How to Deal with the Fear of Being Tied Up

I was asked two questions this week, both totally opposite of each other in connotation, though at first they sounded alike. “How do you deal with the fear of being tied up as in BDSM?” And “How do you deal with the fear of being tied up as in tied down in a relationship you don’t want? (aka commitmentphobic?)

And it struck me how similar the subject matter is, even though we’re talking about two different subjects. The fear of being “tied up” is known as merithophobia and well, fear is usually a natural emotion…especially when you’re kidnapped and bound for ransom!

Fear of Being Literally Tied Up

Of course, in the BDSM lifestyle, being “tied up” or handcuffed to a bed is not about fear, it’s just about kink and pleasure. Still, some people are very afraid of being “bound”, regardless of how much they trust their partner.

One partner says, “Don’t worry I would never hurt you.” You might trust that person but you’ll still have a very unsettling feeling of panic as you’re tied up. Is this really all about trust issues? No, usually not.

Phobias typically happen because of traumatic experiences, especially in childhood. Some phobias also happen for genetic reasons or because of various personality disorders or simply unique brain chemistry. The symptoms of this kind of phobia could be extreme, such as anxiety, panic, rapid breathing or even irregular heartbeat.

While it’s true that some of the BDSM lifestyle encourages “adrenaline rush”, release of endorphins and the “fight or flight” response as a means of bringing pleasure to a person, this does NOT mean that the dominant partner gets to force the other one into bondage, rope or handcuffs.

This will only increase the anxiety. The only way to “treat” such a fear of being “tied up” is to slowly and respectfully approach the situation. One partner wants to experiment with being tied up but she makes it clear that she’s very nervous. The attentive male would then try to take it very slow, and very light at first—perhaps just cuffing one hand or one arm until she’s comfortable. Then, progressively he can add in more cuffs or restraints. Gradual progression is recommended rather than all at once.

When it comes to more complex forms of bondage, like rope or severe stretching, it’s very unsafe for an inexperienced dominant partner to attempt to try it without someone guiding him. Even if you’re doing something “light” like cuffs or bed restraints, what might help is instituting a “safe word” which is a message the submissive partner gives to the dominant partner meaning “Stop! I’m afraid!” This is a non-negotiable secret code that means “the game is over.” The dominant partner must break character and end the game or “session” and make sure the submissive partner is okay and not in pain. He must comfort her and make sure she isn’t experiencing severe stress.

Fear of Being Figuratively Tied Up

Likewise, when it comes to commitment-phobia, or the fear of being figuratively tied up, the very idea of being bonded to a man until death may make you feel very uneasy. For some women who are fiercely independent, the idea of settling down may even give them anxiety.

According to Psychology Today, common reasons for commitment phobia include:
• Fear of disapproval, or fear of being judged by others for the “commitment” you make with your partner
• Fear of losing your independence after marrying or living with your partner
• Fear of being trapped and losing all your freedom
• Fear of upholding standards of commitment you’re afraid you can’t keep
• Fear of disappointing your partner
• Fear of losing your partner
• Fear of secrets being exposed

Just as the literal meaning of “being tied up” requires a solution of patience and slow progression, so does losing your fear of commitment.

You must be patient and not rush into a commitment, even if your partner or family want you to. Progress at your own pace and one that allows you to trust him naturally. You CAN set limits on commitment and you CAN play on your own terms.

If you don’t want a sudden proposal and a shotgun wedding then by all means let him know that. Don’t let emotion dictate the relationship, especially if it makes you anxious.

The keys to conquering fear of commitment are:

• Identifying WHAT exactly makes you afraid about commitment – what issues does it bring up? What scenarios make you nervous?
• Getting the independence you crave now and in your future commitment. Identify what kind of independence you need to be comfortable and make sure you have that NOW, before the new relationship.
• Addressing this need with your new partner and help him understand your feelings on the matter. A loving and patient partner will not want you to rush into a commitment if you’re not ready to make.
• Accepting that you are only as “free” as your partner is free. No one wants to be enslaved to a contract that removes all rights. But when you demand freedom you also give your partner the same freedom. This is why having mutual trust and respect for each other is so important.
• Negotiating terms that allow you to stay free and avoid stress that comes from making a commitment you cannot keep.

As you can see, there is no reason to be afraid of being “tied up”, literally or figuratively, so as long as you have a partner that respects you and is willing to go at a slow pace.

It’s not just about going slow—it’s about listening to you and following your lead. A strong man and respectful partner can help you learn this. On the other hand, an immature man, or narcissistic personality, will never respect you. Never get intimately involved with someone you don’t entirely trust – there’s a very good reason why your instincts are second-guessing him. You may sense that he’s hiding information or that he’s just telling you what you want to hear, rather than building a real relationship.

Remember these tips as you progress in the relationship. It’s not about a certain amount of time…it’s all about earning trust!

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Talk soon,

Matthew Coast

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Matthew Coast

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