How To Tell Your Partner You’ve Changed Your Mind: Withdrawing Consent

So you thought you were up to get down, but now you’re not feeling it… It’s ok to change your mind, here’s how to communicate it.

How To Tell Your Partner You’ve Changed Your Mind: Withdrawing Consent

How To Tell Your Partner You’ve Changed Your Mind: Withdrawing Consent

How To Tell Your Partner You’ve Changed Your Mind: Withdrawing Consent

Updated
September 24, 2019
Medically Reviewed by
4 minute read

So you’ve agreed to sex, but have changed your mind? 

Withdrawing consent might make you feel anxious about hurting or letting down your partner. Society teaches us to go along with things for fear of rocking the boat or spoiling the fun for others. 

But when it comes to sex, the best situation for you and your partner is enthusiastic consent. That means that if you feel uncomfortable or reluctant at any point before or during sex, you should stop. 

This can feel like an awkward or tricky situation for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some pointers to help you out.

Remember What Consent Is

It’s important to remember what consent is in order to feel confident about withdrawing it. Just because you’ve agreed to sex beforehand, or have previously had sex with your partner, have already taken your clothes off, or even started doing it, does not mean that you cannot stop at any moment. It’s always ok if you want to stop.

Enthusiastic consent means that you should not feel coerced, pressured or manipulated into sex but genuinely safe, comfortable and willing. If you do not feel like this, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to withdraw consent. In the end, everyone should have the right to decide what happens to their own body. 

Phrases To Use To Withdraw Consent

If you are talking about sex beforehand, and have not started getting intimate yet, some phrases to use are: 

  • “I’ve changed my mind” 
  • “I want to feel completely safe and comfortable in everything I do with you, and I’m not at that point yet” 
  • “I want to take things slow,” 
  • “I don’t feel comfortable” 
  • “I need some more time and space to make a decision”
“I’m not feeling it, let’s stop” 

If you have already started having sex, some phrases to use to let them know you’ve changed your mind are:

  • “I don’t feel comfortable, let’s stop” 
  • “I don’t want to carry on” 
  • “I want to stop” 
  • “Let’s take a break” 
  • “I don’t want to go further”
  • “I’m not feeling it, let’s stop” 

Talk About Consent And Talk Often

The more you talk about consent, how you feel and what you want, the easier it will become. Sex and consent are about constant communication. 

If you communicate what you like and how you feel at every stage of your relationship, using phrases like “I like that,” “I don’t feel comfortable with that,” “I would love to try…” or even “yes!”, you will become more confident in expressing your consent both verbally and with your body language. Plus, your partner will probably appreciate the feedback!

In addition, explicitly having conversations about consent early on in any relationship will make it easier to withdraw consent. You could start the conversation by saying, “I really want you, and I want to feel safe and enjoy everything we do together, so if I don’t feel comfortable, I’ll tell you to slow-down or stop. Okay?” 

You may also want to ask your partner to check in with you every now and then during sex in order to make sure you feel good at each stage. It’s also a good idea to make clear anything you don’t want to do, for example, if you don’t like oral sex or anal play, beforehand. 

How To Respond When Someone Says “Stop”

Sexual communication is two-sided, if the person you’re with tells you they want to stop then you need to be a good listener and to respond immediately to their request. It can be disappointing, and it may feel like a rejection, but it’s probably more about where they’re at and what they want rather than a reflection on you. You could respond by saying “Thanks for letting me know what you need” then ask them if they’d prefer to cuddle, talk, or just call it a night.

“Thanks for letting me know what you need”

Remember, if you’re not feeling it— for any reason, it’s ok to change your mind and stop. Sure, it can feel awkward to interrupt things, but it’s important that everyone is having a good time and if you’re not then it’s time to wrap it up.

Madhvi Ramani

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Madhvi Ramani writes articles, essays, fiction and drama. Her work has been published by the BBC, VICE, New York Times and more. She currently lives in Berlin, Germany. Find out more at www.madhviramani.com and follow her on Instagram @madhviinberlin and Twitter @madhviramani

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