Is she afraid of losing control? Topping from the bottom?

Several months ago, someone wrote that a fledgling relationship has just ended because the man expected what he called “submission” (unquestioning obedience) from almost the first meeting. This poster is desperate to be in a taken in hand relationship, seems to have a very warm heart, and is clearly very intelligent, but none of that made any difference to the man. If she wanted him to be in charge, he said, she should stop “topping from the bottom” and “just obey”.

What that poster's new man didn't have (apart from common decency and civility) was an understanding that relationships do not spring into life ready-formed: they have to be created. Relationships arise out of the wishes, ideas and values of the two individuals and through their interactions together. Each relationship starts from nothing and develops and evolves over time, changing each individual, which changes the interactions, and changes the relationship. There is no shortcut for that process, and there is no recipe.

If you have a fixed idea of what the relationship must look like, and then expect the other person simply to step into the role and read the script you have written, you are not interested in creating a real relationship, you are asking the other person to act a part in a badly-written play. Whilst it can be fun to act in a play sometimes, the idea of spending one's entire life over and over again playing the same role in the same play is, I'd say, decidedly unappealing.

Would you want someone prepared to do that? Wouldn't you find that a little... worrying? What kind of person would want to play a lifeless stereotypical pre-written role in your play, when he or she could instead create a dynamic, vibrant, ever-evolving, endlessly fascinating, fruitful real relationship? Wouldn't that raise the question in your mind: does this person have anything to offer? and a whole host of other questions?

It may be fine to read someone else's script in a scene of limited duration. But a Taken In Hand relationship is not just a scene, and not just an unending scene either. It is qualitatively different. It is no surprise to me that the very experienced owner of an SM dungeon said that Taken In Hand is the scariest thing she has ever heard of. Handing over real power to another is dangerous. And the more power a woman might want to hand over eventually, the more dangerous it is for her.

Even in a conventional relationship, the early stages of the process of creating a relationship will not and cannot look like a well-established relationship. That is all the more so in a Taken In Hand relationship. A woman wanting to give considerable power to the man needs to check very carefully and thoroughly that the man she is getting to know is worthy of the power he will have. It would be foolhardy to hand over unlimited power to a man you barely know! Be realistic!

At the beginning, the two people need to do a vast amount of talking, negotiating, and questioning, to make sure that they are actually compatible. You need to know that you probably aren't going to end up in several pieces in the freezer. It takes time for an individual's true colours to show, and it is completely unreasonable to expect the other person to pretend that you have already established that you are compatible, decent, and worth the risk.

The woman needs to know that it will be possible for both to be happy in the relationship. She needs to know that the relationship will be compatible with and supportive of the growth, development and endless improvement of both individuals. She needs to know that the relationship will be able to withstand major as well as minor problems that will inevitably crop up. She needs to know that the relationship will have the problem-solving institutions necessary to address and resolve problems. She needs to know that the man does not merely say that he believes himself to be fallible, but acts as though he believes himself to be fallible. If he treats every problem or disagreement as a power struggle or insubordination, he is acting as though he is infallible, and until he stops reacting like that, he is never going to be anything other than an abuser. The woman needs to know that he will listen to her rather than silencing her with complaints of “topping from the bottom”. She needs to know that he will care about her needs and wishes in the relationship rather than be a self-serving megalomaniac. She needs to know that if or when she reaches the point where she can never bring herself to disobey him, he will not abuse that power.

The correct attitude to the woman's questioning, raising problems, seeking discussion on anything that is troubling her, is to welcome it, not accuse her of “topping from the bottom” or “controlling with complaints”. If a man expects perfection or the absence of any problems to resolve, that kind of disconnect with reality is, or should be, a red flag to the woman.

The more power the woman is prepared, eventually, to hand over to the man, the more vital this process is, and the more important it is that the man demonstrates that he is a reasonable, calm, decent fellow who will not abuse his power. If he acts as though the woman's happiness is irrelevant, her questions, an imposition, her worries, an insult, and problems she raises, “controlling with complaints”, “nagging”, or “topping from the bottom”, then she may quite reasonably conclude that the man does not have the qualities necessary to handle the power she wants to give him.

