Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Assuaging a Sub's Fear of Abandonment

I took a break from regular blogging recently because work demands (I'm a computing entrepreneur) had consumed my attention. Then a few days ago, a reader sent me this touching request:
My little girl depends on me for a great deal, which I know is normal. But often she expresses that she is terrified if I were to ever leave her (she sees that other doms leave their subs). She says that her life would fall apart, and she couldn't survive without me. I have no intention of leaving but her thoughts really concern me. Any advice? 

I could almost taste her fear through his words. Imagining the loss of a partner can be a huge impediment to a trusting and deep relationship. Yet her fear is not unfounded; losing a beloved dom can be shattering to a sub. 

D/s practices can create a closeness which vanilla relationship gurus would label "unhealthy" or "co-dependent" (The latter term comes from the substance abuse recovery community, where the wife of an alcoholic, for example, is thought to be as dependent on the abuse of alcohol as her husband is on the substance itself. It's a poor term outside that context; how could two people simply depending on each other be a bad thing?) It seems to me that the consensus of self-appointed experts about what constitutes healthy closeness in a romantic relationship is that which you find between two nations which share a border. Visitors may cross the frontier into the other country, but necessarily return to their native land, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of which must be defended to the last. And we wonder why so many marriages end in divorce!

The fact is, some people are suited to extremely close, merging relationships, and others to more distant engagements. Attempting to pair yourself with someone of the other tendency is a recipe for failure. Naturally, kinky people span this spectrum as much as vanillas. However, couples which identify themselves as master/slave, daddy/girl, owner/property, or even simply monogamous dom/sub, tend to be expressing an intent to create their own world together, instead of a merely open border between separate lands. I myself find this notion to be immensely appealing, and deeply romantic.

So it can't be categorically unhealthy to aspire to create a new world with your lover. Yet doing so presents the possibility that such a world might crumble, casting its denizens into cold, black space. What then, can one do to allay the fear of such a disaster, or at least make its aftermath survivable?

Assuming a healthy relationship, the most common reason to fear losing one's partner has nothing to do with the partnership, it has to do with the past. Many people, men and women, vanilla and kinky, have abandonment fears, due to previous experiences with parents, close friends, or lovers. Abandonment issues that form in childhood due to neglectful parenting are particularly tenacious. Painful experiences at that age create lasting impressions about how the world treats you. So there may be no quick way to quiet internal voices warning of impending loss. But it is often healing to identify sources of grief from your history, and tell one's partner about how they formed. Recounting such stories from your life is bonding, and when a story taps into a well of pent-up grief, it's cathartic.

When listening to a loved one tell a difficult story from their past, you can help by focusing on its events and urging them to return to them if they head off on a tangent. If they pause when the story becomes hard to tell, gently urge them to keep going, when they're ready. If they fight back tears, or break down sobbing, or show other signs of emotional release (e.g. laughing, trembling) simply smile at them fondly and offer a warm witness to their process. There's nothing in particular you need to say, beyond, "OK" or "I hear you" or "You're doing great". If the teller needs to hear something specific from you, they'll usually ask.

If your loved one's grief makes you at all uncomfortable, keep in mind that that's about whatever their emotions trigger in your own psyche, not a reaction they're causing you to have. Remember that you can't fix whatever is broken in them, you can only hold the space for them while they go through their healing process. The art of holding space for a grieving partner takes patience and practice; you'll get better at it with time. You can also get feedback on your space-holding from your partner later on.

But sadly, relationships do fail, so there is a risk that fears of abandonment will be realized. And from discussions with subs who've lost cherished doms, I do know that it can be a heart-rending experience, though none of them had been permanently damaged by it. Fortunately there is a way to make the possibility of a breakup less daunting: create community around yourselves.

For sure, you should each have a confidant or two—kink-involved friends with whom you speak regularly about your D/s journey. (Note: it's wise for partners to choose different confidants.) Also, seek other D/s couples with whom you click to spend friendly time with as a couple. Practicing D/s means flying in the face of conventional wisdom about healthy relationships. That can be subtly draining. Even though, as kinksters, we like to think of ourselves as free-thinking seekers, humans are still social beings who draw peace of mind from the approval our communities.

If a romance becomes troubled, confidants offer a place to turn for solace and solutions. And if the partnership crumbles, they provide a safety net, a place to bring your grief. They can even provide a guestroom in the case where spending nights completely alone in the aftermath of a separation is too much to bear.

