Thursday, July 31, 2008

Work and Play

There seem to be two kinds of activities in our arrangement: things that my beloved has been doing that make our household run, and things that I can do for her. I've mentioned this before, I know. But now that we've been living with our arrangement for a while, I want to reflect just a little on them.

Prominent among these reflections is wondering what in fact the distinction is between a hen-pecked husband and service-oriented wife-led marriage. Distressingly little, it seems to me. As far as I can tell, the sine-qua-non that distinguishes them is the woman's acknowledgment of the arrangement and her communication of that to her husband. I'm sure these two sides of the balance have been juxtaposed before, but I don't recall having seen that in a post.

To be clear: Unless she explicitly agrees "Yes, we're doing this," and unless the couple together comes up with ways of communicating to the husband, "You're doing this because we're in a wife-led marriage", then I don't think one can distinguish a WLM from a hen-pecked husband.

Wow - I'm not prone to absolute statements, and I certainly wouldn't defend that one to the death, but without those two things, it's hard for me to imagine how this could work in the long term.

So the fact that I'm paying bills at 11:00 at night, when I'd rather be reading or sleeping is work. Doing the laundry at 7:00 in the morning is work. Both become play when/if/were-she-to acknowledge that that's why I'm doing it.

Frankly, I can't make any useful progress on the question of why I shouldn't just be doing these things regardless, just to be a considerate spouse. I can see no logical reason why I should get "service" credit for doing these things, when they just need to be done. To her credit, when I mentioned this yesterday during our evening check-in (me kneeling by the bed before being given permission to enter - favorite moment of my day - how pathetic is that?) my beloved said, "You're doing this so I don't have to, and that counts for me." I guess I'll take that.

How will I know that we've "gotten there?" - to a WLM? OK, I acknowledge that it's all about process. VeezKnight said it better than I could, over on She Makes The Rules (though the link to the posting won't come up unless you have an account - get one, it's worth it). But I'll know that we're walking down this road when my beloved says to me, "Why didn't you ..." during one of our nightly check-ins. Or "You need to ..." about something I haven't gotten to. Basically, when the expectation is there, and there's a consequence for not meeting the expectation.

And frankly, we're getting there. Sunday night, I was exhausted and I thought I had covered all the bases when a voice rang out from the bathroom: "Hey, where's my vitamin?" Oops. I'm supposed to do that. But she bought my silver-tongued excuse about being tired.

And then we were on the phone while she was out of town; I was eating dinner. Sometimes our conversations are good and sometimes they're strained. Strained, in this case. Which she finished off by something like "I don't want to be listening to you chew, goodbye." It was kind of peevish and I was a little ticked off. Next morning she called to apologize (that was nice), and said "If you're asking me to be capricious, you're probably going to get some 'mean' as well." Could have knocked me over with a feather: She was thinking about this. First time I can remember that happening (which is maybe why I need to blog more often).

I said that was totally OK, and reiterated it last night at our nightly check-in: distinguishing "mean" from "capricious" and learning how to do what she's comfortable with is going to be a task for her; she's always been the "please others" sort. I told her I was happy to be part of that process and if it seriously wasn't working over the long term, we'd talk about it. I hope (and think) she took that to heart.

The challenge for me: last night I said I was coming to bed, and she said she'd be in shortly. But she got involved in a movie. I wasn't going to bug her by going back and saying "What about me, I'm exhausted." Inspired, perhaps, by Her Knight, I thought to myself, "This is what you wanted. She's doing what she wants to do and you're waiting for her convenience." So I sat on the floor beside the bed and dozed for a half hour until she came to bed. And thanked her for doing so. She seemed a little ambiguous over whether she decided watching the whole rest of the movie would have brought her to bed too late, or whether she was concerned about me. But I think that means she thought about it and decided that I could wait. If that's true, that's wonderful.

So what do I need? Isn't that that constant refrain of the submissive husband trying to seduce his wife into a WLM? Acknowledgment and communication. And, as I read this, we do seem to be getting there.

