I have observed many successful and many more unsuccessful forays into power exchange relationships. And I can report back with a few nuggets of wisdom on which you can nibble as you see fit. You may even dunk the wisdom nuggets in the sauce of sagacity. Whatever.
And yeah, the fact is, all of these can be applied to you regardless of which side of the slash is yours. Top or bottom, dominant or submissive, master or slave, owner or owned, you can twist these tips around to suit you. Think of them as launch pads, if you will, for your own explorations and discussions.
Yeah yeah, I know each and every one of you D-Types are special snowflake lone Alpha-wolves, running along the dark paths of kink , howling at the moon, sniffling the tender flesh of nubile submissives, and doin’ your own thang. Respect. Mad props to ya. But keep in mind? With power comes responsibility. You can call the shots all you want. But without humility, discipline and flexibility, it’s not likely you’ll be the boss of anyone for very long.
Over my years involved in kink circles, I’ve noticed that some dominant-types take pride in not taking advice from anyone, insisting that they make the rules and it is the responsibility of the submissive to adjust themselves and adhere to their world-view. And ultimately, yes: the master masters, and the slave slaves. But without negotiation, compromise and compassion? The stage is set for breakdowns, conflict and the corrosion of resentment.
Feel free to add your own off-the-cuff recommendations and thoughts of helpful hints in the comments! I’m always looking to hear what works for other kinksters!
Insist on having your submissives tell you what is really going on for them…and listen without defensiveness
It can be amazingly difficult for us submissive types to open up on tough things. One of the ways that you, as the one in charge, can facilitate a safe space is to not only let us let you know where we are emotionally, but to make it our responsibility to do so. If you create safe space, encourage and insist upon hearing the feedback, keep it flexible; being encouraging and supportive means that the lines of communication are healthy and open and strong.
I’m currently in a long-distance relationship with one of them dominant type guys. One of the hardest things I had to do, when we were initially seeing if any of this would work out, was for me to share with him my overwhelming doubts about the likelihood that this relationship would work at all. We don’t live in the same state, he’s quite poly, and happily married. I’m...not really poly. I enjoy playing with friends, sure, but I only find myself opening up for love and deep connection with one person at a time. I swore I’d never do an LDR (long-distance relationship) again, and the whole thing just seemed a fool’s errand. He acknowledged that it was a challenging situation, and that the only way it could work is if there was a high degree of emotional transparency. This meant talking about the hard feelings as they happened. Not letting resentment pile up and miscommunication become fodder for issues down the road. Directly ordering this sharing was a way for me to tap into the reflexive obedience I felt toward him and ensure I was set on a path to become comfortable and feel safe telling him how I was doing. Not only when I was feeling lost, adrift or unsettled, but also when things were working. This is reinforced by his consistency in hearing what I have to say, and respecting me enough to try his best to provide me with answers to my questions and to remain candid when there were NOT tidy, clear-cut answers.
Apologize specifically for your fuckups and missteps, and talk about how to avoid repeats
Too many people have this “the dominant is always right” attitude. You are human. Humans are fallible. Putting yourself on a pedestal only means you have that much further to fall. Taking responsibility for yourself reinforces that you can take responsibility for us as well. There is an inherent risk to this level of maturity, and that is that you are indeed partnered with someone who sees apologies or acceptance of poor decision making as a sign of weakness. Or some such bullshit. Fact is, you have a right to be wrong. And you have a right to be forgiven for your mistakes and to lean from them.
Taking the stance that your errors are simply to be accepted by those in service to you and you owe them neither apology nor reparations for your mistakes is not going to serve you well. Humility and humanity are vital facets to being the type of dominant or master who commands loyalty out of love and respect rather than fear and intimidation.
Say “Please” and “Thank you”
No you don’t have to. But doing so is a gracious gesture. And a gracious ruler gains the hearts and minds of their followers. Emotional largesse will gain you faithfulness. It sure as hell can be fun to be dehumanized, taken advantage of, reduced to chattel property and treated like a piece of meat. Like, really REALLY hot...to be treated like a slatternly, desperate creature, fit only to be used and then carelessly tossed aside, shuddering in a corner, awaiting the caress or cudgeling from a stern-eyed slave-driver...
...but I digress.
Yeah, the fantasy can be hot. In reality, keeping that up all of the time is taxing and actually not the way many of us want to live. If common courtesies are not your cup of tea? Awesome! Specify that. But respect, courtesy and gratitude are very, very sexy. I find it of profound beauty when someone who could order me hither, thither and yon without second thought actually takes the time to extend to me those small courtesies. Treat me with respect and courtesy and I’ll go to the ends of the earth for you.
