Pearls Before Ponygirls

by Jon Jacobs

Lately, among the people that I counsel as well as among the people who write to Polly and me for advice and help, there’s been a veritable epidemic of people who find themselves in situations where they are trying to turn a man who may or may not have any dominant needs into a dominant, more precisely into _their_ dominant. I want to talk about this because it is a difficult and challenging situation that these folks find themselves in and one that seldom has a really good outcome (yes, sometimes, for the lucky ones it can work out).

Women with deep submissive needs find themselves in this situation, it seems, for two basic reasons. The more common is that a woman who is in an established relationship with boyfriend or husband, often a long-established relationship, discovers and accepts her submissive needs but is unwilling for many reasons, often good reasons, to destroy her current relationship and go out to seek a dominant person. So she tries to give her husband or boyfriend as good an understanding as she can of what her submissive needs are and hopes that he has within him a reciprocal set of dominant needs and abilities that will be awakened by her.

The less common reason that a submissive woman finds herself in this situation comes about when she realizes her submissive needs before entering a relationship and then becomes involved with a partner who claims to be a dominant or at least in whom she sees dominant potential. Although this is relatively unusual, I’ve seen it enough times to make it worth talking about here.

Short of finding herself hogtied while some jackass holds a razor to her throat, these situations are some of the most dangerous that a submissive woman can find herself in. Certainly, the danger is virtually all emotional rather than physical, but a bad outcome can be devastating.

I want to make clear that I don’t in any way misunderstand or devalue the reasons why women hesitate to destroy established relationships once they realize the extent of their submissive needs. I place an enormous value on the intimacy and shared experiences that grow when a couple has been together for a while. Such shared experiences, even when part of a relationship that has some negative features, is wonderful and should not be tossed aside lightly. When children are involved, obviously, the situation is even more acute. Added to all the difficulties that divorces cause for children even of a conventional relationship is the terrifying possibility that a spurned conventional partner will use a woman’s submissive needs as an excuse to take her children from her. This is powerful stuff.

Given all of the above, it is only natural that a submissive woman hope that her now-conventional husband harbors within himself the dominant of her needs and dreams. Most women in such a situation set out bravely to try to find that dominant and to bring him out.

The sad fact, however, is that in most cases there is no dominant in there. A woman who explains as best she can to her husband or boyfriend (or girlfriend) what she needs and why she needs it may find rejection and anger; in many ways, this is a good thing, since it makes clear early on that there’s no dominant at home. More often, the man involved cares enough for his partner that he does his very best to understand her and to find within himself the ability to please her, not understanding that to be “pleased” is not at all what she wants. And that’s where the real problems start.

Let’s get that rare situation out of the way first, where within that formerly conventional partner lies a dominant, just waiting to spring forth. Perhaps he has always known about his dominant interests but has considered them to be sick, abusive, unique to him in the whole world. Or perhaps he has been completely unaware of such interests. In either case, once the confusion and misunderstanding of the original revelation on the part of his submissive partner are over, the lucky couple begins a challenging and rewarding voyage of discovery about themselves and one another. The confusion and misunderstanding can be over quickly or can last quite a while, but if they last and last and last, the honest submissive woman must draw the proper conclusion.

That’s the far more common and dismal situation. The poor fellow involved feels attacked, waylaid, tricked: what happened to the woman he’s known all these years? Has she changed? Is she crazy? Can any of this really be true? But if he loves her enough to get beyond all that and to try to understand and try to begin to be what she needs, he finds himself in an impossible situation. Since he has no compelling dominant needs of his own–in fact, he may be repelled by the kind of behavior that his partner now says that she needs from him–he really has no idea of what to do. He questions his partner in detail, trying to learn just what is required of him, sometimes even reaching a point of trying to systematize his own behavior, to learn a rote system of responses that will please his submissive partner: giving orders, issuing dicta, specifying punishments and rewards, and all the rest. In short, he attempts to subordinate his desires and needs to hers.

This behavior does not meet the submissive’s needs in any way–the charade is obvious and often terrifying. She is in control: the situation that she wants least. The kind of trust that must be built between dominant and submissive partners is not built–in fact, the reservoir of trust that may have existed between the two drains away as both parties find themselves required to maintain a false front in order to try to save the relationship.

The submissive in the less-common situation–where she was aware of her submissiveness before becoming involved in a relationship and chose a man whom she believed to be dominant–often finds herself in the same quandary as her more common sister. This man has told her that he is a dominant and that he understands her needs, but in practice he is not and does not, is incapable in any number of ways. Or she may have thought that he was a dominant and that he simply did not know it, but she finds out that she was mistaken. She may try to convince herself that there is some slight possibility that she is wrong, may give him chance after chance to prove himself, live through traumatic failure after traumatic failure and try yet again. It is very difficult for her to know when to give up. Perhaps, she feels, this time he will see the light, this time will be different. And there is just enough of a possibility that this will actually happen to keep her involved far beyond the time that reason would suggest.

