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Below is an Interactive Board sampler. A fuller listing is found in the "Stories" menu above.

4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Interactive: D/s

Interactive Board: D/s Your ALT-Text here Lifesyle

April 1, 2007

Dear Dr. Irene,


I am concerned about my current relationship.  I don’t think I can see it clearly anymore and need a professional, outsider’s perspective.  I am 36, single with a 13 year old son that will move back in with me this summer.


Last year I left an abusive 15 year marriage.  I am now in a relationship with a man I met in an online game that I will call Ven.


First the bad: 

Ven came to see me for the first time after I had been separated from my ex-husband for three months. Bad timing in that you did not give yourself time to center before becoming involved. You had to be extremely vulnerable. We had spent all that time getting to know each other and I was ready to meet him in person.  So, he came to see me, and though I still had very conflicted feelings about having sex, my passion got the best of me.  After the first time we made love, which was very emotional and passionate, it became all about the mechanics.  I would sometimes go up to him to just start kissing him and caressing him and he would correct the way I was kissing or rebuke me for touching him – that it wasn’t lady-like.  Yes, having read ahead, he would discourage any sexual initiative on your part. He would even get up in the middle of the night to – not have passionate sex - but to get on the internet and play WoW!  This wounded me, too. Why? Are you expecting him to be into you 100% /24/7? That you crave this intense he-should-always-be-into-me intimacy is the insecure, codependent part of you that keeps the door for men like Ven (more about that later) and more classic abusers open!

Once, after one of the sex sessions I thought it might help if I complimented him.  Without even looking at me he said, “It’s just par for the course.”  This deeply hurt me.  Of course. You are looking to interact with a Human Being. But he is looking to interact with an Object, a person who will play the role. *Sigh*  You are but an object and he knows how to "hook" you. His response indicates that he is confidant he knows he plays his game well. He had made me feel like I was just another one in a long list of girls. You probably are... I stopped expressing my desire for him or trying to become intimate with him because I knew he would just frown and brush me aside until he was ready.  Exactly.


This was the first time we had ever seen each other! Not a good start is it... I was heart-broken and despondent. Your body's way of telling you "Get out!" I have tried to end it several times, but I am always moved by his pleas to continue the relationship. Exactly. This is how you are "kept." He will do whatever he has to do in order to keep you, but bear in mind that he doesn't want you for the unique being you are. He wants you because you are the object who is willing to play the game. Is this what you want?


One other thing, he tells me that he loves me most when I completely submit to and obey him.  He insists that I call him “Master” when we are in a sexual moment. If I want sex he tells me to approach him by getting on my knees and asking to please him.  At first I didn’t mind this, seeing it as playing out a bit of fantasy and I found it to be arousing, too, but it is clear to me that he ALWAYS wants it this way. Yes. Ven is into Dominance and Submission as a lifestyle. This is far different from a little fetish behavior in the bedroom. I am never allowed to express sexual aggression. He is most aroused by thinking of me being helpless and then making me pregnant.   He also tells me he wants to be able to have sex with me at anytime he wants, in any part of my body he wants.  When I tell him this scares me, he tells me he would never make me do something I didn’t want to do.  He has come to see me three times and I admit that he has never tried to force me to do anything I didn’t want to. Yes, because your submission must be willing. This man wants to control you totally and you are to submit to him entirely. If you stay, in time you are likely to trust him more and more and will allow him to do more and more of what pleases him - because you want so much to please him and because you know he will never go beyond your comfort zone.


So, the good things: 

He has been emotionally supportive during the months of my divorce and after.  He has been very gentle when I am depressed.  He has been a good listener and encourages me to call him anytime I need to. I look forward to getting home to talk to him online and to discuss and read books together. Yes. Because it is entirely important to him to keep you happy and to trust him. He will do everything he needs to do to hold onto you - as long as you are the object of his desire. Or one of the objects of his desire.


He actually does change when he says he will.  After I told him that belittling or yelling at me just made me want leave him, he stopped doing it. Yes. At least for now. I told him that when he was kind and considerate toward me, it made me want to do things his way, so he started to consistently talk to me like that. Yes. When I told him that I needed more physical love and tenderness from our relationship, he honestly worked at providing that to me when he would visit.


Finally, just in case it matters, he only seems interested in moving to where I am if he can move in with me.  I have told him no.  Good! -Cat

Dear Cat, Your man is beyond simple bedroom fetish. He is into "the BDSM lifestyle," subcategory: Domination/Submission (D/s or D&S). This is broadly considered the "mental" side of BDSM. There is an entire community of individuals out there practicing "the lifestyle," which may or may not include verbal abuse. All acts must be consensual. Non-consensual "play" is strictly forbidden. I suggest you google these terms to learn more about  this.

In psychiatry BDSM is considered an impairment only when there is significant distress and interferes with living, though the profession is leaning towards classification of some sort of disease state.

In my view, Ven minimally has narcissistic features - because it is otherwise impossible to consistently set aside the self and focus on being the person you want him to be - so that you will trust and love him to ultimately give him complete control of you. He is not his "genuine self" (whatever that is) because obtaining your increasing love and trust is his objective. Your subjugation makes him feel important. And, make no mistake, you are an object to him. Who you are is much less important than is your participation in the game. Over time, you come to accept more and more because you do not want to lose this man who gives you so much more than any ordinary man (i.e., healthier guy) would or could. And you are insecure; his intensity feels good. This is why you have been unable to break things off. The D/s lifestyle provides a perfect venue for the narcissist, especially the Dom. Anything may become acceptable down the line: more women, watching you with other men, etc. Your increasing willing subjugation is the unstated objective.

So, the question becomes, what do you want? If you are looking for a healthier, more ordinary relationship, you won't have it with Ven. The D/s relationships however are very compelling, addictive, and intense. Think of it as abuse via full consent where he is devoted to indulging you, making you trust him and you are devoted to his happiness by trusting him enough to eventually step beyond your comfort zone since it pleases him. His requests of you over time are likely to increase in intensity as the objective is your complete subjugation, for which you are grateful. Perhaps the D/s lifestyle is the highest level of codependence - i.e., loss of Self. Perhaps the D/s lifestyle is also the highest level of abuse in that is it about consensual control.

Life is about personal choice, so look into this before you become more hooked - and it becomes more difficult to get out. Think too about the impact of a submissive mother on your son. In my opinion, you have simply traded one abusive partner for another given the level of Ven's immersion into the lifestyle.

Members of this community think of themselves as perfectly normal - immersed in an alternative lifestyle. There is lots of internal support within the community. I think they are about as emotionally unhealthy as any extremist who has found comfort within the bounds of a group where conformity to group norms is so valued. This is because the criterion I use to define health is connection with the Self, that which is within: Being true to the Self. These groups confuse being true to Self with worship of/subjugation of Self to a false God, be that God a sexual practice/lifestyle or some misconstrued religion or cult where loyalty is measured by how well one can sacrifice Self to group ideals (e.g., Muslim extreemists, Nazis, Moonies, etc.). Members of these groups consider themselves normal and try to recruit others to buy into their ideals. Of course those in the D/s community don't go door to door recruiting, but nevertheless, you are now being recruited.

Leaving this relationship, even now, will require that you put your values and life goals ahead of your emotional neediness. If this is not what you want, like any other addiction, you must stop the drug in order to free yourself. Of course, this is never easy. But it is do-able.


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 Very warmly yours, Dr. Irene