3/26/14
Comment of the Week: BDSM Destroyed My Marriage

Reader Nancy told the following heartbreaking story in response to our post, “Your Call – He’s Kinky, She’s Vanilla, Is the Relationship Doomed?” Sometimes, it turns out, love just isn’t enough…

I have been married for 17 years and recently discovered my husband’s infidelity. He started with a porn addiction which affected our sex life negatively and now is in pretty deep in the BDSM world–of course never communicating to me about his desires. I knew something was “up” for about six months, and then started having him followed. Such a sad way for me to discover his alternative lifestyle. I had to have answers for his behavior and mood changes so I am not really sorry I did the surveillance thing.

His personality changed in a negative way. He became very disengaged from our children and myself. Irritable, self-centered and defensive about any kind of inquiries about his life. (I realize these are behaviors that anyone would demonstrate if having an affair). After I confronted him about his activities, we had huge communication sessions about what led up to this. We love each other dearly and have three wonderful children who deserve both parents in a loving household. It probably won’t be possible to continue with our relationship. He cries and says he wants a committed, loving, monogamous relationship with me, but knows in his heart the BDSD charge is very strong and admits it will be next to impossible to maintain fidelity in our marriage.

I am sick about this, but don’t have an answer for any of it. I was sexually, emotionally, and verbally abused much of my childhood by an abusive stepfather. My mother was an extremely submissive person who “looked the other way” and accused me of lying when I would complain. I have worked extraordinarily hard to overcome the scars and damage from this. I am proud of myself for who I have become. I look for the light and positive in everything I do. My life is devoted to helping other people. BDSM has cast a very dark shadow over my children, my marriage and my future.

Yes, I did try and be open to my husband and play the “sub role.” It sucked. Sorry, I don’t want to be spanked, tied up and blindfolded. I don’t want my husband to stick his penis in my mouth when I am in a vulnerable position. Doesn’t do it for me. I am not excited by the “confusion” that BDSM brings into the complicated division of “power” between a man and a wife. So, we will be divorcing soon. It is a no-win situation. My husband cries every day and says he knows he will not find happiness with a sub, but he is “just in too deep.” I have a hunch he is not going to make BDSM a lifetime commitment. I am looking forward to getting out of this mess and beginning a life either on my own or with someone who will love me in a way that shares gentleness, warmth, care light and love. I want my children to experience what a relationship looks like from that perspective.

I always wonder if people that are so enthusiastic about BDSM would want their children involved with this. Would you really want your daughter being a sex slave or sub to a dom? Would you want your son whipping his wife? Not me. Life is so full of wonderful things that include kindness and gentleness. I have walked both sides of the fence and there is nothing to me more exciting than a gentle caress, a supportive hug, a loving gaze, a meeting of the eyes while love-making, my husband’s head on my breasts, an equal say in decisions involving the household etc. It is not a boring vanilla lifestyle to experience these things, I promise you.

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27 Comments

  1. Your statement, “I am not excited by the “confusion” that BDSM brings into the “complicated” division of power between a man and a wife”, actually addresses the problem more than you think. First of all, infidelity ruined your marriage, not BDSM. BDSM is the celebration of the consensual division of power between a man and woman. For people in the lifestyle it’s not “confusion” at all, it’s the most defined aspect of it. And the division is not “complicated” but adored by both. And yes it’s not understood by people outside of the BDSM mindset.

    I understand your judgment of BDSM but the problem lies in how your husband handled his commitment to your marriage and choosing infidelity. Unfortunately, true followers of BDSM do gravitate towards these relationships and like me, can’t fathom doing vanilla, what we refer to as non BDSM relationships, again.

    I am sorry your marriage fell apart and I hope you have found happiness with what you need in a relationship. That is what we are all after.

    1. I don’t really understand the power thing. We have a kind of equal marriage although she does look at me as her head. If someone wants to be tied up or something it doesn’t have to mean the marriage changes. It’s just things some like to do in the bedroom I would have thought. I think it better we keep away from the power thing. I tend to lead in the bedroom but that is the natural thing we slot into.

  2. Wow this is my life right now, except it is my wife that is the one doing the bdsm and cheating. I also have 3 young kids and need to get out of this hell of a marriage.

  3. I think the problem was unfaithfulness rather than bdsm. Pornography is a mental unfaithfulness in the sense of a husband getting his needs met elsewhere. Obviously pornography will blow up any fetish and open the floodgates to all sorts of things. In a faithful marriage however if one of the spouses has a kink this can usually be handles in a loving way. I’m the one with a kink involving a paddle but that is as far as it goes. There is pleny of vanilla sex but ocasionally I need something different and a paddle will supply that excitement.

