I've been with Saint for 3 years and 4 months, and yet we still manage to surprise each other. We still manage to find nooks and crannies in each other's brains, that neither knew was there. This week, we discovered a fear that Saint didn't know he had.
Back when we first got together, he was new to the scene. He enjoyed talking with people at our BDSM club and being social, but he felt uncomfortable whenever people were playing.
The first couple of years, the two of us didn't do much playing in public. Saint just wasn't comfortable doing it. He couldn't relax, he got easily distracted, and he just didn't see the point. After we played at the fetish club in Amsterdam last summer, he grew more comfortable in public and started to actually see some point to it. He still doesn't love it, but we can do it and he can enjoy it because I enjoy it (or something).
After a few years in the BDSM-scene, he's also gotten more used to people playing in his presence. It doesn't freak him out as much, and we've even taken short trips into the open play areas together and watched other people at play. But he doesn't like it. This is fairly easy to handle at the BDSM club, because he can always go out of the play area or look somewhere else. However, it's much harder when he's at a cabin or in a private home and the space is filled with kinky people.
Back when we were first starting out, I tried playing with someone else (Beauty) while Saint was tied to a chair and forced to watch. That didn't go so well, and I didn't understand why. I chalked it up to him being shy. He IS rather shy, and I've never understood shy people... So I never searched for a deeper answer.
Until this week, that is.
Saint has encouraged me to play with others for a few years. However, when I show interest in anyone at the club, Saint usually leaves or at least goes to some other room. This makes me hesitant to play with other people, because I feel his actions communicate that he doesn't approve (despite what he says using words). So whenever we go to a kink event, I feel like I'm forced to play with him or not to play at all. (He'd never make such a demand on me, of course, but I feel like this anyway.)
We've had countless talks about our relationship, polyamory, jealousy/envy and insecurity these past few years. I feel like we trust in each other and in our relationship more than ever. However, he's always been uncomfortable when someone plays in in presence, and despite our growing trust and stable relationship that hasn't changed. So it couldn't only be related to us or him being insecure able us...
I raised the issue because we're going to a kinky cabin trip on the other side of the country in a few weeks. During this trip, I don't want to feel like I'm restricted to only playing with him. I want the option of playing with other people if I want, and the option to consciously and intentionally choose to play with him. I don't want to feel trapped with him. (And of course, he doesn't want me to feel trapped either.)
So we started talking about this, probing deeper into what made him so uncomfortable. Maybe there was something I could do? Through my probing, he realised that he generally struggles with watching other people play (or just be sexually active). He struggles with watching others, no matter who they are and what kind of sexual/BDSM activity they do.
This goes for a number of different situations. For example watching strangers play at the club, watching people we know play or be sexual, watching me flirt or play with someone else, or even watching me play with myself (masturbate). He also struggles when he and I are watching porn together. Why?
Because he's afraid of being judged. Afraid to be rejected. He's afraid that when he gets turned on by something, others will mock him for it. To be clear: It's not being a submissive that makes him ashamed, because whenever he's directly involved in D/s play there are no such bad feelings. It's the role of the observer that frightens him. Watching other people being sexual, without being directly involved in the action, feels like a taboo. Even when those people want to be observed. He's afraid to be judged/rejected both by the people he's watching, and by those who are present and watching with him.
He doesn't want to feel this way, so this is something we've decided to work on. And today was a great start: We watched porn together, and then he had to watch as I played with my pussy. His gaze was not permitted to leave my crotch. Eventually, I made him touch himself while he was watching me.
He struggled with believing that he was permitted to watch and that it was ok to be turned on. He said it felt like he was doing something wrong. (For reference: I'm an exhibitionist. I love showing myself off to him. He was definitely not doing anything wrong!) When I enforced my control over him, and made him feel like it wasn't his choice, watching became easier for him. Still, every time he started to get really turned on by what he saw, he would unconsciously kill those feelings. Apparently, these issues are deep and go a long way back.
We haven't fixed everything in an evening, but at least we've identified the an issue and started working on it. Even if we probably won't have changed everything in time for the cabin trip, I feel it helps to have a language with which to discuss these issues. That leaves less room for guilt and shame, and more room for communication, compromise and support.
I enjoy being able to help Saint grow and feel more comfortable. I know this will benefit us both in the future.