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We are three adults living in a polyamorous triad family. The content here is intended for an adult audience. If you are not an adult, please leave now.


Love and Power Exchange

Sin started a conversation about the conjunction between love and D/s, and Oatmeal Girl picked up the thread here.  It is one of those discussions that comes up periodically in our BDSM community, and I’m certain we’ll never agree on this one one – does participation in a power exchange relationship mean there is also a “love” relationship?  Will one lead to the other?  Can the two things exist independently or each other? Like so much of what we do, the commingling of love and power exchange is uniquely expressed in each relationship.  We all do it differently, and we’re ferocious in the tenacity with which we cling to “our” way of doing “our” relatedness.  Which is exactly as it should be.

Brain scientists are learning more and more about what makes us "tick." According to an ever expanding body of research, we feel the emotions associated with being "in love" because of a stew of hormones and neural chemicals acting on the pleasure centers and memory circuits in our brains.  Sex stimulates the release of vasopressin and oxytocin.  Dopamine, serontonin, and endogenous opioids play seemingly critical roles in romantic love and long-term pair-bonding.  The systems overlap and interact in order to enable mating, pair-bonding and parenting.  Of course, cultural and social factors, and learning, play big roles, too. If we are successful in love, it comes down to knowing the range of factors that lead from arousal to the rewards of sex, love and attachment. 

It really seems that, at some level, when it comes to love, we all dance to a tune of which we are hardly even aware.  It might not be so surprising then, that we have conflicting reactions to the intricate patterns of love and sex and power that rise up in our unique and intense kinds of relatedness. 
Within the BDSM realm, we already understand that there are parts of what we do that stir up the chemical cocktail that includes the whole list of pleasure related hormones and endogenous opioids that are also, intimately, connected to the experiences of lust, romance, and long-term attachment.  It is definitely possible to play with all of that, and not land in the lap of love and romance, but it is a risky business.  If we don't mingle SM play with sex, maybe it is easier to not find ourselves "caught" in the web.  If we don't mix D/s with sex or with SM, probably things are going to be less tangled.  If we don't pair up in long term partnerships, but stay with a more footloose play style, the odds of staying unattached are likely going to improve.  

I can't speak in generalities.  I won't even try to classify or explain the ways that other people do this thing we do.  I may be able to say one or two things about how love and power exchange have co-existed inside the relationship that Tom and I share.  It isn't intended to be prescriptive.  My path isn't one that anyone else ought to follow.  Consider this to be just me rambling -- maybe even just reminiscing.

First -- We met.  Online.  We shared a common interest in "spanking," and in the beginning, that was contained within the context of Domestic Discipline (DD).  We had some common interests, and we were "emotionally" compatible -- we liked each other.  I know that all seems pretty self-evident, but the truth is that, especially within the context of BDSM, the necessary first step of finding each other is critical.  It may be easier today than it was just a decade or so ago, but we are still in the minority, and still persecuted to a large degree.  Making connections is a challenge that has to be surmounted if anything else is going to happen.

Then -- We talked.  A lot.  Online, and on the phone, and in person.  We came to know one another as friends.  We discovered that we didn't have big deal-breaker differences.  We had congruence around our world views, our political views, our life paths to that point.  We saw things in similar ways.  We might have done better at that.  Might have talked about the things that have proved to be huge roadblocks for us, and maybe if we'd done that, we'd have saved ourselves some pain...  Or maybe we would have chosen not to walk this path together.  I don't know.  We did what we did.

And -- We began to play together, and talk about playing together... obsessively.  We were crazy for each other.  It might have been love.  It was surely lust.  Across 1200 miles we longed and yearned and pined for one another.  We couldn't wait to be together, and we couldn't bear to be apart.  We made decisions that changed all of our lives, and we did that in the heat of passion.  Would we have been more cautious without all that fire?  If we'd managed to evaluate all of it in the cold, calculating calm of a business transaction...?  

In Time -- We came together to live and love and learn and grow.  It was, in the beginning, glorious.  There was so much delayed gratification.  We felt as if we were a perfect match.  We loved and played and talked and laughed and explored.  We were completely wrapped up in each other, and there weren't enough hours in a day for us to BE together.  We looked out into a future and I thought we were looking at a long, lovely, happy path that would carry us through to the end of our days.  

But -- Of course, life happens.  Over time, we dealt with every kind of challenge -- surgeries, and illness, and death, and financial trouble, and divorce, and all the myriad everyday disappointments that fall on top of everyone's life.  I just kept saying to myself... someday it will all settle down and we'll go on to live happily ever after.  My parents didn't name me Pollyanna, but they probably should have.  I was in love.  I felt loved.  I believed we could overcome anything.  ANYTHING!  

