Hey there, readers. I’m so overdue for a good, long, blog post. Yesterday I had the gift of a being able to go on a nearly all day retreat, and it was so lovely. I won’t share much about the actual retreat (it had to do with spirituality and creativity, which is totally my speed), but I did realize during the meditation and journalling part that when I make Sunday blogging part of my normal routine, It nourishes me. My short posts of the past few weeks don’t satisfy me in a way that really delving into the lifestyle does. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness here at home, as well as writing-related work, as projects snowball.
So today, I’m finishing up a blog post I’ve been thinking on for a good long while that’s taken me a long time to write.
I’ve hesitated in posting this, for many reasons. First, I dislike anything that would cause one to question his or her satisfaction level in their relationship. Second, sometimes we focus so much on analyzing things that we neglect to actually focus on what’s at hand (I do this myself) and I don’t want to complicate things for anyone. But as I’ve shared my theory regarding the stages of D/s, others have said this resonated with them, and I think it can be helpful in feeling like we’re not alone.
My theory is that the majority of D/s or DD relationships go through a three-stage process. Now, for some, a stage may last a day or two and for others, it may last a decade or longer. These are not cut and dried, either, but somewhat fluid differentiations at times. And finally, a couple may be perfectly content to “stay” at one particular stage. But there is, at times, wisdom in referring to stages others have gone through. For example, I often think of Elizabeth Kubler Ross's seven stages of grief, not only in relation to losing a loved one, but in other areas, too. It br ings a sort of comfort knowing that there’s a pattern to things, and that I’m “normal."
So I’m offering this as food for thought as we interact with one another (did you know I have a private FB group for blog readers? See information here). I’ve witnessed the various stages hundreds of times, and have gone through them myself with Jason. I’ve found it helpful knowing that what I experienced was normal, and it also helped me when I figured out that I wouldn’t stay in the most discouraging stage forever.
So I’ve decided I’m going to frame my proposed stages theory in the context of our relationship, and offer some food for thought. Many of you said a while ago you prefer when I offer anecdotal posts rather than posts that encouraged discussion, but this time I’d like to encourage you to share your own thoughts as well.
THE THREE STAGES OF A Dom/sub RELATIONSHIP
STAGE ONE: THE HONEYMOON STAGE
Jason and I experienced this stage early on. We had just begun DD, had just introduced the concept of distinct roles enforced with discipline, and we had stars in our eyes. The eroticism in our dynamic amped up, and we couldn’t get our hands off of each other. It was like this crazy little secret we had to keep to ourselves. Now, we did have some major ups and downs at this stage. But honestly, things were really amazing. I did get in trouble, but every time, I was suitably repentant and he was stern. He punished me, and I accepted my punishment. My tolerance was high, and I could take a spanking like you wouldn’t believe. I enjoyed feeling the after effects and even the slight bruisings or marks I’d get, because they made me feel sorta badass, and owned by him.
When he threatened a spanking, my heart would go to pitter-pattering, and after he spanked me, I basked in the afterglow of his discipline. I felt so madly in love with him, and he with me. It was amazing. We were more intimate. The power struggles were gone, and the majority of our arguments were easily solved. I found Jason seriously, crazy hot. It was around this time, while still in the honeymoon stage, that I connected with others in the community.
I didn’t know it was a stage, though, and that in order to experience growth, we’d have to move past the honeymoon phase and move on to the next phase. So when it happened that it was time to move beyond this stage, it scared me.
STAGE TWO: MAKE OR BREAK
source: K. Ankley
I remember when this switch happened distinctly, even though it was four years ago now at this point. It was the weekend, and I had gotten in trouble a few times. I was in the kitchen washing dishes, and I felt a very sobering realization hit me. I realized I didn’t like to be punished. I hated it. I reached out to another submissive I knew and she said, “Well, that’s the point. You’re not supposed to like being punished. You’re supposed to avoid it.”
