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When you want to be into BDSM but it’s too soon because you’re black

by Luna Malbroux

Black BDSM

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have fantasies about being dominated. I would imagine someone gripping my hair tightly or a stinging slap on my ass—all very exciting. But every time I would let my thoughts run wild, they would get rudely interrupted, like an angry grandmother unplugging the cord while you’re sneakily watching TV after 2 a.m., yelling “Turn this OFF!” As soon as my brain camera spanned to any props—whips, chains, that sort of thing—all I could think about was Roots.

Let me tell you something. Nothing dries you up quicker than Roots. If it’s not Roots, it’s Amistad, or Beloved, or the slave-revolt TV show Underground. Anyone who’s seen a slave movie knows that there are plenty of examples of black slaves having to whip other slaves’ backs, so a whip is a whip to me, no matter who’s holding it. Even if my fantasy involves no props and just a little garden-variety submission, Hollywood’s love of nostalgic “Remember When Negroes Were All Our Servants?” movies gives my brain enough ammo to cockblock my heart’s deepest desires.

It’s not just Hollywood that makes it difficult for me to SWB (Sub While Black). Even the present-day black experience in America can get in the way of exploring different types of sexual “play.” Can you imagine what a black person might picture if her partner wants to roleplay as a cop? The growing list of victims—Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, just to name a few—are a constant reminder that as a black person in America, you are never safe. Which is a hard thing to balance when the very thrill of BDSM plays with our notions of safety.

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My first impression of the BDSM scene was that it was overwhelmingly white—like, really white, as white as a Rascal Flatts concert at a country club in Montana. Even the watered-down pop franchise, 50 Shades of Grey, has to be one of the whitest franchises ever. BDSM has been around for centuries, originating with the writings of Marquis de Sade in the 1700s. There have been historical examples of BDSM in African sexual, spiritual, and religious culture and early black leather culture of “The Old Guard” (returning black gay male veterans of World War II). But black people into BDSM were rarely seen in the media until the early 1970s.

Regardless of their environment, people of color constantly have to navigate stereotypes, discrimination and personal prejudices, and BDSM is no exception. Just being a young, black woman who owns her sexuality yields enough social stigma as it is. Throw in a desire to explore BDSM in a culture where freely enjoying sex is already taboo, and that is quite the mountain to climb.

But my fantasies weren’t going away anytime soon. Like the strong black people of all those tear-jerking slavery movies, my sexual appetite will not go down without a fight! So I began to ask myself: How does one be black and get into BDSM at the same time?

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When I first started having sex in college, I was determined to explore all my sexual fantasies, a la my personal hero, Samantha Jones of Sex in the City. But life at a historically black college in the South doesn’t exactly lend itself to the sexual freedom of a fictional, upper-middle class, white publicist in New York. The thick stew of the Bible Belt and racial oppression created pressure to be a Good, Christian, Black Woman. In other words: Don’t be a ‘ho.

l took baby steps in exploring my proclivities. I would whisper a few encouraging words like “Bite me harder” and “Tell me what you want me to do,” only to be met with “Wow, you’re so kinky!” (Really?) I wanted to go further, but I didn’t know how to dive deeper when my partners didn’t seem game at all. I bought handcuffs and shackles, but they ended up collecting dust in the corner. There were online resources at my fingertips—chat rooms, websites, books, articles—but the jargon intimidated me.

So I let go of my dreams of exploring my deeper BDSM fantasies until years later, when I packed my bags and moved to California.

In San Francisco, people proudly let their “freak flag” fly. There are tons of communities that explore BDSM, from dungeons to classes to meetup groups. I fell in love with exploring the different scenes of the Bay’s sexual subcultures and even created Live Sex, an interactive comedy talk show uniting sexperts and comedians.

It was doing this show that I stumbled upon a man who seemed promising in helping me explore my BDSM fantasies. The anonymity of my partners is important, so let’s just call him Ted Cruz.

Ted, a handsome and slightly dorky white guy with Paul Rudd-esque appeal, caught my attention after one Live Sex show. A history teacher, he piqued my interests immediately by flirtatiously debating the best ways to solve Middle Eastern conflict, the refugee crisis and the importance of critical thinking in schools. Check, please!

