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A Feature Article from the Archives of
The D/s Times
*

From Online to Real Life
Surviving the Transition
by Lord Colm and jade


Taking the Leap from a Virtual Relationship to Real Life

More and more people are finding their potential life partner online.  Chat has become the matchmaker of this decade and literally thousands of people are moving across the continent (or globe) to be with the object of their affection.  Lifestyle enthusiasts are no different, in fact, they seem to make a large percentage of those virtual couples who are planning to take their relationship to the full dimensions of real life.  What are the pitfalls, the realities, the dangers and the ways to make it work?  This month's feature article will deal with those issues and a few more.


Lord Colm's View


The Time Has Come

You sit in front of your computer, your mind reeling with more thoughts and emotions than you could ever begin to sort out: She said "Yes." "Yes" to the question that will change your life forever. You have spent countless hours formulating this question, waiting for the right time to pose it. Today was the day, and you summoned your courage to ask: "Will you join me in making what we have online a reality, little one?" "Yes, master," she replied, and now the enormity of those two words struggles to register in your consciousness.

Your lives online have been good. You have spent more hours together connected by a stream of electrons and copper wire than you dare calculate. Now all that is about to change, and you try to fathom the hundreds of ways it will impact both of your lives. There are plans to be made, planes to catch, furniture to rearrange, new jobs, old jobs, and paper delivery to cancel. The thought of your submissive packing up his or her entire life and moving across the country to be with you fills you with elation and anxiety. She said, "Yes." How on Earth are you going to do this?

From Fantasy to Reality

Take a deep breath and gather your wits about you. There are a few things you need to be aware of and may not have considered if this is your first experience. In comparison with real-life, online D/s relationships are actually much easier to maintain in many ways. After all, you are together only a few hours a day. You do not actually experience many of the little things that cause irritation in real life relationships such as a toilet seat left up or toothpaste squeezed from the center of the tube, his snoring, or her stockings hung from the shower curtain rod. You are about to experience first-hand all those quirks that couples must adjust to when they first come together. Recognizing that you will both need an adjustment period is an important first step in forging your new lives together.

This adjustment period should be the time for easing into your new roles as well as getting to know each other on a completely different level. Do not expect too much too soon. There is no rush--you have your entire lives to build the type of relationship you desire. jade makes some sound recommendations in her portion of this article on how to ease into your new roles. Don't overlook them.

So What Should I Expect?

Dramatic change brings stress. The more planning ahead you do, the less stress you will encounter. Work out the details together as much as possible. Agree upon duties each will have in the mundane chores that go with maintaining a household. If your submissive is moving to your area, do as much as you can to ease the burden, such as sending want ads well ahead of time, change of address information, and plane or other transportation arrangements. If possible, travel to her or his location and make the drive/flight with them.

Once you are together in your home, set aside some time to review the dynamics of your relationship. Certain things you may wish to include may have been simply impossible online, so your submissive needs to know right up front any new rules. We recommend in the beginning that both of you have a place set aside as a "safe zone"--a room or corner where one or both of you can retreat when you need a temporary reprieve from the responsibilities of owning and being owned. We all have times when the weight of the world lands on our shoulders and need a short break. Being responsible for the life of another person is going to affect you in ways you probably can not imagine. Feeling the need for a break on occasion to re-center yourself in not a set-back and it is not a sign of weakness; it is a fact of life.

Your submissive is probably going to depend heavily on you for emotional support in the beginning. Not that she or he does not already, but even more so in this new situation. She or he may be in a strange city with no friends, no job yet, and lacking in social support. Make the effort to lend extra support and encouragement during this time. Get out and do things. Sightsee, go on job interviews together, and introduce them to your friends. Go on dates! In time your submissive will settle comfortably into the new surroundings and your efforts can make the process significantly easier.

During the adjustment period, make allowances for struggles. That does not mean that you suspend all of your previously agreed-upon rules. You both will need the continuity and reassurance those things bring to a D/s relationship. Be consistent, but recognize that there will be times when you may need to offer a little lenience, patience, and understanding.