It's all about the journey. Right.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What's Possible?

I love AAT's blog SheIsInCharge for its unstinting look at the successes and challenges of bring and FLR into an existing marriage. In "Despite much advice and discussion", he talks about the frustrations of feeling half-way to an FLR - much satisfying activity in the bedroom and occasional expressions of FLR outside the bedroom, but nothing consistent enough to feel satisfying to him.

I'm afraid I left him a rather flip comment about his ambiguity as to what is enough, but thought that he deserved a fuller comment.

Over at subservire - Diary of a Female-Led Husband, subservire has given up on an FLR. While the whole story isn't relevant here, his valedictory post (with comments, here) is worth a read.

And now I find that I'm in an ambiguous place with the FLR my beloved and I are exploring. I think there are common themes from all three of these things. I hope I can find them.

Regarding AAT's sense that whatever is happening is not enough, I think that we who are pursuing FLRs are doing so for some reason - a reason that isn't, I think, directly related to the FLR itself. The way I characterize it is that we're trying to scratch some itch. The "Female superiority" crowd deals with this by asserting that there's an objective reality that says that women are superior to men, so FLRs would be the natural order of things - it has nothing to do with they themselves. Maybe that works for them, it doesn't work for me, so I can't go there.

For me, we're trying to build relationships that work. I need to serve my beloved for a number of reasons, some of which I understand and some of which I don't. But honestly, it's about how I feel. Total contrary to the "ideology" of the FLR but true. If it were all about how my beloved felt, we wouldn't be doing this at all.

So what makes me feel better? Her allowing me to serve her. Her telling me what to do. Her wanting me to be lusting after her.

How does she know that these things make me feel better? If I don't tell her, there's no way. But if doing these things is offensive to her, then we have a problem. If doing these things is a chore for her, then, as someone who wants me to be happy, she'll indulge in them for me. But the addiction metaphor AAT uses in his post is apt: I'll want more and more of that drug until I drive her away. Not a good plan.

Only by finding things that work for her and work for me do we get to a place where our FLR is viable.

We're not there yet.

As Subservire puts it,
Forget the advice of the female supremacists who espouse that the way to a successful female led marriage is to give yourself to the Domme totally with no regard to your own wishes. It simply doesn’t work that way.

Most submissive men have a sexual desire to be submissive. Unless that sexual desire – or need - is met, very few men are happy to simply cook, clean and concede for their wives or partners.

Again, it's the mutuality that is missing.

He's pretty pessimistic about this working out for him. I've read his post over and over again trying to pick out the relevant threads of the argument, and I think it comes down to four (very good, IMHO) points:
  • Most male submissive's submissiveness revolves around their sexuality
  • Most males aren't "service submissives" where the serving itself is the end
  • Most women are happy to have "their guy" do more around the house and dote on them in some ways
  • Most women aren't (and don't want to be) sexually dominant in the way most submissive men fantasize about
Regarding this list point, "P" (the dominant wife of describes a woman's approach to a d/s relationship as very different from a man's:
a D/S relationship is often far out of the context of how you might normally think of approaching and evolving within a relationship. I think women inherently come to the relationship table with needs and perspectives which are very different from their male counter parts; namely that they want an over the top romantic version of reality, a manly man to take care of them (in all senses of the word), to be adored, cherished for all time, the list goes on and on....

Dunno. This isn't hanging together as well as I had hoped it would. But I thought subservire's comments were distressingly relevant.

More later on Work and Play.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Unexpected Chords

Every once in a while, a post from someone whose life and relationship is quite unlike mind nonetheless strikes a chord. That's why, by P and her submissive husband M, and why have links from my sidebar.

And it was M who wrote about punishment in Punishment Resumed that struck and unexpected chord. I should mention that the whole conversation with my beloved in my previous post took place before I had read M's post. His relationship to punishment bears no relationship to my desires, and indeed, my beloved and I have raised two spectacular kids (OK, we're biased...) who didn't know the meaning of the word punishment until they heard it in school. There were consequences and expectations, but punitive punishment was just never something we needed to have. YMMV.

