Communicating Needs, Wants, and Limits

with No Comments

A little perspective is everything. This post talks about something which we essentially know, but seem to regularly forget – no one is really a mind reader.  We work of assumptions about ourselves and others, but its only through clear communication that we can hope to actually understand the other, and very often better understand ourselves.  This post looks at how we come to understand one another’s Needs, Wants, and Limits.

Many of the ideas explored below are applicable across much variety of relationship dynamics, sexual orientation and gender identification, there will be differences which you need to judge best for yourself and your lifestyle.  I am writing from a perspective as an alternative lifestyle coach, a kink consultant to counseling professionals, and my own personal experience.

A New Relationship

Let us assume that we have a potential Dominant/submissive (D/s) – call them “Joe” and “Sue”.  Let us assume they are in agreement in their core beliefs and values so there is little, if any, discord in their moral framework or principles.  Both are experiencing a huge surge of Hunger or Want, and are looking forward to diving headlong into a relationship and explore with abandon, but realize they don’t want to fall into the frenzy trap.

couple together
Not really Joe and Sue, in case you were wondering

Okay guys, now let me ask you this…   are you both in touch with your needs, your drivers, fears and inhibitions??

(they look to each other, then to me, blankly)

As my clients, I have worked with Joe and Sue to discover their needs and wishes – and that is usually the easier part especially for enthusiastic couples.  However, being able to clearly and comfortably state ones limits, fears, and inhibitions is a very different matter.  Even more so, being able to provide some clue as to WHY they have the desires or limits they have seems very challenging.

Knowing why IS important, even if not always easy to understand or get to. Without knowing the why, we are still subject to the swings of emotions without being mindful of their nature, motive, and a way to best recognize them then they arise.  Feeling is one thing, but how else can one make the best choices in life if not progressing to the why and wherefore of emotions which situations illicit?

The power of knowing why goes beyond yourself, but extends to your partner.  No matter your role in a relationship, no one is a mind reader.  Yes, someone skilled might be able to intuit your mood, read micro-expressions and body language, remember subtle details, and SEEM like they can mind read.  Yes, some people might know another more so than anyone else before and SEEM like they can mind read.  BUT here’s the thing – humans are constantly changing, constantly shifting, and no one knows you exactly at that moment, at that time, at that instance.   It is unreasonable to expect otherwise.

Probing Within

Even if you have no practical experience in a BDSM relationship, I recommend getting clear on what attracted you to the concept of such a dynamic in the first place.  This is especially important when contemplating a D/s or M/s relationship, where the structures are typically far more demanding and roles more clearly defined.   Ask yourself what was it that attracted you?  Where does the mind wander in its fantasizing?  Is there a pattern to thoughts, such as between what attracts you, what you fear, and what you need?

Asking yourself difficult questions like these can be emotionally challenging, making one feel anxious or uncomfortable.  However, those are signs that you may not feel confident of the answers – there is uncertainty and that requires some time and attention in order to get addressed.  It would be ideal if both parties on either side of the slash (be they Dominant or submissive) could remember a few things:

  • if you don’t know what you want, you can’t expect the other person to remotely guess
  • as adults, we need to face our insecurities and ask hard questions of ourselves in order to grow
  • as responsible partners, we may need to ask hard questions of the other to better know them
  • people change; what you knew yesterday will be different; you can’t assume

If I am training a new submissive, I will ask questions about what seems interesting to them or what they feel hesitant about. Then I keep that list, prioritize them in order of “challenge” and start working my way down from easiest to more difficult. Before tackling each one, I discuss it in terms of a purposefully designed scene to experience “X”, what to expect, what challenges might come up… and keep communication flowing.

My goal is to both explore and bond while seeing how the real world reacts with the model in both my mind and the sub’s mind.  I cannot know the idealistic or romanticized model completely, but I can move us forward at a conservative pace, constantly monitor and adjust accordingly.  Yes, it sounds like hard work..  and make no mistake, it IS.

Practice Communicating

I have often found a tendency for submissives to be very hesitant in communicating.  At times that is due to a fear of disappointing someone, as the common nature of being a “pleaser submissives”.  Sometimes its holding back for fear of retribution, especially if there was a past of physical or emotional abuse.  Other times it’s the result of being told their thoughts or feelings don’t matter, are “wrong”, or are otherwise trivialized or diminished – to the point of just remaining silent.  There are many reasons – but one of the most common ones is that it’s a matter of poor practice, of feeling so very different and being misunderstood the sub has built a habit of remaining quiet and very “internal”.

psychics eye
I can read all your thoughts… not!


When faced with such a situation, a Dominant must try to find the mode or method that works for their relationship.  Example, if you have someone unable to speak comfortably face to face, try the phone, or email, perhaps txts.  What works for one does not always work for the other – and that can cause great frustration.  The reality is BOTH parties need to have a comfortable mode of communication that works within the relationship.  Therefore, what matters most is whether or not it works for both.

Without communication there are too many chances for error, huge mistakes, and potential harm due to misinformation and assumptions.  Once this happens, you have clearly left the SSC or RACK principles of BDSM behind.  No one can consent without communicating, one cannot acknowledge mutual responsibility or risk without communicating.  You are in a Dangerous Space.

So what can we do?   Very simply, keep trying, and remember these key points:

  • no one is a mind reader, you HAVE to make the effort to communicate, all the time
  • everyone communicates differently, you may have to try various ways of reaching the other
  • focus on only what you can absolutely know – what you experience, what you feel, and what you may need
  • pay attention to your instincts and intuition, try to put them into simple words
  • sometimes making a suggestion helps fill in the blanks when there is all unknowns, but be patient if the other is still unsure


Each of us are individuals which grow and learn how to communicate at our own pace, regardless of where the other may be in their development.  This is true even in established relationships, where a relationship may change over time due to diverging needs or personal evolution.  When trying to communicate, timing can be everything – and so to overcome these obstacles, it will take all involved to be active and engaged individuals, with patience and tenacity, to make it work.


-Sir Vice
Copyright 2015 Limits Unleashed