Dominance and submission (D/s) can enhance your relationship, take your desire and confidence to new levels, help you grow as an individual and in your relationship, and do a lot of things short of shooting glitter out of your butt. Basically, for some of us, D/s is fucking amazing.
But it’s not superglue, y’all. It can’t magically fix everything.
While many of us (myself included) can’t imagine a life without D/s, many people see it as a cure-all for struggling relationships. If your relationship is in trouble because you’re constantly trying to figure out who’s in charge, D/s might fix that. But if your current relationship struggles for any of these other reasons, D/s won’t cure it. It might make the problem more obvious or worse.
D/s only works when both partners are willing to communicate openly and clearly. This isn’t a skill that many people have, so it’s got to be learned. Yes, of course, you can learn to communicate better as you explore D/s. In fact, most of us do. You don’t have to be perfect at it, you only have to be willing to try.
But if one or both of you refuses to communicate and refuses to learn, D/s will only magnify that problem by a thousand. Refusing to communicate looks different in everyone. Some people withdraw. Others deflect and want to talk about anything else. Even worse, some people lie — from small white lies to big whoppers.
When communication is lacking, your D/s relationship can’t grow and thrive. In the end, you may lose trust, feel resentful, and the relationship may be worse than when you started. Before you start your D/s journey together, both sides need to understand how important communication is, even if you’re not great at it yet.
There is nothing in BDSM, including D/s, that doesn’t require trust from both sides. You have to trust each other to do what you say you’ll do. Trust that you respect the others boundaries, and trust that you’ll speak up in good times and in bad. Just like communication, trust can definitely deepen and grow as you explore D/s. It’s a beautiful thing when you learn that you can rely on each other in new ways.
But if you don’t trust your partner to follow through, do what they say they will, keep up their end of the bargain, or not lie to you, D/s is like pouring gasoline on the situation. If your partner isn’t worthy of trust, you may never know if they’ll listen to your safe word, check in with you, or be there when you need them. Real people get really hurt in these moments — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Trust is too important a piece of the D/s puzzle to not have. But you can’t wave a wand, confer on yourselves the title of Dom or sub, and think all trust issues have been fixed. If trust is lacking, you both need to be honest with yourselves and each other about how to overcome it.
Problems with Follow Through
Both Dominant and submissive have responsibilities in your D/s relationship. Even if you’re in a relationship where one person only does what the other person says and/or the micromanagement is high, it only works when both of you do your part. Not everyone is as reliable as we’d like them to be, even when we love them a lot.
If either of you (or both of you) have problems following through with promises made or responsibilities, D/s is going to be a greater challenge. It doesn’t matter which side of the slash you’re on. Can you overcome it and work through it? Can you learn to be better? Of course! But deciding that you each have new roles and entering D/s doesn’t immediately fix this problem.
Old habits die hard. If you’re the type who starts off enthusiastic and then gets bored or worried “it doesn’t really matter” (for any reason), this is going to bite you in the ass at some point. Your partner will be left disappointed because you didn’t do your part. They might wonder if you really want to be D/s at all. Now you’ve both got hurt feelings and mistrust to deal with.
Mental Health Issues
First, let me say that if you have mental illnesses of any kind – anxiety, depression, personality disorder, you name it – you can absolutely have a healthy D/s relationship. Speaking from personal experience, a solid D/s relationship may even help you (or be the reason you) work through your mental health issues. This happens in a variety of ways because it’s unique to everyone. For me, I wanted to get control of my anxiety and bipolar disorder so I could be a better submissive, and I learned to talk about it so John Brownstone would know what was going on with me.
But D/s, on its own, can not cure depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue. It may help you feel more yourself. In some cases, it may help you clear your mind. But in some cases, if you’re not getting the medical care, support, or help you need, it might exacerbate things. Plenty of really wonderful submissives and Dominants struggle with mental illness.
Dominants and submissives put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and even the healthiest among us can feel guilty when we fall short of our own expectations. Keep the lines of communication open. Be willing to seek help where you can find it. Don’t think that you’re weak or believe you’re a bad Dom or sub because of your mental health issues. You’re not. You’re human and you deserve a happy, healthy D/s relationship too.
D/s is an amazing thing in a lot of relationships. We’ve heard from many couples who say it saved their marriage. Discovering my submissive self and being in a healthy relationship has done a lot for me, too. I’m more confident, know I’m loved, and understand my place in the world a little bit better.
But D/s isn’t magic, y’all. You can have any of the issues we named above and still have a healthy D/s relationship but, like anything else, it requires hard work and effort from both of you.
Guess what we’re talking about this week on the podcast! Episode 147 will be about using D/s to “fix” relationships — both the good and the bad. For those who love them, there will likely be plenty of rants from me. Can you think of other situations some people use D/s to “fix”? Share in the comments below or talk to us on Twitter!