How to deal with this mismatched kink?
June 22, 2012 12:57 PM   Subscribe

He's into being dominated; I'm not into dominating. He wants to visit a dominatrix; I'm terrified about what it might do to our relationship, but also worried about our sans-dominatrix relationship more generally. Help?

My partner (male) and I (female) are in our late twenties and have been together for about 8 years. From pretty early on, I knew he was into being dominated and spanked, though over the years he has made it more clear how important it is to him. (For at least the first few years of our relationship, I had the impression that it was an occasional fantasy he had; it wasn't really until the last couple of years, I would say, that he made it clear/I began to understand that this was a non-negotiable and vital part of his sexual interests.)

I, on the other hand, am about as vanilla as they come. I'm decidedly not into incorporating power and pain into sex -- to be honest, I find it pretty off-putting. For a very long time I kept telling myself (and him) that someday, perhaps when I was done dealing with other sexual problems (a lot of anxiety and resentment around sex that was putting a damper on our sex life), I might be able to start indulging his fantasies even if I wouldn't be getting anything out of it myself. We've had very limited forays into my dominating him, which I guess he has enjoyed, but I'm not particularly good at it and I feel dread leading up to it and kind of grossed out afterwards.

He has reached the point where, understandably, he is tired of waiting for me to magically come around on this issue. He'd like to indulge his kink with a professional. Intellectually, this seems like an eminently reasonable desire to me, but I feel like I can't deal with it intellectually because I'm overwhelmed by too many fears.

In an ideal world, his outsourcing of his fetish to a professional would improve our relationship, by allowing him to explore and satisfy this dimension of his sexuality, without my having to "get my hands dirty," as it were. Our own sex life could be of the equitable variety that I prefer. I could, maybe, adjust to his kink on my own time, without feeling any kind of pressure.

But I'm worried that it will actually have the opposite effect and be the final nail in the coffin of our sex life and thus our relationship more generally.

a) I don't know how I will react to what amounts to him being in a sexual situation with another person. Yes, I know that professional dominatrixes (dominatrices?) don't have sex with their clients -- but it's obviously a sexual situation, and it's not the same as watching porn because there's a real, live person involved. I'm worried that I'll become jealous and start picturing him with another woman every time we have sex.

b) I'm worried that his visiting a professional would foreclose the possibility of my ever being able to indulge his kink myself, because I would feel like there was no way I could possibly satisfy his fantasies as well as a professional already had.

c) I'm worried that rather than satisfying his kink and allowing our private sex life to be more "normal" (yes, I'm aware that that's a problematic term), finally having a chance to indulge the kink would just stoke its flames. That he wouldn't be interested in "normal" sex with me anymore, and that he'd just start wanting more and more intensely kinky sex.

d) I'm worried that outsourcing what should be an intimate aspect of our relationship will drive a wedge between us -- that there will be this big, huge, important thing in his life that we don't share.

e) And maybe this is the crux of the problem. I'm worried that my partner's submissiveness is an active turn-off for me and makes me not attracted to him. I'm about as feminist and anti-gender-role as they come, but try as I might, the thought of my partner getting spanked and begging for permission to do things is just... the opposite of sexy for me. I'm worried that if he actually engages in the kink, it will concretize his submissive status and I will find him actively repelling. I'm worried that that last sentence is meaningless and that I'm *already* not attracted to him and I just can't acknowledge it -- because I don't really know what it means to be attracted to someone as you're nearing the decade-together benchmark and there's no excitement about whether you're actually going to score. But I'm also worried that if I were in a different relationship I wouldn't have any of these worries or sexual issues at all. And that if he were in a different relationship he'd have the partner he deserves -- someone who wants to jump his bones at all times and who shares his kinks on top of that.

We've been going to couples therapy for a while and we're just starting to talk about the issue there, but I feel like I need to hear about other people's experiences in order to get any kind of objectivity on this topic. I guess my questions are twofold:

1. If you've had a partner who outsourced a kink to a professional, what was your experience like? Was it helpful or harmful? What made it easier or more difficult for you? Or if you were the partner who visited a professional, how did you find that it changed your relationship?

2. Obviously, as much as I might wish it to be the case, his kink isn't going away -- and it shouldn't *have* to. Is it possible for me to work towards an acceptance of his kink and to no longer be turned off by it? If you can't lose a kink then how can you possibly gain one? Has anyone ever been in this situation and been able to fix it?

