Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay?

Is your partner too good to leave in some way, but also too bad to stay with?  Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirschenbaum can help you make this decision with clarity, and find peace of mind with your choice.

If you have ever found yourself trying to decide whether to remain in a problematic (or even just boring) relationship and continue to try to work things out, or to just get out, you have probably really struggled with making that decision, and probably all the more so if abuse has been involved.

Few relationships (or people) are entirely bad with absolutely zero redeeming qualities, and even some of the very most abusive often still have plenty of good left in them – or at least the abused partner may still have a number of entirely valid reasons for staying.

It can be crazy-making for anyone in any relationship to try to make this decision with all of the conflicting information, needs, and priorities that must often be considered, but people who have been abused are often even more confused than the average bear as a result of the mind-games that abusers tend to play.  Too often, we make lists of pros and cons to try to help us decide, and find them equal in length, or a particular advantage appears to vastly outweigh a long list of real problems, thereby perpetuating the whole dilemma.  Add in the issues inherent in kinky relationships, and it can be particularly difficult to decide what to do in all too many cases – or to actually do it even if you already know.

A couple of years ago, I came across this really superb book that can help you make more sense of this decision, and to make it in a rational and reasoned manner, although I’m only now getting around to writing about it.  If you’re still in the relationship, this book can help you decide whether or not to stay in it.  If you are already out, you may find that reading it will help validate why you are better off without the jerk, especially if you still have any remaining doubts.  It will help you cut through all of the mental ping pong of “yes, buts” and “if onlys” and get right to the bottom line.

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay is unquestionably the very best book I’ve ever found about how to make the decision to leave or stay and try to work things out when a relationship is troubled in some way but may still have good in it, there is still love, etc. It’s an absolute gem for those who are on the fence regardless of the reasons you may be straddling it.

Through exploration of a number of specific questions, and analysis of the long-term happiness of many people she has studied or counseled who chose to either stay or go under the particular circumstances of each section, Kirschenbaum helps walk the reader through essentially a decision tree, starting with the parameters she has found to be most predictive of long term success or failure of trying to salvage things and working her way down to the smaller issues. Even if you find your answer in the early sections, I encourage reading the whole thing, as some of the later ones may provide additional validation.

She also makes some incredibly important and surprising points about the value of love in a relationship, including why that actually should not be the primary determinant of a decision like this in many cases – and indeed examines what love actually is and how various behaviors do or do not demonstrate it.

Even if, like me, you don’t find this while you’re still trying to make a decision but only after the fact, it will likely help you better understand why things didn’t work out if you do make the split, or help confirm why you may be better off having made the decision to stay together.

As I worked my way through the book, the points against staying kept adding up more and more.  It really helped put any final doubts I may have still harbored at that point to rest for good, helped completely end the cycle of “If only…” that had continued to torture me for a good while after the end.  “If only” is a pipe dream.  It wasn’t, and never actually could have been, given so many things about the person I was with.  “If only” is probably *always* a pipe dream, for everyone.

One note – Kirschenbaum talks about hitting you as perhaps the most important predictor of failure of trying to reconcile, the one real absolute she lays out as an imperative for leaving. Obviously most of us can’t take that at full face value in the kink world. Just mentally add in the word “consensual” where she mentions physical violence of any sort, and that will help separate things out in a relevant-to-kink way.  If your partner has ever hit you in a nonconsensual way, violated limits, etc., I think this section will apply.

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Thanks to @freewine on FetLife for the prodding that got me to sit down and finally write about this book.

Don’t Touch Me, Asshole!

A young woman who is new to the scene complained that no fewer than three different men touched her nonconsensually at a recent party at our local playspace, and says this is a common happening for her in life in general.  A lengthy discussion ensued.  Here’s one of my posts in the thread about maintaining boundaries.

I’m so sorry you had this experience, and I agree with most of the very good advice you’ve been given.

