It’s confusing…

Wondering how being true to my submissive self and respecting Xander’s need to not be on dominant duty can go together.

I’m not posting often these days, and that’s mainly because don’t know what to post. I’m often confused about where we are at, and it seems to change too quickly for me to be able to name wherever we’re at when I think I know. I can write about the confusion, though.

So here’s what I do know:

I’m a submissive woman and lover, and always have been in my primary relationship, long before I could put a name to it. I’ve made my peace with this. I long to connect with my partner often and deeply, and to love fully, giving all of me to someone who is worthy and who wants to take on all of me, and will love me in return. I know I wither and get really anxious when I can’t have that for long periods of time. I know I thrive with external accountability, and that I can create some of that by myself, but most I can’t.

I know that my husband Xander is a dominant man, and that he loves me. I know that he’s kind and generous to a fault – it’s really hard for him to say “no”, even when it would be better for him to do so. The counsellor called it self-sacrificing. I know he’s burnt out from working in a toxic work environment for years and that he has not recovered from that yet. I know he’s got a frozen shoulder and that takes a lot out of him, and I know that most days, most hours, he’s not feeling even a little bit dominant because he’s struggling just to get through the day, and I know this because he told me so. I also am reasonably sure that there’s an element of depression in the mix which may or may not be caused by physical reasons. I do know that as soon as he started supplementing his testosterone, “my Xander” started coming back. He had more energy and was emotionally more responsive to me. I know he still needs a lot of alone time, and that he’s uncomfortable with some of the expressions of dominance that I find hot, especially with giving direct verbal orders and overtly taking control. I know that he doesn’t feel ready to start consistently being “my dominant” and holding me accountable again, and that he currently has no idea what I actually mean by “D/s” for us, also, because he told me so.

And I know I don’t do things halfway. I’m all in or not at all, and I don’t know how to be measured in my emotional responses or in anything else, really. And that’s where being married, submissive, and trying to please my man gets very confusing these days. Allow me to back up a bit more to explain.

I introduced D/s to Xander about three years ago, and in the first two years, I more or less told him what I wanted from him and he wanted to to give me what I wanted, and in the process learned to spank really well. Just as before D/s entered the scene by that name, he made all the big decisions, and he provided and looked after all of us. I learned to obey him and to treat him with respect, and I discovered just how happy and peaceful my mind got and how much I got done when he was actively dominating me in some way. I trained myself to behave in a submissive way so his inner dominant could come out into the open. Unfortunately, the latter didn’t really happen, at least not in the way either of us expected. There were moments, and they were glorious, but that big shift from “Mr Nice Guy” to “Mr Domly Dom” that I’d dreamed of and he’d hoped for never really happened. (I’m coming to think if that shift exists as such, it’s likely to be a lot more subtle than a personality transplant…). I stopped interrupting him or offering unsolicited advice and learned to be mindful of my tone. He liked that he could stop an argument with “Enough!” (and I mostly heeded it), but more often, it didn’t occur to him to use the power I’ve given him. And all of it, he said, never felt “natural” for him, not even after two years of often daily spankings. But oh, did I EVER swoon when he got those dominant looks and moves just right…

I did a really stupid thing over those two years, though, and that’s coming back to bite me in more ways than one now: I used to provide the lecture that he wasn’t giving when he spanked me for broken rules – in my head. He definitely spanked me like he meant it and like I needed it, but I’d mentally add the stern words that would help me improve my behaviour or mindset. I thought he’d say these things if he knew how to, and that sooner or later he would, so wasn’t this just harmless fun (because stern is sexy), and helpful? Turns out, neither. Firstly, Xander didn’t know I was doing this, so based on my thanking him for my discipline and my subsequent behaviour changes, he could only assume that what he was doing – spanking me mostly silently – was all I needed, and that he was doing it just right. But what’s worse, the brain doesn’t know the difference between real experiences and intensely imagined experiences, and it keeps changing with repeated experiences. Basically, I tricked myself into seeing Xander in a more dominant light than where he was at the time, and when reality intruded in a way I could no longer ignore, I thought that he’d been pretending all along. But while he was indeed trying to “fake it till you make it”, I’d been doing most of the the pretending myself. I had been really happy, though, until then. I really thought and felt we were “progressing” beautifully on our D/s journey. (And my memory is probably smoothing out the bumps in our road, too.) What happened instead was that we were growing together in some aspects, and apart in others.