I suspect that many of you are going to suggest that this situation is unresolvable and we should break up. Maybe we should have just not started dating in the first place, but we love each other dearly. We're well-matched in most other ways and, despite what it may sound like here, we have a very loving, affectionate, trusting relationship that's solidly in the "awesome" range when we're not dealing with this issue. I can't imagine my life without him. But I accept that we may ultimately have to break up, as much as neither of us wants to.

Thanks for reading this novella. If you could be gentle and non-judgmental in your answers, I would appreciate it. I know I may not come across as a particularly great person in this AskMe, but in general I'm a pretty good partner and I'm really freaking out here.

I expect he will be reading this, and if he wants to I'll let him respond using this account.

Throwaway e-mail for those who would prefer to respond anonymously: sockpuppetypuppet@gmail.com
posted by sock puppety puppet to Human Relations (26 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you thought about going with him to a Dominatrix? You can be an observer, or learn the craft from her.

I'm personally of the opinion that you know what you like in those respects at a very early age. (I know I did). If you're interested in exploring the scene, try going as a couple to a B/D club. Let him hang out and do whatever with some of the folks there. Again watch, or participate as your comfort level dictates.

If, after a while, you decide that it's not for you, then you know. If he decides it's totally for him and he'd like it more frequently that you're interested in, you know that too.

Life and sex are very interesting in that things progress whether you want them to or not.

The other thing is that you may be submissive too, in which case maybe you could both be dominated together.

Try stuff out, you'll soon figure out what works for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:04 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not searching at work, but I recall a couple in the scene ( we used to be in the same dating pool ) that belongs to local ( to them ) groups and speaks of some group/gathering called "Beyond Vanilla". You can look at it like cosplay, dress up a bit and attend an event or gathering just to get a feel for everything without direct participation, and figure out where to go, if at all, from there, separately or together in your relationship.

I don't see it as a completely unresolvable situation, but there are avenues of exploration aside from rocketing straight to "look up dominatrices in the adverts".
posted by tilde at 1:05 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's great that you guys are exploring this together, and that you're involving a professional in the couples counselling. Your fears are totally valid, and he may be able to address some of them now that you've articulated them. Almost all of them boil down to whether his visiting dominatrix will make you sexually compatible. However, at the moment it seems like you definitely Aren't compatible, so trying something new is unlikely to make you Less compatible.

The most intractable of the concerns you list is whether you're not attracted to him because of the submissiveness, and whether that can change. Is it possible you could read up on the psychology of B/D and see if, in understanding it better, it could be less of a turn-off for you? Because being able to be attracted to your partner, even when y'all have differing interests, is key to long-term relationship happiness. I've definitely had friends that successfully expanded their interests in order to be more GGG, but if it's not available to you realize that that's ok: it's hard to get rid of kinks Or add them.
posted by ldthomps at 1:17 PM on June 22, 2012


It looks like you may have a fundamental sexual incompatibility on your hands, but if you're open to it, maybe you could visit the dominatrix without him present and talk to her about how she approaches things psychologically on her end. I've casually dated a couple of dommes, and they viewed their work with clients as compassionate and therapeutic, and to the extent that domination was a part of their romantic relationships, they viewed it as something that increases intimacy between partners.

If you can look at it that way rather than in terms of being degrading and focus on how you're providing a sort of safety to your partner as he's making himself vulnerable, and how there's a great deal of trust at the core of it, then maybe there's room for your mind to change. I don't know. But he's not going to stop being turned on by it or wanting it.
posted by alphanerd at 1:29 PM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Similiar previous question.
posted by Melismata at 1:36 PM on June 22, 2012


The real issue here is a that all of your concerns are legitimate. They could possibly happen. You are on the edge of a cliff and know in your gut that you could break something if you jump.

Knowing that, do you really want to "try out" his S&M with him? Do you really want to deal with this kink, its constant presence, and associated manifestations for the rest of your life?

I ask because you have already discovered that his desires will not go away, and frankly, they seem to be a turn-off for you. This isn't a question of "how you can be ggg and indulge his desires", you've already done that and found that you don't like it. The question is: Do you want to continue in a relationship with your sexually submissive partner? How long are you willing to live like this?

