Friday, May 30, 2008

Learning about service submission

This last week seems to have been about doing things. I've spent a couple of nights on the bills (I said it was complicated), and gardening, and laundry, all of which have not been part of our normal routine for me to do, so sort of qualify as "service." Actually, I've been feeling bad about the bills part and the laundry part because there's no reason why I haven't been doing those for years except that I could get away with it.

There's a rationalization for everything, in this case that my beloved works at home so it's easier for her to keep after that stuff, but as I've started to do these things, I'm not sure I buy that explanation.

What I have found out is that service submission is much more of a "mind set" than it is a specific set of tasks. There are the normal routines (like these household things), there are things that I do for her - precious few and I treasure them: taking care of her cell phone, wallet, and bag, all of which she often does herself. The only thing I really get to do regularly is the vitamin thing and turning on her bedside light - pretty minor.

And there's being attentive to what she wants. She doesn't make this easy. This morning in the wee hours when she was leaving for a one-week trip, it was "I was wondering whether the tape was upstairs." Not "Get me the tape", not "Could you please get me the tape", not "I was wondering if you would get me the tape." I'm getting better at translating comments like "I was wondering if the tape was upstairs" into things to jump on and do right away. It is somewhat satisfying, but at a fundamental level, not so much, because it forces me to wonder if this is still all in my head - if this is an arrangement of one person: me.

Oh, and a fourth category: things I have no idea if she even notices, like the fact that her wallet always has money in it, and the cars always have gas in them. Or the fact that when she gets up to go in the wee hours, I get up too, make the coffee, carry the bags out to the car etc.

We still haven't figured out what Ms. Rika's "accepting from a position of dominance" actually works out to be in real life.

We have another talk in our future, when she gets back. It *won't* be "Hi honey, you're home. Let's talk about submission." But within a day or two, or I think we'll drift off to a place that doesn't work so well. I am happy to do the service submission things. But I need some acknowledgment of what is happening here.

Pretty much anything she asks if I can do, I respond with "As you wish." But as I mentioned above, she seldom asks. And that's still all in my head.

What I need is...

What I need is...

What surprises me is that I don't know exactly what I need. Some acknowledgment from her that this is happening. Unprompted by me. In a way that I perceive of as meaning something to her.

This may be impossible. This may never happen. I might be able to grow to be OK with that.

There are subtle changes happening around the fact that my time is hers to dispose of, that I'm trying to be around to just make life easier for her. There are random moments when it works: when I'm working on something I'd rather not be doing and she's reading a magazine. But they are few and unacknowledged.

She is also demands perfection in a way that I don't know that I can ever achieve. If I've left the laundry in the washer, to be air dried later, I'm just as likely to come home and find it laid out and done by her. On the one hand, there are only so many minutes in the morning. ON the other, I suppose I could get up early and get there before her. But that's our most intimate time, and I won't give it up, truth be told. If I come home and go upstairs before cleaning the kitchen counter, I'm likely to come down and find her doing it. If I leave a case of oil in the car to remind me to change the oil, I'm likely to find it in entryway.

I can aspire to be better at these things, but I don't know how much better I can actually do.

And now she's away for a week, so the rhythm of things will change. I suggested (I think only once) that she might think about a "honey-do" list for while she's away, but she didn't find time to make one up. I tried not to resent that, even though she mentioned it. She mentioned minor garden maintenance, and suggested she might think of something while she's on the road - I'll be bitterly disappointed if she doesn't, but I don't expect her to.

I think I have myself dialed back to the point that I'm not bugging her. I'm trying as hard as I can. The extent to which I raised this at all yesterday (for example) was to note, as we were in bed, that back-rubs are always on offer. Her response: "I'll have to figure out what my equivalent of a back-rub is."

And I think if we proceed quietly and slowly at this pace, something may happen. Certainly it has in the sex department (more on that in another post). Maybe it will in the "we communicate about this and I feel validated as the the submissive" department as well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Another blog bites the dust

RJ's blog "Under her control" is gone. Which is a pity, because in his last post, "Appreciation", he said some things I really liked:
I appreciate my wife. She has time and time again listened and accepted me for who I am... She has always listens to me tries to keep an open mind about things. I think she, at least on some level, grasps my need to serve her... My wife and I have talked a lot lately. We have covered a gambit of topics and have discussed the workings of our WLM in detail. I love the feeling of finally being able to tell her what I feel, no matter how embarrassing it might be.
All statements that I can subscribe to.

I can only wish them well. I know from experience that this is complicated.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Some Notes on Some Comments

Both 's' and Ms. Rika have been generous with their comments. I meant to respond, but like I said, I've been busy.

Regarding Small Satisfying Surprises, 's' commented
While you're at it, you might try putting the toothpaste on her toothbrush for her.

Actually, I did. And my beloved, who hates having stuff done for her, I think, replied, "No, I'll pick which toothpaste to use, so I'll do it myself." I'm trying to finesse this by reducing the toothpaste brands down to one in the bathroom (I was the person motivating the second brand - I can give that up - sheesh - is this too much information or what!) So maybe someday we can revisit this. But it won't be for a long time.

Things to look forward to.

And the pitiful part of it is, doing that stuff for her, putting out her vitamin, putting away her cell phone, etc - these are the high points of my day. Why? Because there's a part of me that wants to serve her that's been skulking around underground for about 40 years, and it's incredible that it can see the sunshine. The last couple of times out we got whacked pretty hard, with nights of crying on both of our parts and (mild) psychiatric drugs and therapy and it was so not fun. All of which probably improved the success potential of the current venture, but who knows by how much...