Creating community around your partnership, and considering and dealing with any latent grief the partners bring to it, are, to my mind, essential processes for most D/s relationships. They foster trust and intimacy, and in time will assuage fears of losing your partner.

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23 Comments:

At April 25, 2013 7:46 AM, Anonymous Laura said...

Hi, I've just found your blog and I'm really enjoying it. It's refreshing to find something on BDSM relationships that is so honest and forgiving of human nature. I particularly enjoyed an earlier post (January, maybe?) on embracing something when everything in your upbringing told you was wrong - something I can relate to very well.

Many thanks for sharing your insights :)

 
At April 25, 2013 11:56 AM, Blogger Will said...

Hi Laura, thanks so much for your appreciation!

And I quite enjoyed writing the other article you refer to — Discovering, Embracing, Revealing the Self

 
At May 27, 2013 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello.
I have been with a man for almost 3 years. My intuition tells me he is a dom. When we first began seeing one another he told me about a D/s experience he had with a woman he met online.
With me he is very gentle and we only have sex missionary. I give him oral. He does not preform oral on me. I feel as though he is compartmentalizing his life. Let me explain. . Being with me. Keeping me pure. Then going home and seeking out an online sub relationship. Needless to say, I'm not happy and neither is he. I am an extremely sexual and open minded person. I admit I have been willful toward him. Which I'm sure gives him pause. I feel I have been willful because he has been unfair and assumes he can't trust me. Meanwhile I have been faithful and turned a blind eye to him being online instead of training me.
I may seem pushy. I assure you I have been very patient. He didn't speak to me for two months and I waited. He tells me he is to initiate all touching. I respect that. However with him being online. I go for months with no intimacy at all. I mean months. He tells me he loves me. Its no big deal. If I were to question him. It would resolve nothing. It would just anger him.
I love him. I want to be that person for him. I know he loves me.
Is there anything I can or cant do? I feel like a fool.
Roxanne

 
At May 27, 2013 11:06 PM, Blogger Will said...

Hi Roxanne. You've said a lot, yet it's hard to see a clear picture, so all I can offer is questions.

Do you and your partner talk openly about emotions, sexuality, issues and vulnerabilities, what you like and dislike about each other and your relationship?

Have you told him you have submissive feelings and would appreciate his teaching you how to be submissive with him?

Do you have any insight on whether he feels his interest in D/s is acceptable or sustainable in real life?

Do feel that going for months without intimacy with him is a strain on you or the romance?

Do you feel that his apparent unwillingness to address questions you might raise is a sign of weakness, or strength?

Before you reach for the keys to pound out any answers to the above, give some thought to the implications of whatever answers spring to your mind.

 
At June 21, 2013 12:58 AM, Blogger Jodi Hansen said...

Hi Sir,
i just found your blog. This post really resenated with me. i too fear that my Dom is going to leave, but not walking out the door. i have a fear of him dying, he has a terminal illness that will one day take him from me. i know he would never just walk out on me, he is too honorable for that.
Thanks again
jodi

 
At July 04, 2013 11:21 AM, Blogger Will said...

Hi Jodi, thanks for your comment. You raise a poignant issue, how to cope with the imminent loss of a partner to death, and how D/s might complicate that already heart-rending situation. I'd be interested to hear more about your story, if you're inclined to share it by comment or email...

 
At November 22, 2013 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,
I have been in what I'm thinking is a sub/dom relationship for 9 months. He lives out of state but comes twice a year for work, in my state. He usually stays for 4 to 6 weeks in which it seems very much like a normal relationship. I believe he has a relationship at home, but have been told I can not ask about that. He has strict rules for me, all that pertain to his wants and needs, sexual and other wise. We only had vanilla sex once, and that was the first time, but other then that it's me playing him. I find great pleasure in this, more so then I would of ever thought, but my actual sexual needs are never addressed. I'm actually partially ok with this. He usually always starts any text he sends to me staying he owns me. I am comfortable with that as well, but lately has been threatening that maybe this isn't working. I don't argue, or talk back, I just acknowledge what he says. And he stops communication. He then usually contacts me several hours later. This puts the fear in my head of what happens if he did end this. I know feel so dependent on his attention, and his rules for me. It's so comforting, I don't know that I would want to be in a relationship without these things, but more importantly without him. He does not refer to himself as a dom, but very dominant. I do believe he is one though. I thankfully am able to share quite a bit about my relationship with my best friend, but she clearly thinks I have gone off the deep end with his rules and the no sexual intercourse. She is the one who suggested I Google mind control in relationships, thus I found your blog. I knew our relationship fell under the bdsm umbrella, but knew we were on the more mild side. It's just the ownership and emotional control. At this point I'm just reading everything I can about how my relationship and his control over me falls into this world, so when the time comes I don't feel completely lost if it ends without closure. And even with closure, I'm afraid.