If you are unhappy sexually, and he is asking for actions that (though perfectly reasonable) make you even more sexually unsatisfied, you may want to consider that you have discovered a deal breaker. There is nothing wrong with either of you if you decided that you don't want to continue as you are going. Neither side is "wrong" or "bad".
posted by Shouraku at 1:58 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you've both put a lot of work into this relationship already, and that for the most part it's working for you. So it's worth it, then, to try this new thing as well. It's worth it to find a dominatrix that will talk with you and work together with your partner and yourself, not to include you in the scenes, but to make you comfortable with what they might do, perhaps to help explain things in a way that will help you get a handle on it better.

I think your list of worries are all completely reasonable ones to have. But I also think that if you don't try this possibility out, the worries will continue to fester, and that doesn't seem to be in the spirit of the relationship as you've written here.
posted by Mizu at 2:07 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


You expressed concern that you don't come across as "particularly great" in this question. I disagree. The fact that you're reaching out for help shows that you value your relationship and you write about this in a way that is respectful of your partner's needs as well as your own feelings. That's good. You seem cool to me.

Short version- You should probably let him visit a Dominatrix because it's the best way to save your relationship.

Tl;dr version-

Your partner has a kink that they have have a desire to realize. That's OK.

Despite your efforts to indulge this kink, you're just not into it. That's totally OK.
In fact, it is just as valid as his desire to be dominated. Your need for sexual satisfaction is just as important as his. You've made an effort to be GGG (good, giving, and game, Dan Savage's apt description), but despite this you're still not comfortable.

Neither of you have done anything wrong. However, you still find yourself unable to reconcile. I think you need to ask yourself this question: Is having your partner visit a dominatrix a deal-breaker for you? Whether it is or isn't is OK- how you feel about it isn't wrong. But you need to honestly answer this question for both of you. His kink will almost certainly not magically disappear; and if it doesn't, continued non-fulfillment will become a problem. You describe a "very loving, affectionate, trusting relationship" in which you "love each other dearly", and are "well-matched". That's pretty awesome, and many people go their entire life without finding this kind of love. Although it's scary and hard to deal with- know that because of these sterling qualities, your relationship has the best chance of continuing to work with him seeing a Dom on the side.

Be appreciative that he has been open with you about his kink. Rather than secretly visit a Dominatrix on the side, he's discussing it with you. That speaks well of him. It speaks well of you, too- he felt safe bringing it up despite it being a sensitive issue.

Be true to yourself and your feelings, and be honest with your partner. That doesn't mean everything will turn out perfect. But it means you can look back and know you did what was best at the time. You come across as fair, smart, caring, and strong. You can make it through whatever ensues. Good luck to you.
posted by EKStickland at 2:08 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think this is an easier choice than it looks. If he doesn't go to a domme, you will probably lose him sooner or later; I think it will be hard for him to go through life sexually unfulfilled. On the other hand if he goes to a domme, you may lose him. I'd choose "may" over "probably."
posted by musofire at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Not a BDSM-er myself (I feel about like you do on the feminism bit), but I've heard a lot of this stuff from friends. So here goes:

I think having a professional do the job may just be what saves this relationship, if you can deal with that. You just. plain. do. not. like. being dominant. The BDSM thing is a turnoff to you. We all feel forced to be GGG these days about everything we hate, but you tried it and you hate it. It's a requirement for him that he get that somewhere. So...let him, with a professional who won't be getting attached to him.

With regards to your questions:

(a) Yeah, you won't know until it happens. Yeah, you could be jealous. Or you could be surprised and be relieved that he's having a good time that you don't have to provide. That he's enjoying it with someone else who likes it instead of your trying to make him happy while you feel miserable. That he's doing it with someone who isn't an auxiliary girlfriend (from what I've heard from my friend whose husband is always fishing for a kinkier new girlfriend on the side to do what he wants, this can be worse) makes it a lot simpler and less drama-y for you.
Heck, maybe you'll be able to focus on your happy vanilla sex rather than feeling guilty that you're not providing enough domination.

So you won't know until you try it, but at this point, I don't think bringing in a pro can make this worse. Right now it's kind of already at the breaking point of "I need this sex, either I get it from you or someone else." You can't provide it. Why not give this a shot and see if that works better than a divorce?

(b) You're already hating doing it. That's already a buzzkill on his fantasies because you don't enjoy it and are trying to force yourself to. I don't think him seeing a pro is going to make that worse, in a sense.