That said, it saddens me to hear that anyone comes through the doors expecting that they do not need to maintain their own boundaries the same as they do anywhere else, and that they don’t have to be on guard for their own needs the same as they are anywhere else.

Unfortunately, it is a reality of life that clueless people who ignore boundaries and rules exist everywhere. There is no vetting process for entrance to the Citadel or any other venue or organization that I know of around here that can keep the clueless out.

While I certainly do not condone what happened to you, you really need to realize that in the end, you are the one most responsible for communicating and reinforcing your own boundaries, whatever they may be. We can tell Phil and August about transgressions until the cows come home, but to expect that they will never happen isn’t realistic. Yes, it’s much safer at the Citadel than in most places, by far – but safer does not mean perfect and that shit won’t still occasionally happen. It’s just unrealistic to think that you don’t have to still look out for your own self. Continue reading

Having a D/s Relationship – Why She Wants to Be Submissive

I did not write this, but found it out in the blogosphere.  Apparently it’s going around, but it is not known who wrote it.  I don’t agree with every single point, but for the most part, it rings true, and is full of excellent ideas on how to create a successful – and mutually fulfilling – D/s relationship.

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HAVING A D/S RELATIONSHIP

Like all my writings, this is more for myself than anyone else. Dominance and submission (D/s) has always been a part of my life, both my greatest torment when not understood by either myself and those I shared my thoughts with, and finally the source of greatest contentment and pride when I finally realized how beautiful and loving an exchange it is.
In a way, it is impossible to describe or explain it to another unless that person has the creativity and capacity to see its full potential to draw two people so close together that *everything* they have inside of them can be revealed and that is when they can be loved unconditionally and completely.

The only rule to d/s is that there are no rules. What each sub wants is different and takes varying forms. I am writing this with a particular sub in mind, and that is the kind of woman who is so full of love that she longs to give herself unreservedly to her Master. It is written for those women who want to be a full-time slavegirl, who enjoy the sensual pleasures of being spanked (and more!) and who want to be disciplined when they do not meet their own personal goals and the guidelines for behavior set by their Master.

WHY SHE WANTS TO BE SUBMISSIVE
The Importance of Submission
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In my conversations with submissive women, one thing stands out prominently and that is very very few men realize the importance that submission holds for her. It is far more than a physical experience, it is an emotional connection with you so meaningful that it contains her very soul. Continue reading

Protected: Further Revelations – and Freedom In Sight

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I Miss… I Don’t Miss

12/22/09

Every morning I still awaken with the thought of how much I miss you, how much I want to be with you again, how much I miss being in your arms.

And then my mind changes course, and I correct it with the new thought what I miss is the good parts, not the bad. And I try to remember what they all were… Continue reading

Sadism For the Sake of Sadism – or What is Pure Sadism?

I consider a pure sadist, in the BDSM context, to be someone who gets off in some way from hurting others, regardless of whether or not that person likes it, and even prefers it when they don’t – or at least doesn’t let the bottom’s not liking it or not being able to take what gets dished out get in the sadist’s way of doing it anyways.

As long as the bottom agrees to those parameters, everything is copacetic.

There’s nothing wrong with consensual nonconsent – and many people definitely get off on it.  But it’s *got* to be agreed upon in advance.

That consent is also the only thing that separates BDSM-type sadism from the form described in the DSM that is considered pathological.

If there is no agreement that pushing those limits to the point that the bottom really cannot take it is OK, and especially if it’s stated in advance that it’s *not* (and is therefore a hard limit), then it becomes abuse instead – or even outright assault and battery.

It can certainly take some time to learn where those limits actually are, but once established, if not respected, then deliberately exceeding them (except by obvious accident) becomes pretty much a nonconsensual act, even if the overall play is consensual.

Obviously this can also take some real technical skill to avoid stepping over those boundaries in some cases – as well as a desire and intent to respect them.  It also takes open communications with one’s partner to determine when those limits may have also changed for some reason, especially things like the time in the menstrual cycle, any health issues, etc.

