HOW TO CHOOSE A PARTNER: THE LOST ART OF VETTING
Vetting is the process of choosing a partner who is a good, safe fit for you. In this blog, I’m going to tell you how to vet a potential partner – be it someone you want to date, be long-term, monogamous/polyamorous, friends with benefits, or kinky with, this is your one-stop guide to choosing a partner from a Sex and Couples Therapist. Let’s get started.
Vetting a partner can be like looking for a job. An employer and employee want to make sure they match up with each other – that the workplace culture will be a good fit, that the wage is agreed upon, and that the employer and employee will be satisfied in the working relationship. If either party fails to meet the agreement at any point, a conversation either needs to be had and the contract amended, or the relationship needs to end. In choosing a partner, you might take similar steps that an employer would take – such as Googling them or checking them out on Facebook, talking to former employers (AKA, partners), and interviewing them (AKA, going on dates). You may want to come up with a list of questions to ask a person dependent upon the type of relationship you’re looking for (for example, see blogs on questions to ask a Dominant/submissive: https://blog.beautifullybound.com.au/bdsm-safety/questions-to-ask-a-dominant-before-you-decide-to-submit.htm; https://spokewench.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/questions-to-ask-a-submissive/).
For romantic relationships, you may want to consider value alignment. Research notes that couples who have similar values tend to stay together longer. So, which values are important to you? Consider values of sharing visions for the future as well as views on finances, socializing, perhaps politics and religion, and being reliable and having chemistry. Does that mean that you shouldn’t be together if you have opposing political views? Not necessarily – that’s something for you to decide based on what’s important to you, also known as your limits (covered in the next paragraph). One more piece to consider is what you need in terms of time, attention, affection, and sex (stay tuned for my upcoming blog on figuring out what your values pie looks like).
So, what are soft and hard limits, and why should you have them? When considering any type of relationship including sex, it is wise to have a list of limits in mind. Think of this list as including activities which are green, yellow (soft limits), and red (hard limits). This list is entirely subjective and different for each person, depending on who you are and what you’re into. The green are activities which you deem are okay with any play partner. Soft limits are activities which you might consider with the right person, and hard limits are activities which you will not do under any circumstances. Yes, it is okay to put “death” on your hard limits list – leave absolutely nothing to be assumed. It’s advisable also to put some thought into your list, write it down, and have it handy. The list will change as you change, and again, there are no wrong answers as long as all is safe, sane, and consensual (SSC)!
Speaking of SSC – if you read the last blog on Safe, Sane, and Consensual relationships, you already know that consent in a relationship is key. All involved parties need to agree on the relationship dynamic and specifics, both the overt (the things you say) and covert (the things you don’t say). For example, it may be known and assumed that you are in a monogamous relationship with someone without ever declaring that (an overt fact), but maybe you never discussed if it is okay to view porn individually (a covert, hidden fact that was not agreed upon) – this may lead to one partner feeling betrayed while the partner who was caught with the porn didn’t even know that would be an issue. Therefore, everything should be said and put on the table, regardless of the relationship type. A high degree of communication can help prevent not-so-good surprises accompanied by betrayal and hurt. There are lots of types of relationships, and as long as all is SSC, there is no wrong answer.
Be it a kinky or vanilla relationship, you will want to look for both the red flags and the green lights as you vet someone (more info here: https://sawtoothmountainclinic.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/TOM-Feb-2021-Relationship-Green-Lights-c.pdf). Specifically for Dominant/submissive, or D/s, relationships, some kink red flags to note include people prioritizing power, aggression, and/or violence. Also, remember that the submissive has the power in a dynamic like this; the Dominant only has power because the submissive gives it. If the submissive does not consent, it cannot happen. SSC should be prioritized, of course, and positive buzz words in your vetting process might include terms such as communication, safety, trust, and headspace. You should be able to feel safe with the other person, kinky or not, so if someone is not willing to meet in a public place for at least the first time or two, it’s a red flag. Other kink considerations should include topics of aftercare, safe words, health issues, soft and hard limits, etc. And when all is said and done, make sure you also trust your gut.
In conclusion, you can’t underestimate the power of vetting. If you want to have a good relationship, you need a healthy foundation. The more vetting you do, the better. As always, please feel free to reach out to me with questions or if you’re interested in more resources. Have a Mindful day, and be well
Kristyn Macala, MSEd, LPCC, CCTP, CSOTP