(c) Yes, that's a reasonable fear and one that I can't really reassure you on (see reference to my friend above, because that has definitely happened to her). But you won't be able to find out if that's the case or not until you try this situation. It might work, it might not. But you have to see.

(d) Yeah, that might be the case. I guess it depends on how personally you both take it. But right now, the wedge is already there. You can try this situation and see if it mitigates the problem or if it turns out to be a thorn in your side. But...

(e) You may find your husband to be more of a turn-on if you DON'T have to deal with this situation. I find that sort of thing to be a turn-off too. Maybe if you don't have to deal with being his only option for satisfying a desire you don't share, you can get back to enjoying the relationship again, and not always thinking about THAT every time you're in bed.

"I'm worried that if he actually engages in the kink, it will concretize his submissive status and I will find him actively repelling."

Maybe. Sometimes that happens--I know someone else whose husband eventually told her he wanted her to make all of the decisions except for when he was at work. Then again, perhaps not. Maybe he compartmentalizes well. This is another one of those "can't find out until you go there" things.

"I'm worried that that last sentence is meaningless and that I'm *already* not attracted to him and I just can't acknowledge it -- "

I suspect this is more like, "I feel less turned on by him because I have this guilt + icky feeling come across me every time he brings up wanting this, because I hate it, and it makes me not want to have sex with him if I have to spank him." Which would be a buzzkill all by itself.

"But I'm also worried that if I were in a different relationship I wouldn't have any of these worries or sexual issues at all. And that if he were in a different relationship he'd have the partner he deserves -- someone who wants to jump his bones at all times and who shares his kinks on top of that."

Well, yes, that is true. And that might have to happen. On the other hand, even kinky folks have a hard time finding other kinky folks who align with them on every single level--have the same kinks as they do sexually AND get along compatibly out of bed. Years ago I read an essay called "Confusion is Sex" by someone named Magdalen (it was in a book published by either Bust or Bitch magazine, I forget which), in which she talked about how super hard it was to find someone who she could have her kind of sex with and be compatible out of bed with. And even as a kinky person, she didn't like dealing with a submissive guy either and did not enjoy trying to be GGG about pegging a dude.

But in the end, I agree with musofire: if things go on as they are now, you will probably lose him due to sexual incompatibilty. If you give this a try, it might save your relationship. At least that way, there's hope.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:35 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


For a very long time I kept telling myself (and him) that someday, perhaps when I was done dealing with other sexual problems (a lot of anxiety and resentment around sex that was putting a damper on our sex life), I might be able to start indulging his fantasies even if I wouldn't be getting anything out of it myself.

I don't know what the root of your anxiety and resentment is (since you haven't shared that with us) but I posit that it's almost certainly not going to get resolved with his - ultimatum? - maybe that is too harsh a word; but he's definitely brought the situation to a turning point here, it sounds like. In my experience, once a ("non-negotiable and vital") kink is out of the box, as it were - brought into the light and acknowledged, and sought to be indulged - it won't go back in the box; quite possibly, interest in indulging the kink will ramp up - which isn't at all a bad thing, it's a very understandable thing, really.

I think your concerns here are thoughtful, well-articulated, and self-aware. Also, I feel for you, reading this. I know that it seems like we should be able to reduce sex to logic - the other person wants X, I don't want to do X, so they can just go get X elsewhere and that'll be all right - but I don't find sex responds very well to logic, because of all the other aspects that are bound up in sex - the emotion, the intimacy, the representation of the relationship and how the sexual negotiation feeds or hinders the relationship. It's absolutely true some people can get past those other aspects, but as much as many of us would like to think we can, I just don't think it's easy if you're not already predisposed in personality to simply choose to undo everything thus far that shaped how we learned to think and feel about sex.

...because I don't really know what it means to be attracted to someone as you're nearing the decade-together benchmark and there's no excitement about whether you're actually going to score. But I'm also worried that if I were in a different relationship I wouldn't have any of these worries or sexual issues at all. And that if he were in a different relationship he'd have the partner he deserves -- someone who wants to jump his bones at all times and who shares his kinks on top of that.

My particular bias is that the sexual aspect of a long-term relationship HAS to be satisfying for both partners. Sex has an importance and an intimacy that is not so easily put aside by "well we are compatible in most other ways, but..." I realize for some people it is something they can overlook or get by without since it's just not so big a deal, but I think for most people it holds true, and I think it is important to you, in reading this question. Sex is something that has to "click" to work, IMO, and I feel like it's probably easier to learn how to get along with someone else, or how to fight well, or how to communicate well, than it is to engineer that "click", to engineer attraction and compatibility on this primal, not-entirely-conscious level.

