When we choose to develop a connection, all parties must feed it so that it remains healthy, living, and vital. It cannot be emphasized enough how important that all parties are Giving towards the relationship which is (A) according to their nature (B) mutually satisfying. We also must learn to accept that we each give in our own way, and that this should complement and satisfy the emotional needs of the others within the relationship – else resentment and unhappiness will flourish instead. Giving cooperatively creates relationships that are healthy, balanced, and that grow and matures over time.
All too often I see some rather common mistakes no matter what side of the slash one is on. The first thing is the tendency to forget that People are people, meaning we are all subject to the same “human condition” in as much as we all share a certain drive to be Acknowledged, Understood, Accepted, Valued, and Loved. The second thing is, especially among those new to the scene, thinking that the D/s or M/s dynamic will be their silver bullet or magic wand to obtaining a happy and satisfying relationship and somehow easier.
Those trying to build power exchange relationships often make another set of mistakes: D or M-types expecting immediate compliance and acquiescence, and a focus on Taking what they will freely and without consideration. Meanwhile I’ve seen many s-types who expect to be passive, that being submissive will somehow also absolve them from personal responsibility.
Neither of the above could be further from the truth…
There is a lot of ignorance and expectation around power exchange dynamics. There are folks I respect and admire in the way they conduct their D/s relationships, who understand that anything meant to last must be based on something which mutually Rewarding, Reasonable, and most importantly – Reciprocal.
An Additional Layer
It is at best naive to expect that a Power Exchange relationship is a guaranteed path towards happiness. Or to believe that D/s or M/s won’t be as troublesome and requires less effort than a vanilla relationship. In a nutshell, if you think something in the alternative lifestyle will be less work, you’re lying to yourself.
Power Exchange dynamics are another layer atop your vanilla life. Due to the nature of the dynamic, these relationships require a whole lot more effort because they ADD a whole new level of complexity. There are new demands and new responsibilities, as well as new skills you need to acquire and practice. Because of the roles involved, more planning, communication, and constant tuning and tweaking is required – you always seeking to find a balance between the needs of yourself and your partner(s) both within the relationship and outside it (vanilla life, work, family, friends, etc).
Any relationship, and especially one in the lifestyle, requires Giving in our own way so that both are receiving something of value and fosters contentment.
A mutually giving relationship includes:
- Externalization – Thinking about the relationship terms of raising a child
- Investment – Putting in personal time and attention to foster growth & development
- Entropy – All things break down over time if not actively fed or given into
- Prioritization – We can’t do everything all the time, there is opportunity cost
- Reciprocity – Each giving and receiving in their own way, mutually satisfying
- Vulnerability – Making the Choice to be open despite insecurity, fears, inhibitions, etc
- Communication – none of us are truly mind readers, we must keep the channels of dialog open
- Respect – we all have different needs, satisfactions, and priorities; partners are allies not enemies
Lets take a closer look at each of the above items…
The relationship might be new and shiny at the start, but like any dynamic relationship, it will require care, feeding and nurturing. Perhaps one way to help solve this disconnect is by accepting that a relationship, ANY relationship, involves caring for another individual. Giving the relationship an external existence may help – such as seeing a relationship as like caring for a child… In essence, each participant must be giving of themselves to the growth and welfare of the relationship as a thing both a part of and apart from themselves as individuals.
You MAY get out what you put in, but CANNOT get what you do not put in. No object, no person, no relationship is exempt from the forces of Entropy. All things break down over time without being given the energy required to sustain it, and even more is required to grow it. We must put something of ourselves into the relationship. For any relationship to flourish, it has to have the time, energy, and attention of all involved. We must learn how to take from our resources (time, attention, focus, whatever) and choose to give it to the relationship. We must also learn that how one chooses to give may not be how we ourselves give.
The energy during the initial play & evaluation or “dating” period might be fine, but what then? All too often there is a charge felt that ignites a potential relationship. We know that vanilla couples can wind up idle and eventually stalling, lifestyle couples face the same challenge. For power exchange dynamics this is even more likely because the highs produced in BDSM activities, and the energy needed to maintain roles.
No matter what the working culture likes to pretend, we can’t do everything all the time. Only one thing comes first, all else is number two or less (also known as a forced ranking). This means making choices, sacrificing – for we cannot opt one way unless we are willing to give up the other. There is always an opportunity cost to how we allocate our time and attention.
There is never a sure thing, no guaranteed way towards happiness, fulfillment, joy, etc. But there is a truth that you will get very little if you put nothing into a relationship. We each must give in our own unique ways, in accordance to our personality, talents, skills, and values. D-types often give through providing structure, planning, protection, guidance, and decision-making. S-types often give through providing comfort, pleasure, service, and relief of stress. The expectation to get without giving is at the heart of those that Use others in toxic relationships, which can occur no matter what side of the slash you’re on. Constantly demanding more time, more effort, more support, more encouragement, will drain the other unless you are giving something to return to them.
In order for the power exchange dynamic to work, all sides need to embrace their own vulnerability and overcome personal fears. I have touched on the topic of Vulnerability before, but in this instance I am referring to each individual in a relationship (including those in polyamorous relationships) making the active Choice to be open, despite their insecurity, fears, inhibitions, etc. For example, a Dominant may need to let go of the ego or insecurities and (gods forbid) be an imperfect human being with faults and needs. A submissive meanwhile may need to find courage, confidence, and see themselves as being capable in deed and worthy of actual and healthy love. It requires personal bravery and giving ourselves a chance to be open and honest while honoring respect.
None of us are truly mind readers, but sometimes it seems like we can be. We may develop skills that are good at picking up signs, but there is still much assumption here. Everything we Are & Do assumes experiencing the world through our own personal perspectives & understanding. To attempt to understand one another we must keep channels of dialog open. Communication is NOT just expressing yourself. Rather it requires the ability to actively listen and engage in a way that (a) preserves connection, (b) clarifies needs or misunderstandings, (c) retains compassion by never forgets everyone is struggling in some way. Listening actively is giving, as is choosing your words wisely.
I have learned that one of the most important things we can do is to promote a value of “Starting and Ending with Respect”. This means respecting the Individual you are partnered with by remembering this is your partner, not an enemy. Usually such leaps of logic come from fundamental misunderstandings, which we need to release and find clarity.
As such, we must acknowledge that our individual desires, needs, and limits are different and will very likely change in significant ways over time. We also need to be mindful that we don’t try to manage the other person’s feelings for them – they are responsible for their emotions & actions. Instead respect the others competency to manage themselves and exert self-control; and if they cannot self-manage, or respect your needs for reasonable behavior, find a different partner.
It is at best naive to expect that anything can continue with a one way exchange dynamic. If you keep taking from anything, including emotional resources, you will ultimately deplete the reserve. Nothing and no one is limitless and infinite. Yet many see their relationships in this very fashion, no matter their role or power dynamic or which side of the slash one is on. Each of us needs to feed the relationship, giving to the exchange in our own ways, so that there is a sense of balance.
Copyright Limits Unleashed 2017