Thoughts on Dominant/submissive Relationships (part 1)
The other day the issue of trust came up in comments about my post “On Being a Dominant.” So let us begin by talking about trust.
Trust is important in any relationship, but doubly so in a D/s relationship. The nature of the Dominant/submissive relationship demands this. The submissive is turning over control to someone else, the Dominant. The submissive must be able to trust the Dominant for this to work. Without trust a submissive would do this only out of fear, and that is not healthy mentally or emotionally.
I want to pause here for a moment. I can imagine a Gorean sort of person saying to this, “Yeah, so what?” To be clear, I am not talking about a true Master/slave relationship even though in some D/s relationships those titles get used. A genuine Master/slave relationship is an entirely different dynamic. I may talk about that in a future post, but I am not talking about that now.
Anyway, one of the things any Dominant must do for a healthy relationship with his submissive is to build trust. Trust is built only in part by respecting limits in sex or public situations or BDSM play. That is important, but trust is built in all the other ways the Dominant treats and interacts with the submissive. How the Dominant speaks to the sub, touches her, looks at her, treats her in public, speaks about her to others, listens to her, acknowledges her, makes her feel, and on and on. All these things build the infrastructure of trust upon which other parts of the relationship will be placed. The more struts and supports and buttresses, so to speak, that one can give that trust, the stronger that trust will be and the better the relationship will be.
That may all seem hard. It is and it isn’t. It is hard in that it is something the Dominant should be aware of and cultivating. It is not hard in that the submissive wants to trust. She needs to trust, and sometimes the littlest thing that is barely noticed if at all by the Dominant will be the thing the sub remembers as a moment which proves to her that she can trust her Dom. That is not to say a Dominant can get away with not worrying about building trust. But it does mean if you put forth the effort to build it, it will grow in ways you will not expect. This is part of the beauty and wonder of a healthy D/s relationship.
Your submissive will notice when you, the Dominant, do the things you intend to do for and/or to her. Understand that she will also sometimes notice when something you do helps her in a way that perhaps you did not intend. She will notice when the words you say to her reflect that you listen to her and that she is important to you. She will notice when you use a word that resonates with her even if you did not consciously choose it for that reason. She will notice your idle stroking of her hair or her breasts or her arm or her leg or whatever, and that will comfort her even if you are not consciously thinking about it. These things will also build trust because they will tell the submissive that the Dominant cares.
When the submissive believes and/or feels that she is safe with the Dominant, then she will trust. Again, this is and is not hard. And for the same reasons. The Dominant should be consciously cultivating a sense of safety for the submissive. At the same time, the submissive needs to feel safe in her submission. This is part of her drive to submit. She wants and needs to feel that safety. She needs to give someone that much trust. She needs to submit. So if the Dominant is doing his job, the trust and sense of safety will grow.
That said, the Dominant needs to be able to trust the submissive. The submissive needs to let her Dominant know that he can trust her to be obedient, to communicate with him, to behave herself in a manner that reflects well on him, and to appreciate his efforts to learn about her care for her. Because this is not a true Master/slave relationship, this is a voluntary relationship. Either party can end it. This is something that both Dominant and submissive can do. But a Dominant needs to believe he is not wasting him time.
If, for example, a submissive woman tells a Dominant man, “I want to submit to you and be trained by you,” but constantly she is disobedient and only shows an interest in sexual submission when what the Dominant wants is someone who submits in more ways, then the submissive has violated the trust the Dominant placed in her. This may seem minor to some, but this is important.
The point I am trying to make here is that trust goes both ways. The submissive needs to be able to trust the Dominant, and the Dominant needs to be able to trust the submissive.
When the submissive learns the Dominant likes a certain thing, and learns to do it without being told, this builds trust with the Dominant. And I do not mean sexually, although it can be applied that way. Suppose the submissive sees that the Dominant always gets a beer or a glass of water after work. The Dominant may not ask the her to do anything about that, but if the sub begins to make sure that the beer or the water, or whatever little thing, is prepared for him without him having to tell her, that builds trust. And just as trust is cultivated when Dominant proves that he listens to the submissive, so to trust is cultivated when then submissive proves she listens to the Dominant.
And as the infrastructure of trust is mutually created, Dominant and submissive will be able to build a healthy relationship together.
One of the best, if not the best, tools for building trust is communication. Both Dominant and submissive have to, have to, have to communicate with one another. Humans are not (thank God) telepathic. So no, submissive, the Dominant does not always know what is bothering you, and so yes, submissive, you need to tell him. And no, Dominant, the submissive does not always know what you want her to do, and so yes, you do need to talk to her. Never assume the other person knows everything. There is no place, in my opinion, in a D/s relationship for the “if you don’t know what is wrong I’m not going to tell you” bit. From either the Dominant or the submissive.
I know sometimes that saying certain things can seem difficult. But that is not an excuse. Trust and understanding and learning in a relationship requires communication. If the submissive feels she cannot speak of something because she is afraid of disappointing her Dom, the Dom needs to get the submissive to a place where she feels safe enough to say what she needs to say. If the Dominant feels he should not have to say a thing, he needs to get over that and say what needs to be said. When something is bothering the Dominant or the submissive, the only way it will be addressed is if the Dom and sub talk about it.
Which leads me to one more point I want to make. (I know this is a long post. I am almost done.) Honesty is important to building trust.
Submissives, do not lie to your Dominant. If something bothers you, say so. If a certain thing is a limit for you, then say so. If something makes you uncomfortable and you do not know why, say so. If you hold things back from your Dominant, if you lie deliberately or by omission, you are damaging the trust the relationship needs and very possibly setting yourself up for some real harm. Be honest always. When in doubt, speak up. Trust me on this one, however disappointed you might think your Dominant will be by what you say, he will be far more disappointed if you do not tell him something he needs to know.
Dominants, I know sometimes you may play head-games with your submissive, but do not keep things to yourself that your submissive needs to know. If there is something you want her to do and she is not doing it, do not let annoyance fester into resentment. Talk to your sub. If there is something she keeps doing wrong, do not just punish her for it all the time, find out why she keeps getting it wrong. If you are angry about something at work or some other event not directly related to your relationship with the sub, make sure the sub knows that. Do not assume your submissive always understands your moods. Talk to your sub. Be honest. Your sub wants to help you. Maybe that means leaving you alone for a while. Let her know that and the reasons why. If you constantly cause doubt in your submissive’s mind, it will eventually eat away at her ability to trust you and to serve you. Within herself, your sub has a need to trust you and serve you. Let her.
While there is no scientific study on this, as best as I can determine more stupid things happen in relationships due to a lack of clear and honest communication than for any other reason.
Whew. Hopefully this all makes sense to you, O reader. Whether it does or does not, feel free to ask me questions. I enjoy getting questions.