Practice your communication skills. You have a whole new set of things to learn now, such as those involuntary non-verbal signs of joy, disappointment, frustration, and confusion. Pay attention to their body language as well as yours. About 80% of our communication with each other is by means other than words. If you are unsure about something, ask--we don't always interpret those signs accurately at first.

Let your submissive build her nest. Your submissive will probably adjust more quickly if you permit them some freedom in setting up the household. Curtains, furniture arrangement, nick-knacks, color schemes, and bed linens are some possible ways to allow them to satisfy this need. You both will benefit from being able to blend your surroundings, like your relationship, into something that represents what you are together, not just as individuals.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

Now more than ever, you are going to come face to face with the limits of your own knowledge and experience. Without a doubt, you have picked up a lot of very useful information about your submissive during the time leading up to this transition to real life. It has given you a chance to explore fantasies together safely, to try a few things on for size without any risk of physical harm. All that is about to change. Now you are not just describing how you are going to flog her backside and bind her body, but doing it. That takes practice. All those lovely ideas you talked about are a lot harder to make happen in three dimensions. If you have never swung a flogger before, never tied a half-hitch knot, or slipped clamps over nipples, you are going to need to turn off the TV and start learning.

You first need to know how to do something in theory before you can apply that theory to your sub's tender flesh. Select an activity and read as much as you can find on the topic in books and web pages. Talk to other dominants you may know who have actual experience. Once you understand how it is done, its effects, and safety precautions, you will need to put that knowledge to use. Practice makes perfect, and you simply cannot practice enough when it comes to the tools of our lifestyle. You need to get used to the feel of the flogger in your hand and develop your aim. You will need to practice those bondage knots so that you can secure your treasure safely. All of the physical practices that go along with our lifestyle are designed for psychological, as well as physical impact. These you need to be familiar with those aspects, too.

Don't try to be too much too soon. Even if you have practical experience, your submissive may not. If you both do, you have not yet shared those experiences together, so there is potential to overwhelm your submissive and make mistakes because you don't know his or her body yet. Take things slowly at first, introducing no more than one new activity with each session. Ask for some sort of feedback so you will know whether you are in the zone--enough stimulation to produce the erotic effects you desire, but not so intense so as to be unpleasant. With a couple of sessions behind you, you'll learn how much is enough and what you both enjoy. This applies for each new practice you incorporate.

Submissives being submissives, they tend to expect their dominant to know what she or he is doing. It is up to you to ensure that you do before you attempt anything. Be honest. If you do not have any practical experience with something, let them know. Together you can learn, but keep in mind that, at first, your submissive may be a little uneasy about being your Guinea pig. Ample preparation and attention to safety will help ease their concerns. If you have never been a submissive, it can be difficult to imagine just how much trust your submissive places in you when surrendering his or her very life into your hands.

A Touchy Subject

As much as we do not believe it will happen, there is always the chance that things between the two of you will not work out as you had hoped. In addition to the substantial emotional issues that go along with such a realization, you, as the dominant, have certain responsibilities with regard to what will happen to your submissive. No matter who does the moving--the submissive to be with the dominant or vice versa--the dom has a moral responsibility to ensure that neither is left destitute and stranded. The submissive may choose to return from whence he or she came. If so, you have an obligation to help do that, just as you helped when your submissive packed up his or her life to join you. I know of more than one instance where a dishonorable dominant simply discarded a submissive, leaving her with no money, no place to live, and no friends to whom she could turn. This is despicable and cowardly--dominants cannot just absolve themselves of their responsibilities because those responsibilities may be difficult or unpleasant.

There is no dishonor is realizing that you both have made a mistake. D/s relationships suffer from the same failures as do vanilla ones. If you have both made a genuine but unsuccessful effort to resolve your difficulties, you will need to find the courage to face reality and, hopefully, part as friends, wiser for your experiences. Your measure as a dominant is not defined by how well you can swing a crop, but by how honorably you handle your life and the life of your submissive. There is no sense in remaining in a mismatched relationship purely out of a misplaced sense of duty.

