Daily Affirmation for Codependency

Today I will accept responsibility for myself, my feelings and my actions.
Today I will accept that others are who they are.
Today I will offer love and support in proportion to my ability to give, their abiity to accept, and their ability to respond in kind.

Today I will not accept responsibility for the feelings of others.
Today I will not seek connections at the expense of my well being, safety or values.
Today I will not make change in another person a condiiton of my happiness.

Today I will move towards my visions and goals.
Today I will do at least one thing that represents my deeply held values.
Today I will do at least one thing simply because it brings me joy.

Today I will ask for what I want and accept the answer.
Today I will make what I cannot find elsewhere.
Today I will love myself unconditionally.

Born This Way

Was I born anxious?

According to my mother, I was an easy baby to raise. I was good-natured and well behaved.

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t anxious. Some research has indicated that babies learn to smile as a way to encourage their caregivers to pay attention to them, and that well behaved children are often afraid of being punished or abandoned.

My mother and my grandmother have both had anxiety and depression, as well, and it has sometimes manifested in eerily similar ways. All three of us have experienced anxiety around highway driving, for instance, and discomfort with crowds to varying degrees.

My symptoms started making themselves known when I was very young. Like most young children, I was easily frightened by certain sights and sounds. But unlike most children, mine persisted as a I grew older, and some have remained phobias to this day. I still feel afraid whenever I see the alien from E.T., for example. I remember seeing the film as a kid, and I don’t remember being afraid in that moment, but later, a family friend had an E.T. Halloween mask, and I know that that frightened me.

Other things that frightened me were Skeletor of the He-Man Universe, nutcrackers, and the band, Kiss. Now, a lot of people say they can really understand about Kiss, but this isn’t just a momentary startle or a feeling of general dislike. My mother took me with her to her bowling league on one occasion, and there was a Kiss themed pinball machine. The sight of that pinball machine was so terrifying for me that I would instantly scream and burst into tears. And unfortunately, the bathroom was on the other side of it. So when I had to go, my mother buried my face in her shoulder so that we could safely get past it without causing a scene.

I reacted similarly in places like toy stores. My grandmother even remarked that I was the only child she knew that refused to go to the toy store, because some of the toys frightened me so much.

Eventually, most of this behavior subsided, but then, the anxiety came out in other ways.

At 11, which happens to be the most typical age for anxiety disorders to manifest, I started pulling out my facial hair – my eyebrows and eyelashes. It got to the point that I was missing half an eyebrow, and my grandmother would use her makeup to disguise it so I wouldn’t get teased at school, at least not for that.

Even at this point, nobody thought that I needed help. Instead, they lectured me, and told me that I was distressing my mother, and that I just needed to stop doing it.

I developed other coping mechanisms. Overachievement. Food. Escapism. And eventually, sex. I still feel resentful that my caregivers’ approach to my mental health problems was to tell me to “stop doing that.”

I’ve been in treatment since college, almost 20 years now. And I’m pretty sure that my anxiety has been the result of both biological inheritance and upbringing. It makes me wonder how it got so bad, when I was still so very little. What was my underlying fear? It does seem like I was fixated on faces that seemed angry, or at least not pleasant to me. And children are very interested in facial expressions, since the mood of their caregivers is so closely tied to the childrens’ survival. Someone was harsh to me, and while some children get angry and lash out when they are treated this way, others, like me, internalize the stress until it erupts in strange and unsettling behaviors.

It wasn’t, and still isn’t, my fault. It’s easy to say, but harder to believe.

Poly Wanna Breakup?

We didn’t start out poly. We were monogamous, at first. Then monogamish.

We’d been together for five years before I had intercourse with someone else. My primary was present, and gave his consent. I also brought home potential partners that we played with together. Then they became partners that we played with separately.

But he still didn’t like the label “poly.” We could be open, he said, but he didn’t like poly.

When I invited one of our partners to stay with us for a while so that she could go back to school, I said, well, it’s kind of hard to escape now. You’re poly.

I had partners, here and there. But very few who I saw more than once, let alone carried on an actual relationship with. My main focus was on finding submissive partners, since he wasn’t at all submissive, and I wanted to explore my Dominant side. I still liked bottoming with him.