's' also commented on I'm Not Very Good At This, pointing out that when she does something that I thought I was supposed to do, the only appropriate answer is "Thank you." Or perhaps no comment at all - If I thanked her for plugging in her cell phone, I'm pretty sure she'd take it as nagging. For more general household stuff like the laundry, I might get away with it.

But it breaks my heart to see her do this. Because it's either "I'm not thinking about this arrangement, it doesn't exist for me" (which is what it probably is), or it's the passive-aggressive approach that Ms. Rika mentions in her comment on the same post. That comment is so so right on the mark that I want to figure out some way to share it with my beloved. (Which sort of makes me want to share the blog with her, but fortunately, my conscious mind forcefully reminds me what a bad idea that would be.)

When it comes to doing the kitchen counter (one of those things that just needs to be done occasionally), it would make my day (literally) if she'd just point that out rather than doing it. I realize that her just doing it is likely to make me better at anticipating her needs and wishes because it hurts so much to see her do it. But I do need the interaction too.

I think the danger is that we arrange this so we never have to interact about it - she never has to acknowledge what it is we're doing, so she can remain in denial because face it, it's uncomfortable for her. I've tried to present it in the most comfortable possible way - I what can I do to make your life easier - and it's still uncomfortable for her. Either she's going to work through that discomfort (and I'm willing to help in any way I can short of not doing this, which I think we've established I have to do), or I'm going to end up in either the "stealth submission mode" (which I'm pretty sure I don't have the intensity of imagination to keep up indefinitely), or we're going to stop and I'll go slowly nuts again.

Wow, I wasn't expecting to go there when I started writing. Maybe things will improve.

Rough Patches

It's been a very busy couple of days, totally unrelated to FLR. But the fund-raiser I was helping to organize is over and I've had time to start decompressing a little.

A wonderful moment after we all got home from our events last night: she poured herself a glass of water and emptied the pitcher. In mid-conversation she just handed me the pitcher. My heart skipped a beat and I just went and filled it while we were talking. Most satisfying moment of my day; I seem to get about one of those a day. I don't want to read too much in to this, but I really don't think it's the kind of thing she would have done in the past.

A couple of days ago I realized that I had so much to do to make that fund-raiser work that I was just keeping up with the barest minimum of what I fell I need to do to be make my beloved's life easier, and in a tired moment shared that "I'm not feeling very good about myself at this moment." I was referring to my fulfilling my commitments in our arrangement, but as we shall see, communication is a tricky thing.

Last night, when it was all over, lying in bed, she asked, "How are you feeling; yesterday you said you weren't feeling very good about yourself." So I shared that I felt I wasn't keeping up my commitments and acknowledged that she had been quite correct about outside involvements perhaps making this impractical. She replied that civic commitment is something we value in our family, so it's part of what we do. All well and good.

Then I asked the fatal, "And how's this working for you?" question. As best I can recall, and I will attempt to quote this accurately so as not to put my interpretation on it, she said (though not in this order, I think), "Sometimes I just wish we could be normal" and "I get tired of being asked if I'd like things" and "I know you're thinking about this a lot, but I wish just an hour could go by without your bringing it up". I apologized for that and suggested that we come up with a way for her to mention that in the moment, but we both acknowledged that it can be hard to perceive and act on in the moment. And later in the conversation, I asked if this was making her life at all more convenient, and she said, "I was pretty tired of paying the bills, so I guess that's nice." No mention of the laundry, which I know she's kind of tired of doing, and which I've been doing.

Apropos of Ms. Rika's comment about using chores to be passive-aggressive, when I walked out of the bedroom, all of the laundry that I had laid out to dry had been put away, something I was intending to do after I got through the fundraiser.

I'll rant about some of her reactions here since I don't want to rant to her. But the "letting an hour go by" question was so unfair, because I have been compulsive about not bringing this up more than once or twice a day in the lightest possible terms. In all fairness, if this is how it feels to her, then I have to acknowledge that reality; I'll suspect that it comes from my changed attitude and my increased attention to what she's asking for, suggesting, and me trying to get out of her way more than I customarily do - in sort the change in attitude that I crave as part of this arrangement. And that feels to her like "asking" all the time, since it's different.

But if all this comes down to is that I pay the bills from now on, and nothing else, then the whole thing is a failure and we've gotten nowhere - I get to go back to feeling frustrated, unrequited and incomplete, and she gets to go on living in the illusion that she's relating to me, not to my "game face."

I put that all out there first because it was the nadir of where things got to. I had a crappy night sleep "realizing" that this was all for naught, and finding my desire for her (which runs high while we're doing this) to have been reduced to the merest casual level.

In the morning we snuggled a little, as we have been doing more of since we started this, mainly because I'm crazy about her, which was better. I was trying to get better about what was said, and assuming that it was because she was tired last night. But in the end, I said that I didn't want to make her miserable (isn't that counter to the whole idea - we chuckled), but I don't want to be miserable either, and can we find a way to make this work for both of us? She agreed (warmly) that we probably could.

15 minutes later she gave me an embrace in the kitchen and told me she loved me, which I appreciate, but (not content to leave the unsaid unsaid, as I have for the last 25 years), I asked if she loved all of me. Because it's really nice to be all here as opposed to skulking around underground. She agreed. She pointed out that I need a haircut (which she usually provides), and perhaps (she suggested), I could shave her legs - another thing I love to do.

So I think we have a place to work from.

