This is a year for milestones – I’ve published my first book. I’m running for the first time in my life. I’m turning 40. My oldest is getting a learner’s permit and learning to drive. My middle baby is a pre-teen. My youngest is in double-digits. My husband and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage.
All that accomplishment and change in the air make me reflective, and I want to get personal for just a minute in a way that I hardly ever do. The other day, Jane shared a story with you about the first time she was spanked by her husband. Today, I’m going to share that I don’t get spanked by my husband… and I’m okay with that.
The first time I read about a spanking in a romance, I was about 16 years old and reading Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’s The Flame and The Flower. I’d been reading romance since I was in junior high, and I was well-versed in spunky heroines and dashing heroes, but this spanking stuff was a completely new idea to me. On the surface, the spanking was everything I’d been raised to abhor, not because it was brutal or painful, but because it was patriarchal and anti-feminist – strong men exerting control over women who were too scared or overwhelmed to speak up for themselves. Barbaric, all of it. And I knew, with an absolute certainty I haven’t felt about anything since I was that naïve 16-year-old, that I would have an equal partnership when I got married – a 50/50 division of labor and responsibility and authority. I wanted a guy who would listen to me and respect my wishes.
So it should come as no surprise that my first serious boyfriend checked all of my boxes. He was intelligent and funny, a great student, and what’s more, he’d been raised by a single mom who worked hard to provide for him. He had the utmost respect for strong women. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Right? Well… Not so much.
One night, while a blinding snowstorm raged outside, I whined to my boyfriend that I’d had a truly awful day and I was desperate for coffee ice cream, but it was too stormy to go out. I wanted it now. I needed it now. I didn’t see how I’d get through a night of studying without it. Then I sighed, and said good night, and picked up my book to study.
Please try to picture my shock when, half an hour after we hung up, I got a knock on my door. My boyfriend, crusted with snow, carrying ice cream.
He’s a hero, my friends said. So devoted! So loving! All I could say was, “Are you fucking nuts? There’s a blizzard out there and you drove through it for ice cream!”
“But you wanted it!” he said, all hurt and showing it. “I just wanted to get you what you wanted.”
Dear Lord. What an awesome, terrible power. Could I convince this guy to do whatever I wanted? Over the next few years (yes, years. I’m a slow learner), I certainly tried. He moved away for a job, and would drive to see me constantly. If I complained that I wanted romance, flowers would be on my doorstep. No amount of money was too great, no inconvenience too insurmountable.
The more I pushed, the more he acquiesced, and the more miserable I became. Rather than making me feel powerful, I felt weak and filled with doubt.
The reason, as I’m sure many of you can easily guess, is that I felt the responsibility that comes with such power. It’s a burden to have to think before you whine or vent, to have to consider someone else’s best interests when you can barely discern your own, to set the rules and limits for a relationship. I didn’t want that weight. I wasn’t capable of carrying it.
I met my now-husband just four months after I finally (painfully) ended things with that other boy. I was 22 years old. My husband was 40. (Yes, you read that right. I’ve not yet attained the age that my husband was when I met him.) And things were different right from the first.
“But I want to see the other movie! But can’t we go out to eat? I can so make it home on a quarter-tank of gas, I’ve done it before!” It pains me to remember how immature I was, truly. But every silly question, every whine, every bratty outburst was met with the same firm ‘no.’ No, you can’t do dangerous things. No, we can’t spend money we don’t have. No, I am not going to see a fucking Tom Cruise movie, because I fucking hate those movies, and that’s final.
He’s overbearing, my friends said! A dinosaur, a caveman, a throwback! Are you being abused? Can we call a help line? Should we stage an intervention? And all I could think was, “Thank God. I can finally breathe again.”
We hadn’t been dating a full year when I became pregnant with our oldest. I was scared at the sight of the positive pregnancy test, and then absolutely terrified five months later when I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and confined to bed-rest for the next four months. I was losing my job, my freedom, my life as I knew it, all in one fell swoop. But my husband didn’t panic. He calmly told me what we would do, and when we would do it. He made me focus on myself and the baby, while he moved us to a new apartment closer to my family, and worked two jobs to support us through my lost income. And every morning, he made me chocolate chip cookies, because that was the only way to ensure that I would drink my milk. He took care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself. He earned my loyalty, and my trust, and my heart.
And so, we got married. And for seventeen years, he’s been saying no to me. And it’s beautiful. Because when I trust him to set limits, I can allow myself to dream as big as I want. Because when he says yes, it’s only because he’s certain that it’s the best thing for us – the best thing for our family, and our marriage, and me.
No, we can’t afford to go on vacation again yet. No, we shouldn’t pick up and move to Tennessee, no matter how cheap the houses on House Hunters are. No, you cannot accomplish that entire list of house projects – pick two. I said TWO! No, you’re tired and you need to put down your damn phone and go to bed by nine o’clock, no excuses. No, we can’t eat grilled chicken with peaches, because peaches with chicken just sounds fucking weird, and I don’t like it, and that’s final.
He takes care of me, even now that I’m fully capable of caring for myself. He takes care of our kids. He encourages my dreams. He’s all-in, all the time.
A few years ago, as Jane mentioned, I recommended that she read the book Knight by Kristen Ashley, and it got us started on this whole awesome discussion of dominance and submission and spanking. It’s safe to say that my feelings on all those topics had done a complete 180 since The Flame and The Flower, so I encouraged her to go for it… and of course, I started thinking about my own marriage. We have a beautiful relationship already where he is clearly the one in charge, setting the rules and the limits. Wouldn’t it be better, stronger, if he could take me over his knee as well?
(Plus, I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say, spanking is HOT AS HELL.)
So, I talked to him about it, and laid out my case. It will strengthen our marriage! It will improve our sex life! It will help keep me grounded! It works so well for so many people!
I was prepared for some reluctance, for him to balk at the taboo nature of it, but surely the sexy factor would sway him, right? It’s not like he’s never delivered a sexy swat in the heat of the moment, so he must find it somewhat attractive. I wasn’t prepared for a firm, uncompromising…
No, we are not other people. No, our marriage doesn’t need strengthening. No, I help you deal with your freak-outs just fine already. No fucking way does our sex life need improvement, and if you don’t believe me, I’ll prove it to you!
So I dropped it. No muss, no fuss, and honestly, no disappointment.
Oh, I sometimes daydream. I sometimes get jealous of the way spanking keeps Jane on an even keel, and keeps her husband’s attention so firmly focused on her. I still think spanking can be sexy as hell. But I don’t pine for it. Because I have a thousand dreams and fantasies – and I get to write about them every day! But I trust my husband to know which ones are best for me, for us, in reality.
That’s what submission looks like at Maisy’s house. It looks a lot like ‘no.’ And it really is beautiful.