This Creeping Edge of Jealousy
Dear Patrick: I am lovers with a leatherwoman (masochist) who is in a ten-year relationship with another top who describes their relationship as one of ownership. But they don’t see each other very often due to living in different states. Shortly after I began dating this smokin’ hot bottom, all three of us discussed the situation because it was clear I wanted more than a one-night stand with her. Her owner decided it would be okay for us to continue, with the understanding that this other top comes first in her heart and life. If he says, drop it and run over here, she is supposed to do that without thinking.
Things between me and this girl have continued to deepen. We play every chance we get. But a few weeks ago, her other top showed up for one of their weekend visits and told her she was getting a permanent collar. It is not supposed to come off. Ever. I like to play with collars. But this thing is so fragile that I can’t lock a heavy chain around her neck. This is frustrating to me and interrupts the rhythm or pattern of a scene.
I have to admit that it pisses me off that nobody asked me about this before it happened. I had no warning. I just had to be gracious. There is no acknowledgment that this affects me. I am also hurt that my masochistic lover doesn’t seem to care whether she gets to wear MY collar or not. She is too busy showing off the permanent one.
In my heart of hearts, I suspect that I have no right to feel this way. I don’t want this creeping edge of jealousy to ruin what has been a really wonderful experience. I love this girl, and I am friends with her owner. He matters a lot to me. So—what are your thoughts?—Second String Hitter
Dear Second String Hitter: If it was easy to be poly, more people would do it. You have brought up some of the most difficult parts of an open relationship—the question of who is primary or secondary, and the blunt fact that rules and emotional valence can vary a great deal within a triad. This is complicated by the social context, BDSM play, which tends to get heavy on etiquette or protocol.
As far as the rules go, you know that nobody has done anything wrong. The bottom’s owner has the right to say, “Put this on and never take it off,” whether that is a collar or a pair of red long johns. He also has the right to do this without prior warning or discussion. It may be that this permanent collar is one of his coping mechanisms. Be sensitive to the fact that he is often separated from someone who is hot to dominate. You are getting much more access to her charms than the person who allegedly owns her. I think that it might give him some comfort (and take the edge off his own jealousy) to remember that every time she goes under for you, she is wearing his collar and must think about her link with him.
A collar can represent a lot of different things, but all of them are potent. Many tops use a collar to say, “Our scene has begun, and the normal rules of mundane life do not apply. We are in role now, and you are expected to behave accordingly.” The collar represents the top’s authority and the bottom is thereby marked or identified as their focus object, property, prey, lover, boy, slave, whipping toy, etc. When the collar comes off, both parties relinquish their erotic roles and gradually wake up to the responsibilities and limitations of “real” life. I can see how not being able to put one on your current crush could be quite annoying.
Whenever jealousy comes up in a poly relationship, it’s important to figure out what set it off so you can also come up with a way to take care of yourself, so you don’t lash out at your loved ones. As long as everyone is respecting the boundaries that were set up (no unsafe sex, don’t screw my friends, no repeat dates, or whatever), you don’t have a right to fuss and fume, no matter how crappy you feel. (That doesn’t mean you can’t say, “I am having trouble managing some of my feelings, and I think I need some reassurance.”) It sounds to me like there are two issues here: a technical one regarding the important role a collar occupies in your play patterns, and the question of whether you are going to be replaced or superseded by another top.
A collar is not the only object that can be used to signal that it’s time to go into role-based fantasy space. You could buy her a bracelet (or use one of your cock rings for that purpose). Ankle bracelets evoke submission for many women. Any form of jewelry can be used to decorate and mark your girl as the night’s chosen target and delighted victim. You can also use items of clothing, like lingerie or a torn-up rag tied around her waist. I have also simply wet my finger and drawn a line around someone’s neck, then told them that they are wearing an invisible collar that cannot be removed until I decide it will come off. Take some time to think about this and come up with an item or routine that will turn you on and make you feel the same way you feel when you buckle or lock a collar. If you need something inescapable, there’s always the reliable strength of steel chains and good, heavy padlocks to keep her on the bed, in the sling, etc . (Make sure she isn’t keeping a hatpin in her hair just in case she is handy enough to pick a lock.)
As far as your place in this triad goes, I would recommend a conversation with her and perhaps with her owner as well. Rather than bringing up the collar specifically, you might just say, “I am having some questions about my place in this arrangement.” Perhaps you can ask if you could be informed before anything radically changes in the dynamic here. Acknowledge that you have no right to veto anything, but you would like to be informed so you can be excited about the change instead of surprised and a little offended.
I will make the radical suggestion that in this particular triad, you are functioning both as her top and as his bottom or agent. Perhaps what needs to be clarified or strengthened here is not your relationship with the girl, but your connection to her owner. That could mean that you just need more open channels of communication. Or perhaps you need to bottom for him. This may not make any sense to you, but allow the idea to age like wine in a barrel, then see if it is drinkable in a week or so.
You are topping somebody else’s property. Anything you get to do with the girl you find so fetching is gravy. But it might also be temporary, and it is certainly conditional. Has watching the dynamic between the girl and her owner whetted your own appetite for a bit of erotic real estate? Maybe you need a bottom who is as dedicated to you as this girl is to her owner. If so, she may not be very happy about you taking your attention away from her to search for a second bottom to add to your life. But you may need that so you feel balanced instead of over-exposed.
Good luck to you in your search for equilibrium. I made a joke about how difficult this is, but I wasn’t kidding. Whether they are monogamous or open, all human connections have their rough patches because our most vulnerable needs are at stake. We can be hurt so much when an attempt to be seen by another person or get closer to them just won’t work out. Some people are so frightened of that pain that they don’t even try to find love or erotic tension. I wish you good fortune in your quest for self-knowledge and peace in your house.