A pure sadist of the BDSM type may or may not also be a dominant as well, but often is not.

How I Would Explain My Role

First of all, I don’t fit in any neat little boxes. There’s no one word that describes how I identify, what my role is. I generally say “submissive” because that’s probably the closest of the options usually offered, but I am way too complex for any single label of this nature to even remotely begin to describe me – except maybe just “kinky”. And I am indeed kinked to the core, but in ways and combinations of ways that simply completely defy neat categorization. This drove my ex crazy, that I simply would not just say any more that I’m “submissive” or a “slave”, or any other single neat term. I’m an impossible crazy quilt of mixed up concepts, much too complicated to fully encapsulate in a single word.

Thus, the only thing that really makes any sense at all to me these days is to pretty much eliminate the labels completely, and just talk about what I like and don’t like, what works for me and what doesn’t, and to look for a partner who has a reasonably complementary list of needs and desires, no matter what he calls his own self.
That said, I’m going to throw a few out initially here anyways, to show how confusing it is to try to neatly label me.

In many ways, I am probably a bottom, in that I am not interested in having someone else run my life, unless it happens to be in ways I’d want it run and am already doing. If someone thinks he’s going to change me into something I’m not, or that I will try to become anything other than what I am, forget it. I’m an adult, and expect to be treated as one.

I also don’t want to be pushed in ways I don’t want in play, although I absolutely need that submissive headspace to be able to process the pain and other pushing that the masochist in me craves during play, to be able to go anywhere near the headspace I need, to be pushed to the places I can’t go by myself. It’s a deeply submissive headspace I seek and need, regardless of the mechanics and details of how I get there, or what happens outside the bedroom.

Because this is the core of what drew me to the kink world, I remain self-identifying as a submissive, although there are other reasons as well, as outlined below. So perhaps I should change that to a submissive with bottom leanings, or a bottom with submissive leanings. “Profoundly submissive” (a bizarre term I’ve seen surfacing lately on Fetlife) I am not, though. Somewhat masochistic also, definitely, although my limits have very much contracted in recent years for various reasons.

On the other hand, I am quite socially dominant (although not sexually so), and don’t put up with crap even in a D/s relationship. I insist on my limits and boundaries being respected, my needs dealt with appropriately, and enough of my desires satisfied to keep me interested. Step on my limits and I’ll end up fighting you about it if I don’t just leave, if reasonable discussion doesn’t resolve the issue, and I’ll push really hard for the discussion and resolution, which some people perceive as fighting. So perhaps I’m actually a dominant submissive with bottoming tendencies. Or a submissive bottom with dominant tendencies. Who knows what to call it?

From another angle, many slaves are not the least bit submissive, but are in fact quite dominant, a concept I learned from Master Skip Chasey. I’ll certainly be obedient to the right dominant who handles me right. So am I actually a slave? That’s not how I think of myself, or what I aspire to, but there are bits of that in there as well, especially because most of what I was taught as and think of as D/s is what most people think of more as M/s. And if you define it the way my ex, R, did, being a slave meant being owned by him, giving him my love and devotion, wearing his collar with pride, and that I definitely do identify with. But I’m decidedly not property.

I’m definitely sexually submissive, but not especially service oriented, at least not if we’re talking domestic service.

I do, however, very much enjoy pleasing my partner in many ways as well as helping and supporting him in all areas of life, and yes, even taking care of him in some limited and very specific ways (NOT financially). I live for much of that, in fact. A lot of people would consider this service, and I suppose it is. The language differential matters a lot to me, though, as I just don’t respond well to the word “service”. I live to help others, especially those I love. I die if it is rejected.

I need for my submission to be carefully seduced, for my dominant to inspire me to give it, on an ongoing basis. It simply won’t come out to play otherwise.

I need to be regularly told I’m a good girl when I please him. NEED. As in essential.