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Our night of drinks led to an invite to his house. He was a great kisser. He really took his time. He asked me if there was anything I wanted to do, and I told him I had the desire to explore a kinkier side but never quite found the right opportunity or partner. He nodded. It escalated.

“Your safe word is eggplant,” he told me, pulling my hair as he kissed me. “Say ‘eggplant’ if anything gives you too much pain.” It was clear it was about to go down, full-on 50 Shades of Grey style, minus all the money, so it was more like 50 Shades of Broke but hey, I’ll take it!

He was incredibly communicative, consistently checking in about consent. “This guy’s read a book or three!” I thought, high-fiving myself in my head. I was writing my triumphant journal entry as it happened. I pictured Kim Cattrall’s nodding smile of approval: “You’re the new Samantha Jones now, Luna,” she proclaimed.

Then, everything came to a screeching halt with one simple phrase:

“Call me master.”

Eggplant. That hurt. Immediately, all I could think about was my ancestors rolling over in their graves, breaking out like zombies in the Michael Jackson Thriller video. All my worst fears had come alive. I thought of Harriet Tubman admonishing me: “19 times! 19 times I came back, to save our people from slavery. All for you to be here willy-nilly, calling some white dude ‘master’?”

Life tip: No dick is so good that it’s worth being haunted by Harriet Tubman.

Ted was very receptive to my objections and apologized for his major blindspot. The history of slavery was something he was not reminded of every day so he was able to separate “master” in the context of BDSM play, whereas I…was not. I had failed again, even with a seemingly perfect partner.

I decided to investigate this problem further. First I discovered I was not alone in my anxieties.

“I am interested in going to BDSM meets, but I haven’t, mostly because I’m wary of being the only person of color there,” said Lynn, a young black woman I met in a sex-positive Meetup group. “Also, I’m not interested in being hit on because I’m the only black woman, which has definitely happened to me before.”

I can relate. Half of my stand-up material is derived from my experiences being fetishized. Joking about being told, “I want to look at those big black tittays” or the constant prodding of my hair has always been one of the best ways to cope.

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And because of these experiences, I always hesitated to join kink mixers in real life because I assumed a bunch of white people would be hoping I would come in and “Strong Angry Black Woman” them—i.e. play out their racists stereotypes of what they imagine a black woman to be. Lynn suggested I explore Fet Life, a social network for the BDSM, fetish, and kink community. It was a space she felt comfortable in, but even there, space has to be made for folks of color.

“When I first joined in 2010, there were over 300 groups, at least, and there were no groups for folks of color” said Daniel*, a black BDSM enthusiast who is quite the character. He quickly remedied that by becoming the leader of one of the largest groups for blacks on the site, Black Dominants/Tops and Black Submissives/Bottoms. The members offer each other support while navigating kink; he told me about one woman who reached out to the community after coming across a picaninny fetish.

For anyone confused, a picaninny was a racialized caricature (think blackface) that depicted dark-skinned cartoon children with bulging eyes and grins. It’s an image that painfully captures our history of racism. The idea of someone doing sex play around this was incredibly disturbing to me.

“We have this saying in the black kink community—my kink ain’t your kink,” said Feminista Jones, sex-positive feminist writer, community activist, and author of the book Push the Button. “There is something called race play, and it ain’t for everyone, and it’s not for me.”

Jones told me about an interview she did with writer and race-play expert Mollena Williams, an authority on race play who says that engaging in this kind of play may be empowering but always should be done with caution and consideration. (You can listen to her talk about a particular experience with race play in the Risk Podcast, Slave.) That’s all well and good, but I realized that it was the very idea of race play that had always deferred my BDSM dream. I can assure Langston Hughes that my fantasy indeed “dries up like a raisin in the sun” (along with my vagina) after hearing about a picaninny fetish.

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Luckily, one can experience and engage with BDSM without incorporating race play.

“It was a long path of reconciliation for me,” Feminista Jones said. “But some of the language of BDSM like ‘master’ and ‘slave’ has existed since before black people were enslaved. Most relationships have a dominant and submissive dynamic to them, particularly in religious communities, which many black people are a part of.”

