HAPPY COUPLE HIGHLIGHT:
Cole Thomas and Soko
How long have you been together?
Soko: Somewhere between “not long enough” and “forever do us part” aka 4 years.
Cole: "Fourish" years, but I think I knew this woman in another life or something. We're getting married in March in 2014.
How did you get together/meet?
Soko: We talked as friends online for a couple of months before meeting at Starbucks for coffee.
Cole: I discovered her My Space page one day while searching FL leatherwomen’s groups. She only knew people in W.O.L.F. but wasn’t herself a member. It intrigued me to find she understood Dom/sub relationships but hadn’t had not yet been involved in one. To me, that spoke of a certain kind of virginity. She then brought her allure to my studio for a photo shoot and I became very interested from there.
What was the initial attraction?
Soko: I was a victim of her smirky smile, her overconfident attitude, and her stalker tendencies! LOL. Seriously, I thought she was (and is) awesomely handsome! It also intrigued me that she performed as a drag king and spoken word poet. Once we got to know one another, I realized that we were going through similar challenges as single parents of teens/young adults. It was good to have someone who truly understood what it was like.
Cole: First off, she preferred boi-types, not just “accepted” us, as some women claim to. Soko’s pictures and profile revealed that she was a creative and adventurous woman, free enough to perform in theater in zany costumes. I also saw that she worked in bookselling. As a certifiable bibliophile as well as a thespian, I found both appealing. AND she is curvy, pretty and feminine in appearance. I later discovered that she, too, had two children and one gifted child in trouble. She was also now single parenting, trying to figure it out on her own. It is uncanny how two of our boys look like siblings and how one of my sons looks more like her than like me. (BTW, I did NOT stalk her. She was blowing up my phone; so I had to give her a second look!)
What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship?
Soko: From the beginning, we have shared open and honest (sometimes painfully so) communication. We can both be opinionated and share strong personalities. We are very honest and intimate, consistently playful, and fiercely loyal to one another.
Cole: Early on, we were on a schedule of sorts. It was very organized with goals and timelines. It might not sound too romantic, but you’d have to understand the entire context to appreciate this nuanced romance.
Clear expectations, whether met or unmet mattered to us. Our groove has lots of “round peg: round hole” connections that render the “square peg: round hole” areas less salient. I hurt when I hurt her feelings and I know she hurts when she disappoints me. I don’t know how that fits in, but it impacts the relationship’s success. Passion and compassion are also key.
Discuss how you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship?
Soko: We’ve had to learn to “read” each other and to work around our own issues with conflict resolution. For example, I might yell in the heat of the moment. Cole wants to resolve things “rationally” in the moment, but will shut down if yelling is involved. I have learned to vocalize that I first need time to calm down. I had to learn to back away until my emotions were not taking over my brain. Cole has learned to be patient and give me time to do just that. Then, we talk it out. We have learned that sometimes the worst place to talk about sensitive issues in the house. So sometimes, we go out so that we are on neutral ground. That helps us talk about issues with less emotion. After we resolve it, we reward ourselves by going to lunch.
Cole: As the Dominant in this relationship, I have certain entitlements that can blow up in my face if I ever attempt to abuse them. It’s so very instructive, the job of balancing of power and responsibility! It started off that we faced-off when the issues heated just between the two of us, but as trust built, conflicts were addressed with more maturity and humility.
From day one we’ve done remarkably well facing outside challenges – even problems related to parenting – as a team. I’ve asked her opinion often and learned a lot about realities about which I would have much rather remained idealistic.
Disagreements? We’ve come to love one another enough to respect boundaries around arguing. She had to stand up to me and show me that she cares more about her health and wellbeing than about this relationship before I recognized that it should be just that way: Self-respect first. It lets some air out of my ego sometimes, but keeps me honest. I am convinced that only an intelligent woman of color, from the school of hard knocks can create this type of balance with me. Where an irreconcilable difference is concerned, offering the other person grace seems all you can do, particularly when you realize that if they (or you) could do better they (or you) probably would.
Cole, why do you use the word "entitlements”?
Perhaps I am just crass in that way. There are probably 20 different words I could use. What I am saying is that in relationships you reasonably expect to have some things. In our relationship, those things are stated and agreed upon.
Cole mentioned being a "Dominant"? Can you share more?
Cole: Every relationship that has a Dominant/submissive dynamic is not the same. That’s important in this time of labels, no labels, anti-labels, etc. In every relationship, there is a balance of power that is agreed upon by both parties that determines how the relationship is conducted. In many relationships the couple spends time in power struggles. However, I have learned that I prefer relationship with the structure of stated expectations. You can’t assume that everybody was raised like you were raised. Rather than assuming, our expectations are stated. If people are honest up front, they give people an option to stay or to go.