You know, if you were saying, I am indifferent to this thing but he's really into it, and everything else is okay, then I'd say "sure, you can learn". But you're saying "I am past neutral into negative about this" and yes, I do feel he should have "someone who wants to jump his bones at all times and shares his kinks". And YOU should get to feel "excitement about whether you're actually going to score" and not "anxiety and resentment around sex".

So I guess I think right now the focus should not be on figuring out how he can scratch his kink, it should be on where you've taken it in this question - your fundamental sexual compatibility in this relationship. Working on scratching his kink is at best a band-aid, I feel, and at worst it's going to make that question of compatibility explode in a messy, painful way, without a chance for considered, thorough analysis.
posted by flex at 3:04 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


May I?

You come off as incredibly self-focused in your ask, and I bet it is hurting your partnership. I'll explain, because I'm not trying to be mean.

Right. So according to your description, it seems that for years now your worries, fears and hang-ups have been preventing you BOTH from enjoying sex. I think this is worth addressing directly, and not just with inadequate attempts at compromise, or worse, taking a "wait it out" type attitude. I think you should get proactive about improving your own relationship to sex and intimacy.

I think you should BOTH go to see a professional Dominatrix - him for "correction" (heh) and you to get some training as a Domme.

I believe this could be a great experience for you, pesonally, as it would allow you to face a lot of fears and such in a safe and controlled environment. The bonus is that your partner gets satisfied, too.

Go together. I guarantee you will find it empowering. It sounds like you, personally, need this sense of empowerment even more than your partner needs you to have it.

I think you should find a Dominatrix you will both enjoy learning from and go together to some sessions.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 3:29 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like the middle ground of going with him, talking to the dominatrix, but, if you are not comfortable with the whole thing, then just hang out and wait for him. It would keep you more connected, as you would know what was going on, but you wouldn't have to participate fully. You would still be 'with' him in a way that might take some of the insecurities away. That way you are still sharing part of the experience, and still acting as a couple. Then doing something couply after to really solidify your connection.
posted by Vaike at 3:32 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Something you don't talk about here is what are the two of you doing to make sex amazing for you? The backdrop to the current crisis over his submissiveness appears to be years of sexual issues of some sort. Is he really saying that a decision about the professional is needed today? Because if not, I'd urge you both to first work on making sex great for you, and then as a second step figure out how to involve (in-house, with the pro, or whatever it takes) his kink.

In other words, right now you are on track for making no one happy. I suspect that every step towards making sex great for you will also be a step towards finding an acceptable compromise for him, but going in the other order is not going to work.

Good luck. For the record, you sound like a great partner, not a bad one. Sex and compatibility are complicated, and most of us struggle with them in one way or another. You guys appear to be communicating and genuinely striving to find a path that works for both, so my money is on things working out, even if the form that takes may not be what you expect.
posted by Forktine at 3:51 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hate to say this (and hope that it's not the case), but does his submissive needs make him appear like less of a peer to you?

In other words, is this just an issue that is tangentially related to the real issue, which is that more and more you feel like you are the strong, independent, capable, person in the relationship and he isn't? Are you turned off by him because you are more atteacted to people who share your strength?

I was in a similar situation as you once, and ended up realizing that my issue wasn't as much his kink as it was that I saw him as a beta and myself as an alpha personality wise. The root of the problem was that I wanted another alpha.

Possibly projecting, but I just thought that I would throw it out there in case it resonates with you.
posted by Shouraku at 3:51 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't answer your first question, but I have experience with your second:
Is it possible for me to work towards an acceptance of his kink and to no longer be turned off by it?
For me, no. We'd had a good vanilla sex life for a few months. Then he told me about his kink (also sub-dom, with him as the sub, but with some extra flavor I won't go into here), and I was definitely not interested. I did try it, for him, and it was uncomfortable, awkward for both of us (although more for me than him) and a simmering resentment ran both ways. Every time. It never got better. This situation exacerbated my anxiety as well, because I began to question whether he was really satisfied every time we had vanilla sex... and it probably didn't make him feel great that the genie was basically being stuffed back in the bottle. The relationship ended when he started trolling online for a "better" partner.