  4. Tbh, I have a daughter, and I would be happy with her doing anything that made HER happy. If that’s BDSM, then so be it. Some people enjoy that type of playful sex, and who the hell are we to criticize another person’s sexiality?
    HOWEVER, you do not want to do BDSM. That’s ok, but as you realize, you will not meet his needs that way. The best thing for this marriage is for it to end. He’s obviously not happy sexually and neither are you. If he tries to repress these needs, then he will just act out later. He needs the excitement of the BDSM to be fulfilled, and you need the gentleness of vanilla sex. Both of those are fine. Neither of you is right about a sexual preference. The only thing that should have been done different is that he should have voiced these feelings BEFORE cheating. That way you guys could have talked about it and either done it or divorced without you feeling lied to. Just go ahead and quit while you guys are ahead because he cannot stop. You both deserve to be happy. Just do not let your anger bleed over to how you talk about him to your kids. The worst thing divorced parents can do is to insult the opposite parent. It is extremely common in divorces, and it is also extremely damaging to the kids. Both of you need to divorce like adults and then raise the kids separately. While doing that, you both need to be friends and work together to finish raising the kids. Please do not make your marriage troubles affect the way you guys parent. I dont know if this would even be a problem because I don’t know you. I was just making a statement about a common problem with divorces due to all the negative emotions both parties have. Good luck to you and your husband. I hope you both finds what brings you guys happiness. 🙂

    1. You are probably right. The big mistake was going outside of marriage for it. It probably could have been dealt with in marriage. My wife is vanilla so to speak and two years into my marriage I was getting these powerful urges through reading wrong adverts etc. so I bit the bullet and asked her if she would spank me, which she did and the desire was contained in the marriage and she has become very comfortable with it. It doesn’t include any domination, punishment type stuff or DD as I knew that would have been wrong for me and wrong for her. That she was willing to that for me cured the situation and made me feel very close to her in the sense of sharing my worst secret but still being loved and accepted. I really love her more for it.

  5. I really sympathise. I think the marriage is doomed through adultery. Sex should never go outside of the marriage. I think if someone feels the need to spank the other it is not right if they don’t like it and it speaks pain to them. My wife is not switched on by me spanking her and I recognised that quickly. If it didn’t switch her on then it wouldn’t switch me on. The word bdsm means cruelty to some people and one shouldn’t change that. If people like to be spanked or something then that is okay. His mental adultery started with porn then became actual. You have every basis for ending the marriage.

  6. I have to say that the writer is clearly in a lot of pain – but I disagree that BDSM ruined her marriage. Her husbands affair (or affairs) ruined her marriage. He cheated & lied & snuck around – that he did it while pursuing BDSM doesn’t have anything to do with it. The fact that he said he doesn’t think he will find happiness with a sub – but is ‘in to deep’ is either a cop out or a way to try and say what he thinks he should.
    I also agree that the writer is very judgmental about BDSM, which in the situation does make sense. While there are some people that lead a 24/7 ‘slave’ lifestyle, that is by far the minority. I am no doormat – far from it. I am a strong intelligent woman. I would never let myself be abused or taken advantage of. My Dom would not have been interested in me if I was like that. To give up all the power & control I have for a time – it is empowering.
    BDSM doesn’t mean there is no gentleness. There can be loving glances, supportive hugs & certainly an equal say in household and financial matters. Some people keep things very compartmentalized, some have more of a blending. It depends on the specific people and their specific relationship. Comparing a BDSM sub to her mother who was a ‘submissive person’ is not in any way valid. To avoid or not believe abuse being done to your child is not submissiveness. It is a sign of abuse in her which may have been physical or emotional & is in itself a form of abuse. While it is not uncommon for some women that have had past traumas to be drawn to the lifestyle (as I said it can be very empowering) for some it is not something that they could ever do without reliving past pain.
    From the point I began a BDSM relationship I realized that the chances of me having a relationship that did not include it were almost zero. It was something I was looking for, there was a lack & now that I know what it is I wouldn’t want to do without it. Someone doesn’t wake up one day – decide to try BDSM with someone not their partner and then say they can’t live without it. There is a process that leads to it – and certainly a process that leads someone to cheat to get to it.
    It is very unfortunate that her husband chose to go this route – it may not have ended any differently, but it certainly could have been done with a lot less pain and anger if he had been more honest. The desire for BDSM does not mean you need to lie & cheat and bring deep emotional pain to someone you love.

