Fifty shades of freedom

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Illustration by: Ashley Fairbourne


They say that everything comes full circle. Many people find themselves right back where they began in issues of life, jobs, friendships and love. The on and off again relationship with my old boyfriend, whom I had become habitually dependent on, left me wondering— Will the circle be unbroken?

How many times had I broken free only to find myself running back like a boomerang or a dog on a leash? Did I really want to be someone who put up with the pain of this relationship again and again?

With the recent release of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”, many people have been talking about bondage, controlling or S&M relationships. The idea of pleasure and pain being combined tends to freak out most people. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder—how many of us are actually closeted masochists in our own right?

How many times have we put up with a relationship we knew was causing more pain than pleasure? How many nights had we sacrificed to goodnight tears instead of goodnight kisses?

So often in relationships we can find ourselves using the other person as our punching bag, but there is no safe word to know when you’ve gone too far or to let them know when you’ve actually had enough. You can’t just shout “Bananas!” mid-fight to end it all. The lines continue to get pushed and the pain can continue to run deeper and deeper. The blows get lower and the strikes get stronger.

Couples often find themselves in a competition to see who can hurt the other more. After a while, it’s impossible to tell who the sadist is and who the masochist is because suddenly you are each playing both roles.

Like so many before me, the distance I had acquired from my emotional S&M relationship had led me to believe that the pain wasn’t as bad as I once felt that it was.

Maybe those of us who are in painful relationships aren’t physically bound with chains and rope, but there are emotional ties that can keep us feeling trapped—a tangled web of lies, a rock-and-a- hard place situation or a mess of your own making.

I had completely forgotten about the bonds I had broken free from when, in a moment of weakness, I decided to text my old boyfriend. He was happy to hear from me and couldn’t wait to get together.

After grabbing lunch I felt there was potential. I found myself thinking perhaps all the past pain would fade with time and he and I could make it work again. When he asked me out to a concert, I obliged.

It wasn’t until we were standing side by side and listening to the music that we’d love together that I remembered how bad things had been.

There’s a saying that going back to your ex is like putting on your dirty underwear after you’ve taken a shower. For me it felt like I was putting back on a collar and chain that I’d tried so hard to remove.

In any relationship there is pleasure and there is pain. To expect a relationship completely free from pain is to expect the unrealistic. But the exchange should be somewhat even. When the pain begins to outweigh the pleasure you need to make a decision. How submissive are you willing to be? How much will you allow yourself to take?

I realized at that concert, as I stood side by side with my ex, that when I left him I had a reason. All the pain I’d done so well at shutting out came back full force and I regretted ever letting my guard down.

Once again I found myself trapped. I was trapped between what I needed and what I wanted and I realized that I wasn’t getting either. So I left.

Just like that I had freed myself. I decided on the walk back to my car that never again would I let myself feel tied up in a relationship or trapped in a cycle. Never again would I put up with anyone dominating the relationship. Never again would I allow someone to inflict any pain on me that I wasn’t willing to put up with.

Unless, of course, there is a safe word.


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