I'm not at all suggesting this will be your story, this is just mine, and I'm talking about a relationship of a few months, not several years... but I can tell you from my own experience that sexual compatibility became much higher on my "must have list" after this relationship. But I don't regret trying, because now I know beyond a doubt what I don't want. And that being open-minded doesn't mean I have to like it.
posted by sm1tten at 4:59 PM on June 22, 2012


I think you sound perfectly kind and decent in your question. This is a toughie.

Ultimately it sounds to me like you should let him visit the pro, because as was pointed out above, the current situation isn't tenable. The current situation leads to you guys breaking up, probably painfully, because he will either go behind your back to find this release or he will just hate you for preventing it.

Maybe, just maybe, if he visits the pro it will meet his submissive need enough that it is satisfied there, and he can enjoy enthusiastic vanilla sex with you. And maybe that part of his life will be compartmentalized enough that you won't have to think about it, and it won't be a big part of your "together life." (I suspect there are a lot of men who never tell their partners about these needs at all, and keep this part of themselves walled off from their everyday life.)

I wouldn't pin all hopes on it though. It's just as likely that you'll find yourself wishing more and more that you were having sex with a man who doesn't have this need, a man that you never have to imagine being spanked.

By the way, late twenties is a very typical time for long term relationships to end, from what I've seen. Right around that 30th birthday is where a lot of people start thinking about how they want their adult life to look, and relationships that were great - even for a long time - for twentysomethings, do not survive into people's 30s. If you don't want to be managing this situation as you navigate marriage, parenthood, getting old together, etc., then... that's ok. It's a big incompatibility. It'll take a lot of management and compromise if you decide to take it on.

Good luck to you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:26 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think you should BOTH go to see a professional Dominatrix - him for "correction" (heh) and you to get some training as a Domme.

The OP stated clearly: "I'm decidedly not into incorporating power and pain into sex -- to be honest, I find it pretty off-putting."

Go together. I guarantee you will find it empowering.

You absolutely cannot guarantee that.

It sounds like you, personally, need this sense of empowerment even more than your partner needs you to have it.

I think the OP sounds quite empowered and sure of herself. Seeking out new ways to try to make his kink her kink in order to keep him sexually satisfied isn't really an empowering endeavor.

OP, it sounds like you have been viewing your sex life with your partner in terms of meeting his needs for a long time. Maybe try to consider independently what you would like your sex life to be like, and what's not on the table for you. Then you won't feel as though you're waiting for the other shoe to drop if/when your partner begins exploring this; you'll make decisions based on what's right for you.
posted by headnsouth at 6:46 PM on June 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


I'd say flip it around and tell him that for any of this to work your needs have to be independently and spectacularly well met first. That might be hard on him if he's the one feeling neglected, and just as there are no promises that the relationship can survive the leap he's asking you to make, you can't promise that him making a leap of faith and massively satisfying your needs first will allow you to continue taking steps to handle his.

My guess though is that if he made you completely secure and happy about your needs being met that he would remain an attractive partner under a wider variety of circumstances and you might be able to compartmentalize productively and go further towards helping him out.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:20 PM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I like the middle ground of going with him, talking to the dominatrix, but, if you are not comfortable with the whole thing, then just hang out and wait for him. It would keep you more connected, as you would know what was going on, but you wouldn't have to participate fully. You would still be 'with' him in a way that might take some of the insecurities away. That way you are still sharing part of the experience, and still acting as a couple. Then doing something couply after to really solidify your connection.

I think this is amazing advice. It doesn't necessary have to drive a wedge between you any more than, say, him going to his job all day while you do something else. You talk about it afterwards, you reconnect, you make it clear that you accept him even if you absolutely do not want to participate.

In my long knowledge of mixed kink/non kink marriages or marriages with incompatible kinks, this kind of thing doesn't go away, and I think you might be underestimating the risk of letting it continue to go unresolved. It tends to lead to a lot of resentment in the long term when one partner feels that the other partner is holding them back from basic sexual expression. That's not to say that you have to be okay with this--you are totally within your rights to be not okay with it. My point is not to do it no matter how you feel; it's more that you shouldn't think the two options are "relationship as it is now" or "dominatrix" because your relationship will continue to change either way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:49 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It won't go away, no. And while sometimes you can add new turn-ons to your repertoire -- more on this below -- this one is already a turn-off to you. So don't try adding it anymore. Respect yourself on that.

