A couple sent us questions essentially admitting his confusion about what it means to be dominant in the marriage. Here’s what the husband stated:
I have learned what it’s NOT (at least for us).
1) It’s not assigning more duties or doing less myself.
2) It’s not making all the decisions.
3) It’s not being less loving to my wife.
4) It doesn’t have anything to do with who is smarter.
But I still don’t know what it IS.
His wife chimed in with an additional comment:
Part of the problem is that I don’t know what I want – I jokingly say I want him to be dominant without me being submissive – but it’s really not entirely a joke. I actually don’t enjoy being told what to do ONE little bit. Maybe this just isn’t for us? But I REALLY like the spanking and the disciplinary feel….
He concluded with the question:
If my partner and I were to just TRY as an experiment for a limited time only to live with me dominant and her submissive (or at least trying) what would we do? How would I act? I can’t even think of much I want to change about her or the way our house is run.
Our answer is divided in three parts.
- First, what it means to be “dominant” and “why” he should be the boss;
- Second, specific things he can do to maintain the authority his wife has asked him to assume, and
- Third, how to make it “real.”
I’ve said what I’m going to say here elsewhere on my site, and sometimes I think people must get sick of hearing me repeat myself. But I will say it again. Just because two things look the same, does NOT mean they are the same. It can be confusing for people who don’t know what they want – like the couple above – when many different manifestations of “spanking” which outwardly look the same, are actually not the same thing at all.
There are people who do not want to have or to see any fundamental change in their relationship. Just because one or both members of a couple likes the spanking does not mean that they want or need a domestic discipline relationship. Conversely, there might be couples who want a D/D relationship very much who NEVER spank erotically and only rarely (or possibly even never) use corporal punishment as part of D/D.
Call it what you will, domestic discipline, power exchange, dom/sub, all of these things in one way or another call for a fundamental shift in the roles in a relationship.
For many of us who read and participate on this site and others like it, spanking is the outward manifestation or “result” of how these roles are defined. Making it infinitely more complicated as well is the fact that many couples – like my partner and I – who do practice Domestic Discipline also use spanking erotically. We have a fairly good grasp on what we are dong and how it works for us. I know – believe me I know – when I am being spanked “for real” and when it is “for fun,” though it would be impossible to explain to an outsider.
There are people, though, who love spanking but want to keep it firmly in the erotic realm. However, for some of them, as soon as you try to relegate spanking to a sexual game, they rebel. It’s no game, they assert. It’s very real. We want it very badly. There are others who cannot feel comfortable leaving it as a sexual game because they feel that in this arena, it must always be playful, light, and fun. So, in order to justify the harder spanking that they both seek, they begin exploring some of these other paths which may not be right for them. As the wife says, above: “Maybe this isn’t right for us? But I REALLY like the spanking and disciplinary feel” A couple can have spanking and a “disciplinary feel” without choosing to live in a Domestic Discipline relationship. It is essential that people realize this.
For those that want to explore this, Brenna’s discussion of how a relationship in which a wife submits to her husband’s authority might work is truly inspired. She gets to the crux of what it means to be in such a relationship and offers an amazing number of very specific ideas and guidelines.
Part 1. What It Means To Be Dominant And Why He Should Be The Boss.
I don’t really like the term “dominance” for some reason, so I’m going to talk about “authority” instead. I have the impression that sometimes a husband would wonder what would give him the right to exercise authority over his wife. After all, she is an intelligent, educated, competent adult. Why on Earth should she defer to him? Why would a loving modern man ever turn his wonderful, capable adult wife over his knee and discipline her?
In a nutshell, because she wants you to. Because women like us are overwhelmingly attracted to the Alpha male. Because strong, capable, adult women want to feel that there is someone stronger than they are who loves them, who will protect them, who will set limits. The image of the strong, dominant man makes our knees weak and sets our hearts fluttering.
