12 spiritual insights from unconventional relationships, polyamory, kink, and BDSM that might save your marriage
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Marcus Aurelius
Occasionally circumstances force us to take action. Sometimes we cannot go on with our day-to-day business while evading the urging underlying questions. Life under lockdown puts us and our relationships to the test. We spend the whole day with our partner or without that special someone. And we spend far more time on our own.
It is also a moment where fundamental questions arise. Those issues that we consciously or unconsciously avoid. Relationships are one of these critical issues in life that have a significant impact on our overall happiness and success.
This situation may even require us to deal with serious issues within the relationship, which can turn dramatic. Perhaps you will hear the most dreadful words in the world: “Honey, we have to talk. There’s something I have to tell you.”
I still remember the panic when I heard these words from my wife a few years ago. Our relationship had slowly gone off balance, and my wife had fallen in love with someone else and had an extramarital affair. Our relationship could have ended easily. We could have filed for divorce, harbouring strong feelings of resentment and regrettably become part of heartbreaking statistics. A quick search reveals that 40-50 % of marriages in the United States will end in divorce.
This means almost half of the marriages are destined to fail, which would have a massive impact on both partners and any children they may have. It could affect their happiness, health, success, work performance, finances, and so on. Not only that, there is a good chance that the number of unreported cases of resignation and “de facto” divorce might also be pretty high. And of course, sometimes a separation will be inevitable.
“I am in love with another man, but I also love you. I understand if you would like to get separated, but maybe you could consider accepting the situation. Of course, you would also have the freedom to be with other women.”
These words would change our relationship forever. I recall the feeling that time was suddenly slowing down. My head was spinning with different sensations: panic, jealousy, fear, arousal, confusion, but also still love and appreciation for my wife. But I also felt relief. We had driven apart over the last years. We both knew it, and finally, we had the chance to tackle this opportunity to get our relationship back on track. There are a few moments that are decisive in life; I mean truly critical. This was one of them.
“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Albus Dumbledore
We decided to give our relationship a chance and open up. We had no idea how this would work. We didn’t know that unconventional relationships are possible, and we had never heard the word polyamory. But we had a strong desire to stay together as a couple and as a family. Why loosen your grip when you most fear to lose your partner? Years later, I have also come across this principle in martial arts. The tenser you are, the worse your technique will be. The key to effectiveness is relaxation. This challenging situation was an opportunity to step back and let consciousness shine through.
And of course, we had no role models. None of our friends or family were in an open or polyamorous relationship. So we embarked on this adventure without a proven roadmap or plan. Slowly we reshaped our relationship. It was a painful and challenging yet rewarding process.
In the end, opening up, as opposed to breaking up, was the best thing we could do. Just imagine – you could be with as many people as you want, live out your wildest fantasies, AND enjoy a marriage full of love, support, and trust. “Hi honey, how did your bondage session go?” Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?
And this is just what we did. Of course, it’s not easy as it requires a lot of continuous work and dedication. But it is possible. And if we could do it, so can you.
Opening up took us also on a journey of personal and spiritual growth. My wife started to explore the road of tantra, while I explored the darker realms of passion. We were blessed to discover an even deeper layer of happiness and contentment, relating to both our relationships and who we are. Our story forced us to connect with our true selves, and, after lots of struggle, we stopped putting up a fight and entirely accepted ourselves and each other.
For far too long, we failed to exercise our right to choose, by trying to live up to the expectations of others. And we wondered why we were unhappy. By making a shift in consciousness, we have discovered that happiness and contentment come from inside. Acceptance brings freedom, releases tension within the relationship, and creates lightness.
We no longer seek to complete ourselves through our partner or to possess him or her. We let go of our baggage and feelings of resentment for mutually inflicted pain in the past. We relate to each other based on loving affection, trust, and acceptance.
Changing the paradigms allowed us to open up to others and begin to form new and exciting relationships. Often, these relationships grow and become intertwined organically, like different knots in a large and complex multidimensional environment or a rhizome. Apart from clear priorities like family, there are no specific hierarchies among relationships. These assumptions are just the opposite of the mainstream narrative about (monogamic) relationships – Go out, find your life partner, get married, have kids, and live happily forever.We’ve learned that we can renegotiate the terms of your relationship. The choice is yours to make. It might not be an easy path, but it is possible.
Opening our relationship was also the start of my spiritual journey, which led me deeper and deeper into the realms of pleasure. I started out experimenting with tantra massage techniques, then moved on to the swinger lifestyle. Slowly BDSM and kink became a part, and over time I had the pleasure of discovering Japanese rope bondage. Without realizing it, I had also entered into the gravitational field of spirituality and beingness. Like entering a hyperbolic funnel, I first circulated on the outer surface, but steadily gravitated toward the center, gaining speed and profoundness in my consciousness.