When he found another partner of his own, though, things changed. She didn’t want to meet me. She was too scared, apparently.

The relationship grew more and more distant. Everything I tried to reconnect with him failed, so eventually I stopped trying. I still loved him, though. I didn’t want to leave, but I knew he was no longer invested in the relationship.

Eventually, I began to feel that he wasn’t cut out for poly. I got the feeling he was more attached to his new partner than to me.

I suppose that’s always a possibility in a poly relationship. I mean, it’s a possibility in any relationship. People who aren’t happy seek out others who can make them feel better. It’s not a sustainable strategy, but that’s something I’ve learned myself through painful experience. It’s easy to feel angry and resentful that I apparently didn’t make him feel happy. However, it’s a fallacy from its core to think that any of us can make anyone else happy. Relationships are not effective treatment for depression.

But aside from that, I wonder, for all the other poly relationships out there, when a primary relationship breaks up, what happens to the other ones?

I still enjoy being with my submissive very much and have every intention of keeping him as long as possible. But it can be hard to enjoy affection with anyone when your heart is breaking.

That seems to be the way my heart works. When I feel good with one person, I feel good with everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats. When I feel bad with one person, well, it’s harder to feel good with everyone else.

It doesn’t seem to work that way with my now former primary. His heart is more of a zero-sum game, where one person can easily displace another.

So it would seem poly isn’t for him after all.

I don’t regret opening the relationship. I do regret that we didn’t communicate about it better. I regret that I didn’t ask for what I wanted more and complain less. But nothing I did could have changed him or his feelings. If the open relationship bothered him, he didn’t communicate it very well. And whatever it was he wanted with me, he sure didn’t communicate that. I asked him many times, and only became more and more frustrated.

My heart is hurt, but I’m sure it will recover. And when it does, I’ll be sure that everyone wants poly before we start.

Nine Years

Nearly a decade of my life. And now it’s over.

I haven’t been posting much lately, and this is why. Because 10 days ago, my primary significant other came to the conclusion that he no longer wished to be in a relationship with me.

I can’t say it was entirely unexpected. I mean, I did tell him that if he didn’t want to be with me, he should leave. I got the feeling that he didn’t want to be with me from the fact that over the past two years or so, he had grown increasingly distant. Our physical relationship was absent. Getting him to make plans to spend time with me was like pulling teeth.

I felt rejected and unwanted. So why didn’t I leave him? I didn’t want to. I wanted the relationship to get better. I wanted him to get better.

His stress level kept going up and up. He kept coming home from work and dumping all of his negative feelings onto me. No explanation about what was bothering him, no “sorry for venting”, no affection. The affection got fewer and farther between.

I believe that he is depressed. After suffering through professional school and licensing exams, he has found the transition into working in his profession more difficult than he expected. He has also had physical health problems. Long before we met, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Just recently, new drugs came on the market that effectively cured him. And while this was an immense relief to him and everyone who loves him, his feelings about it were complicated. There was anger and resentment, mostly directed at the people who never really understood how the virus had made him feel. He was angry that it had slowed him down and made him feel sick, something he didn’t fully understand himself until it was gone.

On top of this, while we were together he was diagnosed with both sleep apnea and asthma, so for most of our time together, in one way or another, he wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

And even with treatment for these problems, he still acted like a person with depression. So I urged him to get treatment for that, too, or at least look into it. But he always resisted.

Things between us had cooled. We had been through some difficult times when he was still in school, and hadn’t quite recovered from that. We morphed, very naturally, I felt, from having threesomes to having an open relationship. He told me, after leaving me, that he thought opening the relationship would make it better. At the time, he always told me that the decline in our physical relationship was due to him not feeling well, if he had any explanation at all.

We both knew that what we started out as – Dominant and submissive, with him as Dominant, was not going to work, not the way we had envisioned. I bristled at submitting, even though I loved him and loved the bedroom play. But the first time he reprimanded me, and said there would be a punishment, something inside me welled up and said, “NO”. Being raised by a volatile, sometimes borderline abusive mother probably had something to do with this. I also felt like he put very little into it.