Some of us, including your wife, have mentioned that in this equation we do not particularly desire to be submissive. We don’t want his strength to derive from our weakness. We just want our guy to be strong and stern and capable of laying down the law. There are many women who believe that a wife’s submissiveness is part of the natural order, and even ordained by God. Others, myself included, don’t think like that. We don’t give a hoot about natural order. We don’t feel that men are naturally created to be the boss. We just know what we like in our personal lives, and what it is about our husbands that sets our knees knocking and turns our insides to jelly.
However, there is a difference between saying that something probably makes more sense from an evolutionary standpoint and saying that it MUST be this way, and that anyone that doesn’t choose this is “wrong,” or worse, “sinning.” This is America, and people are free to find a lifestyle that works for them and to believe what they wish.)
Speaking for myself now, this doesn’t mean I want him to order me around. I don’t want him to treat me like I’m stupid, or as if I have no say in the running of the house. I expect to be an equal voice in all major decisions. I expect to be treated with respect, unless I have done something to justify treating me otherwise. I don’t want to be his slave. I don’t really want our relationship to change at all in most respects. What I want from him is a sense of his authority, a sense of loving boundaries. The kind of authority I want him to assume over me is very similar to parental authority.
Imagine if you will that a child who has lived apart from you for several years has now come to be a part of your household. Think of the relationship you would cultivate with that child. You do not immediately say, “Gee, if I’m supposed to be the parent now, I’d better come up with a list of rules and punishments.” You establish yourself as the authority figure because that is what the child needs you to be, but your authority grows gradually, and the rules and expectations follow naturally. You do not perceive the child as your slave. You do not treat the child as though he is stupid, or incapable. You love the child, and set firm boundaries and limits that keep the child safe and secure, and let the child grow to be his very best.
I don’t want to give the impression that I want a “daddy” figure, or that I want my husband to treat me like a child. I am just using the closest analogy I can think of for natural, loving authority. This authority does not come about because you are better, brighter, or more deserving, but simply because of who you are. As a parent, you have certain responsibilities, and authority. A military officer has certain responsibilities and authority. He does not have to show that he is smarter or more deserving of his authority. He just has it by virtue of who he is in relation to subordinates. As a husband your wife wants you to take similar responsibilities and authority. Not because you deserve it. Not because she’s not capable. She wants this because you’re her husband, you’re the man, and she craves the strong, dominant, alpha male who can sweep her off her feet, and over his knee if the occasion warrants.
So, how, you ask, how does all of this work? In the next part we’ll discuss how to make this all real for both of you.
Part 2 – Making It Real
When my husband and I were first starting domestic discipline we both felt as if we were acting, or at least as if we were trying on new roles. That was fine for starting out, but it was important to me over time to feel as if his authority was real, not just an act. I needed to feel that his authority came from inside himself, and wasn’t just scripted for my benefit, and with my permission.
Over time it has become much more “real” and I think the following factors help make it so:
1. He is consistent about enforcing rules.
Every so often he will just announce a new rule to me to address something that has been annoying him. For example, I take the Time magazine out of the mail stack, carry it off, and lose it before he ever sees it. The rule now is, if I take the Time, I had better return it to the stack the instant I’m done. If he sees it anywhere but in my hands or in the mail stack I get in trouble. This is the kind of rule I’m naturally going to test a few times. If I get spanked one week for losing the Time, but the next week he just shrugs it off, then it bothers me. I think maybe he doesn’t take his rules seriously, so why should I? I need those clear, defined boundaries with predictable consequences. Consistency tells me he takes his position seriously.
2. He always follows through on a threat.
If he tells me that I’m going to be spanked later then it is very important that he deliver on that promise. Even if I dread the spanking, I need the feeling of security I get from knowing my husband is a man of his word. Otherwise, it seems as if he wasn’t sincere earlier. It seems as if he was just acting, and never intending to really follow through. I need to know that his threats are genuine.