    1. Having been in her shoes myself, I would have to agree that BDSM is indeed a contributing factor to the end of the marriage. My husband felt the need to watch porn regularly, and became increasingly interested in bondage. Trying to be a good wife, I played along with the lighter stuff, but when he wanted to tie me spread-eagle to a bed, blindfolded, and introduce items I couldn’t see, that was enough. Where does he go from here? Wanting to introduce me to the “wonderful and beautiful world of shibari and rope bondage.” Hell no. I do not choose to be degraded, and the thought that he wanted me to consider it kind of made me angry. So, instead of letting me know he can’t go on with the marriage without getting his kink on, binding me like a pig and asking me to submit (right), he goes and looks for companionship outside of the marriage, and gleefully posts pornographic pics of himself and his skank on the internet, where guess-who found them and sent them to her lawyer? So yes, if it wasn’t for this insane need to degrade someone, our marriage might still be intact. To say this whole mess pisses me off is an understatement.

      1. Any BDSM is always by consent in a marriage. Porn is mental adultery and sex outside of a marriage is adultery. I think the porn affected him and anyone who watches porn will be risking their marriage whether they are into BDSM or not. You have the right to say no in a marriage and each of us should be big enough to receive a no in a marriage. You co-operated as far as you could but your needs should have been paramount as well in the marriage. Very sad.

      2. I am truly sorry for your pain. I was married for 31 years . My ATT husband lied, cheated, mismanaged money, and ultimately blew up a home with a MLC.
        Through this negative experience I vowed to myself to pursue knowledge about :
        Sex
        Relationships
        Men
        Women
        Myself

        I have been investigating and researching for going on four years presently.
        Through this I have learned about BDSM.
        It is an umbrella of many lifestyle choices.

        You were given a gift , when your husband came to you with his desires and needs.
        He felt enough trust with you to do so.

        He was green and didn’t know how to share with you in a non-threatening, clear way.

        I am sorry you didn’t do some reading and research for yourself, for what he wanted was
        to add to the trust and devotion. Ultimately what he desired was growth and a deeper level
        with YOU , the woman he loved.
        There is plenty of information. Some is not so good but plenty of wonderful blogs and sites, as well
        as books.

        What you saw as degrading , he saw as beautiful. He loved you enough to come to you and
        bare his soul. He trusted you enough to make himself completely vulnerable to you.
        He was ultimately the one degraded and judged.

        The human body is a work of art. Shibari is the Japanese form of rope and body art.
        http://www.artofcontemporaryshibari.com/?page_id=29

        He wanted to
        combine eroticism and art with YOU his wife. Ultimately he did not reject you, you rejected him.

        I can feel your pain and your anger. From your experience, I hope you decide to educate yourself.
        Learn what is available, and learn to accept your part in your past marriage. Forgive yourself
        for what you too contributed, and forgive him for being human as well.
        Sexuality is extremely personal, private, and vulnerable.
        I have learned so much in the time my marriage terminated. I accept my part
        in the dissolution and accept myself and my ex for who we are. Human, fallible, and
        Individuals.

        I have discovered that a relationship with radical honesty is the best for me. Lying has no
        place between a couple. Hopefully you will learn to accept someone for all of who they are.
        Grow together, change or not, but accept the whole person. Even if there needs are different
        than yours. I now am able to look back and see I was given a gift. Would I choose a different
        presentation, YES! But it is still a gift!

        M

  7. @Rose- really? That last paragraph smacks of judgment to me. She implies that our lives lack love and warmth, asks us if we’d want our children participating in BDSM, and assures us that we just don’t get how great vanilla can be. I get it, she’s very hurt and lashing out, but if that last paragraph isn’t judgment, I don’t know what judgment is.
    I’ve actually heard a lot of stories like yours, of BDSM players who have worked through past trauma. It’s infortunate that the letter writer’s husband seems to have re traumatized her.

  8. Nancy appears to find the idea of BDSM horrifying which, given her background, is quite reasonable. Asking her to participate in it thus verges on evil and if her husband pressured her in this way her marriage is over.

    However, if her husband is trying to keep his marriage together by integrating his needs into their life and does not appreciate the pain he is causing, he is simply an idiot. There is a lot of that going around.

    There is no logical reason why her husband cannot be allowed to express his BDSM needs outside the marriage. That option should be considered; it is surely better than breaking up an otherwise functioning family. A great deal of Nancy’s initial hurt was caused by her husband’s deceptions as much as by why he was deceiving her.

    Finally, as previously noted, there is a clear lack of communication in the relationship. Counseling with a sex-positive therapist should be a first step no matter how the situation resolves.

    Not everything can be fixed. Even some fixable things can become unfixable if one waits too long. This one doesn’t have a fairy tale happy ending. However, it CAN be resolved better than it is being resolved by ending the blaming and starting the understanding.

    1. I cannot believe the advise you are giving. Getting his needs met outside of the marriage? You obviously do not understand what a real marriage is.

      1. Actually, Tony, it sounds like you do not. A real marriage satisfies both partners. Physically as well as emotionally and intellectually. Nancy’s husband seems to be sparing her his needs, which she finds objectionable; what they need to do is communicate better. And, you need to judge less.