A Romp In the Hay

Catching up a bit, Tuesday night (much to my pleasant surprise) my beloved was feeling like she wanted some sexual satisfaction. As often happens, I brought her to orgasm with my hand. Some time ago we established that I would only get to have PIV intercourse with her if it would enhance her pleasure. The only issue was the signals - she had plenty of ways of telling me to proceed, but none to say "We're done." I suggested "Thank you" (my least preferred, but I didn't tell her that), or "That was fun" (more preferred), or my favorite, which would have been "I'm done" or "That's all for this evening". In the event, she always chose "Thank you" and I always reply with a heartfelt "My pleasure, it's fun."

In the event, in Tuesday she replied with "That was wonderful." I was thrilled and thanked her very warmly. We snuggled in a way we haven't since before we were newlyweds, and in the end I thanked her again profusely. It was a warm and wonderful moment.

The next morning she commented that it feels like it hasn't felt since we were young lovers, which is a pretty nice thing for some 50-somethings to be able to say. I was thrilled.

When we're doing this and getting it right, she is so beautiful to me. I note this because I don't want to forget it: we were playing frisbee with one of our kids and I got to throw to her. And every time I did, I got to look at her, and my heart skiped a beat - she is so beautiful to me and cares about me so much. I'm grateful and in love, which is not a bad way to be after 25 years...

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'm not very good at this

Lest I forget
  • This morning she got the crumbs off the counter because I didn't get there first

  • She started to get the trash down to the curb before I started to help with that because I didn't get there first

  • She IM'ed me with a reminder about the phone-call chore I was supposed to do today, but I hadn't gotten to yet. The only right answer for that one would have been "Yup, it's done."

Not good, but lest I appear totally hopeless, the laundry is coming along well and she mentioned transferring over the bill paying responsibilities to me this evening (something we knew we would have to do together - it has lots of ins and outs).

So in the end, things I did this evening that I wouldn't otherwise have done:
  • Brought the trash stuff back up from the curb

  • Balanced the check book

  • Put money in her wallet - she mentioned she was out

  • and the two standing items
  • Turned on her bedside light

  • Put her vitamins close at hand for her when brushing her teeth

Which overall doesn't sound like a lot, but I think it's sustainable and hopefully I can grow from here.

And all this is incredibly boring, but isn't life, in the chop-wood-carry-water kind of way.

This is harder than it looks.

And I love it. I just hope to all get-out that she does. I hope to check in with her again on Wednesday.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Small Satisfying Surprises

We were out listening to Jazz Friday night and there were chairs but no tables. I rather quickly ended up holding her cappuccino cup for her. That was satisfying - and I'm pretty sure it was intentional.

I had intended to ask her how it was going on Sunday night, but she surprised me by asking me Saturday morning. I was sort of non-plussed and not ready for the discussion, but I allowed as how it was working for me. More importantly, I said, "Is this not annoying you and does it have some positive aspects." She thought for a second and said, "Well, the house is looking pretty good." So I guess that qualifies as success.

Later in the day, something wonderful (if tiny) happened. We were talking about who-knows-what, and the subject of Vitamins came up. She recalled that she never remembers to take her vitamins, and suggested, "You could put that out on my toothbrush in the evenings." That was pretty satisfying. At least I remembered last night. What was most satisfying is that in the context of a completely non-relationship non-kink non-sex related discussion, she realized that this dynamic could come in to play. Very heartening.

I also mentioned that I had been trying to be very attentive to her "suggestions" and making sure they got done. Given my beloved's character, I think (and I told her this) that saying that may have been a mistake because she's likely to become hyper-critical of herself for suggesting things knowing that I'll actually do them. I'm hoping she'll forget the self-criticism part and must expect things to happen.

She did make an off-hand suggestion about the detail mowing around the yard, which became my first priority Saturday. She also ended up with some help gardening from me after the rest of the mowing, which I hope she found satisfying. I enjoyed it only in as much as it was what she wanted.

This is all very very mundane stuff, but I guess is the stuff of which real life is made, so that makes it satisfying.

I'm hoping I have the attention and fortitude to keep doing these things. I have faith that these little things will grow. And I'm contemplating how this is changing the dynamic of our relationship, mainly in ways that I find satisfying - I hope my beloved does as well.

Finally, I'm realizing that I'm not very good at some of this mundane stuff - getting the laundry done in the midst of getting everything else done as well. Suddenly about half of fd's experiences in Her Househusband's Life are beginning to feel very relevant. Unfortunately, it's the housework part, but all in good time.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Settling In

I'm finding the differences in living in an acknowledged FLR to be interesting, even if not dramatic. My favorite difference so far is my desire to do things for her, which results in listening very carefully and making it a priority to follow up. This is kind of difficult with my beloved, who's response to any issue is not to comment on it, but to just do something about it.

But as she was on her way out the door last night, she noticed a lot of mail and papers stacking up and said, "The mail's a little out of control here," as she picked some of it up and dealt with it. Fortunately, she couldn't deal with all of it, and by the time she got make, I'd made the paper disappear. I think she was surprised; it was an off-hand comment, but the kind that I'm trying to listen very carefully to.

I offered a backrub last night (casually) but she said, "I don't want to do that every night, it wouldn't be special any more." I did say, "It doesn't have to be special, you know." A message I'll try to reiterate tonight.

Aside from that, her agenda sets my evening tasks, and I'm OK with that. I refer to my list of things and make sure that they're taken care of. Occasionally, she'll get to one before me, and I have to just let go of that. Often I can come back to what ever it was and finish it up.

I found this New York Times article on two spiritual teachers who have decided never to be separated to be weirdly relevant in one or two ways, mostly about ego and how relationships that acknowledge power and control issues can help investigate it.

We'll see what the weekend brings. Overall, I'd like the opportunity to do more for her, but life also has its way of intervening.