 
At November 22, 2013 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I apologize for any the gamer and typos.....this was sent from my phone and difficult to proof read and correct.

 
At November 23, 2013 12:56 PM, Blogger Will said...

Your grammar was fine and typos minimal! I hear your sense of reliance on this relationship, and fear of losing it. It certainly does seem like a dom/sub duet. However, it sounds like he's not giving you some care which you'd need for such a romance to be sustainable over time. A dom doesn't have to mine the insecurities of a sub to exercise control; in fact, over time, such tactics would weaken his hold...

 
At November 24, 2013 11:27 PM, Anonymous Maureen said...

Thank you......I completely understand and agree.

 
At January 12, 2014 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will,
I really appreciate your blog. This article and many others are really opening up an entire side of me I never even knew existed.
I have been in an on and off relationship for 7 years now. Every off has been a chance for each of us to figure out something about our selfs. We always come back to each other, realizing that we had found something out about ourselves that has brought us closer together. Most recently, he has come out to me, saying that he believes he may be a dom. The way he talks about his desires for it is so enlightening and amazing. So I've been researching to better understand this. I now believe that I am a sub. I have no other way to describe this feeling other than it just makes sense. Your blog has helped me come to this realization and I wanted to thank you for that. I feel that my "Mistro"(as he wishes me to call him:) ) and I have become so much closer because of this simple realization.
This post, in particular, has really struck me because, as I said, we have had our breaks. I do carry that fear that one day, I won't be his anymore. Reading the advice that you have given made me realize that he already does all that you said to calm my nerves and care for me. Sometimes, you need someone else to point it out to you and you have done that.
Thank you so much for all your help. You truly are a wonderful person for helping people you've never even met or heard of.
- Mistro's Girl

 
At April 04, 2014 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Omg this my first time ever being with a dom, he lives in my hometown but has a business some where else, I get anxiety because he never text or message me unless he's home from work feeding his cat or fish. I really want to see more him. I know its others where he works in Pa. I don't know what to do :(

 
At April 11, 2014 6:26 PM, Blogger Will said...

"I really want to see more [of] him." I suggest you tell him so! Communication about needs and feelings is essential between dom and sub.

 
At June 05, 2014 6:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Will, I recently came across your blog... love it. In my experience both of my Doms were committed to my spiritual growth and when faced with this challenge used it as an opportunity to gently explain to me that nothing in this world lasts forever and that I ultimately was responsible for my own self care and destiny. What an amazing gift! Doms can directly help their subs through these situations and should, given the opportunity to do so!

 
At July 04, 2014 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish you posted this stuff on "vanilla" forums/websites, I've read a lot of your articles already, and they are all awesome. (I'm not into the BDSM culture, nor am I a dom/sub) I am just here to get a better understanding of this culture.

Anyways a lot of the things you talk about would be VERY beneficial in any relationship. (Platonic, Sexual, Friends, etc)

 
At October 31, 2014 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I am new to being submissive in the last four or five years with the last year being the most exploratory. Lately, I have not wanted to submit. I do not want to be touched and I am quite anxious when my dom sleeps over. I really have thought about this a lot and after reading this post, I know this is where I am at. I don't receive a lot of care. I am beginning to feel like a sex object instead of a person. There is very little tenderness, care, foreplay, teasing and very little time for any of it because I don't see him very often due to his job. I am expected to submit, that's it. When I do say no, I feel very guilty. He clearly is unhappy, rolls over, goes to sleep. Last night I was so anxious, I got up and slept on the couch after being awake for hours. He says he loves me but I can't relax.

Very sad little pet.

 
At October 31, 2014 4:49 PM, Blogger Will said...

Dear sad pet, have you raised your feelings with him directly? A fulfilling, sustainable D/s relationship requires regular communication; each partner has to understand where the other is, especially before, during, and after kink sessions. See also On Communication Within a Dom/Sub Partnership.