        1. Yes a real marriage should satisfy both partners but in my opinion goingoutside of marriage for any sex would seriously destabilise the marriage. You are entitled to disagree but if it is a forum then there will be other opinions.

          1. I can’t judge somebody’s heart but I am entitled to judge an action which is what I did. If I committed paedophilia for instance many would quite rightly judge that to be wrong.

          2. Wrong again. Pedophilia is against the law, morality issues aside. What you are doing is judging those who live a lifestyle alternate to your own. This marriage, as most, was doomed by a simple lack of communication. If they had been honest with each other things may well have turned out differently.

          3. You mean going outside of marriage for sex? I have no doubts that is wrong personally as it is adultery and grounds for divorce if it was needed. The law does not cover every moral decision. I don’t think it is judging to say that any more than saying paedophilia is not right.

          4. And, again, wrong my friend. If you and your partner agree that sex outside of your marriage is wrong, then it’s wrong – for YOU. What you cannot do is judge (by your religious/moral standards) how others choose to live their married life. Morals are not universal, they are relative. I do not think less of you because you choose to live a monogamous lifestyle. What gives you the right to judge my polyamorous one? What 2 fully consenting adults choose to do together, or apart, is their business – not to be judged by anyone other than the partner(s) involved in that agreement. My boyfriend and I are in a committed relationship; he is free to see other women, and I other men, as we see fit (there are rules, mostly centered on protection). We are quite happy, open, and, satisfied. No one gets hurt, and our other partners are aware of the situation. That’s because — wait for it — we *communicate*. Oh, and we refuse to be judged by people so close-minded that they see fault in lifestyles dissimilar to their own.

          5. We have to make judgements for ourselves and our children and you must know that I would never live that lifestyle and thankfully my children do the same. You are free to do what you want. We will all reap what we sow in the end.

          6. Your posts seem to start with wrong again and you tell me not to judge. Seems like you break your own rules.

    2. He married one person, his wife. He is meant to be true to her, to not betray her, and not to screw around on her. Why should she give up her self respect and dignity by giving him the ok to have his super happy bondage times outside of the marriage? That classless idiot should have been upfront and asked for a divorce before he decided to get his freak on outside of the marriage, and spare his wife the humiliation and embarrassment.

  9. I understand what you’re saying Nikki, but I feel like Nancy was actually very respectful to the BDSM world. I didn’t feel in any way judged, but I did think she brought up some interesting points about BDSM relationship dynamics and what that means for different people.

    As a survivor of sexual abuse AND as someone who enjoys playing with power dynamics, I’ve worked through these things a lot. When I was raped in college, and molested as a child, I was in a vulnerable and “submissive” position. Things were done to me against my will.

    So I still often feel intense guilt that as an adult I enjoy rough sex and power play. How could someone who has experienced what I have EVER enjoy being submissive to anyone? It’s a difficult question, and it took me a long time to deal with the shameful feelings surrounding this.

    Thankfully I have a wonderful partner who knows my history and has created a kind of shorthand language I can use in the moment to describe my level of comfort. I’ve also had issues where the things I’m doing sexually unexpectedly trigger the previous memories of abuse.

    Sexual inclinations are complex. Often they fulfill some kind of need or drive. I think for me that being a submissive takes the pressure off performance. It also allows my partner to take care of me, and it’s one of the few times when I am really able to relax and let MY needs get met. I’ve spent so long taking care of others, that I think I actually feel safer when I can sit back and let someone I trust take care of my needs.

    These are complex issues though, and I think just having a dialogue about them is a step in a positive direction.

  10. I am so sorry you are going through such a difficult time. I wouldn’t wish divorce on anyone. However, I think you’re (understandably) looking for a scapegoat, and are laying blame where it probably shouldn’t go. I’m not so sure it’s just about the BDSM. It sounds like the biggest factor in damaging your marriage was your husband cheating, lying, sneaking around, and withdrawing from his family. That would be hugely damaging to a relationship whether it involved kink or not.

    It’s also OK and perfectly understandable not to be interested in or enjoy BDSM at all. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with those of us who do. We dot all conduct ourselves the way your husband did. Most of us are honest and up front about who we are and what we do, and don’t expect anyone to do things that make them uncomfortable. You’re saying some pretty judgmental things about is though, which I’m assuming is coming out of a lot of pain. I don’t have children, but if I did, I wouldn’t play in front of them, just like you wouldn’t have vanilla sex in front of yours. And if my kids turned out to be kinky, I’d want them to be happy. When done “right,” BDSM relationships can be very loving and supportive. And many of us, myself included, enjoy vanilla pleasures as well. That’s just not the only thing on our buffet, so to speak.

    Again, I’m so sorry for what your husband put you through. You’ve been treated horribly. But please don’t paint us all with the same brush.

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