One of my biggest issues in my work career has been self-confidence (or lack thereof). Not with regard to my skills in my field of work, but with regard to myself. With staff, it comes out as having to remind myself that demands on my staff by others is a validation of the people I selected and of the work our group is doing.
I can't have that confidence without the acceptance of myself that comes with actually being who I am in the most important relationship in my life - my marriage. My beloved's acceptance of me, not just grudging, but engaged with who I am is key to that.
So what's different this time? Or the time before that? Or the time before that? I just searched for old posts regarding "Gardening," because I recall that the last time we tried this, I ended up rototilling new garden beds, which is not my idea of a good time. But, as I recall, it was right at the beginning of another attempt at this, so I was interested to see what I had been writing in the blog.
It was the throes of starting up, a moment of passion and new love, similar to where we are now. What I am passionately committed to is that we're not going to let go of this change in our relationship. Which doesn't mean it's always going to be at the passionate level it is now - not that I would complain, mind you
. But experience tells me that life seldom works that way.
In one sense, this is working when it becomes unremarkable - it is what we do. Our going-to-bed ritual is not from a "vanilla" relationship. When it's just "what we do," I'll feel we will have established this in some way. When she sees something I'm doing as being hard, and insists anyway, or provides consequences anyway, I'll feel that this has come to be the expectation, rather than a "game" we're playing (even though I suspect there will always be game-like aspects to it).
The place where we're succeeded so far with this is orgasm control symbolized by the necklace. even when nothing was going on power-wise in our relationship, I would still ask her permission to masturbate. As I've commented before, the asking was really really important. I'm hoping we come up with other behaviors like that - keeping gas in the cars, money in her wallet, and her cell phone charged are three that I can imagine. What those lack, though, that asking for permission to masturbate has is the element of communication. And the communication is key. That's what says to me (as I feel I'm saying over and over again, but I think it's a measure of how important it is to me, that my thoughts keep coming back to it, as "all roads lead to Rome") "this isn't just in your head; we're doing this; I'm engaged with you on this." So more than the routines of gas and money and cell phones, it will be something where we communicate.
That's where this "Oh, I'll 'forget' to do gas" behavior that so many submissives engage in comes from. It's the plea, "Are we still in communication?; do you care?" And the dominant notices and punishes, then the submissive gets that communication feedback. That's very very powerful, and unless there's communication in some other way, that dynamic is not going away. The submissive isn't going to get to serve, over the long term, because that behavior is a pain in the ass for the dominant. The dominant isn't going to get whatever service might be convenient to her.
So if failure-to-perform isn't about a plea for communication, and punishment isn't the communication that the submissive craves, then punishment can work as "Fern" describes in the post linked over on the side-bar.
(And while I'm OK with the term "submissive," I'm not happy with "dominant" because that's not who my beloved is, but it'll have to do for now.)
The other thing that's different is my attitude towards all this, and that I lay to reading blogs by younger people who are so much more self-accepting than I am about this. And to listening to Masocast, where people who do this kind of thing actually talk about this in matter-of-fact ways. Emotionally, I think I've finally come to understand that I am not a bad, flawed, broken, incomplete, dirty, perverted person for wanting/needing this. And I am so fortunate that my beloved has agreed to come on this journey with me.
That transformation is so fraught: "You are not the person I married; you've been hiding from me for all these years; you've been living a lie and made me live it too; you're going to make me change my life and I like the life I have now." All these are reasonable reactions. (And though this wasn't as "out of the blue" for her as it is for many couples, I'm still grateful that she has chosen not to see it in any of those ways, and to explore with me.)
I'm struck with the parallels with 12-step groups. That's not a path I have a personal experience with - I only know it from popular culture, friends, and a little reading. But the acceptance of myself seems parallel. And so does the part about surrendering my thoughts to my beloved. If I understand 12-step, one usually has a "sponsor" to whom one can be open about temptations, failures (and successes, I guess). My beloved is doing that for me, and my thoughts and actions stand naked before her.
I'm really lucky she accepts me.
Which is why I feel like the luckiest guy around.