A healthy, happy relationship is one of the key desires for many submissives, no matter where they are on their journey. When I first started exploring BDSM, I encountered many people who instilled valuable knowledge that strong, stable, and loving relationships can exist between Dominants and submissives. It made me crave a relationship so badly that I made a few mistakes along the way, but I kept a running list of everything I learned. I began to draw a picture of what a Dominant and submissive relationship should look like and what to expect from it.
When people ask me what a D/s relationship is like, my first response is 'it looks like any other relationship,' but that's not entirely accurate. All relationships are unique and personal to the people in them, making a sound basis for any D/s relationship. In this article, I’ll cover a few common misconceptions of D/s dynamics, what a D/s relationship is not, and some core traits you can use to identify a healthy dynamic. You may be surprised to learn that they aren't as foreign as you think.
D/s relationships look no different than vanilla relationships from the outside. You likely won't be able to spot them while out shopping or dining at your favorite restaurant, but I can assure you that you've probably encountered a couple in a D/s dynamic before.
I can understand how you might think they'd be different. You may have just learned about BDSM or D/s, and it sounds strange and very different to you. It might even go against your idea of feminism, or your opinions on gender equality. It can beat at the doors of your personal beliefs of an equal and balanced relationship. But it's not that different, and you don't have to surrender your stand on feminism or gender issues to entertain the idea of a D/s relationship.
5 Common Misconceptions of D/s Relationships
Much of what you pick up about D/s relationships and BDSM probably comes from online sources and social media these days, and to be frank, a lot of it is garbage. A few of the things I picked up when I first started my submissive exploration had me very scared of entering a D/s relationship. Here are a few misconceptions of D/s relationships:
Myth #1: All D/s relationships are unhealthy and dysfunctional.
Many believe in this myth from poor depictions of D/s and BDSM relationships in media, dramatic TV and movies, and overdramatized news stories.
Any relationship can develop unhealthy and dysfunctional habits, and D/s dynamics are no less or more prone to it. That’s because whether a relationship is healthy or not depends on the people in it, not the type of relationship.
Myth #2: It is all about sex.
With all of the kinky sex and miscellaneous equipment that seems to surround BDSM, you could think that their primary purpose is for sexy playtime. But D/s relationships can be very loving, committed partnerships in and out of the bedroom. Many D/s relationships don’t include kinky sex or equipment at all. It’s all about the exchange of power. Couples can still have all the traditional characteristics like marriage, kids and jobs, soccer matches, and Christmas parties at work. It’s about the way the relationship functions, not just what happens behind closed doors.
Myth #3: All D/s relationships are open or polyamorous.
There are open and poly relationships within D/s, but there is a large group of people that are monogamous. If you’re looking for a monogamous relationship, you can find it. You shouldn’t settle for something that makes you uncomfortable just because you hear someone say that all D/s relationships are one thing or another.
Myth #4: In D/s relationships, the Dominant works, and the submissive stays at home and does all the housework.
I’m not sure how this myth propagated, but just about everyone has a career in this modern age. You do not have to give up a job just because you identify as submissive, and if you are Dominant, you don’t have to feel pressure to support your partner fully. Relationships work in the way the partners agree that they do. Maybe you’re a Dominant that loves to do housework, or you’re a submissive who would prefer to work full-time. If you can negotiate that type of dynamic and it makes you happy, then do it. There are no societal or BDSM expectations to uphold.
Myth #5: In D/s relationships, the submissive has no say over how the relationship develops and is under complete control of the Dominant.
As you’ll learn later on in this article, D/s has a strong foundation in negotiation and consent. With that in mind, having something that negates consent should never exist in a healthy D/s relationship. Power exchange means that the submissive could be under complete control of the Dominant, but never without their open, enthusiastic, and energetic consent. D/s relationships are known for encouraging open communication, so each partner will have the ability to agree or disagree with anything occurring in the relationship.
Why These Myths Fall Apart
Whenever you read an absolute statement, make a quick assumption that it’s likely false. Not all relationships may be exactly one way, as people are not all the same. They are not complete myths, as some of the misconceptions are valid, negotiated themes in D/s relationships. However, the point I want to make is that you shouldn’t expect all of these things in a D/s relationship or fear you'll have to submit to them. We all have needs and desires for our ideal partner, and you can fulfill those in a D/s relationship. These needs and desires are essential. Negotiating with our partner what we’d like to experience or how we’d like to enjoy a relationship is paramount.
Everything we do to establish a D/s relationship is up for interpretation between the people involved. A D/s relationship is supposed to look like whatever you feel is the most healthy, functional way for you. Start with what you know about relationships, for example, compatibility in both vanilla and BDSM areas, and work from there. Figure out what your wants and needs are and write them down. Then seek someone that can help you fulfill them.
Healthy D/s Relationships Are Not Abusive
Unhealthy relationships abound; we've all encountered someone that isn't good for us or friends that you wonder why they are together at all. The news is also filled with stories of domestic violence and dysfunctional relationships. But healthy D/s relationships are not driven by manipulation and abuse. Many D/s relationships have elements of BDSM, but it should be consensual and enhance the relationship. Abuse tears apart the trust and builds fear. Abuse should never exist in a healthy relationship. When partners enter into a relationship to fulfill their desires, it’s a consensual and mutually beneficial dynamic, one that both parties chose and either party can opt-out of at any time.
Important Truths of a D/s Relationship
At the core of the D/s relationship is the conscious decision to be Dominant or submissive. Many vanilla relationships are more fluid; who leads or follows depends on the situation at hand, which means it can shift from one partner to another. This is not the case in a D/s relationship. Roles are defined so that one is always in control and the other partner submits. Even in casual D/s relationships where there are on and off times, it's still clear that one is the Dominant and the other is submissive. This sets expectations of the roles you play in the relationship, negotiated to fit the needs of the people involved.
Healthy Dominance and submission require consent. The parties in a relationship have agreed to the relationship and are clear about what that means for them. They continue to give consent for changes and unique situations as they come up. This consent is the foundation that makes D/s relationships work well for the people involved.
Communication is key. People in D/s relationships appear to communicate far more openly than what is encouraged in our vanilla counterparts. Communication is a cornerstone of a strong relationship, vanilla or not, but through my experience and time watching the people around me, vanilla relationships often have more secrets, tell “little white lies,” or have things that go unsaid. This leads to much confusion and frustration in a relationship. It's no wonder these relationships aren't as strong as they could be.
D/s relationships are full of negotiation and compromise. Negotiation is ongoing and helps the partnership stay balanced. An open line of communication is imperative to make sure that both people continue to consent and that each is happy and satisfied. Life is messy. For a healthy relationship, renegotiation and continued consent are required. And couples that communicate well can often work through issues more quickly.
No two relationships look the same. The reality is that every relationship is unique and based on the people in it. Trying to describe a generic idea of a solid D/s relationship is a shortlist. They are open, trusting partnerships that strive to build each other up so that you can explore a power exchange together. The beauty is, there is so much we can add to a relationship that will make it perfect for us. It will always be a mix of both people's strengths that ultimately make a great D/s relationship.
All relationships are complex; each is unique and takes work for the people within it to benefit. Once you break down the myths and fallacies surrounding a D/s relationship, you should be able to see that they can be healthy, fulfilling partnerships for the people in them.
Do you have questions about D/s relationships? Join our chat server on Discord and ask! We’d be happy to help you learn and explore more about Dominance and submission. You can find us at http://subgui.de/chat.