Monday, September 29, 2008

She is wonderful, my beloved

She is wonderful, my beloved.

Monday, after I wrote the preceding post, it was bed time.

I went up and we did our normal thing, with me kneeling beside the bed waiting for her to find a convenient moment to talk. Truth be told, I don't remember what we talked about - a hazard of writing these posts some time after the fact. But I'm pretty sure I said that a day in which things conspired so that I didn't get to say "As you wish" or "My pleasure" more than once or twice wasn't a great day in my book. Not complaining, just communicating as we try to figure out what will work in our lives.

Much to my surprise, she invited me to pleasure her sexually (which is the best way to describe it - much fore-play and manual stimulation for her, her orgasm, and her decision as to whether she wants me in her or not, which she does based on whether it would enhance her pleasure at the moment. In the event, it was late and she turned off the light. I thanked her for the fore-play and the whole event, which I very much do enjoy, and we went to sleep. I, a very happy camper. And from the sounds of things, my beloved a happy camper as well.

My beloved is wonderful to me.

What Would Be Different If...

I think somewhere back in this blog, I mentioned an insightful question my beloved asked me many years ago when we were poking around the issues of my submission. She asked, "How would today have been different if you had been my slave" (the terminology we were using at the time. I was stymied for an answer.

Today was one of those days. So far, today, it's hard for me to say what would have been different. One little interaction on IM, which I closed with an "As you wish" instead of "Sure, be right there." A little interaction over dinner as to who was eating what. And perhaps just a moment ago when I offered her a taste of what I had been cooking and she ate almost all of it. That latter being perhaps the only sign from her.

Yes, I did a couple of things I might otherwise not have done - laundry, chores - but nothing that a considerate spouse shouldn't have done, though he mightn't have.

Another vivid dream last night, which I've put off writing about long enough that I don't remember it clearly. My ex-sister-in-law, who is gay, mentioned something about "those of use who are secure in our sexuality" and looked pointedly at me and said, "and I'm including you in that group..." and we had a positive discussion (in the dream), which I don't remember. But the affect of the whole thing was very positive, which for me is a really important way I assess dreams.

Last night due to kid homework, we got to bed very late, so she just patted my side of the bed and said, "It's late, why don't you come to bed." It is her prerogative not to be in to this on any given evening. But I woke in the morning jonesing for something submissive. So by no choice of our own, it's not my prerogative not to want it - I'm stuck with it. Nothing to be done for that, though.

Busy week to come, we'll see how it evolves.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Foundations

Last night I had a dream I think - hope - choose to believe - is worth remembering.

The first term paper I ever wrote, in 6th grade, was about a large 18th century building in the town where I grew up. Last night I dreamt that I was walking around the site of that building, and it had been excavated all the way down to the foundation - practically disassembled, in fact. And down below the building they had discovered and unearthed a series of brick barrel vaults that were holding up the whole building.

The challenge was to preserve the here-to-for unknown foundational structure of the building while rebuilding for the future. [There were other elements of the dream, but they are now muddled in that dream sort of way. Perhaps they'll become clearer and relevant...]

I chose to see this as metaphor for my relationship to my beloved. Last night as we were driving home from my sister-in-law's house, I realized that this whole venture is going to me much more challenging than I thought. I'm used to picking things up and being fairly good at them - doing "things" is not that much of a challenge for me.

But re-imagining my own state of mind, and learning how to "live" a submissive relationship, rather than fantasizing about one, is a challenge. Even in the face of practical and non-fantasy advice like that in Ms. Rika's book and at the She Makes The Rules web site.

Those of us who read blogs (like this one, and like the ones I read) may be doing ourselves a disservice. It's so easy to read about someone else's relationship and think, "That's what I want" or "My relationship would be perfect if it just included that thing that they did." But the only relationship I can live is the relationship with my beloved. That relationship can be informed by what I read, can be improved by what i read, and to the extent that I read examples of behavior that don't work out, I can view them as cautionary tales, and to the extent that I read examples of things I think could work, I may be spared some trial and error. But the interior emotional reality must be my reality, constructed jointly by me and my beloved, not the emotional realty of what I read and what I fantasize.

Which is why I suspect I will ask my beloved to read this blog - if the "inputs" are the same, there is more likelyhood that our realities will converge, and that will work well for both of us.

Walking around this morning, I realized how deeply this affects my daily and minute-by-minute existance.

Honestly, I don't know if I'm asking my beloved for this dyanmic to have that much importance in her life. There is no doubt in my mind that I would like it to. But I'm not going to ask her to change, nor to restructure her world any more than necessary (and for better or for worse, some restructuing is necessary, as I mentioned in my last post - I'm not the person she's spent the last 25 years living with).