 
At November 02, 2014 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Will,
Yes I did your other article and I read a few others too. He and I had a chance to spend some time together and talk a few things out after I posted. What your writing did for me was give me some of the language to use. I think as human beings, there are ways to discuss our feelings and ask for what we need in a healthy way. However, I think as subs, there are things we need that perhaps the average discussion doesn't cover. It has it's own unique vocabulary which you have touched upon in your articles and I found very helpful. The way you articulated several things helped me hone in on what and why I was feeling instead of a big mass of hurt. It was also a bit of a catalyst in the process of discovering what and who I am.
The problem is by no means solved as of yet. However, it got the ball rolling.
Thank-you,
Less sad, more content pet

 
At November 03, 2014 12:03 PM, Blogger samy said...

Hi Will,
about a year ago, I met the most wonderful man on an app called whisper after he responded to a post about my needing a new daddy. He had been a Dom for years, but, as you may know, a sub and a little have very different needs. We were on a long road together. I needed to learn to pull him in where I needed him to be, I needed to learn to wean him into my needs, and he needed to do the same and adjust to being my Daddy, dealing with my bratty-ness and my constant need for affection and attention and rewards and punishments and rules and structure. Over time, we grew to have a bond that wasn't even just daddy to little, but person to person as well. Now may be the time to say that he lives in Texas, whereas I live in New York. But.. even with the thousands of miles between us, I had never felt closer and more.. at ease with someone before. He had my aabsolute submission and love, but also my intrinsic need for him. Then, one day, I didn't say Goodnight to him, which was breaking a rule, and my punishment was to write every rule 13 times. Well, I still live with my mom, and I got a little careless, and left them sitting on my bed. Needless to say, my mother was disgusted. She put a lot of limits on my freedom, especially my ability to talk to him. Months passed with very little contact and it got to the point that I was just depressed and miserable without him. I had finally convinced my mom that it wasn't going to happen again, and in June I finally got to talk to him again. Well.. to my dismay.. As I clicked on his Facebook to message him.. He was in a relationship with another woman, and I thought I could never be more hurt that to read that little sentence. That's until I spoke to him. She lives in Texas right by him, and he had not only entered a relationship with her, but taken her as his little. There was another girl out there calling MY daddy HERS. And what was worse, was that in the beginning of the relationship, he called her princess to see If it felt right. It may not have, and he ended up calling her kitten. But at some point in their relationship, he had called her MY NAME. Everything about their relationship is everything that was ours, but more because he can touch her. Then, he asked ME to join his FAMILY with HER. He asked me to be second rank to someone else after he had always swore to put me first. The big girl part of me understands that he was following his heart, but the little.. is so fucking broken and hurt and so sad and.. abandoned. We still talk, I still look to him for the guidance that I need so desperately, and we still speak of me going to meet him, but.. how can I share my Daddy? How can I feel so much animosity for the girl that calls me SISSY there girl that STOLE MY DADDY AS HAS THE NERVE TO CALL ME SISSY? But then agwin, I know it's not her fault because I know his power. Now he vents to me about how he doesn't know if she can handle bringing someone else in for her fears of abandonment. But what about my real life abandonment due to him. I can't decide what to do.. I can't decide if I want to stay with him just to keep whatever of him I can even though I know it will always be in my head that he left me once and he'll do it again for her, and that if I stay with him I have to be with her too.. or if I go and try to put myself back together all by myself and find someone new.. could you offer any advice?
Thank you,
an abandoned little princess.

 
At November 14, 2014 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear abandoned princess...I feel your pain and I'm sorry...I hope u foind a new daddy who's better to u if that is what the heart desires...I'd be devastated! Hugs!!!

 
At November 25, 2014 5:35 PM, Blogger Will said...

Dear samy, had you met this man in person? Were you visiting each other periodically? If not, your relationship was what I'd call virtual, and in that situation each partner is carrying an incomplete concept of the other in his mind, and filling in many missing details with fantasy. Neither one is getting more than a fraction of their needs met. I've seen this happen many times; I've done it myself! (Chagrin :-)

Also, as a sub/little (or really any sort of dom or sub), it is essential that you conduct relationship logistics from your vanilla-world self. Seeking a partner, interviewing candidates (see How to Interview a Dom/Master Prospect), getting to know someone, etc. — these all need the clarity and strength of your vanilla persona. Until you have met someone in person and established chemistry, basic compatibility, and some trust, sharing your very vulnerable little self with him is taking an unwarranted risk.

Putting yourself back together, as you say, sounds like the right next step.

 
At December 13, 2014 8:17 PM, Blogger In need of discipline said...

I feel really silly asking this as I am new to the HOH/sub relationship but you can be married and have a Dom/Sub relationship, can't you?

 
At December 14, 2014 1:58 PM, Blogger Will said...

Yes, a great many dom/sub couples are also husband & wife.

 

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