Perhaps he does, but if so, he needs to show that he does, and the kind of reactions I have just mentioned suggest that he hasn't got the slightest idea how to conduct himself in a position of power. This is not about expecting perfection from the man. The odd bad reaction is not going to raise a red flag. It is about whether this kind of thing is a pattern.

Not all men are ready or will ever be ready for a Taken In Hand relationship. It takes more than wanting one. It takes great strength and good character. It takes the ability to admit mistakes and make changes when there is a problem. It takes a lot of things. The mere fact that a man is dominant does not make him strong or in any way a good person. There are some dangerous, abusive men out there. Expecting her to hand over power without checking that you are not such a man is completely unreasonable and unrealistic. She needs to take the time to check what kind of man you are.

So please, men, do not expect a woman to hand over power casually. Do not expect it to happen immediately. Expect it to take a long time—and I don't mean a few months or a few weeks. Assume that the vital process of checking that the two of you will be good together will take the entire first year, and you won't be far wrong. It might even take longer. The relationship will still be developing 30 years down the line, so what is a year in the greater scheme of things? Think of it as an exploratory adventure! Be patient. Be realistic. Be reasonable!

If the woman says that she wants you to be in control, take her at her word. Don't think that that means that she is saying that there is no need for the checking process! Don't think that she is saying that she has thrown caution to the wind and is going to become a yes-woman and do your bidding without question from now on. Don't think that the need for negotiation is over.

What it means when a woman says that she wants the man to be in control is the same thing it means when a sensible, reasonable man says that he wants to be in charge: it is a statement about the desired direction of the relationship rather than an unrealistic suggestion that it is possible just to step into a role without so much as checking out the script first. This is not about stepping into a preconceived role at all, let alone without reading the script and checking that the production company has what it takes to bring the production to Broadway. It is about creating something real—a relationship that has life, energy and the capacity to change the lives of both individuals in a positive way.

The woman who wrote said that her new man had accused her of being “afraid of losing control”. Of course she was afraid! You'd be crazy not to be afraid! This is dangerous! If this is not obvious to you, you just don't get it! And if you don't get it, you shouldn't be doing it.

the boss

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Well said

In my own relationship, it took a long time for that element of trust that the boss speaks of to form. I speak from experience when I say that the key to my relationship has been introducing control, without being controlling. This may seem a bit glib, but it is key to the recognition of the other person as a person, and not as simply someone who is filling a role.

In the begining, people will be in an exploratory phase about the other person—learning about their likes and dislikes, what it is about the other person that THEY like and dislike, and so on. To establish rules and state that "THIS is how our relationship will be" at this stage of a relationship would be a mistake I believe, especially as I cannot see how there would be true trust between the partners at that stage.

A relationship should grow organically—trying to force something that is not there is incredibly false, and is a recipe for failure.

I have found Taken In Hand to be about relationships, how to keep them healthy, and this is how I interpret the boss's article. A relationship will always be fluid, as people grow, change and develop, their relationship will grow change and develop. Trying to stamp down on questions about where the relationship is going, and how it gets there, is to my mind unhealthy (probably abusive).

A man must be big enough to admit he makes mistakes, and accept that there is no "one way" to success. Each woman will have her own wants, needs and preferences. Rather than trying to force her into a jello mold of what HE wants, a man should work with his partner towards a relationship where they both fell comfortable and trusted.

Have a good one


200% Right

To the boss:

You are at least 200% right here. (All right, it makes no mathematical sense, but you know what I mean!).

I've always considered most accusations of "topping from the bottom" to be a bogus way of cutting off communication and usurping power that was not legitimately given.

There have been a few occasions where I have experienced "topping from the bottom" in a play scene with men. Usually this happens with men who identify as dominant but are curious to explore the other side. They are so used to being in command that they will tell me exactly how to go about topping them. It can get to the point where I feel like I am a marionette, spanking the guy to his exact specifications, with the same man over my head pulling the strings to make my hand go up and down.

I've terminated a number of those scenes and told them that if they can't allow me to be in charge they can just forget it.

