Shrink Rap! (August 2013)
Dennis C. Hartzog, M.Ed., LPC
Hi! Welcome to “Shrink Rap!” My hope is that this monthly column will be a safe place to discuss issues related to having a safe and healthy Kink/Leather/BDSM relationship. I encourage you to submit any questions you may have, or issues that you would like to see discussed to my website: www.Dchartzoglpc.com. You do not have to divulge your name or scene name, and can remain anonymous. If you go to the “Contact Me” page, just fill the first three boxes with “X’s” and put your question or issue in the message box and I will get it.
I have been in a committed relationship with the same man for several years. We care about each other a great deal, share values, are out to our friends, families, and at work. We share an interest in travel and enjoy our times together going to new places. The only major ripple that we have had is that I am very into Kink/Leather/BDSM and he is totally vanilla. There is compromise needed in every relationship, I know that. Both of us entered into this knowing how the other felt. He has tried several times to try being submissive with me, or the Top, but even when he is being technically good at it, it just falls flat for both of us because his heart isn’t into it. We entered into our relationship with an agreement for monogamy. Getting back to the compromise point, he says he’s given all he can in that area, so now he won’t even try kinky things. I’m feeling that if I compromise, I’d have to give up kink. Totally unfair, and I’m not willing to do that. It is a part of who I am. A few months ago we had a major argument over this, and I just finally said that I wasn’t going to give this up and if he continued to not make an effort to be more kinky for me, it would be the deal breaker in our relationship. He gave in and consented for me to have non-sexual play partners. So I have. The problem is with him. He used to be up for doing things together, was active around the house and with our friends, had a great personality, funny, all the things that made me fall for him. Now he is moody, seems to be overly critical and irritable all the time, has gotten more sloppy in his appearance at home, and spends a lot of his spare time just sitting around the house alone in a rocker. Sometimes he just won’t stop rocking do something. I’m pissed and angry at this passive aggressive way of trying to make me feel guilty and give up kink. That’s emotional abuse! How can I get him to come around?
You’re so right. Healthy stable relationships require compromise and flexibility, from all individuals involved. You mentioned that your partner had made attempts to compromise by trying various kinky things with you, but that his heart wasn’t into it, and therefore it didn’t work for either of you. What you didn’t mention was what things you tried to compromise on. You couched compromise on your having to give up kink. You are both within your rights to have decided on what you each will and will not do. But having taken that position, what do you then do? What happened next was: “He gave in and consented for me to have play partners.” That’s when we start getting into potential/possible emotional abuse in your relationship. Your partner “gave in” after you told him that it would “be a deal breaker” for your relationship not to agree to that. There is a vast difference between informed consent and giving in. Consent is not forcing or coercing someone to do something that they truly don’t feel they are comfortable doing or is in their best interests. You issued an ultimatum, so he agreed without really wanting to do so. That “agreement” was hollow, didn’t resolve anything, and planted the seeds for the current problems between you.
I don’t know what’s going on in your partners mind. His behavior could be passive aggressive, but based on the information that you provided, I doubt it. You have described an individual who is exhibiting symptoms of depression…i.e.: moody, overly critical, irritable, decline in personal self care, increase in withdrawal, and possible loss of interest in usual daily interests. What you call emotional abuse on his part to make you feel guilty, I’m betting (with more information a proper assessment needed) is a clinical depression.
The goal here is not how to “get him to come around.” The healthy goal here is to get your partner to his family doctor or mental health professional for a proper assessment of his depression and appropriate treatment recommendations. Depression is like ivy….ignored or left untreated it will continue to spread and strangle the life out of its host. Nothing productive concerning you being kinky and your partner being non-kinky is going to happen as long as he continues to be as depressed as you describe him. Move his mental health to the front burner right now, and put the kink vs. non-kink issue on hold and suspending your kinky play activities until his depression is significantly less pronounced.
The number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).