Sure, that made sense, but...getting spanked was hot. I felt so loved and connected when he spanked me. Why did I suddenly feel so sad and sober? I talked it out with Jason, and he said something to the effect that when things are getting real, that the novelty would wear off.
For me and Jason, this stage happened about six months in, but that’s a fairly early time frame. We had already firmly established dominant and submissive roles long before he disciplined me, and we only had to clarify those. (I’d had “rules” for over a decade, things he expected me to do that he didn’t enforce with punishment, but they were firm expectations nonetheless, as Jason is a pretty naturally dominant guy). So we had fewer hurdles to jump through than many. I have honestly seen many, many couples take years to reach stage two, and many don’t make it. Some find the flavor doesn’t work for them for oh so many reasons, and they decide that keeping things more erotic is better suited for them. Some decide when they reach stage two that erotic power exchange is more suited for them, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that. For us, it was different though.
Now, I wouldn’t say that this all became less erotic. It didn’t. It was still erotic (it is erotic. Our dynamic keeps us both constantly attracted to one another), but at this point, actually living the dynamic became really, really hard. Gradually, over time, his expectations grew for me.
He took me away for the weekend, just the two of us, and we talked and talked, and played, and figured things out. I remember sitting next to him, and he reached out his hand for me. We were alone, and he held one of my hand in both of his, and we talked about our plans for our dynamic. He told me how much he loved me, and that now he felt I’d given him the ability to allow him to love me even more, because now he could take care of me fully.
“You trust me,” he said. “And I’m not going to let you down. This is us. We’re in this for good, forever. As I help you grow, I will grow, too, since I can’t hold you to standards I don’t expect of myself. You’re my babygirl.”
He decided he was going to collar me, and it was a few months later, on our twelfth wedding anniversary, that he did. It will be three years this coming April that he collared me, and it was about the time he collared me that things began to move in the direction toward stage three, but we were nowhere near there yet. We just knew it was where we wanted to be, and where our mutual goals lay.
Stage two is hard. It is grueling work, intensely emotional, and though fulfilling, it’s such a very difficult stage to go through, that many don’t make it through. But no one gets to stage three without fighting their way through stage two.
The “make or break” stage will differ for every couple. For me and Jason, there were some seriously high highs and some seriously low lows. I depended on him very much at this stage. We’d established our daily check-ins and regular maintenance. He gradually increased his expectations for me, but in order for me to make his expectations habit, I spent a lot of time over his knee. There were some “come to Jesus” meetings, and some spankings for the record books.
A few times, I got what I thought was the spanking of my life, only to realize that no, actually, he really could kick things up a notch. There were times after a very serious punishment that it took me literally days to feel right again. It was so sobering. Sometimes, it was discouraging. But it was during this stage that we were forging a lasting dynamic. It was during this stage that we were making the sometimes painful transition from “what we do” to “who we are.”
As this transition happened, I became increasingly sensitive to Jason’s disapproval. A stern look or sharp word made me tear up. I wanted so very badly to please him. Again, I reached out to others I knew who had gone before me and said I didn’t understand the shift. Why had I grown so sensitive? “This is natural growth,” I was told. “As you fall deeper in love, your desire to please him will grow.” And it really did.
This was a lonely place to be. Those still in the honeymoon stage didn’t understand how very difficult this stage was for me. They were jealous of his consistency and dedication to the lifestyle, and didn’t know how challenging it was for me to have to actually meet his expectations. The lack of understanding I had come to rely on hurt, and I found myself withdrawing. I no longer wanted to reach out to others in a place of need only to hear “well, be thankful he’s consistent.” Ouch. I pulled away from online communities and chat I’d come to rely on.
I failed, a lot, and if it hadn’t been for Jason’s encouragement, and the positive effects we so clearly were gleaning, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to get through this stage. Going a week without getting a serious punishment spanking was a feat, and sometimes I got spanked more than once in a day.
