I have written a post about codependency and D/s for The SafeworD/s Club which focusses on what makes a healthy relationship, and what a codependent D/s relationship might look like in contrast. I made the point in that post that although some people would see a power exchange as being codependent, in line with the current psychological definition of codependency, this is not really the case.
A healthy D/s power exchange will be based around a healthy dependency on one another, where one meets the other’s needs. This involves established boundaries, and communication which is open and honest. Although that is how things should work, there have been times when I have felt that our D/s masked issues which were underlying and that it actually allowed me to facilitate behaviour which was not really good for either party.
Codependency in the past
To go back in time for a bit though, I have had a previous relationship where things were codependent. This was not a D/s relationship but it was codependent none-the-less, not that I saw it as such at the time. But when you are slowly reduced to a point where you feel that you cannot exist in your own right, there are a number of red flags. So how did this happen? Well, like many, I suppose, I played a part.
When we met I thought I could fix him. I was attracted to his damaged nature and it brought out my empathy and my desire to nurture and heal through love. It was a good thing at the start and it came from everything I had ever thought was important in the world. But it sucked the soul from me, and, as I enabled behaviours which became increasingly abusive on an emotional and psychological level, I became less and less of the person I had always wanted to be.
There were clear issues in terms of his mental health from the start, but this led to issues with alcohol too. It wasn’t just me who was affected; the ripples of his behaviour spread far and wide, and it was probably partly the guilt over that which led me, to covering up things which we should not have been subjected to. I tried to compensate – being stable, being predictable, being kind. I created safety at my own expense and I realise that must have been confusing to those who looked on.
And it’s not as if people didn’t see. They did, but they turned a blind eye which invalidated things in the same way that he did. I questioned myself. Surely if we were no different to anyone else then I had nothing to complain about and so I allowed things to continue, and they became worse and worse. In the end I left, partly because I was really scared of what would happen if I stayed, and partly because I was so lost that I no longer felt able to parent in his presence.
So I do understand codependency and how people can find themselves in a situation which has become so much part of who and what they are that there is nothing beyond it. Functioning and surviving with the other person’s needs at the centre is what you do, but it is not reciprocal. Everything is about them. And I mean everything. The people around about me had to play a role in facilitating it too and when I look back it seems surprising that friends and family did this without challenging.
However, that is in the past and I am glad that we have been able to move past it and create something which is much healthier. Meeting HL made all the difference and I felt that I had a second chance at happiness and also at the chance to let my children see a how a healthy relationship could work. So far so good, and the D/s just added to it. We built what we had on a relationship that was open, honest, respectful and had communication and trust at the centre.
Things were really great for years and as my trust grew, I was able to show my vulnerabilities and allow myself to depend on HL for things more and more. This was a mutual thing and we grew together in a partnership which played to each of our strengths. However, some time ago now our circumstances changed. It sort of shook things up for us and it challenged lots of things about the way that we lived and the way it all worked. There was a shift in roles that we had not asked for.
Enabling and not challenging
This shift didn’t stop us from being D/s, or move either of us from one side of the slash to the other, but it did have implications in other areas with HL having to be more of the homemaker and me becoming the provider. I have to say that neither of us was comfortable with these changes and long term it did impact on his mental health. It also impacted on our dynamic. While the D/s kept us communicating and bound us together in finding a way to deal what was happening, my role as submissive also meant that I actually enabled feelings that might have been better to be challenged.
I know that usually being too supportive wouldn’t be a criticism, but in this case I think that maybe it was. I made things too easy, too comfortable and in doing that, something in HL just sort of faded away as it wasn’t being used. Being his submissive meant that I didn’t challenge him like I might have in a different situation. I remained respectful and resourceful; I met his need to feel good about himself. In turn he focussed on me and the things he had around him.
He made things easier for me in terms of the practicalities of running the home – it was something that he was able to do and work with in the face of the other losses he was dealing with, and it made sense for both of us for me to go with that. What happened really was that we both slipped into a place where we just existed. We were still together, we were still happy and in love, what more did we need?
But actually as people we did both still need other things. Excitement, risk, growth and drive. Really we lost our drive. Where previously we had sparked off one another, we came to mirror the lethargy and lack of interest in life beyond our own little world, which ultimately is not a good thing. So in terms of the D/s, it both protected us and diminished us because we were somehow safe within the little bubble we had created. It took some time to see that this was the case, of course. And once we did, we worked to change things.
Finding a new normal
It can be a slow process unpicking habits that you have fallen in to but I think once you have identified that they aren’t good habits that is the first step. Although I see the D/s as aiding me in terms of what happened, it wasn’t to do with the D/s really. It was my own idea of what being submissive meant and the factors which played into it all made it virtually impossible to turn to a positive so really I don’t apportion any blame to either of us or to the dynamic. It was just one of those life things.
I wouldn’t say that things are back to normal but the older I get I realise that often that is an unrealistic expectation and one which I strive for less. When life changes occur then often it is about finding a place where you feel better about things. They may not be the same, but a new normal can be a good thing too. It is okay to allow things to change and move on. Often when we re-evaluate we realise that we don’t need the things we thought we needed, and they lose some of their value and currency. At the same time, we can embrace some of the new things that have arisen from being in a different situation.
I don’t think that what I have written about here would qualify as a codependent D/s relationship in psychological terms, but I do think that there were clear elements of codependency there. I say that because while the intentions were good, the way that we facilitated each other didn’t always bring out the best in us. There was no cruelty and no abuse. There was no one person feeding off the other at the expense of their well-being and no or manipulation or control, but there was a by-product which actually allowed us to accept things that we should have challenged.
Please note that the above memes are all sharing the topic of co-dependency in a really special joint collaboration this week so please click on the badges to see who else is adding their posts and joining in.
If you have enjoyed this then you might want to read more of my Tell Me About posts