Sometimes, when I read around blogland and especially when I visit the newer and younger Dd-ers, I find myself shaking my head and remembering how hard the struggles were, how very intense the emotions, how long the journey seemed from there to here (endless and forever)…to finding some balance with Dd, with my “submission” (whatever THAT was supposed to be,) with my husband, and ultimately with myself.
A week ago Grace of Enjoying the Journey wrote a post called “Rebelling“. I promised her I would share some thoughts on rebellion and my own struggles in our earlier years in Domestic discipline.
I remember that sometimes the task of pleasing my husband seemed impossible, and in truth, he’s not very demanding of me. He does not micro-manage, is not overbearing, does not ask more of me than he does of himself. It still was hard. I did not always understand what he wanted from me. I had to learn to hear him better. The real words, not my interpretation or what I thought he should want. Sometimes, I was unsure about myself, my own needs, whether I should be ashamed of needing and wanting my husband to lead in our marriage. It was all confusing and emotionally exhausting at times.
I grew up in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Helen Reddy was singing “I am woman!” Take a moment and listen to the words!
In 1975 I was sent off to college by a mother and grandmother who assigned me the mission of being the one who got free. My legacy, as the only daughter of an only daughter, was that I would be the first one of us who would not need a man. I was sent to fine schools and groomed to learn to be independent, self-sufficient, self-reliant, to be able to stand alone. Mission accomplished.
Perhaps you can imagine my self-doubt when after 20 some years of marriage I came to the realization that my marriage would never and could never be as truly fulfilling, connected, or intimate, as I wanted and needed it to be unless I gave up my lifelong mission and learned to lean on my husband. I finally allowed myself to understand that I needed to need him. And…yes, I needed him. That was sobering. Mission failed?
Actually, it was incredibly freeing to be able to be a self-reliant and independent executive, and also begin to realize and accept that there was a part of me that needed my husband to be the dominant partner in our marriage, in my life. It was like setting free a part of myself I had kept silenced all of my life. I was very afraid that I would lose that “me” I had worked to become, but exhilarated that I could begin to explore that me I had never allowed to emerge. For a long time my two selves felt like…two parts of me that might conflict, and it was really hard to find my balance. Now, six years later, my different selves feel very integrated and it’s all pretty seamless, but in reality that took a long time.
I had become really good at independence. I was self-sufficient, self-reliant, and very much alone within our marriage. Oh, there was love, and a great deal of happiness, but also regular, ongoing struggles and conflict. My husband believed I did not need him, and although I did, desperately, in fact, I did a good job of hiding it, from the both of us, I guess. Funny thing, I was inexplicably drawn to a naturally dominant man, one who from deep inside needed and wanted to lead me, and then I held onto the reins in our marriage, our family, and our world with fierce tenacity. Frustrated and angry, he often walked away. He literally walked away when we fought, and he emotionally distanced in general. I felt more alone than ever, but I told myself I didn’t really need him anyway. “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”, right? (If you were around in the 70’s you know the phrase!)
So what broke the cycle? A separation and a divorce. That’s a long story. I will just leave it that I made the separation happen. It was the most painful period of our lives. We eventually tore our marriage down to the ground. The odd thing was that I, who initiated the separation, was unable to let go. I still loved the man, always had, and realized that I always would. I just could not live with him. He was too difficult, stubborn, bossy, and opinionated. It felt like he always wanted things his way. Even divorced, Grant saw things his own way. He told me he did not care what the divorce papers said. He would not acknowledge the divorce and in his mind we were married “till death do us part”. I would decide whether we lived together, but he was not divorced. He told me, “We were married in the eyes of God”, “let no man put asunder” and “unless you get an annulment from the Pope….” “Um Grant, do I need to remind you that 1st you’re not even Catholic anymore, and 2nd I am Jewish, and we were married by a Rabbi?” “A Rabbi is a man of God. The marriage stands unless you get an annulment from the Pope!” That’s Grant through and through.
So, my point in explaining all this? What does it have to do with rebellion? It has everything to do with it, because from day one when we resumed our marriage, moved back in together, we were fighting for us. We knew that we had to rebuild from the ground up. The new foundation we agreed to was one of mutual respect, compatible values, and agreed upon roles. Yes, I brought the idea of Domestic discipline to him, and he took exactly 3 seconds to say “yes”. He said being the leader was what he had always wanted, always felt comfortable with, but I never did, so he tried to make it work my way, but it never had. No, it never did work for either of us, because we were competing for control and it was a lose-lose. Deep down, the competition left us ragged, and neither of us respected him much when he was overruled, when he gave up and I won.