Parting Words

Life is not like cyber. It is extremely unlikely that you will be able to pick up in real life where you left off in Cyberland. A major reason for frustration and disappointment is the delusion couples often have that things will be just as they were online. In many ways they will be, but in many more they will not. You are both faced with a challenge: a much larger number of attempts to move from virtual-time to real-time fail than succeed. Why? Unrealistic expectations, for one. You can increase the odds of your success by recognizing, discussing, and preparing for the challenges you both will face.


jade's View


How Did We Get Here from There?

If you're like most people who are about to make the move to a real life relationship with someone you met on IRC, AOL or another service, you never intended this to go this far when you first got online. What started out as idle chat, curiosity or a search for friendship has crossed your path with someone special. Now you've fallen in love and want to share more than some electrons. Are you crazy? If you are, then you're in good company because thousands of people are doing the same thing every day.

If someone had told you that you'd meet someone on a computer, fall in love and want to move halfway across the country to be with them, you'd have split your sides laughing. But happen it did, and now you're having daily sanity checks to make sure you're not about to make the biggest mistake of your life. To make sure you aren't headed for a crash there are a few steps that you should be taking before you make the final leap into the U-Haul truck and start off for parts unknown.

The Nature of a D/s Relationship

Those of us in the lifestyle are faced with the same uncertainties and dangers as our vanilla counterparts as well as a few additional kinks they may not have to consider. Our vanilla brothers or sisters are flying off to meet a man or woman who will become a lover or possibly a spouse. We are likely to be embarking on a journey to meet a man or woman who has already become Master or Mistress to us in an online relationship. By this time most of us have surrendered a great deal of our personal power to our online dominant and have put ourselves in a very vulnerable position as a result.

Because of this, we need to be sure that we've made the right choices. But how do we do this without knowing more about the person on the other end of that modem? Hopefully, you really got to know the dominant who has captured your heart and soul. You've spent hours in open communication discussing all the things that will be a part of your D/s relationship. Limits, expectations, ground rules, and future goals should have been part of these discussions. If they haven't been, then you better do some serious thinking about exactly what you are getting into. You both need to have an agreement on the issues that will affect you, along with the relationship, before you go farther than a computer link-up.

Some Safe, Sane Steps

Before you make this a permanent move you should spend some time together to see if either of you are really what the other expected. A few long weekends together is a good way to begin. Don't try to dive into the complexities and activities of a full-blown Master/sub relationship the first time you are together off-line. Countless D/s couples blow their chances because they attempt to cram a year's worth of cyber sessions into three days and two nights in a motel room. Those first few meetings should be more like "dates" used to get acquainted with the real person behind the words on a monitor that set your little heart afire. There's plenty of time to get out the clamps and ropes once you are both sure you have gotten past the awkward stages of getting to know each other.

Another good step is to spend a week or two together. Often a weekend is not enough time to really see how compatible you are. During this week, spend time discussing plans and expectations for your combined futures. Try a few days of testing the D/s waters. It's not the sexual techniques that should concern you most, but the psychological issues. Is this person familiar with your needs and nature? Do they truly understand the emotional cravings of a submissive, the fundamentals of the dominant's role, the safety and health issues that may concern you, and comprehend the bond that will develop between the two of you? All these things are far more consequential to a relationship than how many toys they have in their bag and how well they can flail a flogger.

So Far, So Good

OK, you've done everything right, you got along famously, you're meant for each other and you were both everything you said.  The truck is loaded, you're on your way to your new home.  Now what?

In spite of all you've done on your trial runs and your million hours in cyberspace, you are not likely to be able to start off with a 24/7 D/s relationship. Even if you both have had some experience in the lifestyle, you will still need time to work into a full-time status. If either or both of you have little or no real life experience in living as part of a Dominant/submissive pairing, then you are going to need to take some additional steps.

