Exploring the physical aspects of BDSM, such as flogging, spanking and bondage are a lot simpler in terms of finding information that will help you on your way but when you crave a D/s relationship the shared knowledge folds into personal stories and "you'll learn as you go" sentiments. It's just not an easy road to begin to travel. It doesn't have to be. We all have a common ground to start from even if you don't realize it. Relationships, even ones with power exchange are still built the old-fashioned way; dating and talking. Unlike what a lot of forums may say about D/s relationships and how they start, knowing the terms to use for your desires and being able to voice them to others does not produce and instant connection and a relationship. It's work from the start and continues to need nurturing for as long as you want the relationship to develop and succeed.
While I don't intend for this to be an extensive guide to finding your perfect partner, it will be a definitive guide to knowing what you are looking for when it comes to D/s relationships and how to recognize a D/s relationship when you are in one. I'll also share a bit of what is expected of you as your submissive role in the relationship and what a D/s relationship needs to work well so that all parties in it feel fulfilled, happy and the relationship succeeds.
Let me first say that starting a D/s relationship requires that you are clear with what you want and who you are. Whether that's to be a bedroom submissive or a full-time slave (or something in between) if you have some understanding of what that entails you'll have one foot in the door for finding the relationship you want. You need to know how to describe who you are to someone else so that you can find the opposite in a Dominant. A person looking for a 24/7 long term M/s relationship isn't going to be compatible with you if you are looking for a casual bedroom only D/s with just a little bit of out of the bedroom overlap. No matter how much you might be attracted to the person or find ways to be compatible beyond that. So knowing what you need in power exchange and clearing the board of incompatible options is imperative for your success.
How a Relationship Develops
It's possible that you are reading this and you've never experienced any sort of relationship before. My knee jerk reaction to relationship’s how to questions has always been to use what you know and build on that - but what if you don't have any experience to build on? You can also ask your friends and relatives how their relationships formed. You might even know your parents' love story or your grandparents falling for each other's tale. What do they have in common? You'll see. Here's how a relationship can develop; in it's more basic form.
First, people are attracted to one another. This doesn't have to be physical at first, but that's the more common starting point. Maybe they have an attraction to something specific about the other person or a generalized, "oh my gosh this person is sexy, hot, amazing, pretty, cute, handsome, etc." The people, if it's mutual, will start talking to one another to gauge interest and to find common interests.
Those common interests help to cement the ideas of a possible relationship forming. After all, you want your relationship partner to be someone you can do things with and talk about the things that interest you. Someone you hope will share your interests and ideas, your hopes and dreams. So having something in common is a big magnetic pull to relationship potential. This stage often ends with the couple deciding if they'd like to be more with each other or not. Friendships often stop deepening at this point. If you've ever had a really close best friend you'll know that this stage is a powerful one. When you add D/s or BDSM to the mix, this need to find common interests can get intense and intimate pretty quickly. That's because there's more riding on a connection than just if you both love sci-fi movies and poodles. I'd personally compare it to making sure you found someone that was of the same sexual orientation. If you are heterosexual you definitely want to make sure the one you look for a relationship with is also heterosexual (or bisexual if that's comfortable to you). So, in D/s or BDSM you want to make sure pretty quickly if you are talking to a Dominant, submissive, slave, puppy, masochist, etc and if that matches what you are looking for.
Often, at the start of an attraction, dating occurs. The first steps in dating are to get to know one another and find those common interests I talked about above. How long you spend dating is completely personal and may be the stage the relationship remains at for months or even years. Dating can involve sexual exploration with the partner but it doesn't have to. You can decide to hold off on sex (and BDSM play) until a commitment is in place. See, this is where I find a lot of stones thrown at me. I don't feel that dating is a defined commitment. I find it more like shopping or browsing the menu. Others compare it to eating at a buffet. You can pick and choose, sample what you'd like, and change your mind as much as you want - as long as you keep your goal in mind, to find a relationship that best fits your needs and desires.
Deciding to commit to one another is a separate step to relationship building and develops a while into dating and often ends the dating stage. You agree to be exclusive. You stop people shopping and you focus on strengthening and perfecting the relationship you have found. There are a lot of ways to commit to one another, and a collar is not always the best first decision in that commitment. Your mileage may vary but I find a collar to be the final step in relationship commitment. You don't have to have a collar to be committed to one another and you definitely don't have to have a collar at all. That is the personal choice you have to make.
Need More Tips? How to Get in a Relationship
So for the most part, developing a relationship takes time. Time is something a lot of people don't want to spend but really should. Far too many people these days like to consider relationship building and maintenance as disposable. Because who's got the time, right? Wrong. Take the time. It's worth it.
What Does a D/s Relationship Look Like?
