“(S)he doesn’t want to do anything but vanilla…”
This happened to me. I’ll be circumspect to respect his privacy, but I found myself in a sexually unsatisfying (mostly) vanilla relationship and no idea how to cope.
So what happened?
Sometimes the person being kinky isn’t a problem, like bisexuals not needing both genders at once to be happy. The kinked person has fantasies that extend beyond their partner, but they’re no weirder than the person who likes blondes and redheads, but who marries a brunette because everything else works. These people are by and large off the radar, unless you write porn or romance novels. I also think this is the vast majority of kinky/vanilla pairings, otherwise 50 Shades of Grey would have a very limited market.
And then there are the folks who are sexually unsatisfied and partnered.
For me, porn wasn’t enough. It was also very difficult to force the point- I wanted to hurt and control my significant other. Without enthusiastic consent, that’s clearly abuse. It’s also a pretty damn hard sell- most people aren’t into pain at the best of times, much less on someone else’s schedule and fairly hard and mean. This wasn’t just wearing drag or calling him Daddy. This was ouchy. Serious ouchy.
I saw this sort of situation it a lot, for other people. And by saw, I mean read the endless forum back-and-forths from dissatisfied kinksters, and was propositioned for sex by creepy men whose wives just didn’t understaaand. On the forums, sometimes this lead to trying to convert the vanilla, to infidelity, sometimes to poly, sometimes to ongoing dissatisfaction. For the most part I spent a long time in the latter camp.
Poly wasn’t going to happen. Our relationship was open, one sided-ly, in that as far as he was concerned, extra ladies were fine. I greatly prefer dudes. He had fun fucking other women, I got the odd scrap from play parties. Unfortunately he had a hard time tolerating the boyfriends of acquaintances, much less my male friends, much less other lovers for me.
You might wonder what could possibly possess the kinky person to get into a relationship like this. After all, like all those couples where one half is gay, aren’t they doomed to failure?
In some situations, the kinky person didn’t know how kinked they were, and the relationship was already in place when they made their discoveries. Sometimes kink was part of the relationship, but after the honeymoon phase, suddenly handcuffs were too much work.
Sometimes the kinky person didn’t think anyone could satisfy their “sick” desire, or they chose vanilla because it was better than being alone. A lot of people dating before the age of the internet didn’t have the vocabulary to explain their urges or the means to meet a single person like themselves. To this day, plenty of people who are aware of BDSM don’t think it applies to them.
For me, I both lacked the experience to know how important being a dom was to me, and he was very irregular about my kink outlets. About once or twice a year something would happen. When we had one of our break ups or near breaks, we’d have a single, solitary scene where he’d try to prove to me that he was up to scratch. Over time I started feeling like I was blackmailing him into beating him to avoid losing me.
Vanilla partners are not the same as a sexless marriage. Those are grounds for divorce without social censure anywhere in the western world. But sometimes the person isn’t really vanilla at all, they’re just not the right sort of kinks. My situation, he even liked some of the stuff I did.
So why not leave?
Sure, you’re unhappy. Be that as it may, sometimes the person ends up two kids and a mortgage deep before the weight of not getting it starts to crush them. Divorce is legal and actually pretty socially accepted. People preach about modelling healthy relationships being better than being numb or fighting in front of the kiddies. It’s also bloody expensive, emotionally taxing and when your sexuality is the only sticking point, hard to justify to yourself. Most of us are only able to muster seven hours of sexuality a week on a sustained basis. Me, we were common law. Pretty enmeshed, and I was coming from a fairly isolating background.
I didn’t like getting stupid dudes trying to turn me into the other woman, but I sort of see why the poor behaviour around infidelity happens. A lot of the people are deeply frustrated, that they feel the person they’re with won’t open up, so if they get a little bit of a release and partition off the part that isn’t loved. It can feel like a lesser evil to resenting your partner.
In my case, the hard part was the constant mix between being tempted to cheat and being frustrated by little tastes of my kink. I got a love/hate relationship with the scene because I would meet the off good kink match but be left not able to pursue anything, and I’d have to shut people down out of honesty and kindness to them. Porn and questionable outlets were my coping mechanism, along with dubious flirtations but as the vanilla partner would shut those down I gave up. And yet on my own, being pure, it was easy to disconnect and just Stepford Wife my way through things. Sex? Well, its fine, I’ll just make my brain go elsewhere, a talent i’d brought into the relationship. We’d have fights based on him knowing that I wasn’t into what we were doing. I got really good at mentally prepping myself beforehand.
But eventually, I met someone. That’s nothing new, I met people all the time, and patiently discarded the possibility of more with them, skittish and careful. Even if they were willing, as this person was, to take only what I can give and take the necessary steps to meet, reassure and befriend the vanilla, I learned a while ago he did not tolerate competition. But I realized they were offering something I wished I could have. And they evidently deeply cared and I knew that the fucked up nature of how we met and how I lived would poison things. The relationship with the (mostly) vanilla ended for a number of reasons, which I won’t get into, but my reaction was one of my wake up calls.
Can it work with vanilla? Yes, but not for me. I think it would either need flexibility or some other means to get my kinks met. Maybe if my vanilla had not had other issues with jealousy and the like, his kinks would have carried us. I don’t know, but I wish I had better answers.