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Spanking and long-distance relationships
Yup. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that if we really wanted
to, we could write a book on the subject. I was reminded of that one
that B. gave you, which looked pretty basic. Something more kinky and
well-written would be fun.
P: <thinks> Structurally, the place to start would be where the relationships start, I guess, and then follow through how things get more serious and complicated. We could split each section into two parts: stuff as it relates to what we did, and then abstracting away to more general issues.
M: <nod> I think you're right. I think I'd stress throughout that the overwhelmingly important thing is to be patient with the other person and with yourself - to keep remembering that this is hard and that you'll have to keep trying lots and lots of things to find ones that work.
Absolutely. In our own case, it helped us a great deal that when we
first met there wasn't really any idea or intention that this was the
start of a relationship. We were just goofing around and enjoying each
other's company on-line.
M: We were doing that. But also, because we were just goofing around and being friends, I found it really easy to be honest with you about my thoughts, even when I disagreed with you. Looking back, I don't think that's been the case in my relationships, I think I've tried to find agreement or just ignored stuff people said that bothered me. And that can work somewhat in a relationship (especially a vanilla one I suspect) where you live together. But when you're trying to feel your way into something more BDSM or even D/s oriented, I think you need to be able to trust the other person to be honest.
<nods> Yes. It's both easier and harder on-line. Because you weren't
honest about some things, and they were probably the things that would
be hard to avoid being honest about if this hadn't been on-line.
M: <blushing> That's true. And sometimes still is true. But much as I can be dishonest with you, I'm more honest than I've ever been with anyone. And yes, the lies did make it a lot harder, to the point where I came close to ending the relationship rather than having you find out the truth.
M: <thinking> Both. I didn't want to admit to lying - I mean no one likes doing that (you'll just need to take my word on that, Paul). But you'd become very important to me, I mean, the fact you were attracted to and cared about me was very important. I guess why I was willing to break up with you rather than admit the truth was that I thought if you knew the truth you'd feel differently about me. It seemed easier to end things than risk being rejected. (I'm glad a friend talked me out of it, of course.)
P: I don't want to spend too much time talking about just this, because it would seem like you're being asked to somehow confess to a terrible wrong - which isn't at all true. But how do you remember being able to tell me the difficult stuff? What made it possible?
M: Because those were the choices. Either be honest, or walk away and never know if you perhaps could forgive me. In the end I sort of decided you had that right - that I'd been dishonest, you hadn't done anything wrong and didn't deserve to be hurt. I tried to imagine how you'd feel as I did what I'd needed to do to end things - pulling away, finding someone else and in other ways making you doubt that what you felt, what you thought was real was. And so I finally just called you - no, sorry, I did it on chat in a computer lab - and blurted it all out.
P: But, you know, nothing in what you told me ever made me think you'd done anything (or not done anything) that needed to be forgiven. Maybe I didn't think I was entitled to that information - I'm not sure. But - as I think you remember - nothing you told me turned out to be a big deal, right?
P: Well, so long as the people involved have any intention of meeting. <wry smile> But, you know the real irony here. In conventional relationships, the stuff that gets hidden, often for whole lifetimes, is typically the stuff that is revealed first in on-line relationships. No-one in my family knows about my kink-side (I think), but it was really the first thing you knew about me. So people on-line get to know each other in a very new way, from the inside out. And I'm not sure if the skills for doing that are well-understood yet.
M: <nod> Though I'd argue that even if you're never going to meet someone, believing that if they knew what you looked like or whatever, they'd reject you, isn't going to make for a really good relationship. But you're right, there were points where something happened that deepened things between us (god that sounds lame). For me something really key was that first summer when I was off-line for three months and you started calling me every night. We've never stopped that, pretty much no matter where we've been in the world. I think it helped us communicate, but more than that made it clear that we were making that time to be together a priority in our lives. Remembering that you're a priority for me, and I am for you is important for me. And makes those times when I feel just crazy for thinking someone so far away could really be committed to me pass quickly.
M: <thinking> We didn't talk on the phone for a pretty long time after we started e-mailing and using UNIX chat. (Which was all about you, of course.) I think we'd had maybe three or four long phone calls before you started the daily calls. And those were partly because e-mail just wasn't going to be possible.
