Thursday, May 18, 2017

Submissive, Codependent or Caretaker?

I must have written a dozen times in the course of having this online journal that you can't change people.

'If I could be more compliant, more agreeable, more understanding,' some people say, 'things will be better then.'

They put the Other first and before you know it they have changed themselves, from a person of independent mind to one who subjugates his or her own self for some peace and harmony in the relationship and home. When chaos is the norm, it can start to appeal normal, such are the adaptions of the mind. Chaos is not normal.

Throw in a family to the mix and you have this selfless sort of person becoming a Caretaker, because, at the end of the day, somebody has to take on that job if one parent is behaving in a random and confusing fashion, right?

I have a strong suspicion that the words 'submissive, 'dominant', 'codependent',  'caretaker' and 'personality disordered' can get all jumbled up.

Consent, perhaps, is the ingredient that can clear up those categories. If you both enjoy your roles, if consent is clear and there has been no harassment to obtain consent, and if the arrangement aids you both in your growth and sense of peace...well then, there is nothing at all to worry about.

If you are still reading and wondering a bit about your true feelings, then maybe the categories above are a little murky for you.

It's impossible to go into too much detail in one blog post, so let's consider one small but vital point about a relationship where there is an unequal distribution of control. Care.

Submissives love to be cared for. I adore it myself. Interaction, attention, being given a challenge, feeling the control...that is all very kinky; a turn on; it's a really funfun game. But, why should I feel that someone needs to take care of me above and beyond that? What should lead me to think that?

Well, there's a certain sense of containment that just feels so delicious. I might see a photograph of a woman contained in some way - this morning it was a photograph of a woman learning to walk in ballet boots - and there is no dismissing the fact that I get a thrill out of that. So, if a man were similarly kinky and committed to that kink such that he innately desired what I desire, that would be a whole lot of healthy fun. What's done for deeper can that be unhealthy?

But, what if the submission is more than that; more than just fun and erotic pleasure? What if the submissive finds herself walking on eggshells, withholding her feelings and thoughts to avoid the dominant's displeasure or emotional outburst, or frosty silence?  What's that...a power exchange for the mutual pleasure of both participants, or something that looks more like a person being the caretaker of a personality disordered person, dependent on that person and awaiting his or her share of a sense of being cared for?

What if caring for someone isn't the desired sort of care - caring for each other with reciprocity - but caring for each other using the 'roles' of 'dominant' and 'submissive' which might actually be more like one person sacrificing their true self for the Other in order to have harmony?

I could speak to any number of behaviors that would identify the difference in these two outcomes but if you find yourself acting quite differently inside the relationship or family to the way you act with friends, associates and co-workers, it's not co-dependence (I once inaccurately labelled myself a Codependent), but it could be that in order to function within your relationship, you have become a Caretaker.

I think the first question for yourself would be - do I somehow feel that my true Self is being compromised in this relationship?

If you are happy, happy, happy in the submissive role, let's hope that it never ends. If you question the behaviors you experience, and your responses, it could very well be something else.

In my opinion the kinky/erotic role of 'submissive' in a sexual capacity is perfectly healthy. No need to deny yourself the pleasures of that. If you put the Other first repeatedly such that you having trouble identifying your own needs and wants; if you identify with some fear, obligation and guilt, then it may be you've unwittingly found your giving soul in dangerous waters.

There's not the time or space here to delve too far into that thought, but to end where I began it's far from easy to change someone else. With proper guidance, it is more than possible to change yourself. You may be submissive but you can swim.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


A few years ago now we were having dinner. The children were with us. The conversation moved over varying topics as it is inclined to do. At the time we had a female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. She was the sort of leader that prompted a strong reaction. Either you loved her or you hated her. But, what struck both my eldest son and myself as significant about this particular day in Parliament was that various men in the Parliament had been very rude to her. No matter what your politics, we both agreed, you should never speak to someone who is a leader of the country in that rude way.

If you asked my husband today if he agreed with that statement he'd almost certainly say he does. Yet, his disdain for her and her politics influenced his thinking during that conversation and he was adamant that we had muddled thinking about this. More to the point, he felt that it was somehow my responsibility and duty to agree with him. It became so heated that my son and I moved to the kitchen and began washing the dishes, giving up the argument altogether, but my husband wanted to keep the thing going. 'Dad you're talking to yourself. The conversation is over,' he said. And in a whisper I said to my son, 'Never, ever are we to talk politics at the table again.' He nodded his agreement.

I suppose all this time I have had that silly situation tucked behind my ear, because another situation like that came up recently and I felt a sense of deja vu. Over dinner at a restaurant I acknowledged every thing that my husband was saying about a health issue, with one proviso. For me there is always one proviso when talking about health because I believe the state of the mind can never be discounted from any conversation about health.

In these situations I aim for complete calm over my responses but in the end I said, 'No matter how long I am married to you I will always be me, an individual with my own thoughts. You're not entitled to insist that I agree with you', or words to that effect.

It prompted memories; memories decades old when I would say 'I'm Vesta (my real full maiden name is what I said) and I'll always be Vesta and there is nothing you can do about it. I am an individual.'

I have explored this line of thought, naturally, and there is a word for it, enmeshment. Some people can feel that it is critical for their well being that their life partner more or less becomes them. What is dangerous about this is that, bit by bit, the spouse begins to let go of, and even forget, his or her own needs, wants, thoughts, hopes and dreams. The spouse have become enmeshed with the other person in totality. Disagreement can be seen as proof that the two people are not feeling and thinking as one which can mean that disagreement equates to not being loved; very flawed thinking.

The answer lies in setting boundaries; something I'm learning about and reading about right now, so I don't have all the answers as yet. What I can say is that it feels good to realize this interpersonal transaction for what it is. There is a personal power in understanding why things happen as they do. We haven't had one of those challenging sorts of conversations since the restaurant dilemma. That night I asked him to stop badgering me and if he didn't I would leave. He continued to badger and I left and walked home. I think he got the point.

It is almost inconceivable that it won't happen again, but at the same time recognizing that it causes him great emotional pain for me not to agree with him on a topic that is important to him, I'll probably be inclined to keep my full opinion to myself. This is a shame, since we've been conversing non stop for over 40 years.

My goal would be to, on occasion, respectfully agree to disagree and make clear that this is not an interruption or annihilation of the love between us. I'm not at all sure, from the reading I have done, that strong feelings of spousal responsibility to agree with the other, can be easily turned around if one person feels strongly that their point of view is the truth. It's one element of interpersonal relations that came up repeatedly in the MA; that great discord in history has occurred with a rigid ownership of truth. Acknowledging that the world is more grey and less black and white is a good thing if we want to move closer to a more harmonious world where opinions can be shared and evaluated openly.