Hello, my partner is submissive, and I am vanilla. We have be together for close to 2 years, but have known each other for much longer. Our relationship has been rocky for some time now, and I have recently agreed to letting my partner fulfill her needs. Although we have agreed to work fiercely on our primary relationship, my inexperience with the BDSM culture, leaves me in fear that her outside play will lead to the ultimate destruction of our primary relationship. I would love some advice and education as to what resources I could pursue to help me cultivate a better understanding.


A lot of Questions

Hello A lot of Questions,

I'm glad you felt I could help answer your question. Opening up an already unstable relationship is hard on everyone.

You definitely have a place to fear the stability of your relationship, mainly because you said in your letter that it has been rocky for a long time. I would personally never suggest opening up a relationship unless it is a solid primary relationship. Now, with that said, I could very well be wrong in thinking this could end your relationship. It could be the answer to your stress. Since you didn't elaborate on what's causing the issues in your relationship I can only make generalities. If your partner has needs that you can no fulfill it is possible that an outside partner could take care of that and then your own relationship with her would normalize because she'd feel more satisfied. As you likely fear, it could turn against you too.

The focus needs to be on the primary relationship to repair what is going wrong with that first. Even if you do open the relationship, that primary relationship needs to remain strong or it could crumble, through no fault of the outside party. If you haven't sought outside help, perhaps now is the time to consider couple's therapy to get back on the right track.

What you should do before you go further and while you are still talking about your own relationship is to lay down ground rules for this new partner. Cover safe sex practices, how much information you want or need about the person and what they do together and if you need to meet the person at all. There is a lot of complexity about open relationships and being well informed and keeping the lines of communication open will go a long way in stabilizing your relationship.

I suggest you pick up one or all of the following books. Read them, make notes, ask questions and talk with your partner about what you are reading. Better yet, read the book together.

One of the books I've read and reviewed for Submissive Guide is the Ethical Slut. I thought it was a great book and you can read my review of it here. People I talk to in polyamory circles rave about the book Opening Up also, but I have yet to read it. There is also some great forums on FetLife.com if you can brave the kink scene to get some answers to questions online.

Also ask her what being in a BDSM relationship means for her and for you. What depth of relationship is she looking for in a Dominant?  If the primary relationship is strong and the communication is wide open, then there's nothing to fear about BDSM partners. And that's the bulk of where things go wrong too. You have to be able to talk about these things and understand where she's coming from. You will likely be her support when she's not with her Dominant partner which means you'll want to know her mental and emotional state, how to care for her when/if she drops from play and if you'll be okay seeing marks on her; bruises, cuts, scrapes from someone else. It all has to be laid on the table. It won't be easy but it is possible.

I wish you all the best.