My reflections on BDSM and open relationships

I was in a BDSM relationship with a married person whose partner was aware of our relationship. I’ve reflected on it and I’ve come to understand what could have been done better so that it could have worked for all parties involved.

The BDSM relationship I had with a married person lasted several months, but it ended poorly. I believe that a lack of transparency contributed to the negative ending. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about since…

Why married couples open up their relationship sexually

First, I’ve been thinking about the act of opening up a marriage sexually altogether. Some married couples open their relationships up sexually because one spouse has desires the other doesn’t have. These arrangements usually come with rules (no intercourse, for example). (Please note that these open sexual relationships are distinct from polyamorous relationships where a full-fledged romantic relationship with another party can exist alongside the marriage.) While my partner had clearly delineated lines for me, where I knew that my partner had no intention of looking for a romantic relationship and certainly not leaving their spouse, I don’t feel that they were open enough with their spouse. Oftentimes, jealousy on the part of the spouse not engaging in extra-marital sex leads them to believe that knowing less about the situation is best. Based on what happened in my situation, I believe that actually knowing more — better communication and more transparency — could have allowed everyone involved to feel more safe, happy, and satisfied with the arrangement.

Couples open up their relationships sexually out of love and support for each other. It’s not right for everyone, and nor should it be. But if you’re married and your spouse has chosen to open up the relationship to allow you to fulfill fantasies, your relationship is clearly very important to them. They are supporting your exploration and they’re encouraging your happiness. That doesn’t mean, though, that they necessarily feel super great about it all the time. Being aware and sensitive to your spouse’s needs regarding information is paramount here. Electing to open your relationship to sex with others comes with a host of necessary conversations. Keeping your partner as your first priority both romantically and sexually is often the first “rule” set in place. Separating “sex” and “love” in these sexually open relationships is usually at the forefront of these conversations. Most of this seems to go without saying. It’s made more difficult when the sexual relationship on the side is a BDSM relationship.

How BDSM complicates open marriages

The complicated thing about BDSM relationships with someone in an open relationship is that BDSM is never just “casual” sex. It will always necessarily include a mental connection that goes beyond “hooking up.” This can complicate things for both parties, where the single person may want more than the relationship can afford, or the married person begins to feel guilty for the feelings they’re having. Dom and sub “highs” can feel very close to love; it’s possible, obviously, that the participants can fall in love while the married partner still loves their spouse, too. However, if the parameters of the open relationship are not polyamorous but open sexually, this is where things get complicated.

Doms and subs in full BDSM relationships respect each other, feel a “need” for each other, become mentally engrossed and engaged with each other. It’s a real relationship that can’t possibly be turned on and off. Though my partner only spoke to me when they were at work or alone, we would confess that we had thought about each other “offline,” too. That’s to be expected. It doesn’t mean anything about the marriage, nor does it need to detract from it. You know when you start a new book or TV series, and even when you put it down to go do something else you enjoy, you think about it because it’s new and you enjoy it? That doesn’t mean it’s your new favourite book — it’s just new and enjoyable. That comparison is kind of crude, but you get my point. It’s perfectly possible, and I believe necessary, for the marriage to always have precedence. It’s also perfectly possible to have a fulfilling extra-marital BDSM relationship at the same time.

I’ve made a list of some tips that I’ve thought of for anyone who is engaged in an extra-marital BDSM relationship.

Quick and Dirty tips

1) Be up-front about your marriage. We met on FetLife and their profile was very secretive. They hadn’t listed that they were married, and instead told me after we had been chatting for some time. While it might seem like a good idea to preserve privacy in that way, your potential BDSM partners need to know you’re trustworthy. BDSM is all about trust, after all. Married friends of mine who have an open relationship on FetLife not only list that they’re married, but they each have accounts and they link to each other. Even though one spouse is active on the site while the other isn’t, having the spouse visible (though still anonymous) keeps the situation transparent. Some spouses find the idea of it exciting sexually, as well. Though they might not want to engage, the thought can be a huge turn-on — almost like sharing a fantasy or porn together.

2) Set clear rules with your spouse, and let your BDSM partner know all of them. This helps the BDSM partner know that you’re serious about your marriage, that your priorities lie there, and what is and is not appropriate. This includes when communication is allowed, what kinds of communication are allowed, rules about photos and videos, Skype calls, and in-person meetings. Don’t break these rules, ever. Trust is imperative here.

3) Keep communication between your spouse open and candid. Each spouse having a FetLife account is another way to facilitate this. Check in with your partner about their feelings. Acknowledge any feelings of jealousy, inferiority, possessiveness, etc. Do not get defensive. Remember that your spouse is doing this to support you and out of love. Remember to make your spouse feel desired and loved, and always make them feel like the top priority they are.

4) Understand how you’re feeling. Living out a fantasy, having the rush of a new relationship, sexual gratification, and the love and support of your spouse, will all combine to make you feel pretty great. That’s good. You deserve that. You’re being respectful, loving, and caring. But you might start to feel guilty about your good feelings. If you’re beginning to feel guilty about anything, talk it out with your spouse. Express your happiness by being grateful for their support, and let your spouse benefit from your good mood; don’t feel guilty about it. Your spouse has already decided to support you, and you’re being trustworthy and courteous. If you are worried that you’re “doing nice things” out of guilt, tell your spouse that you’re feeling guilty. Being candid and vulnerable is important in complicated relationships. Let them know that you are enjoying yourself and you are grateful for their support, but that you can’t help but feel guilty. Just as admitting jealousy is a helpful way to overcome it, admitting guilt can help you see that your spouse does in fact enjoy your enjoyment.

5) Be respectful of your BDSM partner. Respect their time. Respect their feelings. While you have already discussed that your BDSM relationship with them is secondary to your marriage, you must still be respectful to them at all times. While things might arise with your spouse that will mean a play session has to be canceled with your BDSM partner, keep these to a minimum. Be serious about how you arrange your time with your spouse and your partner. Cancelling on someone is rude no matter what the reason; as per usual, it’s even more complicated with BDSM, because of the mental “zone” involved. Respect your BDSM partner’s feelings, too. Understand that their highs during play will be emotional, and that they’ll need aftercare (whether they’re Dominant or submissive this is true). Understand that these are powerful interactions and never dismiss their feelings. If you feel your BDSM partner is crossing a line, explain that to them in a caring way. Revisit the boundaries you’ve laid out often. Feelings will develop. Feelings are good and add to the experience. Boundaries are the only thing that will keep those feelings from becoming a hindrance.

Here’s what I have so far. I bet I will add to this as time goes on.

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