I don’t do the “on your knees, bitch” kind of submission, except perhaps in scene. And I don’t just give it unless it’s both seduced and earned. It also won’t come out in a vacuum where it’s expected to start the game itself, to be offered first, before the dominance happens, unless in the context of specific regular rituals that involve just that. And yet, I need for that to wait until I signal I’m ready. My submission plays and thrives best with active, overt, but still quiet domination asking for it, quietly but firmly insisting on it, and with clear and consistent expectations. And it absolutely requires a very high level of intelligence and creativity on the part of the dom as well.

The result of pushing me too hard and/or too soon, or without a very high level of trust (or worse, the breaking of that trust and violation of limits, especially repeatedly) will be resistance and near complete loss of ability to take any level of pain, and I’ll just eventually leave the relationship, one way or another. At this point in my life, that departure will be much sooner rather than later.

But when I am with someone who inspires me to submit to him and encourages and takes care of it successfully… wow.  Those are the dominants (and periods of time) who have always gotten the very best of me, to whom I happily give as much of what they want as I can, and whom I want to serve, obey, and please. When things are really clicking this way, I soar.

Once a very high level of trust is established (and it’s going to take one hell of a lot to get there these days), I have a very strong and deep-seated, nearly life-long need to be pushed in both play and sex, to be taken and forced to take more intense sensation than I think I can, all within my limits, of course. I need to be overpowered by someone I know there’s no way I can escape from.

I particularly live for forced orgasms to the point that I can’t take any more (and I am highly multiorgasmic), and scenes that involve the infliction of and determined gradual escalation of other intense sensations of varying sorts while in completely immobilizing bondage that is utterly inescapable, complete with sensory deprivation. Nothing else on earth will make me fly like that particular combination when skillfully executed by someone I trust implicitly with my life. Genital orgasms are sometimes mere icing and sometimes even distracting from the level of bliss, peace, and sometimes full body orgasm that scenes like this in which I have no control at all bring me. But of course this kind of scene requires a very high degree of trust.

With the right dominant, in the right circumstances, I am also submissive in a 24/7 sense, in certain ways. I function best on a long leash, with dominance actually exerted in only a few areas of life, and the rest of our lives being pretty much vanilla, with my having a lot of autonomy and the relationship being largely egalitarian. But I do definitely like to feel the leash and reminders of it enough to know it’s always there, and perhaps some small rituals together. That helps anchor me emotionally and gives me an amazing sense of security and belonging when the trust is high in all aspects of life together.

What I most seek is a strong leader who is basically in charge, not so much in control per se, some to follow whom I deeply admire. I will follow a strong, highly competent leader whose tastes, preferences, interests, and values align well with my own pretty much anywhere, at any time, without even asking questions or paying attention to where or how we get there most of the time. I’ll eat whatever he puts in front of me, go to whatever restaurants he takes me to, attend whatever events he wants to go to with him, follow him in travel to the ends of the earth without even looking at the tickets or flight numbers, baggage claim or car rental direction signs, etc. It is absolute bliss to be with someone I trust like that, and who takes care of me in that way, and I miss it terribly.

I am certainly more than competent to manage all of these kinds of things quite expertly on my own, of course, but the release and joy of being able to just not have to do it at all and to rely on someone else to take control of it all is absolute heaven…

I am also starting to explore the idea of being with someone with daddy-like qualities inclinations, and whatever that translates to on the right side of the slash. I’m definitely not a little, though. I find the idea of age play per se appalling, and am absolutely not interested in a daddy per se, let alone addressing anyone like that. It’s the loving, nurturing, care-taking, teaching, encouraging, supportive, take-charge, strong guy to lean on kinds of qualities that make me feel safe and secure that I’m drawn to.
I suppose one could also look at it like the qualities of a gracious gentleman in the most traditional, old-school sense, a man’s man who takes care of everything in our lives, and makes sure that I am always safely looked after – but who also definitely delights in torturing me in bed and in play and supports and encourages me completely in my own professional and avocational pursuits (as I also do with him). It’s kind of like the male counterpart to the madonna/whore notion for women, I suppose, a dichotomy with which I have most definitely always identified. I’ve recently seen some men defining themselves as “gentleman doms”. That would be about right for what I’m looking for.