I had times when I thought I’d never please him, I would never be good enough. I blogged my way through this, and it helped processing, as I’d focus on the positive, and remind myself why we do this. I had a few friends who’d gone ahead of me at the time, and even though it pains me that we are no longer in contact (not through my own choice), I will always be grateful for their help through this stage.
They’d say things like, “Keep your eyes on him,” and “he loves you.”
It wasn’t always challenging, though. It was during this stage that Jason and I grew so much closer. As his expectations for me grew, and I learned to be more submissive, his adoration for me grew. He began tucking me in at night, and brushing my hair, reading to me, and calling me throughout the day to check on me. For every serious spanking I got, he doted on me in ways I could only ever dream of before. He’d buy me flowers, and take me on dates, and it was so sexy the way he’d order for me at restaurants, or pick out my clothes, or take me home and have his way with me.
There were times during stage two that he’d pull away because the intensity of the dynamic was too much, and when he did, it was so difficult for me to handle. I felt bereft. I couldn’t handle the separation. I hated feeling distant from him.
I turned more fully to Maisy, my real life best friend, and God bless that woman, she offered everything I could’ve asked for and more -- solid advice, a shoulder to cry on, encouragement on days when I thought I simply couldn’t keep doing this. How could I offer myself day after day, trusting him to take me deeper? On more than one occasion, I reached out to her, completely worn out, and said, “I can’t do this and I don’t want to do this,” and she reminded me that every time I didn’t want to but did it anyway, I grew a little more. And you know what? I did.
It was during this stage that Jason changed a few rules for us. First, he made a rule that I was expected to come to him with everything. No hiding my fears, or emotions, or struggles, or hopes. He taught me to do this by enforcing it when I didn’t, and by rewarding me with complete availability when I did. To this day, I’m still fully able to come to him with all my fears and worries, because he’s taught me to. He also asked that I check in with him not once but twice a day.
It was also during this stage that I learned to give him more space and not be so smothering. Yes, I still relied on him for so much, but I also began to focus more heavily on my own self care. I got to the gym often, made rest a high priority, and relied on friends when I needed to. When Jason needed downtime, I learned not to take it personally, and to give him the space he needed to recharge. I recognized my own need to recharge, and made time for that.
During this stage, we were very careful with how we spent our time, and deliberate in what we decided to commit to, because we were still raising a family, and we had to balance family life with our own needs as a couple. There was no space for outside commitments that took vast quantities of time, because we needed to spend time with each other.
Gradually, punishment became far less, and I realized that obeying Jason’s rules was intuitive. I drove safely. I spoke with him respectfully. I deferred to him throughout the day. We still had our trials, but slowly, we moved on to stage three.
STAGE THREE: OWNERSHIP
In all honesty, I am not sure when this stage happened, or even if it is the last stage, but I really don’t know where else we would go from this stage.
Stage three was where we made the decided decision that this was us. This was who we were. Relating to each other as dominant and submissive was natural, beautiful, erotic, and fulfilling. There was no going back. This is the stage where we are now.
Trial and error no longer happens, and by that, I don’t mean that we don’t have struggles. We do. We are only human, and as humans our naturally selfish tendencies sometimes rear their ugly heads. And because the dynamic is built on the mutual fulfilling of one another’s needs, when one of us chooses selfishness, ripples occur. Sometimes we make mistakes. We still hurt each other. What I mean by no more trial and error is that we’ve discovered how best to relate to one another and how to solve issues when they do come up. There’s no more guessing at how to communicate. We know how to. He doesn’t wonder how to respond to me when I am needy, or hurting, or sad.
At this stage, we’ve communicated so often, that we understand the needs of each other often without having to communicate those needs. I know when he needs his downtime, or attention. He knows when I need him to be sweet and nurturing and when I need him to be strict. I know how he expects me to behave, and I do my best to follow his expectations. He knows what I need. Responding to one another’s needs is now intuitive.We are secure.
