Upon the scales of my life balance duty and romance, and for too long has duty dominated the equation. My love is oft demonstrated with acts of steady devotion, not romantic gestures. But duty alone has been feeling callous between us lately. Thus I strive to strike a better balance with which to show my love.
Many other kinksters write about the romantic side of relationships. They fashion new erotica, capture the experience of scenes they were in, and offer up the showy highlights of their day-to-day dynamics. By contrast I choose to focus more on the relationship work that goes into making those highlights possible, and the duties involved. To me this is the more important side of love, and I love to explore it.
A great example is terms of endearment: they mix romance and duty in a way that offers insight into this peculiar balance of mine. They deserve an exploratory explanation.
At times I feel as if words will fail me, for they lack the depth and weight to convey all that I mean. "My Husband" or "My Wife" for instance. It conveys a relationship, but I carry none of the traditions that lend meaning to the words. Better I say anything else: "My life, my dearest heart walking around outside my body, my partner."
Partner. I like that word the most of all, for it is all-encompassing. My romantic partner, my business partner, my play partner, my life partner. It is both flexible and full of meaning. It evokes the sense of duty that comes with our relationship, whereas words such as "husband" feel spongy and bland when I speak them.
I never called my dearheart a joyfriend/boyfriend. To my senses it is a word that denotes a purely romantic interest, bereft of the bonds that form our committed relationship. So from the instant we came together, he was my partner – and he was mine. The word partner is the most loving term I can possibly conceive, rooted as it is in duty.
Bound inextricably together in this partnership is romance and duty and fortune and so much more. Each strand is woven into a braid of our life, just like the leather braids we use to signify our relationship. The strongest bond of the braid is duty, which lends durability to our relationship as all the other bonds entwine about it.
My dearheart puts it more succinctly: "Duty is love."
DUTY, n. That which sternly impels us in the direction of profit, along the line of desire
Ambrose Bierce – The Devil's Dictionary
Duty's measure is not when times are easy and aligned with your own interests, but rather when fulfilling your duty is difficult. I consider it a victory to be celebrated when we continue to carry out responsibilities despite setbacks. "Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors," after all.
And the seas are not smooth today. Or this week. Or this month. Quarantine itself has been an exercise in our privilege. My dearheart resigned from his post amid fears of the disease, and I continue to work from home. Our quality of life has been up since this pandemic.
Yet our mental health has been steadily draining.
These rough times affect our romance such that it truly needs effort – a continual influx of relationship energy to keep passions from dwindling. We should celebrate our love just as we celebrate carrying out our duty. Every day we make each other happy is a triumph of will.
However, this is where my balance becomes intricate. Duty benefits from routine, regularity, and mundane matters. It is almost thoughtless at times, which is why it can feel callous despite being reliable.
This contrasts with my type of romance, which benefits from thoughtfulness, spontaneity, novelty, and meaningful focus. These require emotional energy that's scarce when the stress of life is ratcheted up past eleven.
There are ways to structurally build in romance into a relationship, of course – such as blocking out time to spend together, setting up rituals of love, and marking special occasions on the calendar. Yet machinations alone are not enough to sustain us. As my dearheart told me, "You're easy to be confident in, but your bedside manner needs work."
For instance my dearheart and I set aside time for daily walks and date nights. We have rituals such as collaring, call & response, and we trade I-L-Y signs back and forth throughout the day. We give each other casual affection and touches (though not enough, there can never be enough)!
Yet these practices are all too easy to take for granted, particularly when times are rough. When we're so wrapped up in stressful problems we may not even notice the affection. We may forget each other's gestures, and feel deprived therefore.
This is why mindfulness is our salve. We refocus on the moment – on each other. Then we do something special. Just like how I combine plain fare with focus meals to make eating meals an enjoyable everyday experience.
The focus can be anything, really. Reminiscence about our past to build shared memories. A span of comfy rope for the evening. Reflecting upon a story and how we relate to it. All that matters is that I pull us out of mindless routine and lead us back into the present moment.
This duty to reconnect is not mine alone to bear. When I am lost in my own mind, my dearheart should guide me back to myself. His service does not mean just blind obedience, and at times I need to lean on his strength. His service involves shaping me to better lead, just as I shape him to better function.
We both are transforming each other, making us better than we once were. That's why our mutual duty is a form of love.