What do you think is important in keeping a BDSM relationship healthy? How does it differ from a vanilla relationship?
Oh, I hope you have some time to kill.
Well, first of all, honest, open communication is important. You have to be comfortable enough with each other to communicate your desires, curiosities, needs, concerns, etc. It sounds easy on paper, but it’s something that’s very difficult to do, and something that I’ve noticed often becomes an issue in vanilla relationships.
So that’s one way that BDSM relationships differ from vanilla ones. BDSM relationships require, simply by the nature of the relationship, a level of communication that vanilla relationships often never even touch on. Negotiating kinks and limits and needs means that you talk about sex. A lot. You talk about what you love, you talk about your fantasies, you talk about things you wish were different. Both partners are engaged, both partners take an active role in the relationship, regardless of which role that may be. And all of that effort, all of that intimacy pays off in other areas of the relationship. You get used to talking about everything. When nothing is taboo, it opens up so many avenues for communication.
Trust and vulnerability are important. And they go hand in hand (in my opinion, anyway). I mean, obviously a huge degree of trust is required from the submissive. They are (often quite literally) putting their physical, mental, and emotional health, their very lives in someone else’s hands, at a level that many people would find unsettling, or even disturbing. And it’s more than just being tied up and beaten. They open themselves up to someone else to an extreme that vanilla people don’t. Their hearts, their minds, their souls are all laid bare for someone else to explore, to break, to nurture.
That requires an insane level of trust, and the vulnerability that comes with it can be terrifying. Being a submissive takes a level of emotional and mental strength that is not common.
But people tend to forget about the Dominants. Trust and vulnerability are required from Dominants, as well. Granted, they aren’t laid bare to the extent that their submissive is, but the intensity, the intimacy, the depravity of BDSM relationships breeds a unique sort of vulnerability not found anywhere else.
Yes, the Dominant must trust their submissive (and I’ll get to that in a minute) but first and foremost, she needs to trust herself. She needs to know her own limitations, she needs to be confident in her own abilities. She needs to trust her judgment, trust her intuition, trust her ability to assess and reassess any given situation, make a decision, and commit to it. She needs to trust in herself in a way that not many vanilla people learn to do.
And yes, she needs to trust her submissive. Of course, she needs to trust that he’ll tell her if something’s wrong, if he needs help, if there’s a concern that she needs to be aware of. But it goes deeper than that.
Because being a Dominant in a session (for me, anyway) is, in itself, an act of vulnerability. For me, in my day-to-day life, there’s a lot of myself that I keep locked away. There’s a lot that I don’t do, a lot that I don’t say, a lot that I don’t act on. My sadism, for example, is a part of myself that I’m a bit uncomfortable with, simply because I don’t know the limits of it (and I’m pretty damn sure the limits of my sadism far exceed the limits of the law). So I clamp that shit down.
But in a session, I let it out. I keep a tight rein on it, obviously, and I am always in control (which is why I won’t play altered. That control is all that’s keeping me out of jail and a boy out of the hospital. That’s not something I’m going to fuck with). But I can let loose that part of me that is always locked away. I can be more myself than I can be anywhere else. I show more of who I am in a session than anywhere else.
It’s a unique kind of vulnerability, and I trust my submissive with it. I show him a part of myself very few ever get to see. It’s more than what I do. It’s who I am. I have to trust him with it, even if the idea is uncomfortable or frightening. I have to push myself to put that trust in him.
Otherwise, what’s the fucking point?
I’ve been in a couple of vanilla relationships here and there, and even tried dating a Dom once (yeah, imagine how that went), and there just isn’t that same level for me. They don’t see the “real me,” because I don’t let it out around them. I’m still walled off, still isolated, still protected. I don’t have to trust them.
And it’s not the same.
So yes, a Dominant puts so much of herself into a D/s relationship, she puts so much of herself into her submissive, that the vulnerability inevitably comes into play. And she has to trust her submissive with it.
Intensity is something else that comes into play, and I think is necessary for a healthy D/s relationship. Granted, some D/s relationships are more intense than others, but there needs to be that passion, that hunger. Not necessarily primal, but something close. Complacency is a killer in any relationship dynamic, but so much more so in D/s ones. Intensity is a big fucking deal. Once you lose it, it’s difficult to get back, and the relationship will suffer. A Dominant should always inspire just a little bit of nervousness in her subs, and she should always be hungry for them. She can’t allow that to go away. She needs to work to make sure it doesn’t.
And I mean, the responsibility doesn’t fall exclusively on her shoulders. No one, not even a Dominant, can be expected to carry a relationship on their own. Her submissive needs to want to serve, to actively submit, rather than lie back and wait to be used. He needs to work at it. They both need to carry the relationship.
They both need that intensity. They both need to work at keeping it.