Commitment, Communcation, Compassion: Some Thoughts on D/s Relationships

Power is at the root of the human experience. Our attitudes and and beliefs — positive or negative — are all extensions of how we define and use power.
Caroline Myss

Like many turns of phrase, the term Dominance/submission is ambiguous at best. All relationships involve power exchange. D/s represents relationships with a twist. They are service driven. They are intentional. They acknowledge the intrinsic elements of power dynamics of an established rapport with another. They develop further exploration of said dynamics usually in the form of ritual. Some “D/s” relationships have been “forced” on us through the years, eg…parents, bosses, etc…and some, we actively seek out and/or at some point in our lives wish to analyze and develop. The main reasons I am drawn to D/s as a Dominant is that I am service driven, curious how relationships work and hold a great desire to see them work better.

A crucial aspect to any relationship, but particularly in D/s is to know yourself, your wants and your needs, and to be able to articulate those wants and needs in a thoughtful manner. It also requires that you understand yourself as a human being in that you err. What I mean by this is to say that only after ample life experience and self-exploration does one get to the point of understanding better one’s self and consequently others. There are many avenues to self-exploration and understanding and not any one of them is the only way. We all have our paths in this life, and ideally when our paths cross we can understand how each of us have gotten there and have the wherewithal to follow through the relationship in a meaningful way. I would also suggest an ability to accept the type of relationship for “what it is” instead of trying to make it something it is not.

I, for example am an amateur astrologer, practice tarot, psychotherapy and neo-pagan Buddhist practices. I also have a master’s degree in French and English Literatures with Gender studies concentration and have practiced extensive physical theater. All of these explorations brought me to where I am right now, but not one of them has given me the only answer for myself and everyone else. What these explorations have assisted me in is understanding myself better and how I move through the world. As far as D/s training goes, I had to come to terms with the fact that I am a dominant person who enjoys and appreciates rigorous self exploration, consequently I attract submissives who also value self exploration and wish to defer to a more experienced person.

What I have determined since I began practicing serious D/s training is that I am a tenacious, yet flexible dominant. I have very specific ways that I like things done, yet I cannot and will not reprimand irresponsibly. One of the main ingredients to a good submissive for me is flexibility and humor. This is not to say that they should be a flake and a smart-ass, but that they can accommodate my ever-changing schedule with a sense of dignity and charm.

Although difficult, if I were to try to break down what makes a healthy D/s relationship work it would look something like this:


• This is perhaps the most vital question in order to move through the rest. Never forget why you were drawn to this person in the first place. Are you still growing together? Questioning is healthy. Energy and enthusiasm can wane in a relationship, but desire to participate in the relationship should always be intact – even if it is simply being questioned. It is perfectly healthy to question many facets of the relationship, but if the desire to be in the relationship is gone, then other facets arise. Be aware.

• Parity: Do you share enough similar interests to satisfy your needs and inspire each other? Are you suited? Ie, I am dominant, you are submissive, you require a dominant, I require a submissive.


• An ability of each participant to articulate their wants and needs.

• An ability of each participant to compromise and negotiate their wants, (needs are less negotiable).

• A commitment to honest speaking. I highly recommend non violent communication techniques.


• Compassion for the other person’s position. Even if you are the dominant it does not mean that the submissive has no right to their feelings and emotions.

• Compassion for yourself when you err, and you will.

Some other criteria:

• Service. I believe this is reciprocal. The Dominant is in service to the relationship as much as the submissive is in service to the Dominant and hence, relationship.

• Flexibility. Each party has an ability and desire to move for the other. The most obvious understatement to this may be that the submissive will probably defer by and large more often than the Dominant. I am quite keen on deferring to the expertise of my submissives and I expect no less from them to me.

• Do not seek intimacy outside the relationship if it is lacking within the relationship. Set aside time to talk and play. If communication is not working and play is not happening, agree to not play with others until it is resolved. Talk it out!

• Remind each other of your desire to continue to be together. This can be done through ritual, play, ceremony, and discussion…. mix it up, and keep it real.

• Give each other enough space to work out individual quirks, but not too much that you no longer have any commonalities.

• Breathe….whether you are breathing for yourself or doing breathing exercises together, this will help keep things calm.

On a final note D/s is really about honesty. To what extent you can be honest with yourself, your beauty, power, and grandeur, with all of its foibles, imperfections and inconsistencies. Honesty is not written in stone. It’s about being able to be honest, and being able to relay that honesty in a thoughtful and thorough manner and subsequently being able to listen to your partner. To sum it all up in the words of a former student at the Cleo Dubois Academy of S/M Arts “find out what your partner wants (and I would say here, needs) and give it to them.”