When at the end of last year, both Xander and I were so exhausted that there was no power to exchange, I pulled the plug on our D/s as we’d been doing it until then. I’d been putting a lot into it without getting enough out for it to be sustainable. And, even if it was in glimpses only, we both knew by then that Xander is dominant, but that the outer expression of that dominance is very blocked. But I couldn’t settle for “imitation D/s” anymore. I really want to submit to him as my leader, because I know how sweet life is when he does lead us, and because it wears me out and makes me anxious when I have to be in the lead for too long. And because I truly believe that he’ll be happier, too, when he can freely express his masculinity in more direct ways than now. But we’re not there yet.

But, underneath, in those two years, the ground under our feet has shifted. Though we never got to where it was all natural for both of us, we both couldn’t go back to being entirely vanilla if we tried. I feel awful when I speak disrespectfully to him (and he can’t abide it anymore either). I can’t not try my best to obey him. I want his explicit permission for a thousand things. I crave his guidance, and I still run to him when my mind runs amuck, because I know that even three minutes on the phone calm me like nothing else. I tell him every time I’ve cried in his absence, and when he’s in the house I go to him when I need to cry (it used to be a rule). I want to serve and delight him and make his life better.

I love him. I want to give him what he needs and wants. I want to make his life more peaceful, not more problematic. And I want to submit to him. And right now, those aren’t entirely compatible. In the last year, before he started getting a handle on his health, he was in no position to be anyone’s dominant, so I pulled up those uncomfortable big girl panties as best as I could and did what I could without spankings, accountability or dominance. But now… he’s coming back, and because I can’t do things halfway, or “ease into things”, my inner submissive is roaring and craves all the dominance from him as soon as he gives me just a hint of Dominant Xander. Even just a sexy spanking flips my switch to “full-on submissive craving” while at the same time my heart cautions me to not even go there, as he said he’s not ready, and because I believe that unwelcome submission would be yet another burden on his already overloaded shoulders. I just don’t know how to be with all that. I don’t know how to honour myself when I crave with every fibre of my being to submit deeply and fully to him RIGHT NOW when the loving thing is to not push him into a role he said he can’t fulfil yet.

I don’t know if it ever does get easy to “lean into the dynamic in times of stress” rather than back off it, but for us the point is moot anyway as we’ve not yet gotten to the point where it ever was easier for both of us. Currently, what makes my life easier makes his harder. And I don’t know how to balance my needs with his when I can’t trust that he’ll say “no” or “not now” to me when he really should to protect himself from emotional or mental overload. I can’t relax into enjoying feeling submissive and that “all is right in my world because my Dom’s got me” in response to his newly emerging signals of dominance as I have to anticipate that tomorrow or the day after that, he’ll be back to not being able to be that. And yet, one spanking, and I’m on cloud nine for a day or two. And then I get resentful if he’s not stepping up to pull me back in when my mood slips again.

As I said, it’s confusing.

So far, I got nothing but “wait and hope and love him and communicate as best as I can” for the meantime. Helpful suggestions are welcome.

Where do we go from here?

… in which I begin to find out what sort of D/s couple we might become.

I love the haunting finale of the end of the musical episode “Once More, with Feeling” of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 6, episode 7).  In this episode a demon makes people break out in song and dance and reveal their innermost secrets (and sometimes spontaneously combust). After the Scooby Gang jointly defeat this demon, they sing: “The battle’s done / And we kinda won / So we sound our victory cheer / But where do we go from here?” The music isn’t nearly as upbeat as this sounds… minor and open chords and all. So, yeah, the baddie is defeated, but at a huge cost. No one can go on like before pretending they are “fine”. All cards are now on the table, and with these revelations, the characters need to find new ways of relating to each other.
That’s pretty much what my life felt like after our Christmas break.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast on stage
Where do we go from here?