That's what topping from the bottom is: not just refusing to give up control, but actively attempting to tell the top what he or she is supposed to do. I imagine there could be situations where this sort of thing happens in a Taken In Hand relationship too.

However, so very often the accusation of topping from the bottom just means the dominant doesn't feel like hearing or heeding the bottom's legitimate concern. So he (or she) dismisses it as "topping from the bottom," at the same time placing a guilt trip on the bottom or sub for committing this supposedly huge breach of protocol.

This attitude has no place in a casual scene and even less place in a long term loving relationship. If both parties' eyes, ears and hearts are not open to the other, if one takes the position that because he is the dominant, his sub's wishes do not mean a thing, the relationship is headed in one of two directions: dissolution or abuse.

Telling a woman that she's expected to obey and not question from the get go is as foolish and presumptuous as being one of those guys who sends women an instant message that says, "On your knees, bitch!"

There's one word for this kind of "dominant" man: WANNABEE.

balancing yr comments

"There's one word for this kind of "dominant" man: WANNABEE."

that's as bad sometimes as a guy accusing a girl of "topping from the bottom"—they are both put downs. 2 wrongs don't make a right

But, It is True

A man who expects instant obedience, online or off, is someone who totally doesn't get it. As such the word "wannabee" fits just fine. That is different by a long shot from saying someone who is hesitant about giving up control isn't submissive enough, because that should be a gradual process.

In no instance, vanilla, Taken In Hand, BDSM or whatever, can you have an "instant relatioship, just add water."


Thanks so much for article

I've only been reading Taken In Hand for a week, and how I learned of it is circuitous. But I came upon it at an opportune time as I just "left" or "retreated" from (not sure yet) a relationship where the guy is dominant and has anger management issues. I consider myself an intelligent, compassionate, good-natured, and strong-minded woman with the intention of having egalitarian relationships to the extent that one can, but I've observed the tendency to be submissive when I'm "in love." However, when I feel figuratively pushed against the wall (submitting too much perhaps?), I rebel and protect myself from "abuse." That might mean running away to a safe distance until we can talk it out. The dom guy in this case is incommunicado for at least a week as he is sulking or something while I am wanting to talk now.

There are a couple of issues here:

I still think my dominant guy is a wonderful human being but I wouldn't want to have a relationship with him until he's studied Taken In Hand and/or at least considers couples counseling to deal with his blowups. Are there counselors well versed in Taken In Hand?

I think I need to examine whether or not I can give up control considering the amount of fear I carry that it won't be abused. I feel vulnerable. I have the need to feel safe. For whatever it's worth, my enneagram number is 6. I do believe that "absolute power corrupts." I also think I am not as keen as to how I am feeling in a situation quick enough to identify AND bring up for discussion. So when this dominant guy blows up, it may be because he had an assumption that did not get nipped by me and it just went too far.

I left because I felt there was a pattern developing, and I needed to stop and rebalance. I don't like drama, negative energy, nor mind games. But I think I am lacking in communication skills to bring up these things (the nipping), and I am hoping Taken In Hand might help us if he is so inclined. The realization that I may be more submissive than dominant is actually disturbing. A good-natured person shouldn't have to be submissive. I am not a doormat kind of woman, I've always had the means to provide for myself, and I'm willing to spend the rest of my life alone than be involved in an abusive relationship. I'm not willing to be "obedient" for obedience sake.

One final issue is the topic of codependemcy. Do you want to know how many women go to coda support groups? Lots. So when I found Taken In Hand, I was truly amazed and fascinated.


ALL men in Taken In Hand or D/s relationships need to read this

This article was truthful, as well as insightful. "Topping from the bottom" is a very real experience in our relationship, as my man can attest...but, it does have its time and place. Our relationship is new.
He chose to give me the control at first, till I was confortable in my "space" here. Scarcely a month later, we have fallen into a daily routine. I am not advocating others do what we did in the beginning, but it worked for us: my safety net was established, and now he runs the show.

In my opinion, a good take-charge man lets the woman take what they need, only to slowly regain what is theirs. Testing a "Taken in Hand" relationship only strengthens the bond.