Acknowledge your submissive’s service to you
Again, you don’t have to. But again, being seen by the people we serve is a precious emotional jewel that we hold close to our hearts and that feeds and sustains us as we grow in service. For me? Hearing “good girl” is its own unique reward. It is so very, very important for me to hear positive reinforcement while I am in service. Plus, frankly, it makes me wibbly in my nibblybits. And believe you me, when my nibblybits are wibbly, I am putty in your hands.
If correcting missteps is the only time you give us feedback? You’re setting the stage to place the people in service to you in a particularly vulnerable position. Rather than coming from a place of self-assurance and positivity, it can generate an atmosphere of mistrust and fear.
Many people strive to provide what is commonly known as “anticipatory service.” This means being able to look ahead and see what will be needed before the person you’re serving has even realized that they have the need. This isn’t the purview of mind-readers, and it doesn’t happen overnight. One of the ways that dominants and masters can facilitate this flow is to let those in service to you know when they’ve pleased you. From there we can extrapolate what else along those lines may work in service, and those strokes to our submissive and slavish souls go a long way in solidifying the power-exchange dynamic!
It might seem less than exciting but consistency in your behavior provides the structure that many of us actively seek. I have a seemingly endless amount of mental and emotional energy. I can drive myself like a pack-mule for weeks... hell, months and years at a time. However, focus and direction isn’t something that comes naturally for me. One of the things I struggle with is consistency and structure. I look to external sources for this structure. Not because I am weak and can’t do for myself, but because I am strong enough to realize that I flourish in a place where my energy is harnessed and channeled by another. I value emotional consistency. I need to trust that the person to whom I give authority over me will maintain boundaries, continue to provide guidance, and be there for me... for us... regardless of how the winds may blow.
Consistency in behavior is also important! If you insist on certain protocols, follow-up. If you set up an expectation, maintain that connection. One of the common issues I hear from submissives when they experience frustration in their PE relationships is that they are given a set of expectations, assignments protocols, rules and regulations...and then there is not accountability. In my first d/s relationship, I was ordered to keep a daily “service diary.” I was advised that my dominant would be checking up on it, that it would be a place for me to safely share my day-to-day, so that he would have access to my thoughts even when I wasn’t necessarily able to communicate them in the moment. Weeks, months...eventually 2 years passed and never once did my dominant ask to see my service diary. This generated feelings of resentment, and I felt like I wasn’t valuable to him, and that this assignment was merely busywork. Knowing that you will follow through of that which you give us to do, and value our effort, is priceless.
Tell us what you’re feeling
Yeah the big tough dominant thing is a hot and sexy image. But knowing about your process and emotional state creates intimacy and lets us trust you with our intimate thoughts and feelings as well. When you are involved in an intimate relationship, sometimes you don’t even have to hear the emotions of another spoken aloud to know when something is amiss, or when they are simmering with joy. Regardless? Letting those in service to you or owned by you in on your emotional state is absolutely necessary. Lets say you have a rough day at the office. You come home, you’re in the mood to just flop down and be left alone, and Mother Theresa herself, bearing a plate of fresh-baked cookies or an icy cold beer or whatever couldn’t cheer you up. In comes your slave, eager to serve you and unaware of your preexisting mental state. Your energy is ruffled, you dismiss them, and you know what the first thing is that goes though their head?
“What did I do wrong??”
Yeah yeah, the world doesn’t revolve around us. But when something goes off-kilter? It often can feel like it does. Believe me, I have worked very fucking hard to shed that thought process but I still feel shadows of that reaction when I am not connecting well with someone if I am in service to them.
Letting us know when you are feeling off, of stressed, or ready to kick-ass and take names, or thrumming with joy means we have a window into your world. We can be better prepared to give you space when you need it, and share in your life with a healthy respect for your feelings. And it assists in us being able to not take personally and absorb difficult emotions when they have nothing to do with us.
Humor goes so very far in salvaging tough times and makes good times even better. BDSM can be serious, heavy, challenging, and tough. It can also be silly and fun. Remembering your sense of humor and sharing in laughter, even through tears, is a beautiful way to keep joy alive.
And yanno what else?
Laughing at yourself once in a while won’t kill ya either.
Next Time: Seven Suggestions for Submissives & Slaves!