I have made some extraordinary findings along my journey and experienced a profound connection between sexuality and spirituality. You can benefit from these insights even if you have no specific interest in having an open relationship or entering into the BDSM and kink lifestyle at all. Or you might be curious but want to explore safely with your partner from home.
For this article, “BDSM” and “kink” are used as mere, as they are the most common terms that are closest in describing the underlying feelings and principles. But just like all conceptual terms, they are never 100% exact and are unable to reflect the depth and complexity of the reality behind them. They also still face social stigma, Moreover, within our community itself, these terms are up for discussion, and many people would prefer to avoid labels. There are a lot of misconceptions around these ideas, and they certainly are polemical. Some people build unnecessary mental roadblocks that hold them back from experiencing lots of pleasure and fulfillment, especially when they are married, have kids, or work in a more traditional work environment. Nevertheless, it is surprising just how many members of our community live what would be considered ordinary lives.
At this point, we should take a step back from these concepts and focus on the underlying principles. Even if the terms “BDSM” and “kink” don’t resonate with you, the underlying principles still might help you to improve your relationship dramatically and help to find a solution to the “marriage dilemma.” If we insist that marriage be a monogamous relationship, we will often try to hold back our desire. Suppressing our desires instead of embracing them is an act that creates unease. By our very own nature, we are sexual creatures, which shows a glance is reflected in the Pornhub statistics in times of COVID-19: “Visiting Pornhub is a daily routine for more than 120 million people”.
The “marriage dilemma” also relates to some of the main reasons for divorce: lack of compatibility, lack of intimacy, and extramarital affairs. But as Dan Savage states out in a conversation with Deepak Chopra:
“Non-monogamy always gets the blame, when two people are in a monogamous relationship, and it falls apart, monogamy never gets the blame.”
But what would happen if we just could let go of exclusivity and shift the paradigm to freedom and acceptance? For us, this shift was a game-changer for our relationship and our lives.
Digging deeper into unconventional relationships, BDSM and kink I discovered, that there are a few secret principles that work. To be honest, a BDSM dungeon was the last place on earth where I thought I’d find enlightenment. Instead, understanding hit me, like a ton of bricks, or more appropriately like a hard strike with a heavy flogger. I also discovered that underneath a world of intense pleasure, multiple-orgasms, and out-of-this-orbit experiences far beyond my wildest imagination, was a deeper layer of inner peace, contentment, and stoic joy. This revelation was coupled with a connection to my true self and letting go of resistance and false perceptions.
I’ve also learned that fulfilling relationships are not a prerequisite for happiness, but a result, because we are already complete. These conclusions led me to create the following manifesto:
Rethinking Relationships Manifesto
# 1 Honesty and trust
As we have seen, extramarital affairs have a massive impact on relationships. But what would happen if you gave your partner permission to be with other people? From that very moment, there would be no more “cheating,” or better said, no breach of trust. It also relieves a lot of pressure.
And yes, it might be a tough job to overcome jealousy. But in the end, jealousy is just a sign of fear, and we can learn how to overcome it. Guess what? Even if you don’t allow your partner to engage in extramarital affairs, this is no guarantee that your partner will be happy.
# 2 Presence
One of the essential characteristics of unconventional relationships and BDSM sessions is presence. In BDSM play, we work with intense pleasure and pain. These physical stimuli, for example, cane strokes, make us aware of our bodies. They force us to be present. It frees us from the tyranny of our mind and allows us to feel and to be in touch with the void, the vast space without the constant stream of thought. We bypass our thinking mind and take a shortcut into the now.
“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there is nothing left to do, and nothing else to pursue.” Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Presence is also the key to making multiple relationships work. Even when you have multiple partners, the key is to give your full, undivided attention to the person you are with when you are together. By being present, we free ourselves and our partners of the “result driven” approach to sex. It’s also about self-control, stepping back from our desire, and give giving our undivided attention to the pleasure and well-being of our partner(s). We enjoy the journey.
# 3 Communication
Sometimes we are expected to read our partner’s mind. “Why didn’t he get it. I’ve given some hints that should be clear. He never listens to me. He doesn’t understand me.” Trusting in the mind-reading skills of our partner might work sometimes. In BDSM play, stakes are high, and communication cannot be left to chance.
Initially, it might be uncomfortable to communicate what we want, providing information without adding further judgment, blame, or drama. It is clear communication from one soul to the other. Letting your partner know what you want and, even more importantly, what you don’t wish to—and listening actively to your partner because something important might go unsaid.
# 4 Consent
Negotiation is an underlying principle of BDSM. What are the mutual needs? What are the respective limits? These questions require reflection on your desires and real needs, not only on a sexual level but in all areas of the relationship. So, you must get explicit consent—that simple. But, how many couples suppose or assume certain things without ever questioning them?
When it comes to opening up a relationship, many conversations will be required to reach that consent. Consent also is not static, and the mutual agreement can evolve and adapt over time and in order to keep pace with the relationship(s).
