I trust my boy. We trust each other. But I still cringe anytime I correct his behavior, anytime I enforce a rule, anytime I ask him to do something and — just for a second — he flinches. As soon as I see a flush of shame on his face, my chest hurts and swells and I want to rush into caretaking mode: “Or not! I mean, whatever you want. Would that work for you? What do you need right now? Can I make you a sandwich? Let’s watch your favorite movie!”
When you are someone who wants your partner to be strong, dominant, demanding and strict, this is not a sexy reaction.
Of course, there’s a place for my caretaking. And my tender-hearted top tendencies are part of what makes me a good dominant, because real cruelty and indifference wouldn’t be safe to play with. I care deeply about his feelings and well-being, and that’s what makes it possible for us to play with humiliation, degradation, sadism, masochism, and ownership. Sometimes I hear folks say that they can’t be a dominant, or that their partner can’t be a dominant, because they’re just “too nice” — a quality that actually makes them perfect for it. It’s useful to have a squishy emotional touchy-feely inner core inside and a hard, domineering exterior — it makes real concern for boundaries, communications, negotiations, empathy, compassion and understanding possible, as well as the sadism and dirty stuff.
But that tender heart continues to get in my way — and rife’s too — when I make a move to be more strict, to be even more dominant, to take more control.
“What if I go too far?” I ask rife, over and over again.
“You have never gone too far with me,” he says. “It’d be so hard for you to go too far, when I want to give you so much.”
He has a point. He always does. Sometimes, I think he is better at this than I am. My doubts and anxieties and depressive ideation get in the way so often. But other times, he struggles, and I hold the line for him, hold the shape of our dynamic from the outside as he holds it from the inside, and I remind him of our agreements. When he slips out of a submissive headspace, I struggle not to take it personally, and not to take it as a choice that he doesn’t want to submit to me anymore. In actuality, it should be a sign that it’s my job to keep him in a submissive headspace, and I know the things I can do to get him there. Like push him to his knees, throw him down on the bed, push him against the wall, grab him and kiss him hard, give him orders in that growly dominant voice, make decisions for him — “random acts of dominance,” as he calls them.
If none of that works, some good old fashioned kinky playtime might be in order. After five years, we know pretty well what helps us each get into our D/s headspaces.
It’s easy for me to slip, to back off, when I suspect that he, too, is slipping, rather than getting harder, stronger, more controlling. I have to remember that backing off is not we have negotiated, and that by nurturing I’m not honoring our agreements. In some ways, I don’t have consent for it. I have trouble over-identifying with his (and other folks’) feelings, and knowing that in this particular relationship it isn’t my job to attune to all the inner feelings so much as to the bigger circle and the intentions and structure of our relationship outside of the current moment .
At the core of our relationship and our power dynamic, all of what we do is intended to help each other grow — as people, and together. As someone with depression and a mood disorder, my feelings are big and sudden and sometimes take me over, and holding the bigger picture of our intentions is extremely hard for me. It’s not something I feel good at, most of the time. But rife is not particularly good at confrontations with authority figures, either, and so through these consenting, intentional interactions with each other, we help each other to be better, to grow, to work through some of our tiny wounded places. We console each other. We lift each other up.
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