The men my mother loved and how that affected me.
Most of my mother’s boyfriends were a@%$@h£!s, except for one, a man I came to love, but she dumped him because he was “weak”. All I knew of his interactions with her was that he was loving, kind, generous, and gave of himself. What I knew of her other boyfriends was that they were arrogant, bullying, and less nice. But she liked their manliness, and she wanted to be provided for, taken care of.
Processing that little paragraph has taken up huge energy in my life. Coping energy, loving energy, trying to reconcile me, my feelings, and an ability to love someone and provide for them for the long term. I touched on some of the issues previously here. The hard part? That a man who was lovable, generous, and kind, one who clearly loved her, could be so suddenly and fully cast aside. After 5-6 years in my life where he became a fixture, and there was talk of marriage, even plans, he was cast aside. That concept was hard for me to understand. I am not sure if I saw him more than once ever again. I do know, however, that “losing” my mother cost him his health and ultimately his life.
My mother, God rest her soul, believed in the tough love school of raising children. She wanted a “man” in my life as a father figure, so that I would emulate him, learn, become manly the way she liked a man to be. Good luck Mom. I won’t say that I disappointed her—on the contrary I learned to please her, to try and only show the parts of me to her that she liked.
She didn’t, or perhaps she did, know that at the root of our interactions lay my non-binary nature. The last thing I felt I needed was a male role model. I got plenty of that in an all-male school, and her “men” were mostly people I didn’t like or respect.
Tough love was the lasting lesson she gave me. Life is no easy thing. We all have challenges, hang-ups, hurdles. If you feel sorry for yourself, keep it to yourself. If you feel good about yourself, keep your mouth shut. The only compliments about you should be coming from other people, as those are the only ones that count. That was her in a nutshell.
Didn’t mean that you shouldn’t love yourself. You can’t practice the paragraph above without a basic level of core emotional strength and self-love. Fraught as my relationship with my mother was, this much soaked through, soaked all the way in. Don’t be needy, being needy is a first-class ticket to loneliness. Perverse, but true. And I learned that. I absorbed it, and I believe it too.
My wife, as many prospective partners do, looked to my relationship with my mother to see what kind of man I was. She recently described it as “respectful”. Never mind the agony. My wife is right. I was always respectful, and when I felt like saying something rude or mean, because I was feeling it, I would just take myself off somewhere and deal with my feelings. Spending time trying to understand where someone is coming from is always helpful to calming down. You may still disagree, but once the emotion is out, you can converse like adults. That may not be easy, but it is certainly good practice.
Yesterday, during a lull in packing, my SO and I sat chatting about things. I had just discovered a letter to me from my mother from many years ago, and it had made me quite emotional.
“I would have never married you had I not seen how much you loved your mother,” said my SO
“Because how you love your mother was a pretty good indicator of what kind of man you are.”
“But I fought with her all the time. She drove me nuts.”
“You were also very, very close.”
“We don’t have to fight so much thank goodness.”
“It isn’t an exact template. But your relationship with her showed the two most fundamental things that a woman should expect from her husband.”
“Love, even when, especially when, it is difficult or comes at a cost to you. I learned from that, that you would never walk away.”
“Respect. Even when angry, you never disrespected your mother. And right there showed what kind of person you were.”
“But how could I not show those things?”
“Well, that’s why I said yes.”
“Enough introspection for one day.”
I will write about the contents of my mother’s letter to me at some point.
But why did she think that the one nice guy she dated was a wimp? Her words. She dated him for many years, whereas all the other guys she saw lasted a few weeks, maybe a few months at most. How much money they made was certainly a part of it, their future prospects were a part of it. Trying to understand what was at the root of it was something that preoccupied me. I was an idealist.
Was he really not strong? He always seemed solid to me. But a child’s eye view of strength and kindness are perhaps not up to the task of analysing an adult love relationship. Still, something more complete than “wimp”, a violent word, would have been nice to help me find the way. It is complicated, but the feeling I got from reading Venus in Furs, the anthem of D/s, was equally traumatic and in the same way. I associated submission with “wimpiness” and a loss of respect from D/ to /s, and that connection put me off of exploring D/s for decades—fear.
Confronting fear has always been one of my approaches to life. All the others pale in comparison to the potential fear that lies within the D/s landscape. That is what I tell myself now about why I took so long to explore this fear. The other reason is that I pushed D/s and submission out of my mind.
This kind of fear doesn’t trouble me anymore. This, for several reasons. My SO and I have balance. That is a safe place and a solid place to grow from. I have children, which has been the greatest blessing of my life. Trying to be a good father for them, and failing at it every day, but trying again and again, is the ultimate responsibility and reward. There has been nothing better in life. I feel in that sense that I have fulfilled my biological purpose. As they grow and reach adulthood, my moral and social purpose will also be complete. What I do with that sense of completion is a mystery still. I think I would like to be a farmer. I spent a good amount of time with an Indian mystic and soothsayer once—I did and so did my SO. His conclusion for me was that I needed to work the land, that my nature was a farmer, and therein would lie my happiness. I know he was right.
There is another reason that I am letting go of my fear. Mistress is a gifted teacher. She has created in our interactions, and I give this as full credit to Her, a safe space to explore. I did say to her before we ever started that I do not regard her as a therapist, or put that burden on her, but that our interactions would be very therapeutic. A part of that was also my commitment to her of total transparency—that I would always be as open and honest with her about anything and everything as I possibly could. This is the basis of trust. I believe that Mistress has a wonderful gift in this regard. I have also written previously that this kind of terrain is perhaps best explored within the context of a professional D/s relationship. Written about here. And separately, here.
I have also learned that submission is not weakness. It can be though, and the temptations of letting go at their worst are dependency. As with Scylla and Charybdis, the temptations and dangers are real that lie down that path–and allowing to be weak in submission is a choice that only leads to bad choices. I understand that, and constantly adjust myself to stamp out any early shoots of temptation, as this leads to emotional and moral weakness. One cannot submit with value from such a state.
Finally, there was a Harvard psychologist, I can’t remember his name anymore, who taught a course on balance in relationships, that there are certain laws or factors in relationships, and in order for them to last, there has to be balance. Balance can come from many different areas, chief among them looks, health, wealth, but also behavioural traits.
Cold? Perhaps. But in the light of this, I begin to understand what my mother was saying about the “wimp”. He could not match her for looks, he could not match her for money, nor where she came from. Niceness is not enough to overcome these base principles. She was in another league. She knew it, now I finally understand it, and learning it ultimately drove his dissolution.
To my original question. No, it is impossible to love a “wimp” in the long run. And no, being submissive does not make you a “wimp” per se, though many submissive men in particular seem to choose this trope as their identifier—that they feel shame in their submission. I wrote about the alpha/beta narrative here. It may have taken me a long time to get here, but I am very comfortable now that my submission only serves to increase my strength. That being mentally ready to submit, and then submitting, requires me to come before Mistress in full strength.
And I say this in context of everything above. Mistress is an incredible person. My respect for her runs deep. She is beautiful, intelligent, charming, interesting, and endlessly fascinating. It is profoundly motivating to kneel before such a person. To take my cue as having an abundance within me to lay at Mistress’s feet, is the will to move mountains. Gosh, what an honour to learn these things in this way.
What would my mother think? She would be proud.