In a D/s relationship the term discipline really covers quite a broad range of areas. While the one which springs to mind would be about rules and the subsequent punishment thereof, there are other areas where it plays a significant part. In my post about Training for The Safeword/s Club, I explain that I don’t really feel the word itself has connotations which are helpful or conducive to a loving relationship which is organic in its nature. It feels too rigid, too formalised and too extreme to fit what we have. While there is plenty of discipline in terms of what we have, I have similar feelings about the connotations and here is why.
Discipline suggests rigidity. By definition it is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience. For fear of re-writing the rules to suit myself, I am about to do just that. Why? Because while I have opted to live in a full-time power exchange dynamic, it is relationship which is based on more than BDSM. Yes, I am the submissive partner, but I am other things besides. The same is true of HL who is not only my Dominant but my husband, my conspirator, my supporter, my friend and my soulmate.
Living in a relationship like ours the lines become blurred in a sense. The D/s part is laced throughout many areas of our marriage beyond those which exist in the bedroom but there are other things which come into play too. I plan to explore this in another post as I have too many thoughts to outline them all here, but suffice to say, the nature of living together leads us to require a fluidity, a responsiveness, and an adaptability which would not lend itself to a different form of D/s. It is not without challenge and that is something which I want to explore more in my coming post.
All about the Structure
This does not mean that our brand of D/s is without structure, because actually structure and the way it works to support our foundation is actually key to the success of our dynamic. Inevitably, there is a discipline in this. When I talk about rules and rituals I often name them together because both are equally as important in establishing and maintaining the discipline that we have. While expectations are specific in some areas, they can be more general in others. For example, I must ask permission to work beyond the agreed time but there can be exceptions when I am put in a situation where I am expected to act independently. I often think that it is less about what you do and more about how or why you do it.
It feels more as if it becomes about the way that you do things, the fact that you know what your role is, the unwritten rules if you will. It is a relationship based on expectation and, as confusing as that may look from the outside, it feel like there is clarity for us. I know when I should speak to HL about something and how I should approach that. For me and for the life we lead together, rules and protocols for everything would not work. The rigid application would be laborious for everyone and it would lead to loss of spontaneity, a loss of thought, and a loss of the people who we were drawn to in the first place.
As you can imagine, when there is an expectation that you will please someone and meet their needs, and your situation means that there has to be a lot of flexibility in terms of how that is realised, then a lot of self-discipline is required. We talk about pushing boundaries sexually and there is quite a focus on discussion around that in terms of hypotheticals and delineation of lines. The same is true for the other parts of the relationship. In terms of my training, for this read learning, my understanding of what HL wants from me has grown exponentially since we began.
We often refer to things having become habit but I suppose what has happened is an innate understanding of what the expectations are. We know when we have crossed boundaries and we know when the lines become close. There is a responsibility to bring this to the table, and I suppose in doing so, self report. While the submissive is the one with the overt rules, the expectations on the Dominant to police themselves are even more significant. I come back to my mantra that if you don’t model what you teach, you are teaching something else, and so, while not actually having rules to follow, the Dominant must reinforce the expectations through their own behaviour.
Punishment and Correction
At last we get to the part that feels more like our traditional understanding of discipline and I am as turned on as the next submissive by the thought of dominance which will allow for consistent and (possibly) gentle correction. There is the submissive conundrum that to be punished for wrong doing or omission is a sign that our Dominant cares for us, and I can honestly say that is how it feels. The converse is also true and if something is overlooked, it loses value and ceases to feel it has the same significance for either party.
This is why I would always try to stick to the rules. Not for fear of punishment, but for fear of giving the impression that it does not matter to me. If respect and honesty and open communication no longer matter, what do I really have? And without the consistent application of these things, what happens to the trust and the connection that comes from them? This can be a challenge and, like with so many things, it is about finding the balance of what works for you. It won’t look the same as what others have because it isn’t, but that doesn’t matter if it is what works for you.