There are endless explanations of why people, black or not, are into BDSM. Sex and relationship expert Celeste Hirshman told me our fantasies “are an unconscious attempt to soothe ourselves around challenging experiences that we’ve had or positive experiences that we’ve missed out on.” Others, like notable black kinkster Craig Fleming, suggest that one’s proclivities have to do more with nature than nurture, and although “people can use [BDSM] as a way to come to terms with a particular experience…it’s not therapy. It’s not the place to work out racial issues, or abuse.” Sometimes it’s as simple as: What arouses you arouses you.

For me, it’s more about exploring power dynamics. Before the “master” debacle, Ted rhetorically asked me, “Why does a strong, assertive, powerful woman such as yourself enjoy being submissive? Is it because you can let go of control? Because you don’t have to worry, or take care of someone?” His hunch may have been right. I was able to experience a type of attention and care that led to unbelievable pleasure. I felt freedom in moments of not having to be the decision maker, nurturer, or advisor.

“The key elements in BDSM is developing that trust in relationships,” Jones said.

For me, trust is the most arousing thing of all, and seeing a partner respond and adapt to a voiced need is one of the most important things in building trust with a partner. The experience taught me more about my limits and desires and how to communicate them. So even though it didn’t go the way I expected, I have hopes for exploring more kinky play in the future. As for, you know, the slavery stuff: Knowing that one can separate race play from BDSM gives me peace of mind. I know I can’t engage in anything that conjures up those images without getting angry or turned off. So for now, my safeword might just have to be “Harriet Tubman.”

Complete Article HERE!

You’re Pulling My Leg

Name: Jerry
Gender: Male
Age: 60
Location: Minnesota
I have a fixation with prostate stimulation. I have recently been giving myself perineum injections to the prostate with 2/3 xylocaine and 1/3 sodium cloride. The xylocaine is 2% with ephinepherine. I am careful to clean the injection site – just above the anus and use a 1 1/2 inch 25 guage needle injecting 3 ml. The feeling is fantastic when I hit the prostate. I actually feel the nerves take the anesthetic. I am careful to always make sure I do not hit a blood vessel before injecting by pulling back on the plunger. Is this fetish common? What dangers to you think are there? I find this a real turn on. I also have done many intra-rectal injections to the prostate but only use sodium chloride (salt water) as I cannot see the syringe to tell if I am injecting in a blood vessel. This requires careful cleaning of the anus but have never had any problems except very rarely giving myself an urethral infection.

You have got to be kidding! I mean really, Jerry! You want to know if this is a common fetish? Ahh, no, I’d have to say not all that much.hypodermic-needle

So I’m sitting here trying to imagine how you go about doing these alleged injections. What kind of physical position must you have to assume to see, and than land the alleged hypodermic needle on just the right spot on your taint (perineum) so that you hit your prostate? I suppose you allegedly do this with a mirror, right? But even then there’s plenty room for error, right?

It sounds like you been doing this alleged needle play for a while? I have to wonder, how in the world did you happen upon allegedly shoot up anesthetics right into your prostate? And where are you getting these alleged anesthetics, I wonder?

Everything about your story makes me very suspicious as to the authenticity of your reporting. If indeed you are doing precisely what you tell me, allow me to advise you to reconsider your actions. I don’t think this is a healthy pursuit for any number of reasons. And I suspect that you also have your qualms. I mean, why else would you ask me about potential dangers.not-a-golfer-cartoon

If you are experiencing periodic infections that tells me you’re not taking care of business properly. I’m gonna guess that you’re not properly attending to sterilizing the medical equipment you are using. And if your anesthetics are coming from a dubious source, well then anything can happen.

I’m guessing you have too much time on your hands, sir. Maybe you should take up golf.

Good luck

Mellow With Age

Name: Bob
Gender: Male
Age: 54
Location: Laguna Beach
As an older man, I’ve started having performance problems. Unfortunately there’s no decrease in my libido. I think some of my problem is psychological. I’m also HIV+. And I find myself worrying about transmission even with condoms. But some of the problem is physical. I do wear a cockring and that helps I guess. Is there anything else I can do to increase my performance to match my libido?

Thanks for your comment and question. Your concern is a familiar one. Men regularly present this problem in my private practice and I also have a personal familiarity with the issue in my own life.