I'd suggest you find a way for him to explore this outside the relationship, in a controlled fashion. Not everyone is cool with that. If, as it unfolds, you're not, respect yourself on that and cut your losses, end things. But you might be ok with it. You'll have to see. Your concerns are legitimate but reality isn't always the worst case you fear. You say you're scared of there being huge, important thing in his life that you don't share. That's (in general) kinda healthy in a 10-year relationship. You are different people. Let him explore that difference. Take the risk. Maybe a pro, maybe a very-limited secondary relationship. They have very different dynamics.

(You might want to witness the pro's work, to convince yourself it's less scary than it sounds. It will probably leave you cold, and seem underwhelming. But it might also hurt you and leave unpleasant memories. It's hard to predict that part.)

He has to give in return though. The trade is simple. He has to learn to enjoy -- really solidly enjoy -- the sex he has, with you, absent kink. Altogether. No more pushing you. No more wanting what you don't want. Him not getting kinky things with you is not symmetrical with you suffering through the kink. The kink turns you off. He can, and should, spend the energy to add a solid secondary repertoire to his sexuality that is non-kinky, that works for you too. Adding things that aren't turn-offs is much easier. It's quite possible. You just aim for emotional, physical or psychological territory that is sexy but has nothing to do with male submission. Explore this task together, and make him do work on it on his own, and make sure you are satisfied by how he winds up behaving in the sack with you, that the two of you are solidly connected, sexually.

Time-wise, it will be hard to tell him to accomplish that growth and adaptation before he gets to indulge any of his kink, as he is impatient; but it will be equally hard to tell you to accept him going off to indulge himself with someone else while you're insecure and not getting your needs met. Realize that this sort of "who does more work for the other" stalemate is only solvable through generosity, giving, caring, an honest desire to hold on and grow, and the application of simultaneous effort to adapt, from you both. Don't get into comparing the extent of your sacrifices for one another; you'll both shut down if you go that route. Take steps simultaneously. Honestly and generously.

Good luck. Be kind and open to the future. It might work.
posted by ead at 10:26 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


perhaps when I was done dealing with other sexual problems (a lot of anxiety and resentment around sex that was putting a damper on our sex life)... He is tired of waiting for me to magically come around on this issue

Wait, what? I can't imagine any scenario involving resentment and sex that doesn't include both partners working hard on the issue, otherwise it would never be solved. Is he working on it, can you expand further on the causes/impact of the resentment/anxiety? Is the anxiety something you have always had or is he the first person to invoke that response in you? And why do both of you feel YOU should come around on this issue, let alone "magically" (in other words, without him making a huge effort to make you comfortable). If you have anxiety and resentment around sex I just can't imagine how both of you have decided that is more important to improve his sex life even more at your expense instead of working together to have a mutually satisfying sex life first as a baseline.

To me it sounds like sex in your relationship is a mostly negative experience (and he has not been working to make it positive after eight years but instead making it more negative), whereas his sex life is neutral/positive and he wants to make sex even better for himself at your expense. Frankly, he sounds selfish.
posted by saucysault at 5:12 AM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Okay, I'm going to try with this one, but it's a toughy.

A lot of people are talking about the problems and anxieties in your relationship like they're something he caused, and you need to be more specific- there's a big difference between Catholic guilt, or body issues, or a generalized anxiety disorder creeping into the bedroom, and incompatible libidos. The way it sounds right now is that you really don't want to have sex with the guy at all, even in the vanilla sense, without considerable concessions of some kind. Go to a therapist. Both of you. Eight years is an awful long time to be living with a sexual dysfunction.

Your husband's kink is not going to go away. No amount of hope and prayers, and the reality is that as time has gone on the lack of it probably makes it seem even more pressing to him.

You seem to be asking something that's very difficult to answer, because a lot of your question hinges on not just predicting which of these paths is emotionally best for you, without knowing you, and predicting what form your husband's response is going to take, without knowing him. All I can say is that choosing not to do something is also going to be a choice with lasting implications, and the way your situation is set up now, you're basically being a unicorn gay Mormon marriage.

There's advice I can give regarding the feeling that he's less than you after seeing him submit- that's what aftercare is for, among many things it's a social bridging tool to go from mean to nice again and minimize bleed over of bad feelings, or advice regarding the differences pain can feel to a sexual masochist compared to a non-masochist, such that at least some of the 'ow' is often muffled by the 'whee!' But that's no use if the entire time you're trying to dominate you look like you want to puke. Among many things, in D/s on both sides of the equation we like to feel that we have a loving connection- it's one of the parts that makes it human and safe.

