We get asked – usually be people who are new to BDSM – about whether both partners in a D/s relationship are equal or not. If one partner has all the control, doesn’t that put the other partner in a lesser than or unequal role? Not at all. In D/s relationships, the partners involved are two halves of a single (and unique) whole. To make it work, both have to give and take based on what they want, need, and have agreed to do. But any relationship can have an imbalance, especially in D/s.
It happens to all relationships at some point. One of you is sick. The other has to work extra house. The partner left standing has to adjust or pick up the other’s slack. This is normal and to be expected. If you feel unappreciated, of course you should say something, but often, the balance will shift again soon enough. Unfortunately, some imbalance is toxic and a sign of an unhealthy relationship. In D/s, it happens most often when the “Dominant” believes they can do whatever they want but the submissive can’t do anything but what they’re told. Not sure if this applies to you? Here are a few signs of an unhealthy imbalance in your D/s relationship.
You’re Not Allowed to Say Anything
Communication is one of the few requirements in BDSM. If you can’t talk to each other, you can’t learn and grow – you also can’t fully consent. In unhealthy D/s relationships (abusive or bordering on it), the “Dominant” believes they’re all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing. They don’t ask questions, and they don’t listen. To them, a submissive is supposed to be seen and not heard. They’re told to do what the Dominant tells them to do and not ask questions. You’re called a bad submissive or accused of topping from the bottom when you do try to talk or you’re ignored completely. Nope. Nopity-nope-nope-nope. Wrong. Bad. Danger, Will Robinson! In case you wondered, this isn’t okay.
Your Needs Aren’t Being Met
The same “Dominant” who doesn’t want to know what you think also doesn’t care about what you want or need out of your dynamic. You either aren’t “allowed” to say what you want or you’re ignored when you do. D/s works best when you’re both getting something from it. That’s doesn’t make you selfish. And yes, a submissive may agree to serve their Dominant, but that’s not the end of it. A Dominant who can’t be bothered to consider their submissive’s needs and provide for them doesn’t deserve to be with that submissive.
You Can’t Express Your Opinions and Feelings
Maybe you were able to communicate in the beginning of your relationship to negotiate the details and set the dynamic. As your relationship progresses, your Dominant doesn’t listen when you speak. Or they tell you to stop talking. Worse, you’re made to feel guilty because you didn’t like something or don’t want to try a new kink. As a submissive, you’re not a robot. You have thoughts and feelings, and yes, you are allowed to express them in your relationship. The how and when may be set by your specific dynamic, but the opportunity should be there.
You Can’t Ask for a Change
The further you get into your D/s dynamic, the more you’ll learn about yourself. Maybe you thought you were strictly submissive but now you think you might be a switch. Maybe the kitten or little role doesn’t quite fit anymore. It’s normal for someone to be resistant to the idea of change but you should absolutely be free to talk about it. It doesn’t even have to be that big. You might have an assigned task that you don’t need to do anymore or that you can’t fit into your schedule. You’re allowed to ask for small changes, too.
You’re Not Allowed to Disagree
As submissives, we want to believe our Dominant is always right, and we’ll always agree with them. But the reality is that sometimes they’ll get things wrong (like all people do). You will likely disagree with your Dominant on more than one occasion. How you express your disagreement may be dictated by your dynamic but you are always allowed to disagree. The Dominant who says you can’t or calls you a bad submissive for not thinking they’re a god is an idiot.
Can you get into an argument or go through a rocky part in your relationship and have one of these conflicts? Absolutely. Can they be resolved? We hope so. But if this is what you think of as a “normal” D/s relationship, it’s out of balance in a serious way. Yes, submissives serve and submit to a Dominant to whatever degree works for both of you, but for reasons that are nuanced and powerful. Both partners have to get something out of the relationship that’s positive for it to have a chance of working in the long term. An imbalance like this can easily tip the scales into something abusive and destructive.
In episode 102 of the podcast, we talk about equality and balance in D/s relationships — is it a partnership or there an inherent power imbalance because of the power exchange?
Have you ever experienced this kind of serious or toxic imbalance in a D/s relationship? Our post centers around submissives but are there any Dominants who’ve ever been on the receiving end of a radical imbalance? Feel free to share in the comments below!