If possible, don't begin by moving in together if you've had a long distance relationship with few visits. The ideal way would be to maintain two separate residences while you continue the dating and adjustment period. This gives the person who made the move time to adjust to new surroundings, climate, make a few friends, find work (if this person is to have an income) and become acquainted with their partner's friends and family. This may not always be possible because of finances but it is well worth the expense and effort if you can swing it. Moving in with someone you hardly know is not the best way to start out a stable relationship. It creates a situation where one (or both) of you may feel trapped because the other has no place to go or you don't know how to tell them to move out because it's not working the way you'd planned. This is particularly dangerous for a female submissive who has moved to an area where she has no support system in place and is now at the mercy of someone who did not turn out to be what she expected. If individual housing doesn't seem like something you can do, then at least have separate rooms for a period of time. Sleeping together is fine, but you both need a "safe" place for those times when you are dealing with adapting to a new way of life and cannot cope with the stress that you might be feeling.

Subbies, remember this is not like the virtual time thing you had. There is no free time when you turn off the computer now and you are going to feel the pressures of the power exchange in ways you never considered. To put it bluntly, it's darned stressful at times. You're going to have days where you think you've made some serious miscalculations and wonder if you are really a submissive after all. This is pretty typical so don't throw in the towel yet. For every one of those doubt-filled periods you'll have a dozen times where you'll feel the joy and satisfaction of your submission in ways that you never imagined. The trick is easing into it rather than jumping headlong into a situation neither of you are ready to handle emotionally, physically or intellectually. You need time to adjust and to learn. A power exchange is based on trust, respect and love and takes place in steps. I've never known of one relationship that was able to make an overnight transition to a 24/7. Reading the story of "Trust" in "Our Garden" may be very beneficial to helping you understand the way small steps of trust lead to the higher levels of faith and confidence.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Masters

So far, most of this has been directed to the expectations and feelings of the submissive, but the dominant also has some issues and concerns. While I'm sure that most dominants are very happy with the physical pleasures of owning a submissive, many of them have never been faced with the overwhelming responsibilities they have undertaken when they moved to full-time status. It's rather like getting an aquarium. It looked great in the store and the directions seemed simple enough so you grab a few fish, a tank, and some supplies. Nothing to it. Everything is working fine. A day or two later you get up to find the tank looks more like a swamp and all those exotic fish are floating belly-up on the surface of the now-green water. Many dominants have awakened to find their exotic human pet wasn't doing much better than the guppies in this story. Suddenly the new Master may be plagued with feelings of inadequacy and pressures of his own. What started out as fun now seems like "work" and he's dumbfounded by his own lack of knowledge when something unexpected happens.

The submissive may be eager to get on with the dynamics of the power exchange and meets with some resistance from the dominant who promised to be all the things they dreamed of. Submissives need to remember this a huge adjustment for even the best dominant. They, too, need time to ease into the daily stresses and duties of taking charge of another human being and bearing the responsibility of making decisions that affect them, their submissive and, most of all, their relationship. Just like you, they need space to move and breaks from the job of being Master or Mistress. Be glad you won't be as easy to "flush" out of existence and replace as your guppy friends were. Believe me, there's going to be times he wished it were that simple. Thank the gods that love covers a multitude of mistakes.

Some Helpful Tips for Going 24/7

  • Start out a few hours at a time.  Decide on the best time for you to assume your eventual full-time roles and set a time limit on the duration.  Two or three hours at a time, in the beginning, will give you some feel for the areas where you need to work out specific details.

  • Increase the time gradually.  Begin to work on longer periods where you will adjust to the power flow between you.  A full day, then a weekend and eventually a full week at a time, with a few hours planned for breaks.

  • Have a "D/s Free Zone" set up in your house, if you are living together.  It can be a room such as the kitchen or a spare room.  Use this space as a place where you can take a break from the D/s aspects of the relationship.  Here, you can meet as equals and discuss things openly and freely.  Talk about the things you enjoy in the power exchange and be honest about the things that are making you struggle.  You may need to make some adjustments in your contract to accommodate things you'd not considered before living together.

  • Do things together as a couple and not just as Dom/me and sub.  You need to know who you are as Fred and Ethel,  just as you do as Master and pet.

  • Don't make this so serious that you lose the enjoyment of the loving D/s relationship you wanted.  Take time to laugh at the absurdities of your situation as well as basking in the pleasures of your success



*This article is reprinted from the June 1998 issue of the D/s Times,
the defunct monthly online newsletter presented by Castle Realm.






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