One enormous benefit (arguably the biggest benefit) Joy and I have received from adding BDSM to our marriage has been how incredibly close it has made us. I would say we were a fairly typical married couple back in our vanilla days—we got along, but there was plenty of opportunity for improvement. Since we began to sample other flavors beyond vanilla, however, we have grown to know each other far better than we ever did before, and based on conversations with friends and other couples we know, I believe that the strength of our union now puts many other marriages to shame.
If you think about it, the idea that BDSM brings you closer together only makes sense. After all, incorporation of BDSM elements into one’s relationship requires exposing secrets to each other, deep dark secret desires normally kept well-hidden. “I want you to take control of me,” might be one example, “I want to tie you up and spank you” might be another, and “I want you to make me do what you say” could be a third. Other, darker needs may lie beyond these.
The process of sharing and acting out these secret desires brings a couple closer in at least three ways. First, you and your partner simply get to know one another better. You find out not only trivial things (“I like it when you twist my nipples”), but basic motivations as well (“I need to feel that you’re strong so that I know you can take care of me”). Knowing these facts about your partner help empower your relationship simply because you gain a deeper understanding of each other. They can also shed light on behaviors that might have puzzled you in the past, and give you tools to better connect or work through problems.
Second, acting out secret desires provides you with an opportunity to play together. The act of “playing” is an important one—it enables bonding through shared, enjoyable activity. If you and your partner can’t play together, what do you have to talk about and do together? I think relationships without play run the risk of morphing into a sort of roommate arrangement, where the two partners live parallel lives in the same location, but have little meaningful interaction.
There are all sorts of ways to play—activities from Monopoly to tickle-fights to hiking up Kilimanjaro can all count. Sex, however, can be a particularly beneficial form of play, because you and your partner are literally each other’s toys—you use each other’s bodies to give each other pleasure. What could be more intimate than that? And BDSM, because it uncovers and leverages such powerful urges, intensifies the experience and reward for sexual play. In effect, it can raise the level of almost all your sexual encounters to equal the best vanilla sex you’ve ever hand, and upon occasion, deliver a thrill that exceeds even that. When you and your partner focus so strongly on each other and achieve such a high level of excitement and pleasure together, you generate shared experiences that will never be forgotten and leave residual feelings of joy and good will for decades afterwards.
Finally, sharing your secret desires with your partner invokes both trust and commitment. When you trust someone else with the knowledge that you long to be made helpless, or that you get pleasure from the idea of causing them pain, or that you become extremely aroused by the idea of being dominated, you take a risk. You risk that they will laugh at you or think less of you or think you’re crazy, or that they’ll tell someone else. Though you must judge that risk to be small (or you wouldn’t take it), the low probability of them breaking faith is offset by the magnitude of the secret you are sharing. Some of our deep, dark secret needs can be seriously embarrassing!
Each time your partner lives up to your trust, each time they don’t laugh and don’t think less of you and don’t tell you you’re crazy and don’t let your secret slip, each time they help you to live out your fantasy, they reaffirm their commitment to you and prove their worthiness to be trusted. Over time those layers of trust and commitment build up and form a strong glue that binds you and your partner together. And as more trust is built up, ever darker and more deeply hidden secrets can be shared.
All of us have deep, dark secret desires—don’t try to tell me you don’t. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to share them with your partner? Wouldn’t you love it if they’d help you to turn them into reality, to experience all those forbidden fantasies you keep in the back of your mind? That’s why BDSM has brought Joy and I so close together. We each have the other to share our secrets with.