“When you live a life with no boundaries, there’s less joy.”
There’s something about the way I’m wired that decided it for me, long before I ever understood; and now I don’t need to know why I need these limits in my life, only that they are a part of what feeds me and are necessary for my happiness. I accept that I do need them, desperately. Please don’t get me wrong. I am definitely not the type of girl who desires or requires having every little decision made for her; I can and do choose for myself what I will eat, what I will wear, when I will speak, and a myriad of other things both mundane and incredible. I am a mother of six, a grandmother and a wife. I am a successful employee, a competent teacher and a thriving adult. I am strong and intelligent. I am perfectly capable of setting my own boundaries, of disciplining myself and of being a grown up person. I am good at being that leader in the crowd who takes charge of myself and others. I know how to get things done. But the more I search my heart, the more I examine my motives, my appetites, and the energy that feeds me, the more I find there are deeply rooted needs in me that I can’t yet fully explain. I am still exploring it, still discovering it.
I use this quote quite often when I write about my life-journey. The words ring true - on many different levels in my life:
“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”
And that leads me to a portion of what I know thus far:
I need a presence in my world -- an immovable wall -- a man who loves me, who cares for me, who is strong enough to set a boundary and not budge when I inevitably push. I need a man whose strength and solidity clearly communicate that I am worth keeping track of, worth sorting out, worth holding accountable for my choices and actions. I need to be able to close my eyes and find my way to that quiet place where all that matters is the last thing He told me to do. In His presence, in that space, the stress and responsibility fades momentarily and I am free. That freedom feeds me - spirit, soul and body.
It is not always the kneeling, or the assignment, or the bedtime. Kneeling is not the goal. Writing, though very important to me - to my creative process, my mental and emotional and even spiritual health - is not the end result I seek. I’m an adult, perfectly capable of making it through twenty-four hours with only three hours of sleep or less. It’s not imperative that I get six hours of sleep, though several days without enough will have negative effects. These rules are not about the specific things they govern. They are about the one whom they govern. They are about the one who sets the boundaries, and about me. The key, the most important element, is the boundary itself. The value is in the loving-care that each rule and boundary represents. It is all about the respect, the acquiescence, the acceptance of this language of love and worth that is spoken between two hearts, two bodies, and two minds.
My Sir provides the structure and the rules because He has determined that I am worth the effort and the work. He loves me. I obey because I want there to be no doubt about my love for Him, my respect for Him, or my need to have his strength reigning me in. I choose to please him because it reminds me that I belong, that I have surrendered, that this exchange is mine, and it is my choice. I obey too, because there are two words that can immediately quell my voices of doubt and wrap me around with the most incredible feeling of peace and quiet pride. I surrender authority and agree to obey simply because the words, “Good girl” are the sweetest cream I’ve ever tasted, the loveliest words a girl might long to hear.
But it may surprise you to know that I do not always obey.
That is not because I lose my taste for being a good girl. It is not because the power of our relationship and my commitment to it have wavered, or been assailed by doubt and insecurity. I haven’t quite found the words to explain why, but I do know that there are reasons... there are times when it is okay, even right for me to push back. There is something to be said for biting my lip and quietly dropping my best behaviour, hoping he will notice and call me on the carpet. There is space for speaking up, and questioning boundaries, just because I want to know they still remain. I sometimes test the immovability of my wall and the strictness of the boundaries I’ve agreed to bear.
What’s more, I believe He knows me well enough -- and perhaps this is a deeper truth than I can fully express at the moment -- He knows I need to test once in a while. He expects I will. I believe it is part of the complex dynamic of this sort of power exchange relationship. I sometimes bend or break the rules, I slip a toe, or take a step, or run headlong across the borders we’ve so carefully constructed - and this too is part of my my need. It is not to frustrate or exasperate Him, I know which boundaries are important, and vital -- which ones are very nearly as much about the rules themselves as the are about the commitment between the girl and her Sir. I do not test the boundaries that protect me from danger. I do not purposely push when the rules involve treating my Sir and those he loves with decency and respect. Those are not the rules I mean when I say I test and push sometimes.
A small child thrives on boundaries and structure. A toddler will quickly learn the meaning of the word “no” and what things are off limits when those boundaries have been clearly defined. In fact, they feel loved and safe within those limits. But I have seen the same, happy, well-behaved child on a day when things are unsettled, when mommy or daddy is busy and distracted, stressed over holiday plans or busy preparing for guests. I have watched children in my own family push boundaries just to see if mommy or daddy is too distracted to notice. I have even seen them smile when they get the attentive response they were seeking, a “No!” or a light swat on the diaper. They just want to know that the things that make them feel safe haven’t shifted.
I believe that pushing and testing boundaries is not so much about breaking rules as it is about making sure the structure and the framework are still strong. Even a confident, strong, well-loved girl needs reassurance, needs to push against that wall and find it hard and solid. There is some risk to that pushing, however. I have pushed when I was feeling very, very out of sorts, when I was lost and insecure - I have insistently pushed when I knew it was dangerous to do so, and I have pushed about things that were serious, things that a one should not be disagreeable about. I have forgotten that there is a boundary that should not be crossed, and that is the one that knowingly hurts. I confess that I have crossed this line, when I was hurting and feeling insecure, and I regretted for a very long time - still do regret - the pain in His voice when I did. He needs to know that I trust. He needs to know that I feel secure and that His care for me and His loving boundaries are good, are believed in, and are working to convey his tenderness and commitment to me.
There is a balance here that must be attended to. I may be a girl who chooses to belong to a Sir. I may be one who surrenders control and trusts the one who owns me. But I am still an adult, and I must communicate and keep my side of the bargain. He needs me to take my role as much as I need Him to take His. This is a lesson I am only beginning to learn on a very deep and serious level. Boundaries exist in many ways, and some of them involve knowing that above all else, this is a loving relationship between two adults who have their own needs and insecurities, their own strengths and expectations. Communication is vital. Not only should boundaries be negotiated before they are implemented, they should be talked about over coffee, whispered about across a shared pillow, discussed in phone calls and via e-mail. They should be part of the fabric of communication in a relationship.
I need communication as much as I need boundaries, and so does my Sir. He needs to know what I need, and what I think. He needs to know whether the boundaries for me are falling in good places. Notice please, I did not say easy places. For in my relationship, Sir pushes me to grow. He also needs to know that what he offers is effective, that I know His love through his limits, and am getting what I need. I cannot just hope he has good instincts, and keep quiet if things need to be mentioned or addressed.
We all, especially those of us who choose a power exchange relationship style, need boundaries. They communicate love and caring, strength and faithfulness, trust and respect. They give us framework for our love, for our play and for resolving our conflict. Boundaries are important, and even when, as a girl seeking reassurance, I test them, I know there are still limits as to how far I will or should push, how much trouble I am willing to suffer, and how much I’m really asking from the one who chose me and gave me boundaries in the first place. I am learning to balance, and have been given a safe place to both fail and succeed. I think perhaps that is the most valuable boundary of all.