I've been quiet for quite a while. Some of this is because life has gotten in the way. My health hasn't been great (although I've been happy to discover that part of the problem was anemia, and that's eased up by finding a better iron supplement), and there have been big non-disciplinary changes in my and W's lives.
But more than that, it's because discipline hasn't been happening, or has been happening in frustrating ways, or has been complicated in ways that I haven't been able to put into words. I've spent a lot of the past two years or so feeling rather inarticulate about many things.
I'm still rather inarticulate, but I've decided I'll go ahead and try to write something, because it's entirely possible that I will find words once I start writing.
W and I have been on hiatus with discipline off and on for nearly two years now. Contrary to my disciplinary fantasies, W does not take easily to being in charge. She struggles with it, and many of her own physical and mental health issues were getting in the way. On top of that, she didn't seem to be entirely clear about benefitting from this arrangement on her own behalf, and that was building up a lot of resentment for both of us. So, not quite two years ago, I asked to take a break until she was ready to be the one to re-initiate.
This has been a struggle, but much less of one than it might have been, because I have gotten to the point where I don't absolutely need discipline in order to cope with life. I still generally follow my rules, whether or not there are consequences for breaking them. I am able to maintain a level of emotional balance without the ongoing structure of discipline. It's still hard, but I am proud of what I've been able to manage. I trust W enough that I have worked to give her the space to take care of herself. Mostly. Well, at least more than half the time. I hope.
W has re-initiated discipline a few times, but we've wound up drifting away over and over again. When either of us is exhausted, as happens much of the time, or too busy, as also happens, discipline falls by the wayside. And each time we drift away, I find it harder to reach a place where I am able to be submissive, which makes it all the harder to re-start the next time.
That resistance has been one of my main struggles. I am frustrated with myself, for needing discipline. I'm able to acknowledge that, even though I can keep myself in line, and behave respectfully, and follow the rules even when discipline isn't happening… I still need it. I am less relaxed when discipline isn't happening. I am more stressed. But more than that, I am less open in my relationship with W.
In a lot of ways, I think that comes from having very few in-person role models for a relationship with discipline. I was able to accept being a lesbian because I knew other people who were, and I could see that it was a healthy way to deal with the fact that I am primarily attracted to women. I was able to accept kink because I knew plenty of other people who were kinky, and I could see it as part of the healthy range of sexuality. What's more, the people that I spend most of my time with, even if they are not themselves homosexual, and even if they do not practice kink… they accept those things in me.
But the only people I know who practice discipline, I know from the internet. My community doesn't include people who are out about discipline, and it does include a lot of people who are very disapproving of it. So, as much as I know that this is a healthy expression of who I am, I struggle with it. And as much as I can observe in myself that discipline is a part of how I am wired, when it is something that the people around me don't understand or disapprove of, it becomes harder to honor in myself.
And over the past two years, it's become much easier for me to deny my need for discipline to myself. I don't need it to make sure that I take care of myself, or that I treat W well, or to help manage feelings, or to help lay bad memories to rest. I am able to manage without it, but there is something missing when I do.
I feel frustrated by that, furious at myself for being unable to be as affectionate with W when discipline isn't happening. I want for it not to make a difference. I want for discipline to be something like schoolgirl scenes–something that might turn me on, sure, but that isn't necessary for me to be the person I want to be in our relationship.
I feel guilty about needing it, too. I feel like I'm withholding affection from W in order to make her do what I want. But at the same time, even when I don't intend it, when she establishes her authority with me, I respond without even thinking. I am closer to her, more open to her, more affectionate with her. Even when I try to resist that, or when I am afraid that the dynamic will disappear as quickly as it came, I respond to it. And when I am able to put it into the context of my core sexuality–no different from being a lesbian, for instance–I can understand that it's not something I need to feel guilty about. But it's hard to put it into that context for myself.
W has re-started discipline again. She has said that she misses it when it's not happening–not just because of the benefits of me being more affectionate and more attentive, but also because of the benefits she gets from being more assertive and more in control. She needs that structure of accountability as much as I do, too. Perhaps even more (since I've been a paragon of responsibility and all… or at least, I've been doing the best I can within the overwhelming limits of my physical health).
And I am finding myself struggling with another kind of resistance. I might be wired to be submissive, but that doesn't mean it's easy for me.
I'm bossy. I'm controlling. I'm always right. (Well, I know that two of three are true.) And these tendencies in me butt up against W's lifetime of bending to stronger personalities, giving up control rather than fighting to keep it, and being told that she's wrong until she almost believes it.
In our dynamic, this means that W struggles with confidence, and I struggle with not taking advantage of her doubts in order to avoid submitting. Neither of us does this intentionally, and for the most part, we don't even do it consciously.
So re-starting discipline means re-starting that uncomfortable dynamic of stepping out of the roles we are accustomed to. It means wrestling with a painful kind of emotional growth, where we attempt to be more fully ourselves.
In more concrete terms, it means that she is pushing herself to be more in charge while I find myself testing that authority as soon as she exerts it. It's frustrating for both of us, and has been a stumbling-block in our disciplinary dynamic since we began. What is even more frustrating is that we've recognized that just because I'm not overtly testing doesn't mean that I'm not engaging in a more subtle process of avoiding submitting to her authority by behaving well. My childhood left me with a deep capacity for following rules as a method of resisting authority, and it is hard for me to avoid that pattern even now.
I am an adult, and I have become more aware of these dynamics, and (thank heaven) nineteen years after leaving home, I am able to at least be conscious of where my responses are coming from. At the same time, I am aware that resisting too much will undermine W's confidence, discourage her, and make her less able to reach her dominant self.
Right now, I'm working on accepting the responses I have, even though they contradict both what I want and what I need. I am hoping that by allowing myself to simply observe "Oh, yes, I am resisting, and I am not open to ceding control," rather than trying to suppress that response, or deny it… I'm hoping that if I acknowledge those feelings without acting on them, we will get through this re-start and wind up in a new place.
It's all a process, and I'm still in the middle of it, and I'm still feeling pretty darned inarticulate. But, hey, I seem to have written fifteen hundred words, so I can't be all that inarticulate, can I?