I'm in the process of trying to reschedule a business trip - in all honesty, partly because I don't want to have just started this and then have to abandon it for two weeks. But the unexpected benefit may be that she can come with me for a week of that. That would be fun.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Off to a slow start

Obviously, life has not totally changed with our new regime; the change is more in my attitude and somewhat in hers. My beloved is a "do-er", so the thought of sitting around while I do stuff around the house isn't going to happen. I'm just hoping she'll find herself able to do what she wants, rather than what she feels needs to be to done.

So on day one of this arrangement, I don't think she told, asked, or otherwise intimated that there was anything I could or should do. The question came up as to whether we were both or only one of us going to this community meeting. I allowed as how I had plenty to keep me busy, so she went. And called 20 minutes later saying I should come. I might have tried to demur, but it was quite satisfying not to have to think about it.

I did manage to get some "chores" done, but they aren't particularly removed what what I do anyway, though again, there was some satisfaction from the changed expectations around the thing.

At the end of a long evening (she's working on a project), in the dark, in bed, I did mention that backrubs were always on offer (one of the items on our list). I had taken the opportunity to unearth our old massage book and briefly review it while doing another item on our "I want to get this project done" list. She said she thought she was too tired to appreciate it, and I said she didn't have to be awake for it. So she got a backrub in the dark. Which was very fun.

Much to my surprise, she rolled on to her back and indicated that some more directed stimulation was in order and before long, one thing led to another (as they say) and she had what looked like a lovely climax. Somewhat more to my surprise, she indicated that she was interested in PIV intercourse, so I got "relief" as well, which was welcome since it had been two weeks for me (and four days for her).

She did allow as how this was *not* a consequence of the backrub, which I pretty well knew. We snuggled. It was intimate and lovely.

This morning while im'ing, she mentioned that she'd put some plants in the beds I'd prepared over the weekend, and noted how easy it was with nice beds. I ventured to thank her for letting me prepare them, but didn't get any response, which was fine (beats a negative response...)

So I think we're off to a slow but satisfying start. My list of things looks kinda pathetic to me, but I suppose until I knock them all off, there's no point adding more.

I'll think about putting up an edited version of the list per a request in the comments, but there's really nothing innovative on it, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And Now Comes the Hard Part

Waiting is a struggle for me. In the words of one of our favorite movie characters, "I hate to wait." So it was only 48 hours of waiting, but they were a tough 48 hours. I kept my struggle from my beloved, however, because I really didn't want to push her on this. Hence the venting on the blog.

Last night, once again after the business of the evening was over, she said "Why don't you go print out that spreadsheet." These were items along the lines suggested by Ms. Rika - things I could do that would make her life easier.

We ended up with 17 items that I can do, ranging from the quick-and-easy (Make sure her cell phone is plugged in at night) to the projects-that-need-to-be-scheduled (pay the bills). I presented the list with a heading as follows:
This sheet is things that I can think of that need to be done around the house that I could do. Some of these things I think I should be able to enlist the kids on, like the dishes, but in the end it's still my responsibility to get done. This also doesn't mean you can't do any of these things that you want to whenever you want to. *WANT TO* is the key phrase, not "feel like you have to because it's not getting done."

Obviously, this list is longer than can be done. I think we need to work together on how that works, if that's OK with you.

In the end, she asked me, "how do we handle this?" I looked at the list and couldn't think of a good reason why I couldn't get started on it. It won't all be done in a day, but there's no reason why the "quick and easy" ones can't be done every day, and why I can't get a start on the big ones (laundry and bills). So that's what I've committed to do.

I'm thrilled and scared. Time to put the activities where the fantasies have always been.

Just for the record, the list was entirely stuff I can do that makes her life easier. If that works out for her, at some point we'll have a talk about "treats" - she'll want to know what they are for me rather than having to guess... or I'll want her to know, but I would expect that to be a month or more away.

We didn't talk explicitly about casual "requests" or decision making - we covered that on Sunday and she read my notes on them and approved them.

So there was no big ceremony, no big symbolic thing. There was just me saying "So, we're doing this, right?" and her response, "Right." I think she's waiting to see what actually happens as well. I did mention that I'm probably not going to be 100% good at this initially, and that her feedback would be welcome. Also that I'd like to check in once or twice a week to see how this is going from her point of view. Aside from that, it should be "set it and forget it" for her.

So far the difference has been ... not much. Partly this is the "How would life be different if we had been doing this" question. Partly it's that not much has come up that needs to be done. And partly it's her waiting to see how this works out practically.

I think she was tired last night; I'm very insecure about all this and perceived her manner as "put upon" rather than intrigued, but we snuggled and talked a very little about this in the morning, and I expressed my gratitude. She seemed OK with that, maybe even good.

I owe Ms. Rika a big debt of thanks, and a book review. Her book and advice got us to the top of the hill and gave us the shove we needed. Now it's our responsibility to steer the sled....

Woooooshhh..... off we go!

Monday, May 12, 2008

So Slowly

It's my blog, I get to bitch.

This is going so slowly

I'm not sure I can stand it. I want her to look at the list of things to do. I want this to be happening. I want to get beyond having had a discussion about what might happen. I want to do this and work out the details with her.

I get to want.

Phew. Feels much better having vented since there's nobody I can tell.

Seriously, though, I've had a headache on-and-off all day, and a little stress twitch. This part is difficult.

And now I get to be patient and quiet and let this little flower grow on its own.

Everything has changed, and nothing has changed

She said, "How would we have such a discussion?"

I thought for a minute and said, "I really don't want you to be anyone other than who you are. But I think there area ideas about communications in this book that we should talk about."

I reviewed the salient points of the book and we talked for an hour. It was great.