For the most part, a D/s relationship is going to look like any other relationship from the outside. I'd have to say, being in a power exchange relationship for over a decade now, that we've never received weird looks when out in public and it's not obvious that he's in charge just by looking at us. But for those people in the know, it's quite clear how our relationship works. If you are new to power exchange you might not even catch these small details and that's okay because your relationship may look nothing like KnyghtMare's and mine. But, hey, if you had to pick out the little things that identify us as a power exchange relationship, what might those be?
- There's an obvious clear distinction of who's in control.
- KnyghtMare does not interact with service personnel at all. That's my job in service to him. It may even look like he doesn't even acknowledge them. But I will be extremely polite, courteous and kind. This includes ordering food, buying tickets or purchasing items. He expects me to take care of it all in a kind and polite manner.
- I ask him for permission to purchase anything. This may be disguised with, "do you think I should get this?"
- I offer to get him things so he doesn't have to even consider moving or interrupting what he's doing.
- All he has to do is ask for something and I comply. There's no questioning it, or "hang on a minute, honey" responses.
Will your relationship look like this? Maybe. Maybe not. As I said above, we've slowly customized our relationship for over 10 years. It didn't all start out like this from the onset. But the point in our relationship is that I serve him and his needs and in return, I get love, affection, pride and a sense of accomplishment. Not to mention we are husband and wife and intense lovers.
The important thing to note about D/s relationships is that when you are both "on," meaning if this is a bedroom-only relationship it only happens there, or if this is full-time you will likely both be in your role all the time, that these roles do not shift. You are submissive, you submit. They are Dominant, they are in charge- nowhere does that fluctuate during the agreed upon timeframe. Other than this key ingredient, your D/s relationship may look similar or very different to mine. As long as you submit and your partner is in charge then a D/s exchange is happening.
What Does a D/s Relationship Need to Work?
A D/s relationship is still a relationship. I say it a lot I know, but the basic compatibility that we'd look for in a mainstream partner still apply when looking for someone a bit more Dominant or into BDSM. You have to have similar ideas of marriage, family, friendships and lifestyle, such as where you'll be living, how active you'll be and what you enjoy doing that many other people search for in a partner. It is highly unlikely that if you don't agree on your dreams of the future that you'll want to be with this person for long.
Are you monogamous or poly? Well, you should probably agree to that before you get far into a relationship also. There can be some huge issues crop up later down the road if the person you are with is monogamous but you are poly and didn't share that information. But that's really not all that needs to be discussed to make a relationship that has a variety of openness available. If you are poly or your partner is, what kind of poly is it? What amount of interaction do you want with the other partners? And even if your relationship is monogamous, sometimes there can be an open element to allow for exploring kinks that one or the other doesn't share. So talk about those scenarios as well to make sure you are on the same page.
Then, and this is a big one for D/s relationship compatibility, agree what kind of D/s relationship you are looking for. If you are submissive then make sure your partner is a Dominant, for starters. But then, how much submission will your relationship have? Are you looking for a bedroom only D/s relationship or a full-time submission? Something in between? What does submission mean to you? To them? How about Dominance? Make sure your definitions align or you could mean one form of submission and your potential partner means another.
If BDSM play is to be a part of the exchange, you will want to make sure that there is close compatibility in what you desire there as well. And if not, then a willingness to open the relationship to allow for play outside of it. Kink isn't always connected to sex and still more of it is about exploring sensation. So feed yours and your potential partner's desire for kink as best you can.
Even with all the above working perfectly, it's not a magic bullet. You have to work at your relationship to make it work. Practice your open communication and talk about issues before they blow up into serious problems. Nurture the emotions you feel for them and build the connection whenever you can. A relationship that goes stale won't last very long and a power exchange one might need a bit more effort on both parties to keep the flame going. But trust me, it's well worth it.
That's it for part one of this guide to D/s relationships. In the next part, we'll talk about how to negotiate a D/s relationship as well as learning what might be expected of you, taking care of yourself in the relationship and sharing some links to further reading about D/s relationships. If you have questions, ask them in the comments or send them to me in an email and I'll try to help you find answers.
Can't wait until part 2 to find out more about D/s relationships? Check out Paradigms of Power: Styles of Master/slave Relationships by Raven Kaldera, a collection of essays from many people showcasing many forms of power exchange relationships that can be an inspiration to you about how to create your own unique relationship.
Thoughts to Ponder
- What makes a D/s relationship so different from a mainstream relationship?
- What can't you apply to D/s that you've learned through your own experience or exposure?
- If you are or have been in a D/s relationship, how would you describe a D/s relationship to others?
- 5 Steps to Take Before Starting a New Relationship - Psychology Today
- How to Start Dating if You Want to Be In a Successful Relationship - Bustle
- 9 Tips for Building a Loving Relationship - PsychToday