Over time I came to the conclusion that I was a bottom, not a submissive, as well as being a switch. Gradually, my Dominant side came out more and more. But I still enjoyed playing with him, mostly. His interest seemed to wane. We would begin play, and I would end up calling an end to it because I could tell he wasn’t at all present, emotionally. Sometimes he would do things I had asked him not to do. Perhaps I was getting a little overly picky, but the energy between us wasn’t right.

I wanted some affection, physical and otherwise. And I developed a crush on the person who inaugurated the openness of our relationship. He was amazing in bed, but emotionally, completely unavailable. I put an end to the affair, and set about to getting over the crush. I did this partly by scanning the personals, looking for new partners.

He, apparently, was not happy about this. He got upset with me one evening, and made a snippy comment about me talking to every guy in the area, or something to that effect.

I felt like this was unfair. My response was, “if you want me, you know where to find me.”

He recalls that I told him he should make his own profile. And that this was very hurtful to him.

This was four years ago.

Why didn’t he tell me how he really felt? Every time I asked him what was wrong, why he was so distant, he couldn’t give me a clear answer. He felt bad, physically. He didn’t know what was wrong with him.

I didn’t know, either. But I knew that I felt neglected, and unwanted, and unloved. Even though he said he still loved me, he didn’t show it. I figured he was stressed, and probably suffering from depression. I tried to encourage him to get help, to find a different job. He wouldn’t do anything.

In the meantime, I lost both of my grandparents. Given how unreliable my mother was, they pretty much raised me. And then I flamed out of my job. For the last two years, I’ve been working from home, because the thought of returning to another job like the last one fills me with untold anxiety. My mental health has not been great.

And in that same time, he found someone else. Someone who lives several hours away, and who he apparently is very fond of.

And now he has decided he’d rather be with her.

I suspect that the thrill of a new relationship felt great to him, just as I’d had crushes that alleviated some of my bad feelings. But as someone who has been diagnosed and treated for depression for 20 years now, I can say with certainty that the thrill does wear off, and when it does, you are the same person you were before you started. I don’t want to be vindictive, but I feel betrayed, and I suspect that he will follow the same patterns as he did with me.

I know some people just aren’t cut out for non-monogamy. It seems likely that this is the case for him.

As for me, I won’t go back to monogamy. If I do find love again, it will be with the stipulation that they won’t be the only one. I don’t mind if it’s an asymmetrical arrangement. But I won’t get involved with someone who prefers monogamy when I require non-monogamy.

I feel like a part of me has been cut off. It hurts so much. My mind tumbles endlessly from anxiety, to despair, to anger, to sadness, to “if only” bargains. If only he’d gone for treatment. If only he’d told me what he was feeling. If only we had communicated better. If only. If only.

He understood me, better than just about anyone I have ever known. He knew me. We shared a sense of humor, and liked a lot of similar things. We hated a lot of the same things.

But as much as I want that missing piece back, the relationship just wasn’t healthy. I can sit and place blame for that all day, but it doesn’t change anything. At one time, he told me that I was 99 percent of what he wanted in a kink relationship. That the lifestyle D/s was only a small thing compared to what we had. Now, looking back, it feels like the compatibility issues ballooned well past that one percent.

I feel like I’ve been kicked when I’m down. I’m struggling in almost every area of my life. I feel alone and adrift, my anchor pulled out from under me. He was the secure, stable rock in my life. Even though it was far from perfect, he was there, and that made me feel better.

Except when it made me feel worse. Being in a relationship with someone who withholds their time, attention and affection can be very painful. Not as painful as the jarring, cutting wound of separation, but there were times when I wished I had the wherewithal to leave him.

But I didn’t want to. I loved him. I wanted him. And I wanted him to want me back.

We can’t always have everything we want.

 

Bondage and A Movie: Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, has been noted as one of the most egregiously profane and violently pornographic feature films ever made.

It is indeed very profane and deeply violent. It is not a fun or pleasant film. It is, however, steeped in political relevance, which only becomes more significant with each passing day.

The Supreme Court, in its decision on obscenity, instituted the “slaps” test. Speech that is highly graphic and offensive in nature may be considered obscene, unless it has serious literary, artistic, political or scientific merit. If you have ever wondered how a work of violent pornography could have political merit, well, this is your answer.