So when my beloved mentioned the word "consequences" in connection with our assessment of what happened yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised.

And late the evening, when I thought about what would motivate me to to serve her, I realized that the kind of consequences we had talked about would in fact serve some purpose - to provide that extra "kick" when things get tough.

So I do find some commonality with M's thoughts on this after all.

This is what life looks like...

Much water over the dam since my last post, including a week at a family retreat center we've been going to for years, and now some time at an extended-family vacation. So I'm not going to try to maintain narrative continuity, but thought I'd write up the random thoughts that occur to me.

The one I'm craziest about is that this woman loves me to a fault, I think. This morning in bed we were chatting and I appreciated the fact that she's doing this even though it means something so much different to her than to me. She talked about how it is important to her that I be happy and that if we can find a way to do that that works for her, why not?

At another point over the last several days, she said, "I'm not making this easy for you, am I?" And she meant it in the best possible way: challenging me to do the things I said I'd do, without nagging me to do them. Nagging me would be totally contrary to the point. But the absence does does make it harder. A total absence of feedback would make it impossible. But more on that in a minute.

Yesterday was a day in which I did nothing and things fell apart. That was the impetus for our conversation this morning. I guess I needed to feel tired and depressed. At the end of our day, she tell asleep and immediately went to bed. I followed sometime later, but she was asleep - no opportunity for our nightly ritual where I kneel naked by the bed and we discuss how our arrangement is going.

That nightly ritual is the soul of what's making this work: feedback for me in a form that is not coercive and is comfortable for her. Only on this night I just fell in to bed. So it was the following morning - this morning - that we talked about how things were working.

She said that I had looked tired and needed to kick back. I said that the whole point of doing this is to do it at the hard moments, and that I felt I had failed rather totally yesterday. I wasn't overwrought about the not-checking-in part because life happens, and our arrangement needs to be flexible enough to deal with that. What I was over-wrought about (a little) was the fact that there was no overt sign from her that my slacking off made any difference to her.

We talked a little about what's important to each of us in why we do this - to me service and submission and surrender (gee, the three S'es). And to her helping me be happy. And being willing to pursue whether any of this could be interesting and useful for her. As she acknowledges that it could be, and to some extent is now. [Drat - there was something more too it, but I can't remember it exactly - I was after all 1/2 asleep]

In the end, I realized that the most effective way to deal with a day like that - in my minde, was to pick up on what Ms. Rika said in her book: losing the ability to serve her and losing her affection. I would hate that - not being able to serve her for a day, and not being able to be close to her for a day - to approach her for the little moments of affection throughout the day. Then I hesitated with something that was very fetishy but I guess I'm in the place where if I can't ask, I won't get. So I mentioned that sleeping on the floor beside her bed would be exciting for about 10 minutes, then a total hassle.

Much to my surprise, she didn't dismiss this out of hand, but net said, "Let's see how today goes."

And it has been a much better day. Mostly little things. Some weeks ago I had the opportunity to shave her armpits - what a hassle to do yourself, it was one of the most fulfilling things I've done. She was surprised, but allowed me to do so again today. And there were a handful of little things during the day. An amusing one (to me): she saw me eating something for lunch and said, "I'll have one of those" and got up to get it. DUH. I offered to get it for her. The little lightbulb went on and she said, OK.

On the other hand, earlier in the day, as I'd been making lunch, she said, "I'll have one of those" so I gave her one of me plate. That worked.

Overall it was a good day. A good day is one where I get to serve her. I like that.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Little Reassessment

If we're doing this and it's what I want, how come I'm not happier?

Let's deconstruct that statement....

Are we doing this?

Is it what I want?

Am I happy?