M: I know. And you made that clear too - that it was about dislike of phones rather than the idea of talking to me that was an issue. But I think telephones are really important in long distance stuff. Or if people really can't afford to call daily, that come hell or high water they make a point to have an e-mail to the person every day, pretty much at the time the person expects it. (This is of course advice directed at someone who imagines their long distance relationship to be something more than a cyber fling - or something they're doing in addition to another real life one that's primary. I'm not sure what those would be like.)
P: <nodding> Hearing someone's voice is incredibly important. And so different from e-mail and chat and such. Probably they all have their place. It's hard to tell someone a bedtime story using chat. :-) And, would I be quite so keen to talk to you at 8 in the morning if I had to get out of bed to do it? <smile>
M: As to the first, yeah, because the person getting the bedtime story would need to be at their computer - which doesn't usually allow them to curl up with eyes closed. But as to the latter, if you recall, you not only called me at 8am that first summer, you mostly did it from your office, which meant you got up and walked a mile to do it.
M: I think we were both in a pink haze. Especially since it was at that point (I think) that we both got an inkling that this was going to be different than what either of us had said we wanted. That is - when we first started chatting, both of us had stated (especially you) that we weren't interested in having control or giving control within someone's real life. And I remember listening to you on the phone that summer and feeling your scolding me for real life stuff was like a little game between us. And then one day, realizing this wasn't a game at all. (Maybe it was the quite real anger you showed. Though that moment was in one of our odd on-line times during those months.)
M: :b~~~ Well, I think it was that you'd been taking this seriously long before that. And trying to help me structure my time and get on track with a paper I needed to re-write. And I'd been flaking on it, lying about working and then having to admit to not, making excuses that were getting lamer and lamer. And that afternoon (I remember 'cause it was right after I'd picked up my keys to my dorm room) I'd gone on the university computer and we were chatting. And I joked about it - some little aside comment.
I wish I remembered it more clearly - but whatever I said made you pretty mad. Enough so you were literally upset with how angry you felt. And I remember sitting there, staring at the screen and seeing that and thinking I was at a crossroad sort of moment. I could either tell you that I loved you, but I didn't seriously want you involved in my academic life or I could find a way, right then, for you to really punish me for this.
And you know what I decided.
P: <nodding> Yes, I do, and I do remember. I think I also had to go out late that night to find somewhere that I could buy a phone card to call you, and nowhere was open. I don't think I get angry very often, but I think I was then. It was an odd dynamic, though. Despite being angry, the idea of actual punishment came from you. It was a moment of some sort of significance in all sorts of ways.
M: <wry smile> Yeah sure, you had to go find a phone card. I had about 45 minutes to find an implement in an empty dorm room and on a campus where everything was either closed or too expensive (I didn't want you to think I was making more excuses and so couldn't tell you I didn't have any money to buy something with when you'd suggested I get a ruler).
M: <smile> Sort of. What you said was along the lines of: 'I think what's upsetting me most is that I've told you I could never enjoy punishing you. But right now I could punish you. And I'd enjoy doing it.' Right then I knew you were really mad at me. And serious. Even if you didn't mean you could really enjoy the act of punishing me, that you could do it. And feel justified.
M: You could say that. You know, before that moment, even though stuff had been sort of serious, it had all seemed like a complex and thrilling game. At that point it became real. And I ended up finding something to use that was really more painful than anything else - even the stuff you've used on me in person. Afterwards I was afraid to even let you know how much damage we'd done. Because somehow it had all be right. And you may remember I finished that paper within a weekend after that - even though I'd spent months avoiding it.
[note: the object in question was a length of TV cable (about 5 feet long) doubled and twisted.]
P: Yes. We kind of muddled through, I guess. I probably would have been a bit spooked if I'd known the real effect of that thing. Might well be a good thing I didn't, you're right. Still, this is all about exploring the space, and we both discovered a lot about ourselves and each other. Would you say that was the moment that we (at least consciously) stopped seeing this as interesting fantasy and play, and it became part of the relationship?
P: <nods> We've been working on that since, though the fact that this is still long-distance (though soon to change :-) means that we have to work around the difficult practicalities. Because our little branch of BDSM is somewhat physical. I mean, head-games can be interesting, but spanking really needs a certain amount of physical contact.
P: Well, whatever else might be involved, it does seem that a spanking relationship conducted at a distance can't help but involve some sort of - what to call it? - self-spanking. It's not that obvious where the power lies, but there's no question who actually has to hold the paddle.
M: I know. And it really sucks. I know some people are into self-spanking - someone I chatted with once talked about how much they enjoyed it. But for me it's one of the worst things. If you weren't so stubborn I don't think it would have happened nearly so much.