The following is really an aide-de-memoir for me, so you might not find it interesting. You might want to skip to the bottom with the impassioned exchange of vows (sort of).

Key points I'm trying to remember:

My beloved's comment about outside organizations was far more practical than I had realized. It wasn't about "What if I wanted you to get rid of your outside commitments," it was "How can you claim to be at my disposal when you have outside commitments. It's all very good for you to work on the garden all afternoon, but if you had phone calls to make, how would that have worked?"

That kind of stumped me. We talked around it but didn't come to a conclusion. I suggested two possibilities, one much better than the other: She's a list person, so I could add my outside commitments to her "to do list" and she could prioritize - not preferable since it's more work for her. Or I coudl tell her what I need to do, ask her for time to do them, with enough time ahead that she could say "No" now, and still have there be time to ask another time.

She asked, "So am I not supposed to say 'Thank you' any more? Hows that going to look to the kids? It doesn't seem like 'the woman in the book' says thank you to her husband." I said that while *I* love that kind of verbal discipline for myself, and view it as a kind of a mindfulness practice, I didn't think it made any sense for her because it's not who she is. Sure, I love it when the dynamic is, "The work you did on the garden makes me happy" and I reply, "Thank you for the opportunity to do it." But given who she is, I'm just as happy with "Thanks for working on the garden," "My pleasure."

Similarly, telling me to do stuff versus asking, partly for how it looks in front of others, and partly because of who she is. I don't think it's ever going to be natural for her to say "Get me a glass of water" - shes much more a "Could you get me a glass of water please" type person. I did tell her that my fantasy was to be able to respond with "As you wish" - a movie quote that says to us, "I love you."

Which led her to ask about what happens in public? Her question: suppose I want you to do something and there's some reason it's not a good idea or you can't. HOw do we have that conversation in public. She was thinking (she said), that we need to turn this on and off depending on the circumstances. Even as she was saying it, she realized that this wasn't necessarily so.

I introduced the idea (not explicitly) of the "vote and a half" - that it's my responsibility to give her the best counsel and judgment on a situation, and then it's her choice as to what happens. It's not like I turn into a brainless twit, just that once she has the information, she gets to decide. Concrete example: the car needs work. I take it to the shop, get the estimate, come up with a fix/don't fix decision, and make a recommendation. Her choices (after as much back-and-forth as she needs to feel comfortable, is to say "OK, go with your plan", or "I don't care, I hate the damn car, we're getting a new one." End of discussion.

I did say that I could think of a phrase we could use in pubic to say, "I'll do this, but there's a reason why I don't think it's what I think I should do" rather than disagree with her in public (we disagree, we seldom - though not never - argue), which is "Would this make you happy?" Indicating that I'm doing it just because she says so, not because I think it's a good idea. I really told her that I didn't explect to need to use it, though.

We talked over the idea of "routines" and decided that they probably would work for us. But, she noted, "stupid things like laying our my nightgown do nothing for me." "Dang," I said. "I saw you struggling with your nightgown and figured it would be convenient." "Nope," she said, "If it has kink value for you, then I don't care", to which I responded, "The only value it has for me is if it's convenient for you." Which just goes to show how important communication really is.

She said, "Sheesh, the only routine things I can think of for you to do are boring, like sorting the credit card receipts." I went "Perfect! It's not the thing, it's knowing that you need the thing done." I'm not sure she believed me but it sounds like she's willing see if I mean it.

We talked a lot about my making a list and her sorting it in to the "A" (That would be helpful), "B" (Doesn't do anything for her but possible gift for me) and "C" (Wouldn't be caught dead doing that) categories. I realize that we need another cateogry, "D", which is "Doesn't do anything for me *AND* doesn't make her life easier, so forget it." The nightgown goes in that category.) So that's my job today over lunch.

I commented that Ms. Rika's suggestion for what to do when this isn't working is key: "Don't touch my stuff, don't do any of this, it's not working and you made a commitment you're not fulfilling" is far more effective than any "rewards" system or punishment system. It means that this is about us and our relationship, not my trying to get rewards. The punishment piece I think stems from subs wanting to say "Are we still doing this, do you still care?" In the spirit of communications, I suggested that I just ask, "Are we still doing this, do you still care?" but that in the context of all the other communications - "Thank you for letting me serve you" and most important, a check in that says "Is this working? Have I been disappointing? Is this really making your life easier?" would be what I would need. In this regard, I think I/we differ a little from the approach Ms. Rika advocates, since if it's about communications, I need to be able communicate and ask. As I've mentioned other places, asking is really important to me. It's what's led me to be able to ask for this.

This is probably the most important yet most subtle and difficult part. Many years ago, when we were taking another run at this, after a long conversation not entirely different from this one, but far less informed by experience, and not informed by Ms. Rika's excelent advice, she asked, "How would today have been different if we had been doing this?" It's a question I've thought about a lot since then. And the answer is encapsulated in Ms. Rika's "Accepted from a position of dominance" suggestion. But she asked, "What does that mean for me (herself)?" I said I thought for us it was my ability to ask, "Are we doing this, is this working." OBviously not every five minutes to pester, but to get the sense of psychic satisfaction - to get that itch scratched - that is the point of the whole thing.

[As an aside to all this, I mentioned that I realized that that's what asking to take off the necklace for sexual satisfaction is all about. It's not like I want her to say "Yes" or "No", but that I want to have the conversation. Obviously, there have to be some "No"s, or asking is pointless. But it's more about the conversation than the specific answer.]

She pointed out that we need a way to ratchet this up and down if my previous history of being more or less interested in this over time proves to be consistent. I meant to say (but the converastion wandered) that I didn't think this would be so, just as how doing the necklace/sexual satisfacton thing has been very consistent. Doing something at a sustainable level eliminates these huge swings in interest.