For those who haven’t read the last (mammoth) post, here’s the summary: Just before Christmas 2017, I called a big fat stop to our D/s as we were doing it – or increasingly not doing it. Ten weeks of being half a world apart and single-mum-ing it had left me exhausted, and I simply couldn’t carry on as before. In my absence, Xander had reverted to his pre-D/s ways, and due to work and other reaons was also exhausted, and unable and unwilling to give me what I wanted. And with our D/s not being a power exchange but a power sinkhole, I quit. I quit going through submissive motions and I quit carrying 90% of our D/s life. I quit acting “as if” and supplying in my head what Xander didn’t do in terms of dominant talk or actions. And it took Xander several weeks before he could even tell me what he still wanted in terms of D/s.  I did not like being in limbo. I didn’t know how to BE with Xander without his/our/my rules.

Eventually, we did talk and look at the broken bits of our D/s life and what we could put together again. It wasn’t much. Most of those conversations were difficult, painful and heart-wrenching for both of us, but they were worth the effort. We ended up agreeing on quite a few things:
D/s is a way we both want to relate to each other. It feels right when we do. And it’s become part of who we are, not just what we do.
D/s or not, our mutual love and commitment and our marriage stand firm.
Xander told me of his own accord that he wants back what we had (something I hadn’t really gotten out of him before), and that we would get back to it some day, even with my additional proviso that it’s got to be coming from him this time around.
We both came to the conclusion that I’d done everything I could to help Xander get comfortable with the Dominant we both know is inside him, and that it hadn’t worked. That there were other things blocking him… definitely fatigue, and probably depression or something like it. He agreed it might be a good idea for him to try something different, as his method of “stuffing down any negative emotions” instead of dealing with them clearly wasn’t working anymore. So he’s been regularly seeing a therapist for much of 2018, and it seems to be doing good things for him.

“The battle’s done / And we kinda won / So we sound our victory cheer. / Where do we go from here?” To be honest, I don’t think the battle is “done”. But we definitely “kinda won”: we are emotionally closer again, and our marriage stands strong even without relating to each other overtly in a D/s way. Days with spankings or sex are few and far between, but we are very gentle with each other and cut each other a lot of slack for not being able to do it all and be it all. We spend time with each other and go on very vanilla dinner or movie dates. We are renovating and building a sound-insulated den in our house where we will be able to spank without fear of being overheard. Xander changed jobs and is now not hating his work life every day. And recently, Xander put his foot down on my bedtime, which required a “Yes, Sir.” (And that’s a whole new blog post.)

I don’t think the trimmings of our D/s life – you know, the stuff with rules and spankings galore – are going to come back quickly. I’ve done therapy and I know first-hand how hard it can be and how much energy it takes to revisit and heal old trauma and shitty childhood conditioning.  Right now, we both still struggle with low energy, lack of privacy/sound insulation, and two young kids who suck dry whatever energy Xander might have left at the end of the day, when he brings them to bed. But he won’t always be in therapy, and my adrenals will hopefully recover (it’s looking good now), and the kids will at some point learn to go to sleep by themselves. The den will be finished one day.

I am very grateful for and happy in the harmonious, peaceful, and loving D/s marriage we do have. Over the last two years, the underlying current of our marriage has irrevocably changed to this dynamic where he leads and I follow – and it doesn’t need to look like in the novels. (Does anything, ever, really?) It’s a marriage dynamic in which we support each other in the best way we can. Where I can now gratefully accept pizza nights and time out in a hot bath when he says so, and where I can ask him for a spanking, and he can say, “Sorry, not today,” and I can be at peace with it, knowing he heard me.

And that is a very, very good thing.

And something to build on. We’ll get “there”, wherever that will be. He said so. And when he says he’ll make something happen, he will, come hell or high water. I just have to be patient.

Reality Check

… in which I realise I’m not nearly as good at keeping my rules as I thought.