P: Well, I'm not sure how much it's possible for us to do it in a way that's terribly pleasurable - even to the extent that you find being spanked pleasurable. But, keeping it for punishment, or something more like regular discipline, means that the fact that it's hard and embarrassing and such doesn't really work against it.
M: No lie. And I'm not into being really punished by spanking in person either. But I think I'd rather be spanked by you than say need to go off-line for a week. But I'd choose going off-line over having to spank myself over the phone. It's a pretty strong dislike for me. Though over the last three years I've reached an acceptance of it - don't try and argue or fake it nearly so much. Which I again blame your stubbornness for. Because you've sort of provided that no matter how much I fight it you're going to do it anyway.
<nodding> I think I've/we've worked out how to do it so that it's
hard for you to fake, which might be seen as making it somehow easier
- I dunno. But, yes, it's sucky, and I know that. It's a necessity rather
than something that's desirable.
P: <wry smile> No kidding. Yes, that alone puts a strain on a relationship like this one. And it doesn't help that we're both grad students, who aren't noted generally for their wealth. But, as always, when something's important, you find a way to make it work.
M: That's true about us being grad students making it hard to find cash for visits and phone calls. But in fact we have. Because there isn't anything else either of us would want to do more with what little money we do have. Also, if I wasn't a grad student I couldn't have come over there for weeks and months at a time. And vice versa.
P: It's been a long time. <distant gaze> But we're close now. In a funny way, it would be a hell of a lot harder for us to have met now, because of the increased demands on our time. We're both way busier than we were then. So there's always a silver-lining if you look hard enough. Which I don't really believe, but don't let on. :-)
M: <blush> I'd been e-mailing on-line for a long time. But this was my first venture ('cause I'd only just found it) into the kinky on-line world. Do you know the long distance thing didn't get hard for me until after we met in person? Before that it was just fun for its own sake.
Perhaps until I came, you didn't really believe I ever would. I remember
the weeks and months before I came, you kept asking me, and I'm not
sure you were ever really sure until I set off. Or maybe until I landed.
M: <grin> No, I was sure when you bought the ticket (can't waste good money after all). But I do remember thinking to myself about what on earth I'd do with you for a month if we didn't get along. That seemed like such a long time to share my small room.
P: Ox, yes. :-) But, until we do get to finally share a bed, and for the past couple of years, I reckon we've done as well as anyone could be expected to in having a relationship like this at a distance. It's hard, but we've not only kept the relationship strong, we've worked out ways to explore the spanking thing, and make it part of the relationship.
M: Yes, I mean as much as I hate the long distance part of our relationship, it was really only a year and a half ago that I felt that our being apart had stopped having any positive aspects. Because before that, I think if we'd been able to live together, the dynamic between us would have been harder to develop. What I'm talking about is you being responsible for me in some ways - that part of it. I think it was a lot easier for me to be vulnerable and open up on-line or over the phone - doing it in person would have seemed too risky. By the time we got together, we were both already getting comfortable with it. And now it's natural, not something either of us can hide from the other.
<smile> Yes, I think the fact that this is natural for
us both has been one of the big discoveries of the past few years. How
we actually do that part of the relationship will change some
when we're together, but not too much, I don't think.
P: <smile> It's okay. I do understand how things are. But then, it's possible there's reluctance on my part at times to take that stuff on board now, because it's much harder to actually deal with at a distance. Whereas together it'll be easier in a number of practical ways. There'll need to be some time spent settling down into the right routines and stuff, but we'll work it out.
P: Absolutely, yes. It has its own problems too. We'll deal with them in just the same way we've dealt with the long-distance ones. :-) Are there, do you think, some aspects of the D/s part of the relationship - if I can call it that - which actually work better at a distance? I know that some of them are compromises, but are there any ways that being at a distance actually works better?
M: That makes it easier to be honest - to push the edges inside your head. What I mean is, not being able to touch each other, we had to really push to be not just truthful but very open. Also, writing for me is a medium where I tend to be more introspective than I am in person.
All of those, really. I guess I'm just wondering about the sorts of
things that we've done that have involved something closer to D/s, rather
than spanking, and how they fit into a long-distance relationship.
