I've been going through some rough things in life at the moment, and I've found myself questioning my identities as a Leather man, as a Daddy, as a dominant.
Not questioning as in "am I really this" - I definitely am these things, that's not the question.
Questioning as in "what do these things mean to me, especially when I am unable to act on these identities in the ways to which I am accustomed".
I am unable to attend events right now. I am unable to play much (at all) right now. I am unable to do all the fun little kink daily things that usually get us through times like this - there's no small rituals taking place, for example.
What does it mean to be a Leather Daddy when you're not really able to play, to lead, to be involved in the community? What does it mean to be a Leather Daddy when your boy is more needed as your equal partner in your life and its troubles right now than as your submissive?
I was really feeling very down about these questions for a while - struggling very much. Can I still call myself a Leather Daddy when going through times like these? What does it even mean to be that - if I am not playing, if I am not commanding, if I am not making most of the decisions alone?
Then a couple of things happened that began to shed some light.
The first thing was that I took a step back and tried to look at my relationship through the eyes of a vanilla person. I realized that I am still the one driving the relationship. I am the one that identifies issues, makes plans, makes decisions. Even for joint decisions, where we discuss and decide things together, I am still the one that identifies the choice and our options.
I can tell him to jump and he will be halfway into the air before I have even had time to have a crisis over whether we are "really" in a D/s relationship. Many of the things I "ask" him to do are not genuine requests, they are orders cloaked in politeness. When I ask "could you bring me a drink, please?" I am not asking. I am telling. And I know this because if he refused (without just reason), I would be surprised and alarmed - it would be a catalyst for a serious sit down discussion about the health of our relationship. Whereas any other person, the same refusal would cause me no issue at all, I would just nod and get up and get my own damn drink.
I structure his entire day. When he gets home from work I decide when we have dinner, even if we discuss what we're having together (even D/s relationships are not immune to do the occasional "no but what do YOU want" game, it seems). I tell him when to do dishes, when to change the kitty litter, when to work on his VicLeather work. I manage a large part of his calendar, I make sure he remembers to call his family members, I plan our dates, I double check his appointments, I make sure he is organized for anything he is planning to do.
I realized, stepping back and looking at all this - we haven't fallen into a vanilla relationship, we've just become so accustomed to our D/s dynamic that it has become invisible to me.
This is something I know happens often in long term D/s relationships. It becomes comfortable, and it doesn't feel exciting and kinky any more. It's just life. Sometimes you can add more things on to make it exciting again - but in a case like mine, where that's not an option right now, sometimes you just need to sit back and look it over, and realize, oh, no, actually, there's not much vanilla about this at all really.
The second thing that happened was my boy received some very kind compliments from a few people, specifically about his reliability, his dedication, his attention to detail and his ability to see things through to completion.
This was a surprise to him, because he does not think of those things as his strengths - quite the opposite, he considers himself to be relatively weak in these areas. And, true enough, I was particularly pleased for him to receive these compliments because he has struggled with these things, and it has been an ongoing task to train him into better habits and better awareness. And, to be honest, we still have a ways to go before I would consider him to be ideally where I would like him, in these areas.
However. I have particularly high standards. I forget this sometimes, because I'm a pretty relaxed and laid back person - I am careful not to sweat the small stuff, and am very happy to make whatever compromises are required to get what I need out of a submissive in a way that is both effective and lasting. I also am less concerned with high protocol training or specific tasks and rituals than I am with overall lifestyle changes and internal mental and emotional improvements.
So, I think of myself as not having particularly strenuous standards. However that is simply not the case - I have passed on many relationships because there was a gap between what someone was capable of and what I require. I have had relationships end because of a gap between what someone was capable of and what I require.
My standards are fairly narrow - I am mostly concerned with willingness and reliability, for example - if a submissive is willing to work with me to find compatible ways to improve on things I want them to improve on, and if they consistently do so, then that is actually a good 80% of my relationship needs met from them.
However, narrow standards are not low standards. If there is anything less than a complete willingness to try, a reliability that they will do what they are told, a willingness to compromise and find the right ways for us to work, a commitment to being consistent in their submission to me, and the ability to be honest about their abilities, their desires and their dedication... then it will not work out.
So, anyway - what does all that have to do with my questioning? Well, I realized that while we may not be playing right now, and we may not have protocols, we may not be attending many events - that does not mean that I am not still shaping and leading my boy.
Upon receiving this type of praise, my boy almost entirely gives credit for his behaviour to me. I did not ask him to do that. I never have - and in fact I do not particularly think of it that way. He is the one that has improved.
But from his perspective, I am the reason he has improved. I am the one that has demanded his standard of behaviour, I am the one that has worked with him to find ways for him to improve that create lasting change with his personality and lifestyle. In his eyes, my leadership is a large part of what makes him who he is today, and what is shaping his future.
What is that influence, if not that of his Daddy?