During a recent weekend check-in, Xander asked me how well I was trucking along with the rules I’d just recited. I said, “Alright…ish, I think,… Master.”

So he made me recite my rules again and expand for each one how well or not I’d managed to keep it of late. Then he would sum up my answer with “So that’s another no.” Oops. I couldn’t really contradict him, either. Now, the longer this interview went on, the more I dreaded where this was going.  It sure felt like he was making a mental tally list, and he was keeping that domly poker face that tells me exactly nothing.

Checkmate by Robbert van der Steeg
Checkmate, mate.

Now, a lot of my rules have an “at all times” attached to it. Like my respect, obedience, and honesty rule, and the “I am mindful of my tone” rule. If you ever tried to stick to those 100% of the time, come rain or shine, then you know how hard that is.
Some of my rules are restrictions on behaviour I want to control better. I can’t always stick to them by the letter, even if I do in spirit. And it’s not the end of the world when that happens. Example: “I don’t have alcohol or sweets without permission, except for two pieces of chocolate per day.” So I have to ask for anything else, and since I don’t ask very often, I usually do get permission – for this at least. But sometimes, when I’m about to melt down with the kids (an even bigger no-no, remember “mindful of my tone at all times”?) and I know that a single piece of dark chocolate right now can help me get back into better-mum-headspace, I won’t even message my man, but I do the needful thing, have that piece of “Samoan single origin 70%” crack, get back on track, and tell him later.

So, pretty much all of those not-sticking-to-my-rules were minor infractions. The big ones I always tell him anyways, and the little ones I usually tell him, too. Nonetheless, these instances still are, technically speaking, not sticking to my rules.

So… I finally arrived at the end of my list, and had gotten “So that’s another no” for about 90% of my rules. He didn’t say anything, just looked at me, still poker-faced. Inside, I was squirming like a whole can of worms while I waited for his response. When it became clear he wasn’t going to say anything, I finally asked, very quietly, “So what happens now?” After a seemingly endless time – at least a second or three – he answered, “Nothing. I just wanted us both to be on the same page regarding your keeping your rules.”

Phew!

 

Picture: Checkmate, by Robbert van der Steeg. https://www.flickr.com/photos/robbie73/3409076832

The onus of my submission is on me

My commitment to submit cannot depend on my feeling submissive or not. And, why my man did absolutely not want to “just punish me” to help me improve my behaviour.

A word of warning, before we proceed

This is a more philosophical, maybe even categorical post. If you want to read something light that makes this submission gig feel easier, this may not be the post for today. If on the other hand, you’re prepared to put in the work that being submissive requires, then maybe a dose of reality may be just what the doctor ordered. That much said…

Commitment is a decision, not a feeling

It blows my mind how much this “little slave girl” thing continues to make things so much clearer to me in terms of my submission. Between the realisation that Xander’s lack of energy is likely due to depression and that my “job” as his wife and as his little slave girl is to support and serve him, not to be “yet another job” he has to fulfil, it has finally occurred to me that the onus of maintaining my submission actually rests squarely on my own shoulders and not on his.

Painting of Woman carrying firewood
Detail from “Woman carrying faggot” by Mihály Munkácsy

My commitment to being Xander’s submissive is a decision which makes certain attitudes and behaviours a requirement, as per our agreement of how I express my submission toward him. “Feeling submissive” certainly makes maintaining theses attitudes and behaviours a heck of a lot easier, but it is not a prerequisite. My role as Xander’s submissive requires obedience, respect, honesty, and transparency of me regardless of if I feel like it or not. If I expect him to make me feel submissive in order that I might maintain my submissive role, I actually expect him to do half of my job, and that’s not fair. (And if I demand it of him, well… that’s not even remotely submissive to begin with, is it?)

