My husband and I are polyamorous. With my husband, Brett† , I co-parent, co-habitate, share finances, own businesses together. With one of my boyfriends, Dale† , I have a newish D/s dynamic that mimics some aspects of a Daddy Dom/little girl relationship.
Because the power exchange dynamic with Dale and I evolved from just bedroom play to something more serious, we have had a hard time trying to define its boundaries. In my mind, it should not extend to my sexual choices with my other partners (mostly it doesn’t apply to my husband, but Dale has weighed in on my sexual activities with other boyfriends). I know that Dale and I need to start defining our D/s boundaries better. It’s on a long to-do list.
Now to the actual question… tonight Dale explained to me that he felt that there was “nothing left,” by which he meant there were no new, unique sexual activities that only he and I did. Things I previously only did with him (such as fisting), I now also enjoy doing with others. Is there a way that I can help Dale feel unique and special without having to exclude other partners from an activity? It seems like there should be…
I’m glad you mention that defining your D/s boundaries better is something you’re looking to tackle. Looking at your situation, it could be that differences in philosophy surrounding D/s could be contributing to the issue. It’s possible that Dale views the ability to control your sexual life with others as a key feature of sexual dominance (or how he’d like to practice it at least). It’s also possible that he doesn’t. And that his desire to have sexual activities that only he and you participate in is instead linked to beliefs he may hold that for things to be special that they need to be exclusive.
Whether Dale feels special or not for any given reason is ultimately not under your control, but I do think it would be helpful (for you and for Dale) to establish whether this is about his preferred approach to dominance or if this is about his internalized view about the interplay of sex and self-worth.
Thing is, Dale might not know which it is– at least not right away — but if sexual control is co-mingled with what originally drew him to dominance, it would explain a lot. Some Dominants emotionally differentiate easily between sexual control in their own relationship with a submissive and the desire to control their polyamorous submissive’s sexual behaviors in other relationships. And some don’t. Some have a much more difficult time with it. And some are never okay with allowing a submissive to have complete sexual autonomy with others.
Relationships Are Special Without Sexual Exclusivity
But the question remains: How do you feel special without sexual exclusivity?
Other polyamorous bloggers have argued extensively for rules governing the reservation of certain acts between any set of partners as a symbol that the connection is special and exclusive (in lieu of traditional monogamous sexual exclusivity).
For example, a common one is that there may be a specific restaurant that only the two of you go to. Or you may only go to new release movies with a said partner. In the bedroom realm, some folks I have known have reserved certain sex acts, for example, no vaginal sex. Or no kink with anyone else. Or no sleepovers at other people’s houses and you always sleep in our bed (which sounds good in theory but doesn’t work for long-distance relationships).
And while all of these feel good in the short term and can help in the moment, the problem is that they don’t address underlying insecurities — and frankly, sometimes people break them, whether through lack of self-control (this notoriously happened with vaginal sex and poly friends of mine, and oh the pain and processing that ensued) or by accident (honestly forgetting about them).
However, some people swear by this method, and this approach is an option open to you, if you so choose. To find a different symbol for exclusivity and then use that symbol as a sign that he’s special to you.
But here’s the thing. Taking just a few emotional steps away from the issue, it becomes clear that even if you do a lot of the same things in different relationships, each connection plays out in a unique way. I can certainly see that, looking at situations where I’ve dated multiple people at once. Relationships aren’t a shipping manifest, a simple inventory. Instead, relationships are dynamic systems with tons of internal (and external) interplay and interaction. In other words, the whole of a relationship is greater than the sum of its parts. The constituents, combinations, and ratios all matter.
As I wrote in an earlier piece:
A relationship isn’t just a collection of components. Relationships are a kind of intimacy blanket. There are an infinite number of ways to weave elements together.
Much in the same way that I can give two different weavers the same collection of fibers and they will still manage to produce two uniquely beautiful blankets, relationships can contain similar elements and still be strikingly different.
Even if you don’t say “Hey, hands off the red yarn! Only I can use the red yarn. I don’t want to see that yarn in that other blanket.”
Like most folks, I started out my poly life wanting exclusive elements to each relationship. But I don’t anymore.
However, Being Special and Feeling Special Are Different Things
That said, even though Dale surely is special to you, he doesn’t necessarily feel that he is. The best way to demonstrate that to him will depend on who he is as a person. Looking at his Love Language is a good start.
But at the end of the day, you can only help so much. It’s something that Dale will probably have to work through himself, if he decides that’s something he wants to do, building up a sense of personal security.
You Might Have to Make a Tough Choice
It’s also possible that sexual control of your other relationship is a condition he has for being your Dominant. If that’s the case, and he’s unwilling to budge, then it’s a decision you’ll have to make: Whether you’re willing to allow him to exert sexual control over other relationships as part of your submission to him.
For what it’s worth, either way, if he’s your only Dominant, I think that’s pretty damn special.
† names in original letter changed
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