If you can't wear the dom hat, he can't get an outlet elsewhere and you're really not sure you can respect him for having his sexuality AND your vanilla sex life is already barely functional for other reasons, even if you are both the warmest, loving and giving people 9which you very well may be) I'd say things were very, very broken.
posted by Phalene at 10:28 AM on June 23, 2012


Ack! I have been on the opposite side of this as a Dominant, which is why I usually state up front that I won't date people who aren't subs or switches (or aren't into kink whatsoever). Kudos to you both for trying to figure this out in a way that doesn't absolutely destroy each other; it speaks well of you. However:

e) And maybe this is the crux of the problem. I'm worried that my partner's submissiveness is an active turn-off for me and makes me not attracted to him. I'm about as feminist and anti-gender-role as they come, but try as I might, the thought of my partner getting spanked and begging for permission to do things is just... the opposite of sexy for me. I'm worried that if he actually engages in the kink, it will concretize his submissive status and I will find him actively repelling.

Put bluntly, it sounds like his alignment within BDSM is making you question his masculinity (despite your assurances of the contrary). The notions underpinning that can be unraveled, if you want them to. The question is - do you? If your partner was a Dom instead of a sub, would your anti-kink (god this sounds harsher than I mean it) sentiments change? If so...why?

Him being into kink - and wanting to satisfy said kink - is not selfish. You not being into kink - and not wanting to help him satisfy said kink - is not selfish. But I think the combination of "submissive = unsexy" and "kink is not my thing" makes you fundamentally incompatible, in ways that will eventually leak into the rest of your relationship. Both of you have the right to express your respective sexualities freely. I'm just not convinced that any amount of further work put into the relationship will cram his sub tendencies back into a box, discourage you from devaluing his sub status, and make your sex life go back to "vanilla."

So, solutions: you could wrestle with that "submissive = non-masculine = unsexy" thing going on there. You could also let him go to a Pro Domme, to get his kink scratched. You could tell him not to go to a Pro Domme, and try to keep your sex life as vanilla as possible. Through it all, think about the long-term potential of a relationship in which neither of you are satisfied.
posted by Ashen at 10:29 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you so much, everyone, for your thoughtful and generous input. You've already made me feel a lot better about this whole thing -- and those who didn't necessarily make me feel better at least made me feel calmer. I've honestly been afraid to ask this question because I was sure the answers would all be that we're idiots for staying together and that I'm being cruel to him by keeping him in this relationship. It's a huge relief to not receive the blanket forecasts of doom I was envisioning.

I do want to add a couple of comments, in response to things that a few people said:

-My partner is far from selfish, both sexually and in general. He didn't give me an ultimatum -- "I need to go a domme NOW or else I'm going to break up with you" -- but rather suggested that it would become a problem if we continued putting this issue off forever until I was completely comfortable with it (since that might never happen). He's been very patient, which is part of why we've gotten this far into our relationship without actually dealing with this problem. And when it comes to our actual, in-practice sex life, he's far more concerned with making me happy than he is with getting his own rocks off, and we do have awesome vanilla sex that both of us enjoy.

-The "other" sexual problems I have. I didn't go into that in detail because the question was long enough as it is and it's something I still can't really articulate. To simplify it a lot, I tend to see sex as an antagonistic, zero sum thing and have a hard time responding to his advances -- which lately I've come to accept may be partially the result of this unresolved problem rather than something I need to get over before I can deal with this unresolved problem. We're working on it in therapy together (and have been trying to work through it by ourselves for, oh, five years), and I'll be working on it on my own as I (re)start individual therapy next week. Whatever it is, I can't just shunt the present issue aside as I deal with it, at the very least because it's probably all intertwined.

As in any relationship, there are a lot of moving parts, which makes it difficult both to take everything in at once and to diagnose the sources of problems. But hearing about other people's experiences is really helpful. If people have more thoughts, keep 'em coming!
posted by sock puppety puppet at 10:29 AM on June 23, 2012


if you don't let him go to a dominatrix your relationship is certainly doomed. if you let him go to a dominatrix it might be doomed. i think the choice is clear.
posted by cupcake1337 at 2:54 PM on June 23, 2012


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