M: For me they've underlined the degree to which we've - well, for lack of a better way of saying it - the degree to which you have control over me. Because if I'll wear something I really don't want to, or do something I don't want to or not go on-line for days because I'm being punished, even though you're 6000 miles away and it really isn't something I feel I'm choosing each time, then things have gone pretty deep. And it must be what I really want. If we were together I might be able to pretend to myself that I was being 'forced' each time. But I know that's not really how it is.
M: That you 'd ask. And to not tell you I'd need to lie. And, while I'd like to say that I've found I can't lie to you any more because it's so bad for our relationship, the truth is that you find out I've lied about 1/2 the time. And have become pretty heavy about punishing that when we're together. I honestly feel afraid of the consequences when I lie to you. Which may be why you seem to be able to hear them in my voice better now.
P: <nodding> Yes, I think so, as well as just knowing you so much better. I'm really very glad that lying is so much harder. I know it makes things harder for you sometimes, but in the long run I think it's easier for the relationship, and hopefully makes hard decisions easier.
M: Oh, probably. You know, as I wrote this, I realized I still think about those three days in a row in New England when you spanked me (with the hairbrush) for three lies I'd told you while we were apart. And how shocked I was that you really were going to do it again after the first one. And how much that thing hurts when I'm already sore.
I'm so stubborn, I'd probably have done it even if I'd thought it was
a terrible idea. <wry smile> I guess that was really important.
That's what I'd said was going to happen, so it had to happen. Otherwise,
why would you believe me afterwards?
P: I'm not sure. Given how introverted I am, and how protective of my time and space, it's quite possible that I'd have resisted any growth of the relationship in person so strongly that it wouldn't ever have got started. You really persisted with me until my resistance crumbled. :-) The moment I wrote that first story for you, was probably as much a surrender as anything else.
P: I guess it's revealing - whether intentionally or not - that I've presented it that way. I'm speaking really only for myself here, and what submission/bottoming means for me. I don't think it's necessarily the same for everyone. But because I am so protective of my emotions and feelings, releasing that protection is really an act of submission. I mean, submission is obviously about giving up control, and control of my own emotions, how much of them I show to other people, is such a fundamental part of me, that it seems pretty obvious why that's so closely associated for me with bottoming.
M: I guess I don't disagree with that. But you had to open up to develop your relationship with me - which is one where you're in, well, less of a topping role (because that's really more of what happens in a scene rather than in life) but a guardian one. To get there, you had to open up to me and yourself that you wanted that sort of relationship, at least with me.
Partly, yes. And that certainly took time, and a lot of introspection.
But it doesn't have the same feeling of opening up vulnerabilities,
I think. Being in control means being able to protect those most of
M: <thinking> I'm not sure. You have a very deep (at least it seems so to me) concern/worry about being controlling of other people. Especially of women - a concern about (no, not being seen) being overbearing - you know, typical of men 40 years ago. Maybe even of both of our fathers. I think by taking on the responsibility of taking care of me (in some ways, but still) you trusted me not to use that to attack that vulnerability - to value and see the difference between you being responsible and you being overbearing. The same way I trust you to not see me as weak.
P: Honestly, I'm not sure how much that was a worry, at least once I realised this was right for you. That doesn't mean it was necessarily easy for me to do - I don't think I always have the self-confidence that I think it needs - but those were somewhat issues with my instinctive self, rather than issues relating to cultural stereotypes and such. Does that make sense?
M: Yes it does . . . I'm just not sure it's the way I remember it. But then I don't really know what makes you feel vulnerable when you're bottoming. What I'm remembering was how important it seemed a couple years ago (to you more than me, I think) that people know that however things may look, I was your equal in this relationship. Because I never doubted that equality or my ability to make it clear, I don't think I needed to articulate it as much.
P: Right. No, you're right here. It was and is very important to me to make sure that people see all of the layers, I guess. That at bottom, there's just a complete equality between two people, but we build layers of responsibility and control and stuff on top of those. There are totally fundamental differences between what we have, and a somewhat stereotypical domestic setup of, say, the '50s. There might be some superficial similarities, but the foundation is radically different.
M: <nod> And I guess that seemed like a vulnerability to me because in almost every other area of your life, you don't care what people think at all. That's one of your great strengths. So knowing that this matters to you (though less and less as time goes on it seems) makes it feel to me like an area that our relationship leaves you vulnerable. That I think was the only point I was making.
P: I see. I does seem different. It's important to me that people see it the way it is, but not because the way it is would make me vulnerable. That's the difference, I guess. Letting go of control when bottoming is about having people see the real vulnerability, rather than worrying about them misinterpreting.