View From The Top: Where I’m Going

rife and I are updating the document that lays out our M/s relationships, our agreements and protocol, our responsibilities — our contract. We first signed it in September 2012, before we lived together, but well into the process of developing the M/s between us. After we moved in together and settled into a domestic life as well as a power dynamic, we distilled it into some simple words — but those, while core guidelines, have not been enough scaffolding as of late.

It’s been a difficult year. Our hardest together. My depression and mood disorder, his insecurities and fears. We have been in the process of deciding to get married, and then getting engaged, and now planning a wedding. I think we both take marriage vow commitments very seriously, although we do already have both a contract and a collaring ceremony — two other forms of commitment.

And last spring, we had a fracture, something that has caused a great breach of trust and much difficulty in the mending. I spent much of last summer limping along powerlessly, not trusting myself to take the power I was still being generously given. It felt like I got cut off at the knees; it felt like the relationship structure we’d built came tumbling down. I mourned. I cried. I cried even more. I reached out with my most vulnerable parts. I saw three therapists, and we went to a couple’s therapist. I got massages and acupuncture and saw herbalists to help move it out of my body. I stopped drinking. I started mood stabilizer medication. We did everything we could.

I thought the structure would hold us. I thought, because we had these elaborate agreements — this contract, this collaring — that we would not fracture, that we would never fracture. Especially not like that. I took it as such a deep truth that I was in shock when we did.

And of course we did. Fractures in relationships are not if, but when, especially when the relationship goes deep. Of course our most vulnerable and scary places came out, weapons drawn, shields up; really they are asking for love, underneath it, but they are not used to being met with care since they come out guns blazing. Precisely because we just keep going deeper, using our interconnected bond as a source for passion, for energy, for understanding, and for a spiritual journey, we were going to hit some rough patches. Or, in our case, a giant gaping hole in the middle of a freeway that had been completely drowned out by a landslide.

How do we cross this? The chasm seems too far. Too wide. Insurmountable. Can we do it together, or do we have to separate — for safety, for ease? We both feared, felt into it, and kept holding hands. But we sought support, almost immediately, and those guides showed up, ready to harness us up and belay us over and out, across the makeshift rope structures from the rebar, and back up the other side. My handholds have always been weak. I fell too many times to count, and had to start over. I didn’t want to. But my frustration at my failures only caused more suffering.

Now that we’re back, looking at the contract, looking at the structure we created during our wild and precious courtship, I see a lot of it that is salvageable. I see the foundation is secure, the wiring, the plumbing. We had so many things right. But we also didn’t adjust enough for the realities of living together. We couldn’t have known what we’d uncover in year three, or four, or five. I found whole new blind spots I didn’t know existed, hidden inside.

So we are rebuilding, from each word to each sentence to each bullet-pointed list. And because we are both word lovers and slightly nerdy about things like contracts, the sections are in kinky legalese and precise enough to cut a mirror. I feel lighter than I’ve been in a year. I feel ecstatic with the possibilities. I feel giddy, like I’m falling in love. Sure, I sometimes feel nervous about the work and the effort and the consciousness it’ll take to keep up these new agreements, and all the ways I want to show up anew. But I feel stronger, too. I know so much more — about myself, about rife, about our relationship. I have so many more tools, so many more ways to build together. I have determination. I can feel the foundation beneath us, and I’m ready to build even taller.

Never before have I been able to come back from a fracture like this in a relationship. Though I believed intellectually that it was possible, I had no actual experience with it. That, rife kept reminding me, is faith. Have faith. We can do this. We did fracture, and we did get shaken at the very core. But we didn’t break. We know more than we did before, and we are even stronger, ready for the next steps in our adventures.

This is the last installment in View From The Top. View the complete series.

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Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is “the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queer women” (AfterEllen), who “is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places” (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Sinclair identifies as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor and an introvert. Follow their writings at Sugarbutch Chronicles.

Sinclair has written 43 articles for us.


  1. IT CAN’T BE OVER. This has been one of my all-time favorite columns on Autostraddle.

    Thank you for your words and hard-won insights. They were dope.

  2. I want to add my thanks. Your eloquent musings about how navigating relationship boundaries and personal boundaries helps us illuminate our inner selves has been brilliant reading and had given me much food for thought. Thank you for all of your efforts and sharing the strength you find in vulnerability and vice versa.

  3. This has been my favorite column and probably the number one reason I visited Autostraddle. I am so sad to see it ending! Thank you for the laughs, the tears, and the butterflies in my stomach from each story.

  4. Sinclair, I want to thank you for your words — here, on Sugarbutch, and everywhere else I’ve encountered them. Through your words, I learned about kinky identity; through your words, I found my own.

    This last installment hits me right in the gut, in the best way. Thank you.

  5. Thank you Sinclair (and you too rife) for this series and everything you’ve shared. I’ve really appreciated it and learned a lot. I’ll most certainly miss it, as well as the smile on my face every time I saw one of the articles posted. I hope this isn’t the last we see of your writing and I wish you and rife the very best. :)

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