Our dynamic changes as we do, as our children grow, as our lives take new paths and opportunities arise, but how we relate to each other remains the same. Will it change when our lives change completely, and we no longer raise these crazy, amazing children? I am sure it will. Will our roles as dominant and submissive change? I doubt it.
I wondered when we were in stage two if there would ever come a time when I’d finally learn how to obey him, and if I would ever get spanked anymore. Well, I can report that yes, that time does come, and has come, after literally years of working at i. As far as getting spanked, that happens with more regularity than ever, though it’s very rarely discipline.
Punishment is very rare, and by rare, a month or two can pass without me getting in trouble. And when punishment does occur, it’s usually not of the very serious variety. He still spanks me good and hard, and lets his disapproval be felt (which, at this stage, I feel very keenly). Punishment of the very serious variety happens maybe once or twice a year. I find it very, very sobering. We both hate discord between us, and we both put a high priority on making sure we do what it takes to be back to where we like to be.
It’s not that I’m perfect now, but we have both mostly learned our roles well enough that we can avoid conflict before we get to the serious punishment stage. I’ve learned, through years of practice and training, how he expects me to behave, and he’s learned, through years of practice and training, how to be constantly in tune with what’s going on in this crazy feminine head. He can communicate with a mere look or squeeze of the hand, and he can read my body language and tone of voice.
Recently, a blog reader asked if we ever want to step out of our roles “and just be peers.” Jason and I talked it over and agreed that yes, sometimes when it gets hard, the temptation to not be in our roles might be there, superficially but that no, neither of us ever really wants to step out of our roles because it’s natural and fulfilling to relate the way we do. As far as being peers? We are peers. We’re not equals in authority, because we’ve chosen not to be. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t companions. We are. We’re best friends. We love being with each other. It’s not like every one of our interactions is an exchange of power, but rather, the power exchange is a deep current that runs through our dynamic always. We tease each other, and laugh with each other, but we know that firmly established roles are in place.
Yesterday I flopped down on the bed with Jason, and we talked, the two of us looking across at each other with pillows tucked under our heads. Jason was exhausted, and I’d asked him to make a decision. He closed his eyes and laughed. “I don’t want to. I’m tired. Everywhere I go, I make the decisions.” (He’s a manager at work, and a father of many, and my dominant.)
I got up on my knees and bounced a little. “You mean I get to decide? I get the call tonight? Woohoo!”
He grabbed me, pulled me down over to him and pinned me down, laughing. “No, I take it back. I didn’t really mean that. I’m not forfeiting my right to make this decision.”
“No fair! I got the power for like ten seconds.”
We were both laughing at this point. We weren’t serious. We were just teasing. Sure, I do get to make some calls, and sure, he gets tired sometimes, but it’s natural for us to relate this way. I work hard at making it as easy on him as possible, and he works hard at making sure my every need is met.
Do we live perfect lives? Certainly not. We still have our struggles. We aren’t perfect. Is anybody?
However, Is the natural way of things harmony? Yes. And that’s the way it should be when a couple finds the dynamic that works well for them, and makes it their own, because that’s the goal here for us. So by naming stage three ownership, I’m not necessarily referring to being owned by Jason...but the two of us, together, owning this dynamic.
As a young literary student, I revelled in the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, who wrote eloquently about living lives of simplicity and fulfillment, and I realized that I wanted that. As kids came along and we moved into a house in suburbia, as Jason and I realized our desire for simplicity became more complicated, I realized that in my own life, in the trappings of the day to day, it could be difficult to live simply. But could we not live simply in our own relationship?
Could we not strip down the non-essentials, and live simply together? Could we not simplify our relationship? For us, that meant ignoring what society told us about how we should relate. That meant embracing the fantasy, choosing to live radically, and with no apology. I am here to tell you that yes, yes we can defy the norm, refuse to settle for less, and glean utter fulfillment in our relationships. It is hard work, and it is, at times, painful, but It is so very worth it.
I invite you to contribute your own thoughts on the dynamic. Differing opinions, as always, are most welcome.