But I realized how deeply - to the foundations - this change affects me when I was on my buisness trip last month. Looking out the window as we were landing, I realized that I didn't have the breathless sense of anticipation that I've come to expect over the last 35 years of traveling. Traveling for me has always had the implicit promise that in a new city, in a new country, on a new continent, I would magically find who I am, find a place to fit in. I can't tell you how many night's I've walked the streets of how many cities looking for that last puzzle piece to fit in my emotional make-up. And, of course, never found it.

Landing this time, I realized that I've found it. Or I've found a real way to work on it, doing this relationship work with my beloved. And my attitude towards my trip was completely different: I'd rather be home (and in fact, I postponed this trip once for that very reason). And as a result, I think I worked harder and was more productive on this trip than I've been in many years.

I shared this with my beloved and she's referred to it several times since. And also reminded me that many years ago, I told her that I liked walking the streets of cities I was working in, looking at all the people, wondering what their lives were like, wishing I could be them. And that I don't feel I need to do that anymore. I think that touched her.

Service Recently

Since our conversation, I've tried to be particularly attentive to her oblique requests and suggestions. Tiny things, like "what would it take to do that bathroom project" (that has been sitting around for six months). Being mindful of "As you wish" and "My pleasure." Those are still hard and I'm far from perfect at them.

There have been a couple of fun things recently. I was crashing on a project at work and needed her to do something on my home computer in order to finish it. She hates my home computer password and IM'ed back: "Please change your password to something I can remember." "As you wish..." "Like xxxx" "As you wish..."

So now every time I sign on to my computer, I get to type the password she assigned me. For those of us in need of reenforcement, that's very satisfying.

There have been other opportunities to serve as well. Yesterday was pretty much all projects she had in mind, including an early wake-up to get kids to where they were going, laundry, a long-deferred home improvement project, and, late in the day, an "I'm going to run an errand. Come with me." That was satisfying.

Along the way in there I asked her to remove the gold chain I wear so I could relieve some sexual tension myself, and she told me when she wanted it back on. Later, she changed her mind and told me she wanted to replace the chain far earlier than she had originally said. I commented on this to make sure I hadn't misunderstood originally, and she said, "I know, I changed my mind." That was encouraging.

Earlier on in the week she allowed me to give her a foot rub after we had our bed-time talk. That was really fun, especially as she was relaxing in to sleep as I did so, and I was pretty tired. Following up on one other blogger's experience (AAT?), I took the liberty of planting one kiss on each foot when she told me I could "wrap up."

I also suggested removing her rather elderly toenail polish one morning this week, which she allowed me to do. Great fun there.

So overall, on a day to day basis, I guess things are encouraging. I'm certainly still trying to achieve a balance between what I need in terms of reenforcement. And I'm still searching for a little more feedback from my beloved as to what works for her.

It's also interesting to understand what I give up in this arrangement - the little things perhaps more interesting than the big things. I special-ordered a video from our local video store this week. I didn't ask my beloved about this, and so have never had time to watch the video. It's not that she said, "No", it's that there have been too many other things for me to do for her. If we had planned this together, it would have been something she wanted to do, or we wouldn't have done it. And we/she would have made time for us to see it together. But since it was my project, it just didn't happen.

Frankly, right now, I probably could have said, "I'd like to watch this movie" and she would have said, "Fine." Which I would find discouraging. So, on the "Never ask a question you don't want to know the answer to", theory, I just didn't ask.

What We Really Meant?

Every night, I kneel at my beloved's bedside, after she's gotten comfortable, and wait for her to get to a point where she wants to talk about how my service has been that day, and how my submission to her is working, and to a lesser extent, how she is feeling about it.

It as during one of these discussions - which often happen too late at night to be truely useful, but are way way better than not having them - that she mentioned that she was "just renting" and, a subsequent night, asked me how long I preferred to kneel there to compose my thoughts (as I indicated to her would be useful at one point). Which totally "broke" it for me.

The following night, I just asked her if I could get in to bed, and did. I mentioned that I thought we needed to talk about what that whole ritual means.

Much to my surprise, several (two? three?) times in the following days, she asked when we were going to talk about it. And with our busy family life, the moment didn't come until unexpectedly on Monday night, both of our kids were at activities and we were facing eachother of ther dinner table.

We talked.