Diminished performance, at least in terms of a perpetually stiff dick, is a natural occurrence as we age. There was a time when I thought this was a major problem. I don’t think like that now. These days I’m helping my older clients (and myself) appreciate the full range of sensuality that is the unique purview of us more seasoned lovers. I’ve always felt that as gay men we are too genitally focused, especially when it comes at the expense of all the other pleasure zones our bodies have been gifted with.Kedori - Eileen Gray Bibendum Armchair

The rushed, hormonally driven sex of my youth has matured into a slower, more relaxed and sensual sexuality that I am thoroughly enjoying. This has been one of the very best gifts of the aging process. It’s even having an effect on my younger partners and they are appreciative.

So I no longer equate performance with a stiff dick. For those times when I absolutely need a rock-hard hardon a cock ring does just fine. I’m aware that I may need more time to achieve this kind of erection, but I’m not just twiddling my thumbs while I’m waiting, if ya know what I mean. I am no longer frustrated by this natural phenomenon, because I no longer have unrealistic expectations.

I realize that many men are using with an erection-enhancing medication such as Viagra, but I suggest that this be reserved for those who are truly experiencing erection dysfunction.

I’m also concerned with the alarming rise of younger men, men in their 20’s and 30’s who are using Viagra or another similar drugs recreationally. This is very troubling. If your young body is having difficulty producing an erection, then you need medical attention ASAP, or maybe you just need some sleep. However, if you’re abusing Viagra just so you can have an erection that lasts for hours that’s a real bad idea for several reasons. Not least of which is your body will habituate itself to that stuff and you will find that, in time, you won’t be able to get it up at all without ever increasing doses of Viagra.

viagra cartoonThis is gonna fuck up your cardiovascular system big time. In fact, you may very well be inducing the very sexual dysfunction the drug is supposed to help. Consider the person who overuses eye drops or lip balm or any number of otherwise innocuous health and beauty products. Their body will stop making the natural substances that these over the counter products are intended to assist. It’s counterproductive and it’s ill advised. If this is a problem with relatively harmless over the counter products, you know you are playing with fire when you’re abusing powerful prescription meds.

Whoops, sorry Bob, I went off topic there for a minute. It’s just that every opportunity I get to put out a message that will dissuade someone from hurting one’s self, I just launch into it.

So back to you. It is clear from what you tell me, your performance problems do, as you suggest, also have a psychological component to it. You have a fear that, despite being responsible in your sex play and even though you play safe, you could accidentally pass on HIV.

It’s true; one’s brain can indeed override almost every function of our body. For example, we draw each and every breath we take without even thinking about it. However, if a situation dictates our brain can and does override that essential pulmonary function and we can hold our breath. The same is true with our sexual response cycle. Sometimes we can become sexually aroused without really thinking about it. However, if for one reason or another our brain assisted by our conscience interferes with or even shuts down the sexual arousal, that’s pretty much, all she wrote.

Your scruples about the possibility that you could accidentally pass along HIV are interfering with your sexual response cycle. No cockring or an erection-enhancing medication is going to change that darlin’!

In other words, the problem is not in your cock, the problem is in your head. This is something you’re gonna have to wrestle with and finally resolve. This tension between your head and your dick is actually a good thing. Your body is providing you an opportunity to align your moral values with your sexual performance. How will this resolve itself? I couldn’t say. But I know for sure resolution is possible.

I do suggest, however, that you not try to do this in a vacuum. Reach out to a HIV support group or a sex-positive therapist for the help you need in making peace between your head and your cock.

Good luck

Thou Shalt Not

Name: Lynn
Gender: Female
Age: 36
Location: Toronto
I’m a mother of three great kids. My oldest, who is in middle school, went to camp for the first time this past summer. A local church group sponsors the camp every year. When my husband and I asked him about his time away from home, he said rather noncommittally; “It was ok.” He seemed to like it well enough, but you know how uncommunicative kids can be at that stage.
Anyhow, yesterday I was packing away some summer stuff for the winter and discovered a pamphlet in my son’s backpack that he used at camp. It was for an “Abstinence Only” program. It was full of the most dreadful sex-negative fear and shame. It was awful. We are not raising our kids like that; my husband and I were appalled.
Now we’re wondering if this is why our son was so unenthusiastic about his camp experience. Do you think we should quiz him on this?
What gives with this kind of indoctrination anyway? I thought that those “Abstinence Only” programs had been discredited.