As always, I viewed this film with my trusted submissive at my side, and for once, the film actually held my interest. I may have neglected my poor sissy somewhat, but I have wanted to see this infamous movie for quite some time. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was impressed at how prescient the film actually is. Other reviewers have reduced it to its graphic content, but miss a lot of the symbolism. Perhaps they find the extremity of it too off-putting. As someone who enjoys certain acts of perversion, perhaps I found it more palatable.

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Movies are always better with a restrained sissy.

If you are not already aware, the film focuses on a band of WWII-era fascists of the Axis powers taking over a town in Italy. There are four men who lead the group, but they have armed soldiers and other accomplices. They select a group of young men and women from their victims and take them to a villa, where they torture and degrade them in every possible way before ultimately murdering them. Continue reading

Regarding Children

Content note: This post directly addresses the issue of violence against children and youth, and its place in the larger context of the role of children in society.

BDSM is an adult activity. It requires adult judgment and skills. It is both illegal and unethical to involve people under 18 in sexual communities organized for adults. In some cases, 21 is the standard, because of the presence of alcohol. Serving alcohol to underage people can be just the excuse needed to shut a club down, so it’s for the preservation of the group.

However, people who don’t respect the boundary of legal age are everywhere. They target people who are not yet adults because they are less experienced, and therefore more vulnerable. There is always a power differential in this type of situation. Dating someone who doesn’t have the legal ability to make decisions for themselves, in addition to limited or no income, and often, no transportation, means that they are easier to manipulate and control.

Abuse against preadolescent children is even more heinous. The idea that this is purely a function of deviance in individuals is a dangerous one, I think. It’s a crime of convenience. The people who harm young children are most often the people closest to them. Yes, some people get close to children on purpose, but there are also plenty of parents and close relatives who abuse their own children. One of the most common perpetrators of child abuse is the romantic partner of a single parent. This is not about an innate interest, it is about who is nearby and vulnerable.

Part of the problem is that we, as a society, see children as objects and possessions. We routinely disregard the autonomy of children, and subject them to unfair and unpleasant treatment. It is often necessary for parents and children to do things they dislike, for their health and safety, but many things are simply because adults are lazy and don’t care.

Objectifying children is a parallel of the way we treat women. Women are frequently treated in paternalistic ways, not allowed to make their own decisions, and abused for the pleasure, profit and convenience of others.

Parents who treat their children like possessions are one reflection of this social norm. “Nobody can tell me how to raise my child” presumes not only that belonging to a community has no place in parenting, but also that the child has no say in what happens to them.

The idea of children as familial assets goes back to agrarian societies. In a farm-based economy, children were free labor, and having many would help to ensure that the family farm would survive into the future.

In an industrial society, children are also routinely exploited for labor, but where this practice is prohibited, children become an expense rather than an asset. Now, many people feel that because they must pay to provide for the child, they own the child and can do whatever they please with them. Most parents have no wish to harm their child, but for those who have no compunction about harming others, the child is a convenient target.

Children who are intersex or transgender are particularly at risk. When a child is born with physical characteristics that do not conform to binary sex and gender, many parents still subject that child to unnecessary surgery to make them conform. The damage done by this practice is long-lasting and deeply scarring, both physically and emotionally. Likewise, children know their gender, and many parents refuse to accept this and force them to conform to the gender they were assigned.

Whenever we disregard the feelings and wishes of children for no reason but our own convenience or entertainment, we put them at risk. I remember being required to do things that made me very uncomfortable, such as dancing with the ring bearer at a wedding, or accompanying my mother to unfamiliar places, full of adults I did not know, many of whom were drinking and using drugs. Girls, especially, are often required to display heteronormative socialization at a young age, to the extent of being paired with older male relatives for acts of faux heterosexuality, or enduring the inappropriate interest of older men without complaint.

Sexuality involving children is deeply taboo, on one hand, and yet, children are expected to conform to expectations of sex and gender, and are even pressured to display signs of future heterosexuality. Teasing kids about their “girlfriends” or “boyfriends,” for instance, is a very common practice that imposes adult perceptions. They pretty much universally hate it, and object strongly, and still adults persist in this creepy and inappropriate practice.

The right of children to say “no” to anything not necessary for their healthy, safe development supersedes the rights of parents – if not legally, then ethically. If we can’t agree on that, then we can’t be so surprised when abuse is so prevalent.