Here it is Sunday, and I'm just getting around to writing that down, which means I've forgotten most of what we said.
  • How having that conversation be about "how was your day?" does not work for me; that's not what it's about
  • How I can't remember how we got to this ritual, but if it doesn't mean anything to her, then it doesn't mean anything to me
  • About how it's not how long it takes for me to reflect and get centered, it's about when she wants to have the conversation.
  • About my fantasy that some day she'll just decide I should sleep on the floor - not acknowledging me or not inviting me to bed
  • About how, on the day that I asked her if I could go upstairs and she said yes, but then didn't come up for a long time, I got a pillow and blanket and went to sleep, or dozed, waiting for her. And she felt that this was a rebuke, I said quite the opposite: it was an acknowledgement that I would do what I needed to do, and she can come to bed on whatever schedule works for her - she needn't worry about me.
  • About how asking me "what have you done for me today" as part of the nightly formula is difficult for her. I asked her if that could be her "growing edge" since, (thought I didn't put it this way), I'd like to encourage her sense of entitlement to my service. Which doesn't me she can't appreciate it. In fact, not appreciating it now, or not expressing that appreciation, is one of the problems - one of the things that makes me feel ignored or like I'm doing this as a "one person fantasy" in which she's a passive but acknowleged and acquiescing actor.
  • I appreciated her strong statement that this is not just my fantasy and she is just a prop in it. She strongly said that to do so would be intellectually and emotionally dishonest of her - another shining example of her incorruptible integrity, which in this case forces her to engage in this pursuit with me, even though it's not her preference.
  • I acknowledged that I erred in suggesting that I prefer a certain amount of time to compose myself, and we became explicit (I hope) that it's about when she's ready to talk, not when I've completed some process.
  • How much I like the aspect of this ritual and the "coming home" ritual (which only works out about once a week, but that's OK), where the conversation has 100% of my attention until she decides she's done - similar to "Whipped into Shape"s solitary post.
  • How I really don't intend to "not do things" so that she can complain, but that in reality, it would dishonest of me to claim that this would never happen. And perhaps we need a better way of communicating when I feel I need feedback - I called it the "I need a cookie" moment after the Seasame Street bit, and the web browser's use of cookies.
  • About how this is so similar to many aspects of spiritual paths. It requires surrender on my part: surrendering the fantasy I had, surrendering the wilfulness that says "I want to do this now" (but still have some fantasy relationship), surrendering joyfully to her.
  • Mindfulness is another spiritual practice I'm bad at. Really saying "As you wish" when I'm doing things because she asked or suggested. And saying "My pleasure" rather than you're welcome when she thanks me for what I've done - as she does. Both of those she said were useful to her because they give her a sense of where my head's at.
  • About how much I appreciate being made to do the hard things - how fulfilling it is to be dead tired after our talk and have her say, "You can rub my feet now" - which I'll do until she says stop.

Net net - we agreed to continue trying this. I say that rather than "try this again" because it is a continuous process; we'll get it righter and less right as time goes on. But as long as she's egaged in it with me, we are doing to together and it is our process.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Just Renting

So the veil has dropped. Last night as we were talking, I asked my beloved if she was at all invested in this arrangement of ours. This came up because I don't feel like I have enough discipline to do this well without some input from her, and I don't feel like I'm getting that input.

Her reply was that she wasn't interested in doing this if it was just another way for me to feel bad about myself, which I very much appreciated. And reiterated the theme - I think a good one - that there has to be a way to provide feedback and interaction around this that does not just involved "you didn't do this well enough."

That's what I think I like so much about HerKnight's blog - his Princess clearly is in to it, and is not just satisfied to passively receive service.

If it was just about "service," then I wouldn't need any relationship involved in this. There's something about the structure of the thing that I find very satisfying. Long ago, my beloved mentioned, "You should have been in the Army or something" in response to this need for structured relationships - a comment she says she doesn't recall. And an ironic one give my problems with authority - simultaneously another story and one that is probably relevant.

But it's true - if it wasn't about relationship, all these submissive men out there would just be very successful personal assistants to rich powerful people and be doing fairly well themselves to boot. Or they'd be butlers, etc. And the reason that's not satisfying is because there's no relationship involved. Or in the terms of my previous post, the object of the service just doesn't care or doesn't notice.

The Remains of The Dayis one of the most affecting movies that I've ever seen, because it illustrates what total service - to the extent of total denial of self - can turn in to. Anthony Hopkins' character (the butler) is totally unable to separate his service to his household from himself - even to the extent that, when he finally has the opportunity late in life, he can't express his love. While that's not me, there are elements of the movie - particularly in terms of service - that I find very affecting.