So how did we leave it?

I'm going to make up the list.
She's going to sort it in to A's, B's, C's, (and D's)
Until we end up with a list of routines, her "requests" are what I do.

The impassioned vows part:

I am doing this not because all women are superior or because you're superior to me, but because I want to. I want to serve you, to make your life easier. I will work as hard as I can to get this right. I love you for who you are, and don't want you to change.

She said, "I'm doing this because I love you and I want you to be happy."

At least that's all I remember....

So this morning, I mentioned that I have a committee meeting this evening and she was a little exasperated. I'm really going to have to figure out how to get that right.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tantalizing and frustrating

I asked my beloved this afternoon whether we were going to have a chance to have a conversation about Ms. Rika's book today. She said, "Depending on how the rest of the day schedules out, but certainly not before dinner." I said, "I'm glad I asked. If we don't manage it today, I'd like to do it soon." And indeed, if we don't manage it today, I am going to try to schedule it with her for as soon as we can this week.

So one of the things I hate most in this world is gardening. But my beloved and I are clearly poking around service submission, without saying so in quite so many words. Although more words got said today.

She said that some gardening chores needed to be done, and I had a question to ask about them, so I asked her. As we were walking in, she said, "So, are you doing what you want to do, or rather, what you don't like doing?" - sort of joking as if wonder the right way to put it. I said, "If it's what you want done, then it's what I want to do."

A couple of minutes later, she said, "I think picking the book you did was the best possible choice. I really like the emphasis on 'fundamental relationship' and on communications. Of all the books out there, I can't imagine a better approach." I was thrilled. Then she said, "If we really do this, you're not going to have much time. We've structured our lives so that we do a lot of ourside activities: committees, boards, etc. Are you going to have time to do that? How's that going to work?" I started to answer, and she said, "I just want you to think about it for when we have this discussion."

So am I on cloud nine or what? I did do four more hours of gardening after that, and was happy, so as not to say aroused, the whole time.

But now it's late, there's kid homework to be done, and I somehow doubt our conversation will happen today.

This patience business is very hard. But I'm managing.

I don't know how long I can do the "service submission" thing without an arrangement in place - without the "Acceptance from a position of dominance," but I'm sure as heck trying.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Very Small Pleasures

My beloved got home from her event last night, laptop bag in hand. After the customary chit-chat, she was on the couch reading a magazine, and I realized that her bag was still in the hall. I just picked it up and was going to get her computer set up at the base station and upack the bag. As I was walking by with it, she said "Could you get that connected up for me?"

s's comment that one shouldn't necessarily read too much in these things is a good caution, but after 25 years together, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have said that a month ago. But I could be wrong.

I was thrilled. Poking around in the bag, I found three other things that needed to be put away and just went about doing that. Honestly, I was aroused the whole time, which I found a little surprising and embarassing, but quite satisfying as well. I did have to ask one question about where she wanted an item. I really try not to do that, because it screams out "Look at me, I'm doing this stuff and you have to tell me the details". But having been told once, I now know where she prefers it.

I've really been trying to find things that will just make her life easier; this morning she was talking about all the things that need to get done this weekend. I saw one that I could do and just casually said,

"I could do that while I'm doing this other thing. How many?"

"Five...," she said

"And what do I say when they ask what kind, and stuff?"

"I don't know, so just decide."


This could be very very satisfying.

There will be a conversation this weekend. I kind of wonder if she's "trying some of this out" before such a conversation, and I will very much have Ms. Rika's comment in mind about really having this be about what will work for her.

I perhaps depart from her counsel when I think there does need to be some conversation about why we're doing this and what I need from it; I don't think I'm a perfect enough "service submissive" (in her terms) to let the wind blow where it may on that. Maybe I haven't fully internalized this "D/s paradox contradiction" thing, but if it wasn't for what I need, we wouldn't be doing any of this. My beloved would be happier if she could just snap her fingers and have this go away. As, perhaps, would I.

But many many years of wrestling with it, in therapy and out, in deep spiritual practice and out, has convinced me that that's not going to happen - the only way out of this one is through. So we are doing this "for" me, and she's embarking on this because she loves me and wants me to be happy - something that only emerged explicitly in this context, when we talked about it. So I suspect she'll ask, and I'd better have an answer that's as close to the truth as I can determine.

And that answer is not, "I'll be happy if you do this to me" or "I'll be happy if I have to do that for you." That answer has a lot to do with the relationship between us, her expectations of me, my ability to fulfill those expectations, her acknowledgement of those expectations, and some way that those expectations are communicated back to me. At least thats as close as I can figure out right now.

But I am going to tread really softly on that, more softly than I would have without Ms. Rika's admonition. And always uppermost:

  • It's about me working for her
  • It's not about her being anyone other than who she is

Maybe along with "Softly, softly..." it's "In very small increments."

Right now, in standing routines, it's just

  • Coffee
  • Laying out her nightgown
  • Finding and plugging in her cell phone
  • Making sure the light is on on her side of the bed

Everything else is whatever I can figure out in the moment.

Perhaps in our conversation, we'll come up with some other things to add to this list.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Softly... Softly...

I don't remember the reference, but it's to how to proceed, and in this case, it's apt.

Ms. Rika's advice, though hard to hear, is by-and-large, on the mark.

My beloved arrived home last night, and in the hurly burly of life with kids, not a word by her or me about books or relationships. I did see the book appear on my side of the nightstand. And I enjoyed helping her out with her luggage.