This is not to say that he does everything. Au contraire. I have many talents and skills, and not only want for them to be utilized in the service of the relationship, but expect that.

I need nurturing, caring, loving, kindness, consistency, firmness and insistence when necessary, positive reinforcement, and to be contained safely within the aura and arms of a strong, protective, emotionally mature, self-assured, flexible, realistic, grounded man with high self esteem, who is utterly committed, as I am, to doing whatever it takes to work on ourselves as individuals as well as on the relationship. I also need attention paid to both my needs and my wants along with a definite level of sadism.

I absolutely do not do punishment. Funishment, sure. Anything with a real punitive intent is a very hard limit, though. See “I am an adult” and “I want to please my partner” above. I also experience it as abusive, and it is more likely to elicit complete opposition than anything else if anyone tries it with me, and digging in to repeat. When I know that I’ve disappointed my partner, that hurts enough. Attempts to punish me destroy me.

Any kind of harshness, displays of anger, what many doms call “strictness”, punishment, and much (although certainly not all) of what people mean by “humiliation” feel abusive to me, push triggers that I have little control over – and will utterly destroy trust and send me running, or at least bring me up fighting hard. For my life.

I respond best to loving kindness, being treated like a lady overall (but a whore in bed), and knowing and reassurances that I am the most extremely precious and valuable part of my partner’s life, to whom he dedicates his own total devotion. Treat me well, never overlook my safety, particularly in the pursuit of the satisfaction of your own desires, have a firm grasp on the difference between reality and fantasy, and what real people are capable of, and I’ll be eating out of your hand in no time.

Overall, I am open to whatever a relationship evolves into being. I do not aspire to be anything in particular, to have a relationship format of any particular sort, and I don’t care if what we end up with can be neatly labeled as anything in particular other than just “an incredibly wonderful relationship”. In fact, I’d just as soon entirely skip the labels altogether, and the false expectations they tend to bring with them. Wherever it goes, it goes. If we are both happy, and getting our needs met, that’s all that matters. And that requires a lot of ongoing negotiation and discussion throughout the course of the relationship.

Alternative Sexual Practices – Kent State article response

first posted 9/17/06 @ 5:34 PM EST; updated 12/17/09

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In response to the 9/14/06 article in the Kent State “Stater Online” entitled “Alternative sexual practices abound among college students“, I would like to offer these remarks.

While it is true that sadism and masochism are still listed in the DSM-IV, and that there *are* some people who enjoy these practices when they are nonconsensual, when you start to speak of *most* practicing sadomasochists, consensuality is a *very* important part of what we do.

As a community, the kink community decries people who inflict pain on others without their consent as much as any other normal people do. Those nonconsensual practices are *not* part of what we do. Such people are *not* welcome in our midst any more than they are welcome anywhere else.

I also concur with Susan Wright‘s comment that the DSM-IV is quite clear that as long as these practices do not interfere with a person’s daily functioning, they are not considered mental illnesses – although that clearly only applies to people who are practicing these things consensually in the first place, not to the rapists and torturers of the world. Ms. Wright it quite correct, but I don’t think that her comment fully addresses the actual issue raised by Laurie Wagner’s comments, and how they are reported in the article, and that is the distinction between consensual and nonconsensual behavior.

It is exceedingly unfortunate when people in positions of authority and in a position to educate young minds such as Ms. Wagner don’t even have their information straight, because it is uninformed attitudes such as this that perpetuate this myth that what we do is somehow evil and dangerous.

The distinction between S&M and dominance and submission is also *not* as Ms. Wagner has stated it, and I concur with Ms. Wright’s assertion that she clearly has no idea what she is talking about, either on the psychological diagnosis side, or especially on the side of referring to the most common practices that typically carry these terms. Continue reading