"Is that who you want to be?" asked my beloved? I said, "Of course not. Though there is something very affecting about the film and Hopkins' character." She asked if there were any other movies I could think of that were instructive, and I immediately said, "No," because I know if I had them in mind, I would immediately know what they were.

She suggested "Secretary" (Maggie Gyllenhaal & James Spader) and I said that I need to see it again - it was far to hot on the first viewing for me to be able to evaluate critically. The fact that the power-exchange relationship works for them, but works to help Gyllenhaal's character avoid her self-destructive behavior made my beloved say, "Then if that's relevant, we go with the 'psychological issues' approach to this." That was a little disheartening.

I suggested that every relationship is a shared fantasy - we build the rules and expectations of our relationships as we live them. And the more we invest in an relationship and a way of being, the more the fulfillment or non-fulfillment of our expectations becomes important. So that, even though all these ideas of "service" mean relatively little to my beloved, over time, with the investment in our relationship "being" this way, they acquire their own value.

That's when she mentioned that she's not investing in this aspect of our relationship, she's just renting.

And that was pretty disheartening.

I think I've put aside my fantasy for today - and that's what it now appears to me as to what's been happening: she's been very accommodating about my indulging in my fantasy, believing whatever I need to believe to be happy, but not sharing in, investing in, building, that fantasy which I believe is the basis of *any* relationship.

Instead, she's got a great deal of investment in the fantasy of the last 24 years of marriage and 15 years of relationship before that. Only, despite the occasional peeks out from under the covers, that fantasy wasn't all of me - ahh, that's why that movie, and particularly its theme song are so very affecting to me.

And I certainly was complicit in building that not-quite-all-of-me fantasy - I mislead the investor, so to speak. So I guess it's largely my responsibility. Sounds like material for a Dan Savage column, and not a line of reasoning that's going to go any place satisfying anytime soon.

I don't know what happens next.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Says, "Submission"?

Yesterday, I

* Made the coffee
* Did a couple of loads of laundry (sorted, washed, hung to dry, folded)
* Got a car problem checked out
* Did the grocery shopping
* Cooked dinner (quite the gourmet meal, I might add...)
* Took care of the animals
* Worked on the bill paying
* Gave my beloved a back- and foot-massage

I didn't

* Check that her wallet had money in it
* Finish doing the dishes
* Turn on her light in the evening
* Set out her vitamins
* Find and set her handbag where it belongs.

Did she care? I don't know.

Did I enjoy it? Sort of. I hate paying bills and I suspect I do it more slowly than she does, which I suspect she finds frustrating. Back-rubs are a discipline because I get to do them so seldom that I'm not sure I'm good at them. Feet, no problem.

Did she enjoy the time I freed up? Not really, I don't think. She's not one to loll about, although I think she's getting better at deciding to plop down and read a book when she wants to. But last night she used it to work.

Was there any overt indication that I was doing this for any reason other than the "dutiful husband?" No.

Over on, Her Knight talks about being required to exercise "Active Submission" - being proactive in doing the things he thinks his Princess might enjoy. She, on the other hand, has included among the things she enjoys, little pieces of dialog like "My Princess, may I wear a tie for you today?" And I get the impression from his blog that there are other moments like this through the day that explicitly acknowledge the power dynamic of their relationship.

I crave that kind of dialog.

It's been interesting identifying the kinds of things that say "I am in control; you have submitted to me" to various men in FLRs. A quick list (in no particular order), would be

* Orgasm control
* Cross-dressing
* Wearing women's underwear
* Doing domestic chores

There seem to be men who focus more or less strongly on one or more of these. But for me, it is the simple acknowledgment that she is in control. I crave bits of dialog like "You'd like to come right now, but you can't unless I allow you." Or "I'm going to go watch a video, enjoy cleaning the kitchen." Or "Are you tired? You know you can't go to bed until I'm ready." Or anything else that explicitly says that she's in control. Having figured this out, I guess we'll have to talk about it.

She doesn't make this easy - her "demands" are couched so subtly. I know that this is a character thing, and I'm not going to try to change it, but it does make it more difficult. It's easy to forget a "I guess it's about time to change the sheets" unless I explicitly rewrite it in my head to "You have to change the sheets tomorrow." But if I'm doing the rewriting, to what extent is this any different from all the years I just fantasized about stuff. To what extent are *we* doing something, and to what extent am I just being explicitly allowed to live a little fantasy.

Scary thought. More food for conversation.

P.S. A post-trip update needed just to catch up to where we are; that's yet to come. And no, I didn't indulge in any of the fantasies in my last post. But I was on the road, and that's what they were, fantasies.