Content warning: mentions of abuse, primarily emotional abuse. We don’t go into details, but take care of yourself. If today isn’t the day for you to think about bad relationships and insecure partners, come back another time.
I’ve just finished reading a few articles on unhealthy jealousy in relationships, and I noticed something strange. Some of the legitimate signs of something wrong in a relationship can also be applied to healthy D/s power exchange relationships. Taking control of the other person, telling them where to go, deciding what you’ll do together…sound familiar?
As with everything, it’s about consent. One person’s controlling jealous asshole is someone else’s great Dominant. Weird, right?
How something makes you feel and what the intentions are matter most. Jealousy is insecurity by another name (shout-out to Professor Sex for teaching me that one). So when someone in a D/s relationship is jealous, they’re really just insecure.
It’s not your job to correct those insecurities. If you’re doing everything you’ve agreed to do, being honest, respecting boundaries and limits, and following the “rules” of your relationship, the insecurity is their problem. But it impacts you and your relationship, so it becomes your problem, too. What, if anything, you do about it depends a lot on your partner.
Low-level insecurity improves with communication, time, and trust. But massive insecurity that impacts the relationship might not be something you can (or should) try to repair. That’s a decision only you can make.
Just because something sounds like a sexy D/s thing doesn’t mean it’s healthy or okay. And some things that we call insecurity or jealousy can be just as harmful and damaging as other more “obvious” forms of abuse.
Wanting to Know Everything, All the Time
In many D/s relationships, it’s typical for one partner to let the other partner know where you’re going, who you’re going to be with it, and what’s happening. I don’t leave the house without John Brownstone knowing about it, and when he goes out, I want to know what he’s done. (I’m nosy like that.)
But there’s a line between curiosity, concern, and your power dynamic and a freak-out over where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. Agreeing to tell your partner where you go and what you do is one thing — that’s consensual. Having the information demanded of you “because they’re the Dom” or with guilt, tears, and a worried overreaction — that’s insecurity.
If the information isn’t freely given, it’s coerced. When you’re made to feel bad because “they didn’t know” or “you didn’t say anything” — and it’s not part of your power exchange — it’s a quick trip to their insecurity and feeling like you can’t be your own person. Submissive or Dominant, we’re always our own people.
The only information a partner gets to have is the information we consent to give them. Yes, open communication is best, but being bullied, guilt-tripped, or coerced into sharing details is unhealthy.
Taking Control Beyond Consented Limits
You’ve talked through your power exchange, agreed to how D/s will work for you, and are trying to navigate it. Next thing you know, your Dom is demanding more power, more control, more everything. You’re not comfortable, and when you ask why, you get answers that don’t fit or seem worrisome.
- I worry about you.
- Because I can help you.
- It’s my right. (There is no “right” to D/s, only what you consent to offer freely.)
What is it that they really want? Are they trying to micromanage you? Do they think you’re going to run off with the next Dom that falls in front of you? Even if their intentions are good, it’s a huge red flag and speaks of definite insecurities.
Some people, when they’re massively insecure, feel like the only way to keep their partner is to hold on tighter. This is problematic in any relationship, but when a Dom does it, it slips into abusive territory very quickly. Hopefully when called on it, your partner will realize what they’re trying to do and stop. It doesn’t mean you should stay in the relationship with them, but it’s easier to deal with than the controlling asshole who doesn’t care that they’ve crossed a line.
Giving Zero Space
This one is touchy because every person needs their own unique amount of space in a relationship. But there’s a line between OMG-this-feels-good and OMG-I’m-suffocating.
To the kinkster who’s now imagining their last string of back-to-back messages, you’re not automatically suffocating your partner because you want to talk to them all the time. If they’re cool with it, then keep doing it. As long as it works for both of you, it’s fine.
But if you realize that you’re sending excessive messages or trying to get your partner’s attention all the time, ask yourself why. Is it because they almost never talk to you until you nag them? That’s a different problem.
Is it because you’re terrified that if you go even an hour without hearing from there, they’ll leave you? That screams insecurity.
Maybe they’ve given you a reason to feel insecure and maybe they haven’t. That’s a separate conversation. But if you’re not certain of their affection, attention, or time, think about why that might be. Is it because of their actions or because of something going on with you?
Making You Feel Guilty
Guilt is not all bad. It’s useful for realizing when we’ve fucked up and should apologize or correct the situation. Being made to feel bad all the time — for living our lives, having friends, or not living up to some standard is borderline emotional abuse. (Maybe it’s fully emotional abuse — I’ll let experts tell us.)
D/s relationships won’t be perfect. Sometimes you’ll be sad, angry, or feel guilty. You will, at some point, argue with each other. But if you feel bad all the time, and your partner is the reason for it, that’s a definite problem.
- Are they upset when you leave them alone?
- Do they think they should get all your attention?
- Do they act like you’re responsible for their bad mood?
Those kinds of things are very short trips into really dangerous and abusive situations. But even in a less scary situation, this is (at least partly) due to massive insecurities on their part.
Operating Under Double Standards
A huge red flag that we caution new submissives against is when a “dom” says something like, “I can have open relationships and as many partners as I want. But you’re mine, and you can’t. I own you.”
Ugh, I feel the need to take a shower after that. It’s not sexy (when presented like that). It’s gross and creepy.
When we see it in the early stages of a D/s relationship, we know it for the red flag that it is. But what happens once the relationship is established, you’ve figured out your power dynamic, and you’re trying to make it work? It can be subtle and insidious at first.
Yes, a Dom gets to make decisions, and a submissive doesn’t. That’s the power exchange. But a submissive has to consent to it, too. Nothing is “Because I said so” until a sub decides they’re okay with it.
What does this look like in action?
- I can go out with friends, but you have to stay home.
- I can have multiple partners, but you can’t — even if you want to.
- No one is allowed to talk to you except for me. (Scary, right?)
- Don’t look at, flirt with, or engage with other people, but I can.
Some of these things might even start out kind of sexy, like you’re finally “owned” the way you’ve always wanted to be. But eventually, it may begin to chafe. And have you actually consented to it, or did you go along because for a few minutes it was kind of hot?
If there was no discussion about it, now is the time to get it out in the open and deal with it. If you consent to it, have fun with it! But if you don’t, you don’t have to accept it as a D/s thing, because it’s not.
All of these things exist on a spectrum from a little to a lot. It may be some underlying insecurities that have to do with bad tapes — which you may be able to work through together. This might also be the result of some dangerous, controlling, red flag, abusive behavior. Sure, your partner is “insecure” at some level, but you don’t feel safe. Working on their insecurities isn’t a priority — but feeling safe should be.
Only you know where you lie on the spectrum — whether you’re the one dealing with your partner’s insecurity or you’re the insecure partner. In safe situations, communication and being honest about your feelings is a good first step. Talking to a professional may be a good idea, too. But when insecurities move beyond a fixable thing, what’s most important is that you take care of yourself.
This week in episode 148 we’re talking about jealousy and insecurities in D/s. Hopefully the podcast episode will be a little lighter than this, but these are real concerns that kinksters deal with all the time. The line between an annoying insecurity and a scary one isn’t always clear.
Got thoughts about insecurities? Ever been the insecure one and had to pull yourself out of it? Was your partner able to help or did it hurt the relationship? Have you been on bad end of your partner’s insecurities. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or talk to us on Twitter!