After doing a lot of reading and soul searching, I knew what I needed and wanted. More than anything else I wanted the strong man I had fallen in love with back, and I wanted us to be together as a team, one heart, one love, a couple. Being a couple, I have learned takes tremendous compromise, sacrifice, and humility. It means putting the “us” above the “I”.
For my husband it means taking care of me, my needs and the marriage before his own wants and personal needs. For me it means putting aside my own agendas, my personal wishes at any given moment, my impulses to go my own way and be my own person, in order to be his…his wife, his partner, his submissive.
I am not naturally a submissive person. However, I fully accept that to live with this man, whom I do dearly love, he needs to be the dominant which means I need to be the submissive. I had to learn what that meant. What he needed and wanted, how to accept his authority, and to buy into the agreement we made hook, line and sinker. I had to find a way to submit to him at home while being able to hold my head up and continue to be the successful business woman I am out in the world. I had to learn to do what he said without even thinking about it, to trust him and follow his lead without second guessing him. That took time and effort on both of our parts….years. It was a process. Yes, there were some rules and some punishment spankings, but mostly there was lots and lots of talking and intense self- examination. We did submission exercises for a long time, and still do now and again. We did very regular maintenance spankings, to establish and maintain our roles, and we grew over time, together, until the roles morphed from what we thought we should be into who we really are. We don’t “do” Dd, we ARE a Dd couple.
As independent as I still am, as sassy and outspoken (and I really am) if Grant says during an argument, “Don’t you dare walk out of this room!” I stop in my tracks. If he tells me, “I want you to organize the kitchen desk today”, it’s done. It just is what it is…he’s in charge. Yes, there was a long time (several years) when I had to think about these things, weigh them, debate with myself: “He told me what to do…now what? Do I want to do this? Should I do this? Is this really how I want to live? What if I don’t do what he said?”…on and on. We women are complicated and emotional creatures. Yes, I tested, but I now think I was testing not only him but myself and the system. Of course, there was the testing over “Will he really follow through and punish me?” Check…he did. But then I needed to test out how would I feel, deep down, if I allowed him to be really in charge. Could I truly live this way? Was I giving up some vital part of myself to do so? Would he be able to maintain his authority and still cherish me? Would it go to his head? Was the sacrifice of my submission worth it? Would I and we be happy?
I also had to learn how to maintain my self-esteem as a submissive wife. That process forced me to look at myself, my fears, my anxiety about not being strong enough, independent enough, yielding too and following my husband’s lead. It forced me to look at becoming vulnerable, letting down the walls that most wives maintain, and learning to trust this man with my deepest fears and secrets. It forced me to look at my pride, to put that aside for him. I had to understand what it meant to put aside pride in a healthy way. I had to discover that surrendering to him, was really surrendering to us, to the marriage, to who we have become together.
In time I understood that rebelling against him was a fantasy…there was no him and me anymore. There was only us. Why would I choose to do anything to hurt us? My husband has proven to me over and over that he does and will love, cherish, and protect me. He puts me first. How can I not put him first?
What is rebellion? It is taking a stand against everything we have agreed to, all we promised each other. A promise is not ever meant to be broken. I am not perfect, but I work hard to be a woman of integrity.
One of the things I learned along the way is that there is little difference between the larger rebellions and the smaller ones. If he asks me to give him my attention and I don’t stop my typing and look up, how is that different from defying him by speeding? Well one is more dangerous than the other, but they are both defiant. They undermine our agreements on respect and obedience. I also learned that what I do behind his back is as important as what I do in front of his face. It’s about attitude, my thinking, my heart. Is my heart compliant? I have asked myself this question so many times, and too many times the answer was “no”. I figured out that I had to work on myself from the inside out.
I have also learned it takes tremendous strength and courage to be a submissive wife. Some might think that giving in or following is a sign of weakness, but in truth, yielding in my life has come from a position of strength. I don’t yield because my husband makes me, but because I know it is the right way to do things for us. It is what we need from me in our marriage. I had to learn to be a better person, more self- aware, kinder, gentler, more centered, more compassionate, more forgiving. It’s much easier to be for yourself than to be for the two of you. Rebellion is an easier road than compliance. It’s something I have had to struggle with. I ask myself, “Am I for me, or for us?” I have the opportunity to make my choices daily, big ones and small ones. On my better days, I make ones that help our marriage to be the thing of strength and beauty it has become.
Stay tuned. Grant has promised a companion post coming soon!