When I first accepted BDSM into my life, it was like opening a hidden door to my soul and walking through it. That destination, that place of arrival, had nothing to do with sex.

(Well, maybe the tiniest bit.)

My marriage was dying. It was my second marriage (quite the accomplishment for being in my mid-twenties) and the first marriage had crashed and burned before the first wedding anniversary. As I sat at the kitchen table with my second husband- the one I married for love instead of naïve obligation- we held hands in the silence and stared at two phone numbers scrawled before us.

One, a divorce attorney.

The other, a marriage counselor.

God, we were unhappy. Something was wrong, so off, and neither of us could put a finger on exactly what it was. There was a dark chasm between us full of words we couldn’t string together; the room was full of cowardly silence. If you had asked us, we couldn’t even begin to describe how lost and alone we each felt. If you had asked us, we were doing, “Just fine!”

Polite smile.

At odds with this grave unhappiness was the realization that we were indeed wholly in love with each other still. That person holding my hand had an even stronger grip on my heart.

At the end of the beginning, the love won out. We called the marriage counselor as a last-ditch effort to resuscitate “us” and it was the first move towards the life I had never imagined but somehow of which I had still always dreamt.

Things we learned in marriage counseling:

  • We never really fought in our relationship, and that isn’t a good thing. It meant we were probably not being honest: swallowing down our feelings and pretending to be satisfied when we weren’t.
  • “Fine” is not an emotion. “Fine” stands for “Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.” We immediately struck it from our vocabulary.
  • Once you acknowledge a problem, it is a lot less scary to deal with. Once you acknowledge a desire, it is a lot less scary to enjoy.
  • If you are communicating in an honest and healthy way, you will probably have to say things that will hurt your partner and will  probably hear things from your partner that hurt. That can’t stop you from talking or listening. That can’t prevent you from speaking the truth. Even when it hurts. Maybe especially when it hurts.
  • Be true to yourself, and find a partner that is accepting of that real person.

We also learned in the midst of our open, non-judgmental communication:

- What my husband and I were missing in our relationship was called “Power Exchange,” as well as our mutual desire for kinky sex, as well as the release that comes with sadomasochistic play.

What were the odds that his secret, kinky desires would be so in line with my secret, kinky desires once that truth was laid on the table? Pretty good actually. See, we knew each other- our basic tendencies, our natural personalities- and that undercurrent of who we really are as people laid the groundwork for what it is that we do now.

Sometimes I felt as if I was comprised of entirely submissive bones. There was an aching inside, a longing to serve, a consideration of all others over myself. I felt a need to please that rattled within me every step that I took throughout life. I wanted to be led (not needed to be led, make no mistake, this was not about any lack of capability). I wanted to be led by somebody worthy, somebody amazing, somebody who would not only never lead me into harm but with his life protect me from the evil of the world. I was ready to comply.

My husband was a natural-born leader and had been from early on in his life. He was endlessly responsible and cool-headed in the tensest of situations; mature beyond his years. He was a Dominant: controlled but never controlling, firm but never unnecessarily, confident but never cocky, certain but still always learning.

But until we bravely uttered the acronym “BDSM” one rainy summer day after a particularly intense counseling session, MR was a Dominant with no way to channel that energy. I was a submissive with no word for myself.

BDSM. Bondage. Discipline. Dominance. Submission. Sadism. Masochism.

Intimidating, overcomplicated words for the newcomer. This I remember well. So much of that intimidation, though, is the unknowing; the fact that the words are so unspoken, so alternative.

But I believe that we as a society are on the cusp of an awakening. People are whispering these “BDSM” words with greater frequency. You can feel the air abuzz with curiosity. This is the age of alternative lifestyles. This is the age of accepting other people’s way of life. In this new age, as always, knowledge is power.

The more my husband and I learned about the root of these words by reading fiction and non-fiction alike, talking to knowledgeable people both online and in person, and absorbing the unique vernacular,  the happier we became. We finally had words and a reference point for who we were. Dominant and submissive. Sadist and masochist. And over time, dearly, Master and slave. Once the words “Master” and “slave” left our lips: we were home.

After several years of living with power exchanged both in and out of the bedroom, we felt we had truly made the right choice at that dining room table. Not only were we together still, but more in love than ever before and now, happy. So happy with this new and incredible and sexy little uncomplicated life we had built through honest communication. Our energy was unlike any relationship we had ever experienced. I would go to bed and dream of my husband. Wake up and stretch across the bed for him. There are not enough hours in the day or days in the years or years in a lifetime to satisfy my desire to be with him. To serve him. And of course, he feels the same. I am the most important possession he owns, held up on a pedestal to be protected and admired, something to be guarded with his life.

Last year we publically recommitted our lives together both as husband and wife and as Master and slave by performing The Ceremony of Roses. We were bound in blood that night and I can still look down at my middle finger that was pricked and feel his blood- his very life force- flowing together with mine. We can no longer be undone. We no longer want to be undone.

It is a complete transformation from the silent, dismal couple fighting to survive many years ago, seemingly a lifetime away, staring at two phone numbers and making a choice from which they could never return. Now we sit at the kitchen table together each evening staring instead at the home, the family, and the happiness we have created, making no more difficult of a decision than what to have for dessert.

The change came from hard work, from a commitment to stay together and making things good again, from communicating, from listening to our partner and accepting their unique needs. It was not because of what we did with our loins. Not by a long shot.

I feel like I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg that is all of “us”; all that is BDSM. I’m okay with that. Because my tale is not everybody’s tale. Everybody is somewhere different on the unique path of this alternative lifestyle. Some at the very beginning. Some just finally slipping acronyms and discussions like “SSC vs. RACK” over their tongues like a fluid second language. Some deeply entrenched in their own BDSM history.

I would just like to say to you, alternative lifestyler, that whether you are here from the LGBTQ community, from the ethically non-monogamous/polyamorous community, from the Leather community, from the rope community;

Regardless of your gender or your gender questioning, regardless of your sexual orientation or exploration, regardless of your income level or education level or health or weight or age;

Whether you are at this place alone or are preparing to brave that first spine-chilling conversation with your partner or are holding the hand of the person you call Master or Mistress while you read;

If you’re here for the B, or the D, or the D/s or the S&M, or several of those, or all of those;

If you’re here only for the sex or if you want nothing to do with sex;

If you’re here only for the pain or if you want nothing to do with pain;

If you have no idea why you are actually here outside of a gut instinct, a pull, a desire;

To all of you:

Welcome home.

    Your transformation awaits.