So wait; are you sayin’ that you think just because a social engineering strategy, like abstinence-only, has been debunked that it wouldn’t still be employed by certain factions of our culture? Oh hun, I think you oughta rethink that supposition right away, don’t cha know.abstinence_only-1

I mean, come on! There are loads of outdated and discredited philosophies still being promulgated as a means to ensnare the uninformed and gullible. I don’t know about ya’ll up there in Canadaville, but here in Amercanski land we have a whole segment of our population who believes that creationism as a viable explanation for the universe. In fact, one or another of these idiots runs for national office, even for President of these here United States, as a Republican in every election cycle.

So, as you can see, there’s not necessarily a connection between what has been discredited and what is still wildly popular in some segments of our population.

Way back in the spring of 2007, a long-awaited congressionally funded national study concluded that abstinence-only sex education does not keep teenagers from having sex. Nor does it increase the likelihood that, if they do have sex, they will use a condom.

Authorized by Congress in 1997, the study followed 2000 children from elementary and middle school into high school. The children lived in four communities — two urban, two rural. All of the children received the family life services available in their community; in addition, slightly more than half of them also received abstinence-only education.

By the end of the study, when the average child was just shy of 17, half of both groups had remained abstinent. The sexually active teenagers had sex the first time at about age 15. Less than a quarter of them, in both groups, reported using a condom every time they had sex. More than a third of both groups had two or more partners.

So if abstinence-only programs don’t work, at least the way they are supposed to; why do we still have them? Ahhh, good question. We still have them because for a large segment of the population, especially those who are makin’ all them babies, it’s easier to just tell their kids “NO” than to step up to the plate and educate their kids about sex in a wholesome and holistic way.

Bennett editorial cartoonAnother problem is that the word abstinence often means something quite different to kids than it does to adults. That’s one reason why abstinence-only programs do not have strong effects in preventing teenage sexual activity. At least that’s what a University of Washington study found.

The researchers found that interventions that encourage abstinence treat abstinence and sexual activity as opposites. Teenagers, on the other hand, don’t consider them to be mutually exclusive concepts. Like in the congressionally sponsored study, the UW researchers found abstinence-only programs are less likely to work than more comprehensive sex-education programs because they are not speaking the same language as adolescents.

The study also showed that attitudes and intentions about sex were more powerful than attitudes and intentions about being abstinent. No surprise there, I suppose.

Again, I don’t know how things are there in Canada, but down here there is no federal funding for comprehensive sex-education. But there’s a shit-load of funding for abstinence-only programs. Funding mushroomed from $9 million in1997 to $176 million in 2007. Leave it to congress to dump loads of money into a program that doesn’t work. But such is the power of the conservative religious lobby. They are the people who back these programs.

This wouldn’t be such a big issue if it didn’t hold such dire consequences. For example, the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate among all first-world nations. The rates of sexually transmitted diseases in this country are also astronomical. If we want to keep our young people safe from the negative aspects of casual sex, abstinence-only programs are not the way to go.abstinence

However, more comprehensive programs that include abstinence as one choice are much more likely to have a more productive outcome. Besides, is it ever a good idea to try and motivate people with fear and shame? I don’t think so.

Since abstinence-only programs often only look at the negatives of sex, it doesn’t really empower a young person to take responsibility for his/her behaviors. This is particularly thorny for young women who often bear the brunt the peer pressures to be sexual. And they have way more at stake in terms of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

When kids aren’t expected to take responsibility for their behaviors, especially in terms of sexuality, it cripples their ability to make good life-affirming choices. Abstinence-only programs disqualify all sexual options, even the relatively innocuous behaviors like mutual masturbation and oral sex. So if all sexual options are equally out of bounds, there’s no way for the average kid to distinguish between harmless and risky behaviors. And this is what leads to the high rate of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.

If we want our kids to grow up with healthy and integrated attitudes about sex, ones that will lead to more loving and fulfilling sexual relationships later in life, we ought teach from a more sex-positive theory.

Back to the other question you raise; the one about quizzing your son about his camp experience. I think that would be great. It would let him know that you care, that you don’t support this fear and shame-based approach to human sexuality and that he doesn’t have to embrace it either.

