Appearances can be deceiving. Some relationships have all the outward signs of one person dominating the other (or another, or others, depending on the arrangement), but a closer look can reveal a different dynamics underneath. An apparent leader can be a puppet of a skilled handler, despite the latter showing all the hallmarks of obedience and respect. By the way, this has happened more than once with the people holding the highest office. No details, because politics is a divisive topic, but you can probably come up with your own example or two.
The same covert reversal of power often happens in any relationship, of course. Not just can, with rare exceptions it naturally happens in any relationship, but organically, not consciously and not consensually. Another entry in this week’s prompt is from PurpleSole, and I really like his point:
For those in any kind of relationship there is a power exchange. One party may naturally take control, or a power struggle may occur from differing views over control. This could be a boisterous work colleague, sibling rivalry, or simply that you have a cat.
D/s relationships have an order. The dominant has control over the submissive. However this doesn’t mean that the order isn’t challenged. D/s dynamics can vary greatly depending on the personalities involved.
Just like explicit consent is front and center in a healthy D/s relationship, because of the greater possibility of sexual abuse, an explicit D/s dynamics is essential to prevent physical and emotional abuse. Actually, this is not quite right. Not “possibility”. Apparent severity. Vanilla relationships have probably just as much of abuse potential in them as the D/s ones. The difference is that the visible consequences of abuse in a D/s relationships are much more severe, hence more urgency to set the rules. Note the qualifiers “apparent” and “visible”. The emotional trauma can be just as bad in a vanilla relationship, but often much less visible. In my stint volunteering for an emotional support organization I have heard from people in conventional relationships who ended up with major emotional trauma that tends to go undiagnosed.
But enough generalities. Deep breath. I don’t like talking about myself and my relationships, but Puppet has been “gently nudging” me to do more of it. The previous sentence is completely unrelated to what I had mentioned about skilled handlers earlier. Absolutely and totally unrelated, okay? Good. As long as we are clear.
From the instant Puppet and I got sexually involved, I took control. The initial encounter was online, and by that time I had some experience in regular and erotic hypnosis, something Puppet had been aware of, just didn’t think she could be a suitable subject, what with her self-image of a strong and independent woman. I can almost hear her laugh reading this. The whole thing happened not just online, but in text, no voice, no video. If you are not familiar with hypnosis, you may think of it as a necessarily face-to-face interaction, and probably an exotic kink. It is not. But that’s a whole different topic I might talk about some day.
Anyway, once we were both clear on what kind of a chat we wanted to happen next (consent!), she tried to show initiative and tell me what she was doing and thinking. My reaction was strong, instant and unequivocal: I would be talking (writing, actually) and she would be listening and replying when asked. That shut her up instantly. That moment of seizing control set the right tone for our sex life. In that initial sex chat it took maybe 20 minutes to make her orgasm without her ever touching anything but her keyboard, and it took her by surprise. if you know anything about hypnosis, this moment of breaking through one’s conscious logical critical thinking and right into the subconscious mind establishes a mental and emotional connection that can be kept alive or even restored quite easily. This actually applies to all kinds of interactions, not necessarily explicit hypnotist/subject ones, and can be either healthy or unhealthy. But this, again, is a topic for another post. Maybe.
So, sexually, it is quite easy for me to get Puppet where I want her to be. With words, with a touch, with a look, or even a finger snap, though that last one I haven’t enforced in a long time. Hmm. I might be getting lax. The sex part of our relationship works well and it is pretty unambiguous who is in charge there. She can, of course, show interest, directly or indirectly, do her bratty poking and fighting, but we both know what is going on and how it would proceed. With an occasional sad exception of one or both of us getting triggered. But we are getting better at discussing and minimizing such situations. You can read more about Puppet’s take on her triggers here.
Sadly, one cannot have sex all the time. Well, I cannot, stupid male physiology gets in the way, and being on the mature side does not help matters. Puppet could probably fuck non-stop until physically exhausted. Actually, that’s what we did in our first few in-person meetings. Her vagina didn’t stay dry for more than a few minutes. Fun times. Outside of sex the situation is much more complicated. Much much more. I am a caretaker by nature, a caretaker Dom, or a daddy Dom, if you will, and herein lies the danger. In taking care of a person, it is easy to slide into subservience and even submission, catering to their charge’s every whim to keep them happy. And if the person you are taking care of is naturally strong-willed, and you are not so much, that danger is increased manifold. Welcome to our daily struggle, dear reader. I want to take control, she wants to give up control, but quite often the relationship ends up being reversed and I do what needs to be done to keep her half-sane and somewhat safe. At least we do our best to discuss what is going on, openly and honestly, if not always very tactfully.
Remember how I had mentioned that a certain type of a connection to the subconscious, once established, is much easier to maintain? Well, in retrospect my mistake was to stay in the caretaker role without being as forceful about it as I was forceful about the sexual part. It would have been much easier in those initial days to enforce what is and is not acceptable to me in other contexts, as well. And once a habit is formed, it gets entrenched. Unfortunately, the habits we formed back then outside of sex set the tone for what we are dealing with right now. If there was one thing I would redo in our connection it would be forcing her from the start to quit her bullshit, or else. Admittedly, it was not easy. Not at all. To wit:
Puppet has multiple physical and mental issues that make simple everyday tasks and activities a chore at the best of times, and a virtual impossibility the rest of the time. Or at least it feels like it. Note that she is smart and emotionally intelligent. Which lends itself nicely to being able to manipulate people, often without realizing it. I pointed it out to her on many occasions, long before our connection became more than friendship and support. In the right context these qualities are a godsend. In a professional setting she is a natural leader, and people follow her without thinking twice. Same thing happened in her circle of friends, according to her. In that context it is known as “charisma.” In a different setting these “skills” are a huge detriment. Puppet has been able to manipulate doctors and therapists and engage in avoidant and harmful behaviors. Her ex-husband often called himself an enabler, in a sort of resigned way, a sentiment I share fully. I am also very much aware that she successfully manipulates me in multiple ways and in different areas, and we have both been acknowledging it happening. But there is a wide chasm from acknowledging an unhealthy behavior to changing it into a healthy one. For both of us.
Back to where I started. While in the sexual part of our relationship the D/s roles are clear, in other contexts they are often blurred or even reversed without an explicit discussion or consent. Just like in a garden-variety vanilla relationship. Even what appears to be a dominant action, like forcing her to eat or drink, or shower can be an expression of submission. One example: she used to do the chores like cleaning and cooking until the last several months, so we could have a lunch and a dinner together when I come home from the office. But, for various reasons, she has been increasingly grumpy and passive aggressive in those areas, so I eventually took over most of those activities, with her mostly just helping me here and there. Not because I want to take over, or because I am any good at it, but to avoid conflict and to make sure we eat healthily and are not living in a dump. With food on the table, a can of bubbly water by the bed, there is a good chance that she would eat and drink when told to. A very good chance, actually. This works as a stop-gap measure, but is probably not where either of us wants to be long-term.
Not all reversal of roles is bad, of course. As I said, the only reason this blog exists and this post is being written is Puppet’s gentle prodding. The reason we have started with explicit rules for our 24/7 D/s relationship is Puppet pointing out that we need them to get anywhere. Yes, gentle prodding and in no way nagging. You are a good girl, Puppet. Keep it up. We talk a lot about our relationship, and are cautiously optimistic that we have a way forward, so that we both get what we need from being together, and that our powers are real and not just appearances.