We did a little snuggling in bed, very much in the way things go at night, when she decides how much intimacy she wants - in this case we were both (I think) too tired. So it was just pleasant. She's remarked that sometimes when she can't sleep, she wonders, "Will a little sex help me relax and sleep" and if so, she gets some. I love it, but as I said, I think last night, lassitude won out.

This morning in the hurly burly of getting kids (and husband) out the door she said, "Rub my shoulder right here; it hurts, I think I did something to it." So I did while all sorts of other conversations swirled around. Nothing unusual about that in our house, and I'd have asked her to do the same if the situation was reversed. Except that I swear she would have said "Could you please ..." in the past.

I would never never ask her for that kind of syntactic distinction; as I said, it drives her nuts (at least I think it does). But my little heart did go pitter-pat when she said it, and it was very fun.

We just had lunch, and at the end of a long pleasant w
alk about town, I said, "Can we set a time to talk about 'this, book and all?'" I said something about needing to know that it was going to happen, by which I meant the conversation, but she interpreted as moving ahead on some version of submission. I only realized this when I interpreted her response, which was "If it wasn't going to happen, I'd have told you by now." "Oh, I thought, you meant some arrangement." So I said, "I just need to know the conversation is going to happen some time, so if we can set a time, that would set my mind at ease." In the end, we didn't set a time, but I think the conversation is going to happen (though not tonight - she has one of her few "fun" night-out commitments (at least it's fun most of the time...))

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The suspense is killing me

Spoke briefly to my beloved last night though she's still out of town. In the midst of all the quotidian conversation, she say "I read your book." I can't say as how she sounded two enthusiastic about it.

I said, "I'm thinking we should just talk about it section by section to see what seems relevant." She agreed that that seemed like a good idea. I also mentioned that I think I'm more excited about having the conversation than about the subject of the book itself - it's like not having to drag this enormous weight around anymore.

For the past three days, I've been on tenterhooks trying to figure out what it is I want. I know I've blogged about this in the past, but it is surprisingly difficult to figure out.

Starting from what's in Ms. Rika's book:

- I do want to serve her. From our conversation some time ago, each of those little service things says "I love you" and that's the message I want to send, over and over again during the day. Who'da thunk that after more than 20 years of married life, it would still be important, but it is to me.

- I need her to acknowledge that service. This is one of the key insights from Ms. Rika's book that I had never been able to put in so succinct a form.

So far, there's nothing "power exchange-y" or "wife-led marriage-y" about that arrangment. So what I'm trying to do is define for us, for me, what is the additional element that makes this work, that gives this zing, that makes it scratch that submissive itch. I don't have Ms. Rika's book with me now, so I can't comb through it looking for her take on that, but it strikes me as a key point. Here's what I think:

Her acknowledgment of that service has to go beyond "Gee, thanks for doing that, honey." To be candid, Ms. Rika does point that out that the woman can acknowledge service without thanking explicitly, thus reinforcing the "power exchange" portion of the relationship. For example, "The kitchen looks clean" rather than "Thanks for doing the dishes", which elicits from the man, "Thanks for letting me do that" (I'd add, "I love you" just to make it explicit) rather than "Your welcome."

I love that kind of discipline in speech, even though it's hard; as I said, I'm still working on "May I .... " rather than "Would you like me to..." but I am working on it. But I think it would drive my beloved crazy (maybe I'm wrong).

I have a hard time getting away from desiring that there be a lack of choice on my part in doing these things - not a coercion based on sexual denial or rewards, but an acknowledgment that I *have* to do these things based on the agreement we have made. So what is that (right now, hypothetical) agreement?

A long long time ago, I had some chores to do (in a D/s context, when we were taking another run at this). I defined it as there being a "barrier to intimacy" until those chores were done. I think that's close to the mark, but doesn't work if the context of the service is "all the time." But there's something in that.

I honestly don't know what the answer is here, and while part of me wants to say "Let it emerge from the discussion", another part says "She's going to ask, 'what do you need, what works for you?', since if it was up to her, we wouldn't be doing this at all." And then I need an answer at least to start a discussion.

Here are two possibilities, neither perfect:

1) Whenever I do something that I wouldn't otherwise have done, I have the opportunity to find my beloved and thank her for the opportunity to serve. Scratches my itch, doesn't require initiative from her (though a nice response would be nice), and if I don't overdo it, shouldn't be overly annoying.

2) A nightly check in. Assuming she wouldn't come to dread this, it would foster communication, which is key for me. And it would give me an opportunity to assess how I was doing service-wise, and her an opportunity to provide feedback.

My final dread is that she'll say, "I've been doing all this crap for years, and now you want to do it and get credit for it?" This is a little unrealistic, since we share a lot of work now - our basic egalitarian approach to life is one of the barriers for her in thinking about this whole arrangement. So this doesn't apply to dishes (which I do anyway), but to things she's been doing that she doesn't particularly like, like laundry and some aspects of our home business.

My fantasies have a habit of getting away from me, but I can think of one that addresses this issue. That would be for me to have to ask explicitly for "down time" (perhaps not more than once an hour or twice an evening, or once an evening). If she says "No" for whatever reason, I'm supposed to be on task working for her.

Enough food for thought. I think I've broken my "What do you want" log jam enough to have a conversation, which I dearly hope will happen tonight.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Inch by Inch, Step by Step, Nearer and Nearer...

So as my beloved is packing for her business trip this week, she asked, "Are you going to make me a cup of coffee tomorrow morning so I can leave at 5:30?" To which I replied, "I'd love to..." I was, in fact, thrilled.

As you might have gathered from the "tidbits" below, I've already started doing some of the things that I think would be a part of service oriented submission, and we have talked about some of them. Significantly though, we haven't discussed the acknowledgment of why I'm doing this and why she's accepting it, a thing that Ms. Rika points out is vital to do.