Here are some points that may need consideration: Additional Relationship(s) with whom (a single additional relationship, an open relationship with multiple partners, a D/s relationship…), sexual health and prevention, STD checkups, time available for other partners, communication, what do I tell, what not, where do I meet with my partner(s). It might be necessary sometimes to ask for a “time out,” especially in the case of jealousy. But these emotional limits must not be used as a hidden back-door to monogamy: “You can do everything you want within my emotional limits.”
# 5 Relief of social pressures
I remember one scene at a dungeon. A slave was at the feet of his mistress, serving as her human footstool. The slave had a peaceful smile on his face. The atmosphere was almost solemn. One of the benefits of BDSM is that it is a space in which you are free from the different layers of social roles, such as your business position, which requires you to wear a suit and tie. This freedom allows you also to adapt your true self, or how Anne O Nomis called it in History & Arts of The Dominatrix, your “super-self, rather than your false self.” This freedom is one of the greatest luxuries.
# 6 Oneness with our true nature
Taking the deep dive into BDSM and kink also requires us to answer fundamental questions: Who are we and what do we really want? It is curious that we usually never stop to consider this question. Many of us do what we are supposed to or what we believe is necessary to attain specific goals, usually related to business and finances. But we rarely think that part through the part regarding our relationship or even ourselves.
# 7 Acceptance of our self and our partner(s)
What ultimately brings freedom is the unconditional acceptance of our partner and of ourselves, will all our imperfections. Acception immediately brings spaciousness and tranquility. It also frees your partner from the expectation that they will fulfill all your needs. It allows us to enjoy all those relationships and selected sexual pleasures.
Think about your work environment. You probably would not depend on just one person to meet all your needs? A multi-dimensional relationship model can be a natural fit. When we depend on our partner for our happiness, we give away our power and with it our peace of mind. But there is one fundamental question: Wouldn’t you like for the most important person(s) in your life to be truly happy?
# 8 Spaciousness and stillness
Another lesson I’ve learned is the importance of space in relationships. Sometimes the most important things don’t need words. Silence is more powerful. It’s the space, the calm which characterizes outstanding play. The same goes for relationships. Spaciousness takes the heat away and brings a sense of ease and balance.
When we fall in love, we might have the desire to spend all day together and
Sometimes it’s better to separate; however, it is sometimes better to interrupt the dull routine of everyday life. More than one, relationships can create balance and collaboration. We also learned that it is sometimes the best thing to establish mutual free time, for example, a weekend off to be with our respective partners or to enjoy other activities of our interest.
Different spheres that complete each other. Perhaps you are more compatible sexually with one person but able to live with a different person happily. There are infinite possibilities. Different relationships can be complementary and well-balanced. And allow mutual space, which is also something that we forget when living together. And giving each other space is also something that we forget to do when living together. It allows us to cultivate and respect our own space, and of course, the area of our partner(s).
# 9 Deep emotional connection
BDSM can create an emotional connection on a very profound level. For example, in a bondage session, there are usually very few words spoken. Most of the communication occurs through body language or on an energetic level, called “ki,” both in martial arts, as well as in Shibari, the Japanese art of rope bondage.
What happens in a Shibari session is hard to describe, but if you have the chance to see it, I’d recommend you to do it. The rope is a manifestation, a tangible expression of the underlying deep emotional connection.
I remember the face of two friends who joined us in the dungeon to see our rope work. It was their first time in the BDSM world. After taking their seats in the first row, they were mesmerized by the intense erotic nature of our rope suspension. After winding down a little bit after the session, we had a conversation in which they told us that they had never seen such gentleness and care.
# 10 Flow
BDSM activities, especially Japanese rope bondage, can also bring a state of flow or even a deep, trance-like meditational state. This state, called samadhi in Buddhism, is attained by reaching a higher state of awareness through concentration.
A recent study shows that these altered states of awareness can be identified in the hormone levels of BDSM-practitioners, affecting their cortisol, beta-endorphin, and endocannabinoid levels, similar to a runner’s high.
# 11 Polarity
Energy arises between two opposite forces; that’s a basic principle in nature. Sometime we might lose this polarity within our relationships. We get so used to each other, and the spark disappears. It’s like a depolarized magnet. But the good thing is that we can “charge” our batteries and regain polarisation.
BDSM plays with many aspects of polarity. Take the example of consensual domination and submission. One partner brings this polarity to the other, for mutual enjoyment.
# 12 Complementarity
In a good relationship, two persons work together in an aligned way to complement each other, but not from a need or scarcity (“I need a partner to be complete”) but as two whole beings that consciously create something greater together. Both have aligned priorities. Both partners are complementary, not codependent. We change the paradigm of the relationship from scarcity and fear to abundance and happiness. It’s the yin and the yang, not the egocentric need for each other, rather a genuine desire to become whole with each other.