Soko: In a Lifestyle relationship, being a submissive does not mean that you are a passive participant or a doormat. You always have the power to say “no,” and most everything is negotiated up front. In the beginning, we discussed our non-negotiable needs and wants; we made sure that the things we could not live without were known up front. In our relationship, she’s the head or driver and I am the navigator and the glue. It is a loving relationship. It means loving that person enough to reel yourself back. I always feel respected.
Cole: There are time-outs in our entire dynamic, especially in the time of high crises. If something goes wrong, we are not concerned about formality; we are concerned only with mutual respect. Options are always there.
What role does spirituality play in your relationship?
Soko: We both believe in God. That’s enough for me. What anyone calls Him isn’t as important to me as is the fact that they believe and demonstrate faith.
Cole: Our BDSM dynamic –for example, her submission– is among our expressions of spirituality. It speaks to a connection, a type of sanctuary we create for one another. On a broader scale, we don’t sell religion or spirituality to one another. We trust our common ground and move forward with it. Soko has both Protestant and Muslim training and is also very inclined toward the tangible. I am a strange combination of Christian faith and criticism, of earnestness and cynicism, of humility and egoism. We speak candidly and express ourselves in our common and respective practices. I would say we recognize grace for what it is and operate within a gentle critique of the organized religious avenues that have or haven’t worked (do or don't work) in our lives.
What role does sensuality play in your relationship?
Soko: This is a tough question, kind of like trying to describe air! I can hear sensuality in her laughter and when she calls me “doll”. I hope my Dearest feels it when I trail my fingertips down the nape of her neck and that she can smell it when I make her cinnamon crisps. I recognize it in a look and taste it in her kiss. In our relationship, sensuality and intimacy are also the making love between the making love.
Cole: Hmmmm. Where to begin? Maybe I should leave this topic to her to describe. I feel we nail intimacy (no pun intended) most every day, often in the form of sensuality, but not always. It keeps us feeling loved, indulged, desired and aroused. We are fine with making ourselves vulnerable enough to straight out ask for attention when either feels overlooked. Honestly, we kind of spoil each other. And then, there’s the whole series of sexing, (I didn't mean sexting, but I guess we do that, too) playing, love-making, fucking, flirting, dancing. The more kinky aspects of the relationship - D/s, dungeon-style bondage and discipline, "sadism and masochism"*, role-play - broaden and deepen our sensuality.
How does she show/tell you that she loves you?
Cole: I show her I love her by giving her the “tasty morsel” face – that look you give someone when you want them like you want fresh dessert. I have chores around the house, too; I mop the floor, wash dishes and even iron our clothes! I also write my doll poems and I make her other art. I also know her rhythm so I can sometimes anticipate needs and vice versa. She shows me love by loving my children like her own. She shows me love through pets names (yes, "Daddi" is one); grocery-shopping and meal preparation; sex, lovemaking, and BDSM.
What advice would you give to other couples?
Soko: Find ways to love and laugh every day. Also, honesty. First, be brutally honest with yourself. Then, be up front with the one you love. After that, you will have to acknowledge that nobody can be 100% or perfect, not you and not her.
Cole: Don’t expect your partner to be your everything, but let her know what you do expect, even at the risk of her being unable or unwilling to meet those expectations. Establish where you have common ground and capitalize upon it. Do not make sh_t up. If you have to go back and correct something, go back and correct it as soon as you realize your error. For bois: if you love a steady femme and she loves you, trust her when she says you're acting like an ass. You probably are; seriously.
What has your relationship taught you most about yourself?
Soko: I used to think I would never find that someone. I’ve learned that it takes courage to love someone. It takes even more courage to allow them the chance to love you. Turns out I am more courageous than I thought!
Cole: Three things...
1) I expect submission, in part because it gives the relationship clear structure and in part because I am both sensitive and sentimental, too. As a Dom, loyalty seems to be a much higher calling. I don't mean that it's harder; I mean that the stakes feel higher.
2) Being able to laugh at myself (and you at yourself) can be an invaluable asset in relationships success.
3) Sure, I can be selfish and spoiled, but I will recognize and acknowledge same when it is pointed out in my actions or my failure to act. I learn from these instances. I can't have a successful relationship with a woman whose spiritual foundation is shaky. That isn't, however, a new discovery.
What one word characterize/describes your relationship:
Cole: Beloved. We are spiritual, sharp, sensual and solid. That was tattooed on my back years before I met Soko. I was looking for that in a woman and I finally got her. You said five words, right? lol
Akemi: Honored- because every day I feel honored that I am part of her life, and vice versa.
*No, not the S & M on Criminal Minds! We combine “Risk-aware” with "Safe, sane, and consensual" and reach a comfortable flow.
Learn more about Cole and Soko at the following websites.
http://www.SexPositiveWorks.com will be up March 1st
(Interview conducted and written by SharRon Jamison)
We are grateful to Cole and Soko for sharing your amazing love with us at Create Love for Women Who Love Women! We will see you at the Create Love Conference on February 16th! www.createloveforwomen.com
Create Love! For Women Who Love Women
Creator & Co-Founder
Create Love! For Women Who Love Women