Telling a partner about a fetish
- sometimes called disclosing a fetish or even "coming out" as a person with a fetish - can be nerve wracking. We all feel some sexual shame
, and shame often leads to silence. Exposing our desires isn't something we're encouraged to do, and the lack of practice along with social taboos about sex can result in some people never revealing their fetishes to partners. Ultimately the choice is yours. But if you are thinking you'd like to tell your partner about your fetish, whether that means you want them involved in it or not, here are a few tips to consider before, during, and after the first conversation.
Time Required: This is a process of sharing something about yourself that may take time, and several conversations.
- Ask yourself why.
Why are you telling your partner about your fetish? Do you feel obligated? Do you feel you don't have a choice? Not telling would be dishonest? Or do you feel that telling is a way of being more intimate, revealing more of yourself. There aren't necessarily right and wrong reasons to tell a partner about your fetish, but it's important to think about what your reasons are. It might even be a helpful thing to share with your partner.
- Know what you want to say.
Before you tell your partner about your fetish take some time to think about what you want to say. Fetishes can have many meanings for people, you might want to be telling them about an activity you want to do, or a feeling you always have, or thoughts that you enjoy. This won't be your last conversation, but since it's the first, think about what kinds of limits you want to put around your description. Think also about what you want from your partner, are you looking to them to just listen? Do you want a response? Are you asking them to try something, or are you telling them because you want them to know?
- Consider your ethical obligations.
The choice to disclose a fetish is, among other things, an ethical decision. Some people may think that it's 'wrong' to keep a sexual desire secret from a partner. But this is by no means a fact. The truth is that we all make decisions about what thoughts and feelings to share, and which to keep to ourselves. There may be other considerations that go into your decision, but know that you have a right to keep your desires, thoughts, and fantasies to yourself. It may or may not make sense to share them, but the choice to disclose is yours.
- Start talking about sex, if you don't already.
If you and your partner never talk about sex, having your first conversation be about a fetish you haven't told them about will almost certainly be difficult for both of you. Sometimes when we keep secrets we, either knowingly or unknowingly, avoid talking about related topics. If this is you, before you dive into conversations about your fetish, perhaps start with a few conversations about sex in general. Start with less contentious topics and establish some trust and safety first. Read more tips on talking with your partner about sex.
- Take care of yourself.
It makes sense that you'll feel some fear or nervousness about telling your partner about your fetish. Some hesitation may be unavoidable. But there are things you can do to take care of yourself and make sharing your fetish a safer, if not comfortable experience. Think about what you need to take this risk and ask for it. That might be setting ground rules. It might be time to talk outside of the daily routine. It might be talking in the dark if looking at your partner while you're talking is going to feel too tough. For some people sharing information through email, text, or IM may seem easier.
Keep in mind misunderstandings can be much easier to happen via email, text, and IM, and for this reason it is generally suggested that communicating face to face is better.
- Use media, if that feels safe.
If you're not sure where to start a conversation you may want to turn to magazines, movies, or books that tackle the subject. There are many documentaries and even a few first run feature films where fetishes play a role. You might suggest watching a movie, or use a magazine article to start a conversation. Choose carefully though, many of the mainstream representations of fetish are inaccurate, and some are downright offensive.
- Feelings, thoughts, behaviors: start where you're comfortable.
You don't have to start a conversation by saying "I wear women's panties" or "I masturbate by rubbing myself on the linoleum." You can start by talking about how thinking about your fetish feels, or how it makes you feel if/when you include it in sex. You might start intellectually talking about the meaning of fetish. Before you have the first conversation you may want to imagine what you'll say, and try different ways of starting the conversation to see which feels most comfortable (or least uncomfortable).
- Be clear about what you're asking for.
Even if this is just going to be the first of many conversations, think about what, if anything, you are asking for from your partner. Be aware that they may feel pressure to respond and may feel confused about how they feel or how they are "supposed" to respond. Are you asking for support? Understanding? An honest opinion? Are you asking to include your fetish in your sex life, or permission to keep this as something private to yourself? If you don't know what you're asking for then admit that. You don't need all the answers in order to start a conversation, but the clearer you can be about your motives and desires the better.
- Remember that first reactions are just that.
If you're worried about how your partner is going to respond to your disclosing a fetish take a few minutes to put yourself in their place. Regardless of how they feel about fetishes in general, they will have feelings about the fact that there was something you didn't think you could talk to them about. Even though it's your right to choose when to talk about it, they may not feel that way. Their first reaction may be much better than you expect. But if their first reaction is bad, just remember that it's only their first reaction.
- Give your partner time and space to reflect.
They may need some time to process not only what you've said but how they feel about it. Just as you are asking for understanding from them, you need to offer understanding and patience as they work through their thoughts and feelings. They may feel as if they need to respond in some definitive way to what you are telling them, but you can reassure them that this is a longer conversation, and they can take time to think about it and respond when they are ready.
- Ask your partner questions to make sure you are being understood.
If all you say is that you have a fetish, you haven't said enough. Words like fetish may mean different things to different people, so don't assume your partner will know what you mean. Once you've shared what you want to share with them, it is a good idea to ask them if they have any questions and even more, ask them what they understand about what you've said. Asking them to reflect back to you what you've said is one way of checking to see if you've communicated clearly, and gives you an opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding. This might be something to do after your partner has had time to reflect, or at the end of that first conversation.
- Follow up.
Before you end the conversation make some agreement about what happens next. This might mean setting a time to talk again, or agreeing that either of you can ask for a second conversation, or even agreeing to some set time when you don't talk about it. What's important is that you give some thought to what you both need and respect that those needs might differ, but even so, it's possible to compromise.