3. He uses discipline other than just spanking.
I vividly recall the first time my husband turned to me and said “You’re grounded tomorrow. You can stay home, get this work finished, and think about what I mean when I tell you I want something done.” My first reaction was a sort of spluttering indignation. Ground me? I’m an adult! Who did he think he was? But then I realized that he thought he was my husband, the man I had wanted to be dominant and authoritative. By grounding me, it made me feel as if he was secure in that authority, and that he didn’t just see it as a kind of kinky sexual foreplay.
I still need the spankings, and spanking is by far the most common consequence, but when he has the courage to administer other types of consequences it makes his authority more real to me, and it makes the spankings themselves feel more like real discipline than erotic foreplay. Sometimes he will send me to stand in the corner, usually when he is giving me a particularly severe spanking, and he realizes that I need a break. This corner time is never long, but the feeling I get from humbly standing with my nose to the corner, my bottom bare and throbbing, knowing I have more coming is overwhelming. I will timidly peek at my husband and get shivers just thinking how strong and sexy and dominant he is. (Just a note: my hubby never sends me to the corner when he is done spanking, because I think he would consider that wasted bottom heat. I think he feels that the highest and best use of a superheated backside is for sex. Also, after the spanking I need to feel forgiven, and further punishment would probably just dilute the emotional impact of the spanking.)
4. He does not accept excuses or let me talk my way out of consequences.
I am gifted in the art of defense. I can take almost any situation and show why it wasn’t my fault, why my actions were reasonable, or why I should be granted leniency on this occasion. Your wife probably has similar gifts. In order for discipline to feel real to me, I need to be able to make these arguments. I need to be able to vigorously argue and plead. But ultimately, I need for him to put aside all my arguments and protestations, and discipline me anyway. This means that on some occasions, he might seem to an outsider to be unfair. He might even suspect in his own mind that he is being unfair if I have really done a good job presenting my case. But I don’t need fair. I don’t need mercy, or second chances. I need firm rules with predictable consequences. If this means that I sometimes get spanked unjustly, so be it. A spanking isn’t going to do me any lasting harm, and I really benefit from knowing that I’m not going to be able to talk my way out of trouble.
5. He knows that humor is a natural part of our life, and he does not let it sidetrack him.
My husband is a naturally witty man, and I often have the ability to make him laugh even in a fairly serious situation. The injection of humor into a disciplinary situation used to pretty much put an end to any attempt at seriousness. Similarly, children often interrupt the mood. Now he has the ability to laugh or smile at my witticism, or tuck the children back into bed, and then get back to business. This also makes discipline feel real, because we are not required to maintain masks of solemnity or severity. We can be ourselves, and not feel as if we have to maintain a charade.
6. He will punish me with or without my cooperation and consent.
This is a trickier point, and one that has been debated endlessly. I have an intense fantasy/desire to be physically dominated, and spanked against my will. Over time it has become clear to my husband that I generally consent to be spanked, whether or not that consent is apparent at the moment. As I have phrased it before, I consent to non-consensual spanking. The trick about non-consensual spanking is that by definition I’m not going along with it at the moment. By definition, I’m not thinking “Gee, isn’t this sexy.” I’m raging, and genuinely verbally and physically defiant. So it takes real guts for him to wrestle me down and give me the spanking he has decided I need. The good news is that once the heat in my backside sets in, my attitude changes. I begin to realize that this is my fantasy come true. I also begin to listen to him, and understand his position better, even if I may never agree 100% on the substance of the issue. This kind of spanking is rare in my house, but knowing that when he tells me to bend over, he is prepared to use force, makes it all much more real to me.
Every couple is different, and things that work for us might not work for another. Some women may not even want to feel that discipline is real. Other women might be genuinely traumatized at receiving a spanking that didn’t seem quite fair. Still others might feel that it is abusive to physically overpower and spank her even when she is objecting. These are the things, however, that I need from my husband in order to have that truly secure, warm wonderful feeling.
Finally, again, here’s the video of pastor Fuller talking about Ephesians 5:22-33 [an important reference.]