“So you wanted a thrill, did you? I’ll give you a thrill!”
It was such a cliché to use, but then I looked every inch the stereotype in my high-heels, suspenders, black eye-liner and red lipstick.
And there he was, my boyfriend, as I’d never seen him before—blindfolded and tied to the chair, naked apart from an open white shirt, looking incredibly sexy and totally disarmed.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of BDSM. Having experimented with some of the extremes of it in my early 20s, I soon decided that pain didn’t do a lot for my pleasure. Yet, here I was all the same, dishing out both pleasure and pain like a pro.
It had come to a head the previous night when I had found him—my somewhat dispassionate and certainly very un-wicked partner—involved in a naughty chat room. I was furious, but also jealous and hurt. Furious that he was sneaking around behind my back. Hurt that he was sharing himself with total strangers while holding out on me. And jealous that these women were getting something from him that I’d been missing for so long.
All that night I lay awake alternating between fury and hurt, wondering what to do. I was too upset to simply laugh it off, although it probably shouldn’t have been a big deal. My sense of perspective had totally vanished. I could rant and rage at him, but where would that get me in the long run? I could throw him out on the grounds that he had time for strangers but none for me, or threaten to tell anyone who might possibly care—his mother, perhaps. Nothing seemed right, so I just lay there seething.
At some quiet moment though, as the storm inside subsided, another voice whispered in my head. And, with no other option, I listened. The next day, when we had time and he was still waiting for my reaction, I ordered him into an empty room where I had assembled my tools—chair, rope, vibe, powder, Vaseline, blindfold and his sexy white shirt. And I followed through on the intuitive hunch that had come in the night.
Without question, he meekly cooperated with being tied up, and I pulled out all the stops in a way he’d never let me do before. I raged at him, loved him, teased him and hurt him; made him cry, made him scared and brought him well out of his comfort zone. I also let go of so much of the anger and hurt I’d been holding that I reconnected with the deep love I felt for that man.
“You saved my soul,” were among his grateful words later. “I feel alive and myself again.”
In the days afterward, I tried to make some sense of the huge change I saw in him, and of the energy I felt flowing through me. I saw a man step back into his power, full of enthusiasm for life. In myself, I recognized the power that is released when we find a way of expressing the hurt and rage that so often remains bottled up. I came to a renewed understanding of how important it is to be willing to go into those shadowy places within ourselves which we may have rejected—or may not even know existed.
So, what had it all been about?
We carry such tangled webs of emotion around sexuality. There’s the simple force of desire but then there can be layers of other ‘voices’—judgments about what’s okay or not and the feelings of shame that stem from those. The chat room was giving my man space to explore aspects of his sexuality which he wasn’t willing to openly acknowledge. But there was also an almost instinctive yearning for punishment and redemption—a longing for some way to exorcise a deeper shame he was carrying about his sexuality, and to be accepted for the man that he is.
By intuitively stepping into the archetypal roles of the dominatrix and the slave, we had allowed a space to be created which felt safe enough for those shadowy places within us both to surface and be expressed. It was strangely humbling for me to be a catalyst for the transformation which happened, as his strength reappeared and our hearts re-opened towards each other. His submission and surrender led to strength, while my place of domination led to a soft, heartfelt humility.
What difference did it make to him whether he went into his shadow with me or with some stranger in a chat room? And why couldn’t I have just let off steam in a therapy session instead, or in a boxing ring?
No doubt we both could have found other ways of dealing with our shadows. But there’s a magic in being able to hold space for a loved one in such a way, in being able to take a journey to the depths together. It can deepen and strengthen a relationship in a very unique way which candles, incense and romance can’t do. It’s not for the fainthearted, though. And I’m still waiting for him to return the favor…
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Ed: Brianna Bemel