A little later, with some trepidation, I asked, "So, are you going to bring that book with you?" To which she replied, "I've already started to read it" and proceeded to finish it.

I'm *really* looking forward to this discussion when she gets home.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Enough with the long posts - I keep the stuff rolling around in my head until it turns in to a huge manifesto - not useful. So, a new resolve to post when the though occurs, and these tidbits:

  • My beloved was out gardening, her favorite thing. I thought I might score the treat of washing her feet when she came in for a shower, but she came in an "crashed" instead. I read on the couch beside her until I realized I wanted to go for a run. I told her I'd love to take a shower with her when I got back. When I got back I feared she had taken a shower without me, which would certainly have been her prerogative, but would have implicitly said she had denied me my treat. But she hadn't; she'd returned to gardening and now we're off to shower.

  • Some days ago we were busy doing stuff in the evenings when one of our kids turned on a movie. Rather than continuing to work (as is her wont), she said, "You know, I don't have to work all the time. I'm going to watch the movie." I said "Keep that thought!" But it is indicative of her attitude towards always being useful doing stuff, which I fear will make this "service submission" idea difficult.

  • I'm really trying to phrase things as "Can I do X" rather than "Would you like me to do X". I believe that words are important and phrasing it as what I would like to do makes it clear for whom we're doing this, and removes the onus from her of having to, even implicitly, ask me to do something.

  • I'm also trying to thank her for letting me do stuff. I just got to wash her back, her feet, and shave her legs. Do I feel lucky or what? "Thanks" and "I love you" were my two responses.

  • I'm getting better at taking the "Could you...." or "If you remember, you could ..." suggestions as mandates. Knowing my beloved as I do, she's never going to be the "Get me a cup of tea now" type person. So it's important to listen to what she wants in the way that she is comfortable saying it.

Stuck at the brink.

So here it is Sunday again - how time flies. Why has nothing happened? Well, a little has - I finished Uniquely Rika, and passed it along to my beloved. She suggested that summary of each chapter might be a bit much since we're going to talk about it anyway. So I just commented that the first half seemed to have much more immediate relevance to us than the second half, and passed the book along to her side of the bed. She mentioned that she had read the introduction. I said that while I wasn't at a place where I wanted to follow each of Ms. Rika's prescriptions as if they were canon, I thought there was a great deal in there to talk about.

One thing led to another - her parents came to visit unexpectedly this weekend, and we haven't had a chance to talk at all.

Also, we did have rather mind-blowing sex on Wednesday, which always lowers my motivation to talk about this stuff. While I'm not going to turn this in to a sex blog, I only get release about 1/3 or 1/2 of the time when we are intimate, as was the case last weekend. And I only can stand not getting release for two or three days after that, until I ask her if I may satisfy myself - to which she pretty much always say yes, somewhat to my disappointment. (When I thanked her for this arrangement some weeks ago and told her I loved her, her reply was "I don't seem to love you so much that I'll say 'No', which is what you want." I reassured her that whatever her choice was would be perfect, and I'm really working towards that.)

This whole dynamic is not 100% successful, but it works pretty well for us. So, having satisfied myself in the morning, I was a little surprised when she initiated intimacy in the evening, and a little more so when she asked me for PIV intercourse. But like I said, it was excellently draining and intimate.

That all notwithstanding, there's been a deeper question bothering me: A long time ago when my beloved and I were taking another run at this same issue, she asked (at the end of a long car ride), "What would be different today if you had been my slave?" (the terms we were using at the time). I was at a loss.

Ms. Rika points out that what is important for the submissive is the intent of dominance from which the dominant accepts service. So just "doing stuff" is not enough for there to be submission, nor would be my beloved's allowing me to "do stuff" for here be sufficient. She needs to accept the stuff that I do from a position of dominance. Now, if I understood Ms. Rika correctly, this isn't a quid-pro-quo, but the establishment of the relationship: I'm doing these things for you because I want to/must; you acknowledge that I'm doing these things for you because we've established that this is the way we want our relationship to work: I do stuff for you, you accept and acknowledge the stuff that I do.

So back when my beloved asked me, "What would have been different today...", I think I now realize that the answer is the understanding and her intent. I do go out of my way every day to make her coffee, plug in her cell phone, lay our her nightgown, and turn on her bedside light - the only things we've identified that work for her.

I do need her to acknowledge every day that I do these things for her. A month or two ago, after a discussion about our arrangement with the necklace and my sexual satisfaction, I suggested that I have the opportunity to mention to her each day how much this arrangement means to me, the "I'm happiest when she controls my sexual release," and that she allow me to thank her for that. Somehow, we never got the words right, but I do believe that what's most important to me about this is the interaction with her, an the acknowledgment that there are things I do for her, and that she's "in charge" in some way.

As I wrote at the end of Standing at the Brink, a ritual that allows me to know this without being burdensome for her would be perfect. I don't know if this "arriving home" one is it, but I hope there is something we can work out.

What I need to be able to tell her is that I like sitting at her feet when we watch a movie or are sitting around. And I need to find out which of these things are not obtrusive or oppressive for her.

So where are we now? Stuck at the brink. Waiting for her to read "Uniquely Rika" (which I'll ask her to do again today), and for us to have a conversation about it, and to find what works for us.

My fear: that she'll say "I hate this stuff and I just can't do it."

My other fear: That I'm looking for something that I'll never find, and that this is just a vain attempt to scratch an itch which can't be scratched this way.

But I don't think there's anyway to confront or resolve those fears without just trying this, with the awareness of those things.