Submissives in either of these situations face two crucial decisions, both of which are infernally difficult to make. The first is to decide to face reality boldly, to admit to herself that after all her attempts at explanation, all of her experiments, all of her patience her partner is simply not the man that she needs. Because facing this reality is so difficult and portentous, she may try to choose any other alternative, which is bound to result in her repeating her unsuccessful attempts at turning her partner into a dominant. The more she presses on in this, the more both partners suffer failure and frustration, the worse things become. What trust was left between them disappears. The good things that they shared shrivel as the partners become increasingly disenchanted with one another. Inevitable difficulties are magnified by frustration, and bitterness grows. The longer she waits to face the truth that she tries to avoid, the harder it becomes to face it.

The irony is that most submissives in this situation know what they are doing but find it nearly impossible to stop. When, they ask themselves, is it reasonable to accept defeat and try to move on? Since it is never possible to know with certainty that one more effort is doomed, there is no quantifiable answer to that question. Given the dreadful possibilities of endlessly repeating the failed attempts, the submissive must at some point have the courage to decide that enough is enough.

The second decision that the submissive must face, once she has admitted that her partner is not the person whom she needs in her life, is what to do about it. There are really only three options here. The first is to ignore her submissive needs and to try to go on with her partner, counting on the positive elements of their relationship, and do as best she can (one variant of this is to continue a mild play relationship with her partner, thinking that, even if her real needs cannot be met, something is better than nothing). This approach seldom works. Typically, her submissive feelings emerge strongly a few months or years later, and, consciously or unconsciously, she behaves in such a way as to destroy the relationship. The eventual denouement is often even more difficult than it would have been months or years earlier.

The second option is to try to have her submissive needs met outside of her primary relationship. This is a tack taken by, I suspect, the majority of submissives in this terrible situation. Unfortunately, I know of no instances in which it has worked in the sense of allowing the submissive to retain her primary relationship while also getting her submissive needs met. In every case I know of where someone has tried this, the secondary relationship with a putative dominant acts as a transitional relationship as she moves out of her marriage and normally doesn’t survive the move.

The third option is the most revolutionary one: to leave her relationship behind her, as hard as that almost always is to do, and to look for the dominant of her dreams. This search, of course, is not always successful. And I wish I could say that the fears that keep submissive women from taking this option at first are unfounded. Often they are not. Divorces that involve a woman’s submissive behavior can be especially ugly and hurtful, particularly when custody of children is involved. If the former partner is aggressively hateful, family can be alienated, jobs can be lost, etc. Still, in most cases the end of the original relationship is going to be the outcome no matter how hard the partners try to make things work. Realizing this profoundly uncomfortable fact is crucially important.

I’ve painted a bleak picture, but not unrealistically so. Still, there are some things that a submissive woman can do that will make the likelihood of a good outcome as high as is possible. The first is to be utterly honest with herself about her needs and feelings. This isn’t easy, of course: even a woman with courage usually finds it hard to be certain if she is being completely honest with herself. She must decide, if she has to make a choice between living the submissive life that she craves and maintaining her current relationship, which is more important to her, and if she chooses her current relationship, she must make a clearheaded judgment as to whether she is capable of abandoning her submissive needs permanently. She must be very careful, in all of this, to avoid wish-fulfillment, the conviction that something is possible simply because she needs it so badly, whether it is realistically possible or not. The woman who is careful to do all of these things will probably have a better life, and will get wherever she goes with less emotional conflict and disaster, than the woman who doesn’t.

This is all very easy to say. But the brain is seldom very effective at examining itself, and it is excruciatingly difficult to know whether you are being honest and realistic with yourself or just need to believe that you are. The only help I can offer here is something that, like the decisions themselves, is easier said than done. You must find someone whom you trust explicitly, whose judgement and emotional stability are clear and usually on target, and who understands the intensity of your needs and the difficulty of your quandary. You must bring that person–a mentor, if you like–completely into your confidence and ask him or her to be a monitor of your thinking–a bullshit meter–and to help you to separate reality from fantasy, to help give you the support that you need to make the tough decisions. In the end, if you are hopelessly confused and if you trust the other person completely, you may even ask him or her to make the final decision which you cannot make for yourself–and, yes, I have been asked several times to do that and have done so; it is a terrifying responsibility.

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