How to Build Each Other Up in a D/s Relationship

I’m never completely sure why D/s relationships and the BDSM lifestyle are treated as if they’re completely divorced from reality. Our roles are clearly outlined; consent is required; and it only works when everyone communicates.

So yeah, it’s almost 100 percent different from many vanilla relationships most of us have had.

But that doesn’t mean we stopped being human beings in the process.

The purpose of almost anything we do (or should be) is to make things better, leave it better than we found it. To do no (nonconsensual) harm.

This is especially true in a D/s relationship.

If you’re wondering how to do this, we’ve got a few ideas.

Listen More Than You Speak

To all my overly exuberant subbie friends, I’m not saying, “Don’t talk.” I’m saying, “Listen more.” And listening isn’t just with the ears. It’s with your eyes too. Pay attention. Focus on each other.

When you give your time and attention to your partner, Dom or sub, you learn so much. You see things you might not otherwise notice. All those little details are important. Not just in giving someone what they want or need but in knowing them well enough to offer support and help when they need it most.

Ask Instead of Assume

Many of us desperately want to please our partner. We want to do things the “right way” based on some stereotype, fantasy, or perfect vision we’ve created in our mind. Sometimes we get it right, but when we get it wrong, we do it spectacularly.

Asking isn’t a weakness. It’s another way of getting consent. And asking questions doesn’t just make sure you have the information you need. It also shows your partner you care about them enough to want to know something you didn’t know before.

Breathe

Okay so that sounds ridiculously simple, I know. Breathing is the most basic thing we do, right? What I mean is this: Calm down. Take a moment. Hot takes don’t win internet arguments, and they definitely don’t build a relationship.

When your first reaction is frustration, aggravation, annoyance, or that snarky comment you know will hurt, stop. Take a minute, and take a breath. Most of the time, that single pause will be enough to hold back the unnecessarily mean thing you almost said. And yes, sometimes you will still argue, but there’s never a need to be cruel or thoughtless.

Learn Self-Reflection

Like everything else, even self-reflection is a skill. Not being afraid of the silence (or noise) in your head takes practice. If you’re more used to running in a million directions than pausing to breathe and think, it doesn’t always feel easy or natural.

When you can take time to realize what’s going on in your own head, it’s easier to understand what might be going on with someone else. And knowing that something can go on in someone else’s inner world makes it easier to ask about it, to care about it, and when you genuinely care, to help your partner improve.

Know When to Let Go

Holding onto someone you care about feels right. I stayed married too long because I thought I was supposed to stick it out no matter what. It didn’t matter that we made each other miserable or that we became people others no longer recognized.

Letting go of a failing relationship, especially long term relationships, can feel like failure. Others, I know, are too quick to turn tail and run. But some of us hold on until all that’s left is hurt feelings and hardened resolves. At that point, neither of you are making the other better people. If a relationship can’t be reconciled and repaired, it’s better to let go — for both your sakes.

Being your best self in a relationship doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen every day. Sometimes we don’t feel good, we hurt, we’re not our best selves. So none of us ever gets it perfectly right. But the trying is what matters. When you try to build your relationship and your partner up, to help them be their best selves, you’re doing something good for them and your relationship. As long as they’re doing the same for you, in the long run, you’ll both be fine — no matter what happens.

In episode 120 of the podcast, we talk about how to make each other better in your D/s relationship.

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