Good Luck

Like Cats And Dogs

Name: Karen
Gender: Female
Age: 33
Location: Dorchester, MA
My marriage of 12 years has hit a real rocky patch. I know my husband loves me and I certainly love him and we both love our 3 kids dearly. It’s just that we (he and I) have been fighting like cats and dogs lately. Every discussion, not just about sex, turns into a huge dust-up. It’s getting us both down. I don’t know where to turn. I was reading about your counseling practice and wanted to ask if you thought couple’s counseling was worth our while. Unfortunately we live on the other side of the country, so we can’t see you. But I’d look around here for help it you thought it would help. Thanks.

Yeah, I think couple’s counseling might very well help, and it might even help a lot. It sounds like you have a bank of good will eye_contact_cartoongoin with your hubby. You guys still love each other. Maybe that’s a good enough and strong enough foundation to get you through this rough patch. But you’ll never know unless you invest some time and energy into getting to the bottom of what’s eating at you guys. A good counselor will be able to assist you with that.

It’s true; you are on the other side of the country from me, but we could still work together. The thing is, I kept hearing from folks like you, far-flung from my home base here in Seattle, so I decided to introduce a remote therapy option for those who can’t see me at my office. I now offer counseling and coaching sessions by phone or through Skype. For more information about this see the Therapy Available page in the header (under the heading About Dr Dick).

Regardless of where you find the help you are looking for, let me say from the outset; this intervention won’t be inexpensive, but no worthy endeavor ever is. Besides a good marriage is worth the investment, don’t you think? As you guys consider taking your problems to a professional, allow me to direct your attention to the CATEGORIES section in the sidebar. Search for the main category — Sex Therapy. Under that heading you will find the subcategory — “Fair Fight Training.” These postings and podcasts will help you begin working on your communication skills. In fact, if you guys can learn to fight fair, you will have gone a long distance to healing whatever ails you.fight1

Basically, this is what any good therapist will help you do. He/she ain’t gonna solve your problems for you, but she/he will teach you how to effectively communicate with each other, find solutions to your problems, and do so without battering one another to death in the process.

Most of us have really poor communication skills, if we have any skills at all. We generally fight first and ask questions later. We immediately get into a defensive posture, even before being attacked. We know how to manipulate, whine, or blame and “cover our own ass,” but that’s not communicating.

Effective communication begins with “EFFECTIVE LISTENING. ”

Here’s how I see it; even if we were to express our feelings, thoughts and opinions clearly and effectively that’s only half the task. Equally important is listening to and understanding what our partner communicates. If I’m too busy formulating my response to what my partner is saying, I’m not really listening to what’s being communicated. In fact, if I’m all balled up in preparing my defense, I may be missing the most important part of the message — the nonverbal cues coming from my partner. If I’m inside my own head, I have no resources available to decode or interpret the message coming from my partner, like through body language.effective-communication-cycle

In other words, effective communication only happens when both partners are able to receive, decipher, interpret and understand the full message coming from the other in precisely the way he/she intends it. This is a difficult skill to master, mostly because it means I have to put the interests of my partner before my own interests. And who among us can say we do that with ease?

Effective listening is dependent on being an active listener. Active listening is being genuinely interested in understanding what our partner thinks, feels and wants. An active listener is concerned with the full message coming from our partner — the verbal part as well as the nonverbal. I mean, think about it; sometimes we say one thing, but our body language says something quite different. So if I’m only attentive to the words I will surely miss the other, and possibly more important, non-verbal message coming from my partner.

When I listen actively I am more concerned with grasping what is being communicated than formulating my response. If I can accurately paraphrase my partner’s message as I receive it, as well as ask my partner for verification; then I’m on the right track. This verification or feedback process is what distinguishes active listening and makes it so effective.

When you practice this feedback method, try to:

  • Grasp the feelings or intent beyond the words.
  • Resist the impulse to immediately answer questions that come from your partner. Because questions are often not always questions; sometimes they’re rhetorical statements.
  • If you’re confused by what you hear, or you don’t understand what is being said, say so.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s feelings. If you hear anger, hurt, or fear let your partner know that’s what you hear.
  • Use eye contact and be conscious of his body language.
  • Be empathic and nonjudgmental.
  • Finally, thank your partner for entrusting his thoughts, feeling or whatever to you.

Good luck