Okay, so… sometimes we’re afraid to talk about something. Could… um. Could we maybe talk about that for a minute?
I had a chat tonight with a new sub who was having a hard time talking with her Dom about updating their dynamic. They were both very new and I got the impression that both of them were worried about expressing interest in something that might upset or even disgust their partner. I’m fond of saying that any successful relationship is based on communication, but what can you do when you’re literally afraid to communicate?
This isn’t just for new kinksters, either. I can rattle off a list as long as you like of people in experienced relationships who still find their stomach full of butterflies with trepidation or excitement because they don’t know how their partner will react to a new problem, a new request, or a new idea. I’ve had things to bring up with Beth this month that were tricky to approach. Any list I made would have my own name at the top.
One piece of advice I don’t hear too often is “just say it”, but so often that’s the advice I most want to give.
It was Beth who first opened our relationship up to idea of dominance and submission. We started reading 50 Shades of Grey together as a couple. It was a slow read, because we kept putting the book down and going to the bedroom. For vanilla sex, mind you, but our minds and loins were afire with E.L. James’ special brand of “kinky fuckery”. Keep in mind that we were vanilla at the time. Bondage was for perverts, and inflicting pain on a loved one was unthinkable. The fantasy kinky sex was hot, and the real world vanilla sex was hot, but there was a hard dividing line between the two. Normal people–good people–don’t really do things like that, right?
About a week (and probably only 100 pages) later, we were chatting in the car about a scene involving some bondage and light spanking, and Beth quietly, so very quietly, said “Um… you could… maybe… do some of that… to me…”
I felt an electric shock go through me. Not of disgust or horror, but a thrill of excitement. I was absolutely on board–and we never would have known if Beth hadn’t just brought it up.
“Just bring it up” is a good trick to use when you want to float a risky new idea that you’re not sure will backfire or succeed, but you leave a lot to chance, so it’s best to use it on things that, if they do backfire, you can say “okay, lesson learned, moving on”. Beth would have been fine if I had said “That’s okay for fantasy but in real life I think it’s too dirty.” Maybe we’d have stayed vanilla, and we’d have certainly missed out on a lot of great new things in our sexuality and relationship, but it did not jeopardize our relationship to just ask.
Similarly, a good idea with this trick is to reduce the severity of a backfire by bringing things up outside of the bedroom and before you’ve committed to them. Beth broached the subject of D/s in the car, not while we were having sex. And she didn’t broach the subject by donning a ball gag and blindfold and handcuffing herself to a chair. If I had not been open to it, both of those would have put us in really risky territory.
But what if you’re invested in the idea, or your partner is dead-set against it? Well, in the latter case you need to stay open to the possibility that you might not ever get your way. But if the former is also true, then you need a lot of patience, the ability to push gently, and a willingness to take what you can get when you can get it.
Not every idea gets met with open arms. Credit to Beth on this one as well: she’s the one who did all the work convincing me to step up and become her Dom. After we read FSOG, we bought a cheap BDSM starter kit (cuffs, vinyl flogger, cardboard blindfold, etc) but we basically continued to have mostly vanilla sex. Something in it really worked for Beth, though, so she started doing her homework. It wasn’t long before she came across Domestic Discipline, which is a subset of D/s where the focus is more on relationship power exchange and corporal punishment than on sexual gratification.
If you want to take a vanilla person and give them exactly the right idea about DD but in a way that will totally freak them out, you only need two words: “Wife spanking”. Domestic Discipline is so much more than that, but it definitely IS also exactly that, and for some people that’s all they need to hear to think “spouse abuse” and shut down and not be able to hear anything more on the subject. That certainly was me when Beth brought it up to me.
That was also our doctor when we brought it up to him, and our therapist when we brought it up to her. The fascinating thing about DD is that it’s the only kink I know of that everybody hates on. Not just the normals. I’ve seen people deeply involved in other kinks just lose their minds talking about how DD is nothing but abuse. I’ve even seen other people practicing DD gang up on couples who were in more extreme, but still consensual and nonabusive, relationships. My point is that nobody bats an eyelash if your wife wants to be caned bloody, but if you want to take your belt to her to keep her in line you had better have your shit figured out beforehand because everyone is going to lose their mind.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. My point is, out of everyone Beth has ever told, I was the hardest no and the longest time convincing. Beth told me about this form of kink she was interested in because it would help with her health and her chores and her motivation; all I had to do was beat her when she didn’t keep up her end of the bargain. I rejected the idea out of hand! No way would I lift a finger, much less a weapon, to strike my wife! Gentlemen do not hit ladies, I told her. I couldn’t live with myself like that, I said.
Beth persisted. Little by little, the unhealthier bits of my feminist programming began to work themselves out. (This was not a comfortable process for me.) She made the case to me time and again. When I rejected the idea flatly, she stopped making the case overtly. Instead she told me about the couples on a forum she was reading and how happy they were and how they were interacting. She persisted. Little by little, my mind opened. Months later, we embarked on this journey.
Sometimes you have to just sit with a new idea for a long time before you can get your head around it. When your partner needs that, nothing works but patience.
Being patient is a great approach when when you have a clear general direction in mind but the specifics are negotiable. You want more discipline, but you’re not dead-set on how it’s delivered. You’d like to be more adventurous in bed, but don’t have a specific page in the Kama Sutra bookmarked. You have this vague general fantasy about dogging in the park, but haven’t really tried out exhibitionism or sex parties or being shared out by your Master. Be patient! You’re not going to get there overnight, and you’re not going to get all of it at once. Beth was open to anything I would give her, anywhere on the D/s spectrum. Anything from giving her chores, to making her call me Sir, to giving her a curfew.
I have some other ideas for how to talk about something, but honestly my next tip was going to be “keep it short” and I just realized this post is pushing 1500 words. Sorry about that. Let’s call it done for now. Maybe we can circle back to this later. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you bring things up in your relationship–especially when you’re afraid to or you already know your partner is going to have a hard time hearing it.
P.S. I described Domestic Discipline above in terms of a purely traditional relationship. It is the stereotype within DD, and it describes my relationship. But I would be so very remiss if I did not point out that most of the best stories in Domestic Discipline come from the 5% or so of couples I know that are either gay or in Female-Led Relationships. To those couples, I say: Y’all are just more interesting than us. In the spirit of this post, please don’t hesitate to speak up in the comments. 🙂