Most submissives I speak to crave more in terms of discipline. They want things to be harsher, more rigid, to be held accountable on a deeper level. Ironically many Dominants also seem to want the same and feel that they hold back from applying a sterner and stricter approach. I think that we probably find a compromise which works intuitively for us and while we can dial it up or dial it down, dip in and dip out, usually it couldn’t be applied in a more stringent way without leading to losses in other areas of the relationship.
Punishments which Fit the Crime
While I love the idea of being pulled over HL’s knee to be spanked for my misdemeanours, there is an eroticism to this which would lead to it being less effective as a punishment that could be hoped. A punishment by nature should not be enjoyed on any level, even if it is about finding closure for whatever it is that has happened. In my mind the punishment should fit the crime and lead the submissive to really reflect and understand the impact of their actions. The purpose is to make sure that the behaviour is not repeated so there has to be genuine learning for that to happen.
If a negative behaviour is repeated, this is likely to be because the punishment has not worked and in a relationship where your role is to focus on pleasing and meeting the needs of the other, there should not be a need for lots of genuine discipline. Why would I go out of my way to behave in a way which we have already agreed will displease, upset or disrespect my dominant? It makes no sense. I should make a caveat here for bratty behaviour which serves a function within the dynamic and is accepted and agreed as a method of maintaining the power exchange. Essentially, if I mess up, it is usually born from a genuine oversight rather than from willful or thoughtless disregard.
Behaviour and Communication
This brings me on to another area where discipline becomes challenging in a lifestyle dynamic on a level where it might not be for bedroom only or a relationship where we didn’t live together. As a person, I do not believe in being punitive. I am not punitive as a teacher, I am not as a mother, and so it can feel odd to be on the receiving end of that as a wife. Things at home are based on learning and on being restorative. It is about repairing the wrong and finding a way to rebuild things and move on. Try as I might, I don’t believe that punitive punishments applied in an authoritarian way are effective in the long term and so it feels counter intuitive when HL applies that to me.
We both agree on the way that we parent and he has also found it hard. While he is able to issue a sort of funishment, real hurt has to be discussed in order for there to be an understanding of what went wrong and a plan for how to make sure that doesn’t happen again. For us, correction in a kinky or erotic sense is a powerful tool, but on a day to day level it doesn’t allow us the respect or the harmony that we find by managing things in other ways. I realise that this is not the case for all couples, but it is how it works for us.
I plan write more on restorative practice and why I believe it works but in this instance what matters it the fact that I have disappointed or upset someone who I love and that was not my intention. Being able to show him this and for him to be able to show me understanding and acknowledgement of that is what allows me to put the event behind me and move on. It is not always easy to do this and it requires that you both come to it with the desire to understand and to move forward, but if that is the case it works better for us than the alternatives we have tried.
It might sound like I am just making excuses when I say that I don’t need to kneel for 30 minutes on grains of rice to understand that my actions have hurt him, but this is the case. Watching him loosen his belt, knowing that I will feel it across my bum as punishment is thrilling and sexy rather than humbling because I feel like it is acting out the picture of submission, rather than eliciting natural remorse. It can go one of two ways from being erotic and a turn on, which defeats the point, or being painful and making me angry which can cause resentment. Neither is really about the learning,
Deterrents and Approval
As a person I want approval. To feel I have displeased someone is hard and so my conscious efforts mean that I try to avoid this. There are fitting punishments aligned to our rules; for me they act as deterrents and also give the rules themselves a value and a status. At the end of the day I try my best to do what is right because it is important to me, not because it is a rule but because is it a way of respecting HL and making him feel happy. The way that my brain works means that if I have done something to cause harm, it is not as simple as applying a quick fix to allow us both to move on.
My feelings about myself mean that I find things hard to let go of, and while he might have applied the punishment in a timely way and moved on, my mind will be going over and over it. Despite being told that it shouldn’t, it can become part of my own self identity and can hinder me from moving forward in a positive way. We have tried it and at times it has worked and been what we needed, but for the most part we find that talking works best. Often this will be followed by some sort of reset or funishment rather than using something more punitive from the outset.