Needs in Conflict

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August 1997

by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1997 by William A. Henkin

<Q> I've communicated very clearly with my top about my need to be held and comforted after particularly heavy scenes, but he refuses to do it because, he says, that sort of softness is exactly what spoils the effects of distance he most likes after I've been broken. He's perfectly willing and able to be close and gentle at other times, but this is one point he has refused to negotiate, and it's become a problem between us. How can I make him understand that he has to take care of my needs?

<A> You can't make him understand that he has to take care of your needs partly because, as I wrote about a similar request in another column recently, you can't "make" someone understand anything, nor can you "make" someone do anything of his own free will, and partly because it isn't true that he has to take care of your needs: just because you have a need does not mean that anyone has the obligation to fill it for you. What you say you need is merely one point you may or may not be able to negotiate.

Clearly, if you and your top have not negotiated our SM relationship completely, there's no time like the present, before your difficulty gets out of hand. If the two of you have already negotiated thoroughly, then you probably both know whether your wish to be comforted after a heavy scene and his wish not to comfort you at that time are needs or wants on both your parts.

If either or both of your desires is a want, then you could well achieve a satisfactory compromise through further negotiation; if both of your desires are needs, however – if, for your part, you feel there is little point in doing the scene unless you can be held afterwards, or you feel that without the comfort afterwards the scene is detrimental to your well-being; and if, by contrast, your top feels there is little or no point in doing the scene if he must hold you afterwards – then you may have come to a point I think of as Needs in Conflict. You may, in other words, have a deal-breaker on your hands. If you're in a situation in which you cannot get your needs met if he gets his needs met, and he cannot get his needs met if you get yours met, you must decide whether the flaw in your SM relationship throws the survival of that relationship into question or whether you have a whole new order of negotiation ahead of you to determine the nature and extent of the relationship you're going to be able to have.

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