And Then -- The earth opened up and swallowed us whole.  The things we never really talked about caught up with us.  My childhood abuse history.  His Childhood abuse history.  The things that grew out of that -- issues with abandonment and a demand for safety from my side; addiction and disengagement on His part.  We were a disaster careening toward an ugly crash.  And, people tried to warn us.  We ignored them all.  We were in love after all -- star-crossed and meant to be.  We broke the rules and made our own way.  We were big on "going confidently in the direction of our dreams -- living the life we imagined."  We had our battles, but we always recovered.  We didn't live easily with the places where we were at odds, but we never addressed them either.  We pretended we could just avoid  looking at the monsters lurking around the edge of our beautiful world.  We were wrong.  

Now -- We are living in the rubble of what was.  We are each miserable, angry, confused, bitter, frightened. We cling to loving each other.  And we still tend to fall into patterns that have been established between us over the last decade.  We don't trust each other.  We don't believe in each other.  We don't talk, and we don't listen.  We fight... continual battles of recrimination and blame and accusation.  We are a mess.  There's no power exchange anymore.  He insists He has no power.  I assert that He has all the power.  We go round and round and round.  Long days and hours pass where we don't speak.  At all.  We love anyway.  

I guess there's no answer to the question I started off.  Seems there is no way for me to not bring everything back to me.  I apologize.  It is all I can do.



  1. Anonymous8:31 PM

    seems to me you both need to work on your own issues right now and just agree to exist in one place for the time being. until you are both 'healthy' in mind, body and spirit, you can't or shouldn't take on fixing anything else. just my opinion.
    it is interesting and enlightening to watch all this unfold. what goes around comes around. fail to encourage and help someone dealing with childhood issues and it will and has come back to haunt you.

  2. Impish19:14 PM

    I'm thinking of you both, all three. Hold tight to the love. It will be the lifeline to your way out, and I'm sure one will show itself as you both keep sticking.

  3. sending you hugs..........

    as always you are all in my thoughts

  4. Anonymous8:44 AM

    I don't think either of you failed. That would imply there is an epic success and I believe that relationships are sometimes just messy. And work. In the end, I think you are human. With human imperfections and foibles.

    Things cannot go back to where they were. A new relationship has to be formed, after you can both forgive each other. Because IMHO, neither of you is blameless and clearly there is no forgiveness.

    Maybe if you each concentrate on your own healing and keep communicating, you can find your way to a new 'we.'

    I hope these thoughts might be helpful.


  5. Impish, morningstar -- thank you, both, for your kind words and the energies you invest in holding us up. We are working to find our ways. Somedays, it seems more hopeful than others, and somedays we get tired. Still, we keep holding on.


  6. L -- Your words identify you, even though
    you hide behind that "anonymous" handle:

    "fail to encourage and help someone dealing with childhood issues and it will and has come back to haunt you."

    I can understand how frustrating your life must be with that "someone with childhood issues." I lived that life for a very great many years -- as you know. That I did not succeed in "fixing" what was broken in him, does not mean I did not try.

    I am not, as you suppose, "haunted" by his issues, but rather by my own. The difference, I imagine, is that there is some possiblity that I might heal. The damages done by his mother's alcohol abuse are not merely psychological, and they are not going to be repaired by you or me or anyone else.

    I am sorry for your pain.


  7. K -- I think your thoughts are indeed "helpful." Thank you.
    There will be a new "we" in time. Healing is possible. It isn't a fast or easy process, but we are working at it.
    I am hopeful that our way will smooth out as we move forward. It cannot always be this hard...

  8. Anonymous10:37 PM

    please don't be sorry for me. i'm not. i'm very happy. your loss has indeed been my gain. i'm not trying to "fix" anything. support and encouragement are much more helpful than "fixing" in most cases. you should know that. i truly hope and pray that you all can work things out. i just have never seen the 'what goes around comes around' saying played out so clearly. when i realized that's what all this was, i just couldn't keep quiet. guess i'll try harder next time.

  9. Impish112:25 PM

    Please rethink the concept that you can truly gain from someone else's loss. Another's loss or pain or anger or disappointment diminishes us all. That includes yours. I will hope for better times, and better feelings soon for everyone.

  10. Anonymous7:16 PM

    Plus it makes you sound like a righteous biatch.


  11. Impish and K -- I could just kiss you both!



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