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The Surprising Ways that BDSM is Good for Your Relationship

From sabinemondestin on Pixabay

“Physical love is unthinkable without violence.”

— Milan Kundera

I struggle with commitment and intimacy in romantic relationships. I have had a pattern of choosing people who are never appropriate for me, so I don’t have to worry about being with them long-term; or I will leave/sabotage relationships with appropriate partners right as they’re getting good because being vulnerable — and therefore able to be hurt — is simply terrifying to me.

Now that I’m working on being a grown ass woman, I’ve had to fight against my childish desires to flee and stick things out.

Clue me utterly puzzled when I discovered that the key to some of my commitment and intimacy issues could be in BDSM.

BDSM is defined as “a variety of often erotic practices or roleplaying involving bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadomasochism, and other related interpersonal dynamics.”

When my partner and I first started experimenting, it was in some rather vanilla forms: talking dirty, light spanking, pinning down my wrists.

I’m a voracious reader of Emma Austin, and she has some great articles on BDSM.

This is the one that made me wet and then run to my boyfriend to beg him to spank me. Hard.

I was raised in a physically abusive home, so I can’t explain the delicious deliriousness I felt when my boyfriend took his large hand and clapped it on my backside. It was such a surprise that I blinked and then laughed, but…then I asked him to do it again. And again. And again.

I thought about it a lot after we first did it.

How could I find that so sexually hot and satisfying when I’d spent my entire childhood in fear of an abusive tyrant? How could I now joyfully hide bruises on my wrists from when my partner had pinned me down when I’d worn long sleeves for a month in April in Memphis after my mother had beaten me with a metal mop?

The difference I realized was in both control and consent.

As a child, I was helpless and had no choice but to be subjected to the violence I was.

As an adult in a mutually beneficial and respectful sexual relationship, I give my consent to every act we participate in, and I have veto power for my own safety and comfort (we use “shamrock” as our safe word).

I also trust my partner intrinsically, something I could never say about my physically abusive mother. Trusting him allows me to to put myself in more and more vulnerable and intimate positions.

My commitment phobia has all but dissipated as we have been incorporating more and more acts of BDSM into our sex life.

Couples in healthy BDSM relationships practice characteristics that are healthy of any romantic relationship:

  • Consent
  • Boundaries
  • Communication
  • Connection

Every scene that the couple acts out must be mutually decided upon. Both partners must agree and communicate what they do and do not want. There are rules or boundaries in place for the safety of both individuals, and the main goal is connection. Many BDSM articles also advocate for a “check-in” following a scene to make sure that both parties are all right and if they need to work through anything that came up.

My partner and I recently added choking, which is more like my partner placing his hands around my neck, not crushing my windpipe or making me suffer any distress, but allowing me to be in an incredibly vulnerable position that requires me to trust him completely.

I was nervous about asking him to try this. Many years ago, I was raped by a man who pinned me down by my neck. I would never let another man touch my neck because I never wanted to relive that moment or have a recall in the middle of a sexual act with a new romantic partner. My partner knew about this incident, but I kept wanting him to do it while we were in the act, so I finally got up the courage to ask him. He of course agreed.

When we finally did it, it was utterly exhilarating, like I was finally reclaiming what had been taken from me: the ability to give my body to whomever I wanted however I wanted.

BDSM has given me not only a forum for improving my romantic relationship, but also a way of processing and reclaiming myself after physical and sexual trauma.

My partner checked in with me afterward as he always does, touching me and saying, “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I said, and I meant it because so much of what I — and we — are learning about BDSM is how important it is to be honest. I then felt a swell of love and affection for him because of how amazing it is that I get to express myself so fully with him.

Beyond the increased communication and intimacy created by participating in BDSM, researchers have discovered many other interesting aspects:

Pamela Connolly (2006) compared BDSM practitioners to published norms on 10 psychological disorders. Compared to the normative samples, “BDSM practitioners had lower levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychological sadism, psychological masochism, borderline pathology, and paranoia.”

Andreas Wismeijer and Marcel van Assen (2013) evaluated BDSM practitioners on major personality traits. Their results showed that in comparison to non-practitioners, “BDSM practitioners exhibited higher levels of extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and subjective well-being. Practitioners also showed lower levels of neuroticism and rejection sensitivity.”

Incorporating BDSM into a healthy sex life is also a way of adding in variety to sustain desire for women:

I am amazed that BDSM has made such an impact on me as an individual and us as a couple in such a short amount of time. But if the key to unlocking my past trauma and intimacy issues is in experimenting with the fine line between pain and pleasure, I’m fucking up for it.

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