I’m not saying that in a good, working D/s relationship the Dom doesn’t need to dom his sub. It’s a relationship and as such needs both give and take in order to exist. And if Xander didn’t appreciate my submission or didn’t show willingness to honour his side of the equation and act dominant towards me, at some point, I’d certainly reconsider my willingness to submit to him. But, the work and responsibility of submitting to him is 100% mine. The work – and responsibility – of guiding and protecting me are 100% his. And that also means I don’t tell him how to do his job (anymore, cough, cough), but that’s another can of worms which I’ll open another day.

But for this pledge of ours to live as dominant and submissive towards each other to be worth anything, it has to be unconditional. It cannot depend on how dominant or submissive we feel in the moment, or on the time of month, and not even on the behaviour of the other.

“If you just punished me…”

Which brings me to the next point: Many a submissive on this journey – and I don’t exclude myself from that group – dream of their dominant to have very high expectations of her, and to discipline or punish consistently when she fails to meet these, maybe with the odd exception for mercy… It sounds hot and comparatively easy, so what’s not to like? “If you punished me consistently and harshly, I’d learn to behave so much better so much quicker, and you’d benefit from my improved behaviour.” Been there, said that. Guess what? Just like for so many other women, it didn’t happen for me, and at the time, I was very disappointed. Didn’t he care? (He did, and that is why he did not do as I asked him to. Read on.) And couldn’t he see how serious I was about this? (Actually, no, he couldn’t – yet.)

Usually, this request doesn’t come from a wife who is already good at being submissive, sticking to her rules, or who is consistently obedient and respectful. So her own poor track record is very likely one reason why –from a loving dominant’s point of view – punishing her for behaviour she might have shown for years could sound like a bad idea. The other reason is the dominant partner’s need to protect. In a nutshell, he doesn’t want to hurt her, and before he can trust she really wants to and can change to the more submissive stripes she claims she now has, he is not going to risk her goodwill and trust through the possibly damaging action of punishing her time and again, in the vague hope that’s really what she needs.

“Not so fast, little sub!”

Xander explained to me that, because he loves me and cares for me, he doesn’t expect me to do things I can’t do or things he doesn’t believe I can do. And he sure as hell doesn’t want me to fail and get discouraged or resentful. At the time I thought he could have advanced me some trust on this, but now I have to admit he was perfectly reasonable not to. So, I learned: If I want my man to expect a higher standard of behaviour from me, it’s up to me to demonstrate that he can – by making that standard my own as best as I can, whether he holds me accountable for it or not. Because Xander loves me, he had to believe I am capable of succeeding at something before he could feel free to require it from me.

follow the instructions
Follow the instructions…

Because I want this dynamic, I ended up submitting to Xander’s lead in how I went about improving this behaviour. I accepted and tried to implement his practical advice with as much grace as I could (which wasn’t a lot at times). I learned to receive (rather than reject) his encouragement and perspective when I felt I wasn’t doing so great. Over time, I actually got better at it. And when he saw I was able to control this behaviour better, it did become an expectation. This behaviour was something that, two years ago, he said he’d never spank me for. Well… I have learned much better self-control, and nowadays, if I do not uphold the “new” standard, I will get my backside warmed for it – and more than I like.

And we come back to the original idea…

And here I come full circle to where my submission is my responsibility: While acts of dominance from him do elicit submissive feelings in me, my commitment to submit to my dominant is not a commitment if I make it depend on how I feel in the moment. And if I want him to be able to expect my submission, then it is up to me to show him I’m able, willing, and striving to honour my commitment regardless of the circumstances. I’m not saying I must succeed all the time but he must be able to see I’m trying.

And before you think I’m one of those “perfect subs” and start rolling in the pedestal or gallows, here’s the reality: While my commitment to submit to my husband does not depend on my “feeling submissive”, my success at being a “good submissive wife” depends on it far more often than I’d like. (That’s one reason for our ‘permission denied’ games – they help me feel submissive) And frankly, I can’t see how submission could exist in a relational vacuum. It is hard to submit day-in-day-out to begin with, and even harder when things throw us off-course (Hello, life!) and I don’t get the submissive feel-good hormones. So while the responsibility for my submission is and remains mine, the success of it is a joint effort for sure.

Any thoughts on that? I look forward to your comments!