ASK THE THERAPIST
by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.
Copyright © 1997 by William A. Henkin
<Q> My wife and I are worlds apart: to her SM is literally sinful. If she knew I were a member of Janus I'd be divorced by morning. If I can't get her interested in SM, how can I at least get her to come around enough to see this as a legitimate form of human sexual expression?
<A> You can't "get" your wife to do anything, and to the extent that she perceives that you're trying to do so she's likely to resist your efforts to an even greater extent than she has so far. After all, you're asking your wife to honor your beliefs without first honoring hers, and you've set up a relationship dynamic in which one of you must win and the other must lose. Since you don't seem to see her position as legitimate, why, in such a situation, should she adopt yours and elect to be your martyr?
The question you raise here is really more about interpersonal communication than it is about SM, although I understand that your interest in SM and her belief that SM is sinful provide the grounds for your disagreement. Before you can respect each other's feelings and opinions on this fairly volatile subject you may have to spend some time learning to speak so that you know you're heard, and listening so that the other person knows s/he's heard. A good couples therapist or counselor can help you with this process.
Along the way, an important question for you to answer for yourself and probably sooner rather than later, because your situation as you describe it is not going to get better without your active participation is whether you need SM more than you need your marriage, or you need your marriage more than you need SM. I don't mean this as a question of moral judgment: people's sexual and relational needs don't bow readily to other people's proscriptions. I don't mean that your marriage should mean more to you than your SM, in other words, or that your SM should mean more to you than your marriage. I only mean that you might as well tell yourself the truth, because the decision you make based on your answer could affect the course of your life. If SM is important enough to you that you've been keeping your Janus membership a secret from your wife, the chances are excellent that she'll find out about it sooner or later. Then, if she doesn't want to divorce you because of your SM interests, she may want to divorce you instead for betraying her trust: if you kept this secret from her for umpty-ump years, her reasoning will very legitimately go, what other secrets have you withheld? How can she trust you about anything? How reliable are you as a mate? And how solid is her marriage anyway?
Finally, if you get through these hurdles or on your way through them, perhaps you will have a chance to see how flexible your wife is about her beliefs, and how flexible you are about yours. Then and probably not until then she may come to see SM as a legitimate form of human sexual behavior. But then again, she may not. Your choice cannot be dependent on the results you anticipate or hope for, because you will not know those results till after the die is cast.
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