Knowing more about yourself can help you find more compatible relationships and more pleasurable sex. “How?” You ask. Whether you’re brand new in the dating world or a seasoned pro, it’s easy to make mistake after mistake if we don’t pause, pay attention, and make intentional decisions. Going with the flow can be fun for a while, but if it leads you down a repeatedly doomed relationship path, it might be time to leave trial and error behind. If you’re unconvinced, check out below for some clarity.

Knowledge Means Choice

I’m sure you’ve heard that ignorance is bliss. When it comes to self-awareness, ignorance is actually an obstacle to finding good matches. When was the last time you asked yourself about your ideal partnering styles? When did you reflect on what causes you to feel insecure or jealous? How does trauma influence your dating habits, preferred sexual roles, or non-negotiable values? Do your identities contribute to who you feel most connected to in dating?

If answering any of these is a challenge, you are likely entering relationships with unclear boundaries, limits, and expectations. Sometimes we know the answers but fail to name them. It’s one thing not to not know due to a lack of experience, but another to not know because we are ignoring past lessons learned. Not knowing (or “knowing”) means that we are more vulnerable to unwanted experiences because it’s harder to identify red flags or undesirable characteristics in advance. Explicitly naming our limits, boundaries, values, preferences, and ideals can lead us in the right direction.

Knowledge is power. It offers us the choice and option of intention, even if we choose to ignore it. When we are able to answer these and other questions, it clarifies what we are seeking. Then, when we are faced with potential partners who are not aligned with our responses, we can make informed decisions about whether the relationship is worth continuing.

Mind Reading Isn’t a Common Skill

I was feeling shy about asking for more frequent oral sex with a recent partner. I was waiting for them to just figure out what I wanted. Surprise, surprise! The frequency of oral sex did not increase because they couldn’t read my mind. I had to reflect on what was keeping me from asking. I realized I felt both insecure and concerned about pressuring them. However, it was bothering me. I gathered some courage and asked if they had an issue with eating me out. When they answered no, I shared my desire for more clitoral licking and boom—it worked. Now I am able to ask for all sorts of things in bed. I feel confident because we have established that direct communication works for both of us and we are both fine answering yes or no.

The more we know about ourselves, the easier it is to share that information with others. Part of knowing ourselves is developing systems for communicating in ways that make us feel comfortable. Another part is preparing emotionally and mentally to push ourselves to communicate, even when it’s a struggle. It’s an unfair burden to put on partners, or potential partners, to figure out information that we already have clear and available. Yet, some of us have internalized a harmful belief that those who care about us will just know what we need and want. While some people have this skill, it’s not that common and sets our relationships up for failure.

This is also true for pet peeves and becomes infinitely more important for trauma triggers. The best way to avoid issues is to name them. If your partner shows a lack of care or concern in supporting you to avoid triggers, it’s a pretty good sign that you are not in alignment. Then unfortunately, it’s likely time to move on.

You won’t disappear

It is a lot of fun to discover new things with a partner. In fact, one of my favorite things about new relationships is trying new experiences and testing previously uncharted personal territory (like discovering how fun anal rimming can be or being able to communicate in new ways). Unfortunately, some people fear getting lost in relationships—transitioning from an “I” to a “we” and losing a sense of individuality when interests begin to collide, overlap, or morph.

Luckily, if you’ve done the work, you’ll feel more confident in distinguishing between personal shifts and growth versus compromises you are making for the relationship. This is important because the latter can be harmful if it takes you away from the values you hold dear. Trying new things you don’t end up liking and compromising within relationships is normal. You should never have to compromise who you are nor be forced into situations that make you feel unsafe or upset.

Me, myself, and I

Getting to know ourselves is a life-long journey. Just like our taste buds, we change over time. Even so, you probably know your current favorite ice cream flavor that makes the worst day a little better and what types of food will make you gag. You might have a new favorite flavor in a few years and may learn to appreciate formerly gag-worthy foods (looking at you tomatoes), but none of these shifts will likely catch you off-guard nor feel harmful. Knowing yourself does not need to limit the availability of new experiences. It paves the way for confidence in your choices that maintain your well-being. That way you feel safe venturing into the unknown.

Interested in working with Yael one-on-one or joining her upcoming multi-week course on Getting to Know YOU for Better Self, Sex, and Relationships? Check out her website sexpositiveyou.com for more info!

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Sex Educator, Researcher, Author, Speaker
Yael R Rosenstock Gonzalez is a sex educator, researcher, author, speaker, and curriculum developer. As a queer, polyamorous, white-presenting Nuyorican Jew, Yael has always been interested in understanding the multi-level experiences of individuals. This led her to found Kaleidoscope Vibrations, LLC, a company dedicated to supporting and creating spaces for individuals to explore and find community in their personal identities. Through her company, she facilitates workshops, develops curriculum, offers Identity Exploration Coaching, and publishes narratives often left out of mainstream publishing.

Yael has been engaged in workshop development and facilitation since she joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) as a teen peer reproductive rights educator at 15 years old. Since then, she has served as an educator with children ranging from 10 months old to adults in their 70s with different organizations and communities. In her work as first Program Coordinator, then Director of Programming, and finally Associate Director of the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding, Yael developed and led events, workshops, and programs with an intersectionality lens.