I recently gave a presentation for Utah Sex Positive Education about how to get what you want in your relationships. One of the most important points was communication is essential from the onset of a relationship because people are dating for different reasons. For a long time, the end game was always marriage and a family. Marriage rates are going down significantly. Demographers predict 25% of individuals currently ages 25-39 will never get married. However, they may still want to have sexual or romantic relationships. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have emotional connections or a romp in the hay outside of a life-long commitment.

The only way to ensure you end up with someone who wants what you do is to make your intentions clear from the beginning. The sooner, the better because when the new love of your life gets a job offer across the country, and you expect an invitation to come along while they never saw your relationship as more than a fling, the fallout will not be pretty. There is no need to propose on the first date, just be honest about what you want.

Figuring out what I want has been an incredible journey. Throughout high school, I wanted boys to like me so bad. I had a huge crush on this guy who played guitar. One year I asked him to go to prom with me, and he gently refused. Out of pity, my Sunday School teacher set me up with another guy. He ended covered in one of my friend’s glitter after making out with her all night. This pretty much sums up my love life through my junior year of college.

I came onto the dating scene later than most people but caught up with a vengeance. My friends thought my first boyfriend was using me because we had an open relationship; however, what they couldn’t see was how great he made me feel. For the first time in my life, I felt desirable and sexy. He was also a good listener and a shoulder to cry on during a difficult time in my life. When we broke up, I was devastated, but my sexuality had awakened, and there was no stopping me.

Fast forward ten years, and I know what I want. The journey was fraught with disaster at times, but worth it in the end. I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to try all my options before I make a final decision. Ethical non-monogamy feels natural and comfortable to me. One of the main draws for me is how much freedom I have to explore myself because I’ve rid myself of the ridiculous notion two people can complete each other.

I met my current partner online. From the beginning, we both kept our expectations low and focused on enjoying each other’s company. Both of wanted non-monogamy. We only saw each other once a week or so for months. Over time, the bond between has become meaningful and strong. I feel emotionally connected to him and care about him. The sexual chemistry between us has always been electric. Each of us feels comfortable asking for what we want. It’s been over a year, and I still get chills when he comes up behind and bites my ear before gently kissing my neck.

We were at a conference a few weeks ago, and he met someone new. They spent the afternoons talking while I prepped and unwinded from my presentations. The last night he wanted to go out with her. She was so sweet and came and checked in with me before to make sure it was okay with me. It wasn’t necessary, but I was more than happy to put her at ease. Later that weekend I saw them holding hands, and it made my heart jump the way it does when characters in a favorite book make new romantic connections.

I want physical and emotional connections. I also want the excitement and thrill of meeting someone new and occasionally having a wild one night stand. Maybe this isn’t what I’ll want in 20 years, and that’s okay. In my online profiles, I am crystal clear; this is what someone is signing up for if they want to date with me. I don’t have time for games. When I was growing up, I thought I was going to live forever in heaven. Now I’m an atheist, and while modern technology has eluded to promises of immortality, we’re not there yet. I have a finite number of years on this planet, and I’m going to make the most of them.

If you know what you want, you owe it to yourself not to settle. If you do, you’re not allowed to expect the other person to change to suit your needs. Dating can be hard. Maybe you’ve gone on dozens of dates and only find people who want short flings when you’re ready for something more serious. One kind of a relationship is not better than another as long as all parties are upfront about what they can offer. You don’t get to be upset when a new partner tells you from the beginning they want an open relationship and you go along with it even though you want monogamy.

Communication is the only way to navigate the unchartered territory that is dating in the 21st century. Relationships don’t have to be hard. You have to be open and honest about what you need. People are fortunately not yet mind readers. Relationships are complicated and beautiful, but by using your words, you’ll spend less time on the messy parts and have more time for the fun stuff.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments.

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