming a Certified Sexuality Educator with the Sexual Health Alliance has opened my eyes to the diverse spectrum of relationships and sexual practices. What may seem unconventional to some, like practicing non-monogamy or exploring kink, often involves a deeper level of communication than seen in many traditional marriages. These relationships require ongoing dialogue to ensure all parties feel comfortable and respected. Couples discuss everything from sexual health and safety to emotional boundaries, demonstrating exemplary communication that strengthens their bond.

Most couples enter marriage with a set of unspoken expectations and assumptions about their shared future and rarely revisit and renegotiate these agreements. Imagine if, alongside deciding how to manage finances or how to parent, couples also established clear communication practices. This proactive approach would not only mitigate misunderstandings but also foster a supportive environment for growth and change. By prioritizing open dialogue from the outset, relationships could adapt more seamlessly to life's inevitable shifts.

In the realm of consensual non-monogamy and kink, the practice of continuous negotiation offers a model for all relationships. Here, communication is not a one-off checklist but a dynamic process that evolves with the relationship. This ongoing negotiation ensures that both partners' needs are met and that any discomfort is addressed promptly, maintaining the integrity and health of the partnership.

Reflecting on my lunchtime conversation and the lessons from my certification process, it's evident that the communication strategies used in open and kink communities hold invaluable lessons for all relationships. By embracing this level of openness, honesty, and ongoing negotiation, we can foster deeper connections and more fulfilling partnerships. Whether it's discussing financial concerns, sexual desires, or emotional needs, clear and compassionate communication is the key to navigating the complexities of love and life together.

Let's challenge the traditional rhetoric that surrounds relationship communication. By learning from the practices of those in open and kinky relationships, we can redefine what it means to connect on a profound level. It's time to welcome a new era of relationship dynamics, characterized by transparency, respect, and mutual understanding.

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