Are we doing this? More deconstruction are we doing this? Pretty much, sorta. The comma is important. The major parameters are in place: I've committed to picking up much more of the work around the house, and I have been. There are a tiny, countable number of things that I can do for my beloved (as opposed to for the general running of the household), which are the thins I find most satisfying.

Is the "she" part of "we" doing this? Well, she's not not doing it - that is, she's willing to put up with me doing it, and she knows it's happening. I'm trying to be very conscious of those "We could do ..." or "We should ..." household-type things, and make sure they happen. She's not making it easy, being very subtle and non-directive about these things, but I'm trying.

We've done three evening check-ins, with me kneeling beside her after she gets in to bed, this being the gating item that has to happen before I can get in to bed. We have some logistical details to work out about that, but right now that part is working well enough.

The check-ins themselves are terrific, both in the satisfaction-for-me sense, and in the working-on-getting-this-right sense. I get to thank her for doing this, in a heartfelt and true way. I get to talk about what I've done for her, and we end up sharing our reactions about how this is feeling for both of us. If we're going to figure out if this can work for us, we're going to have to do that, so the fact that we're doing it every night is really constructive.

[Aside - 15 or so years ago when we tried something similar, the high point was a weekly ritual we did assessing how we were doing. Helped make that unsucessful attempt at least in to a positive learning experience rather than a resentful dud.]

The down-side of this is that I perceive of her body language and facial expression last night and to a lesser extent the night before, as being moderately put-out by the whole exercise. Sometimes I read her spectacularly wrongly, so I guess I have to ask about it tonight. Which is the great part about having these checkins.

I also said last night how much more I prefer doing stuff for her rather than stuff for the household (though I gladly do both). But in her way, she turned it around and said "That makes me feel like an uncreative lump since I have nothing that I want you to do for me." I actually think we both have issues there that we'll have to work on.

My fantasy is that we're in the "First we try, and then we trust" phase (to steal a quote from one of our favorite movies...), and that some time she'll start requesting/expecting more. But that could just be a fantasy.

She is concerned that I not take on more than is realistic. And, having paid a couple of bills last night (supposed to be my responsibility), she expressed some disappointment at my not having done it. It was clearly an effort for her, and I didn't say the right thing (dammit!) - which would have been "I'll try to be on top of that in the future," but rather something mealy-mouthed about how I wasn't sure how those worked. Oh well, learning experience for both of us, I guess.

Is it what I want?

I think so. Or rather, nothing in the experience so far makes me think it's not. I know I was hoping that it would decrease the distance between us that has grown up in 15 years of raising kids and being civicly active and having two lives. I'm not sure it's done that, or what the prospects are that it will, but there's nothing to indicate that it won't. Certainly it has at certain moments.

Do I regret the loss of control or autonomy? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Actually, that part seems like a mindfulness exercise in letting go of petty ego and trying to focus on what's really important. (Which is what I failed at doing when I responded to her comment on the bills - more room for improvement [grin]).

Am I happy?

Sometimes. I exercised my right to ask for permission to relieve myself sexually last night, and after an intimate several moments of consideration, she said "Yes." I realized that what I cherished was that intimacy, not the act it self. Which I didn't pass up anyway, but it was the first time I contemplated what I really wanted there.

I honestly also realized that for a number of reasons I've been reading way to much of this FLR blog/discusson board stuff during the workday. I think I've pretty much gone cold-turkey on that (except for posting during my lunch hour), and that feels good. Hard. Don't know whether I'll succeed over the long term (though being on vacation for a couple of weeks starting tomorrow should help - no blog updates then either, by the way). The web reading part has many of the hallmarks of addiction, which I don't like.

Hmmm... I was feeling pretty negative when I started this post, but reflecting on all this stuff, by now I'm feeling rather more positive. I'm still concerned that this is all just a vexatious hassle for my beloved. And I'm seriously considering letting her know about this blog, frankly so that I can let her know about If she chose to read it and engage with some of the women there, at least I think it might be helpful for her. But none of that till after vacation.