Limits and Boundaries

Limits and Boundaries

In relationships, knowing your partner’s limits and boundaries is essential. If you don’t know what they are then you can’t observe them. Neither can you push them. In a D/s relationship this is even more important. Observing limits and boundaries is part of building trust in the other person. So is communicating around your own limits and boundaries so that they can be pushed. We all hold back at times and in D/s we use communication to know when to push and when to hold back. This allows for safety as well as growth and means that the individuals within the relationship can flourish.

What are Limits?

We tend to divide limits into those which are hard and must be observed at all times and those which are soft, and might be something which would be dependent on circumstances and situational factors. Both types of limits have boundaries but you have to approach them differently. Often people who are going to play with someone else will complete a Limits List, which is a list of the things that you would or would not want to do. Many of the lists you can find online ask you to rate each kink or activity and from this, you are able to see where the hard and soft limits lie.

Hard Limits

Hard limits are the things that you will not ever do. These are not up for discussion. While you may want to explain your reasons because you feel for your partner to have an understanding will help, you should never be put under any pressure to justify your hard limits and why you have them. Usually people will have a safeword system. This means that if something is a hard limit for you, you can communicate this using your safeword and play will stop. Often safewords are also used because a pain threshold (either physical or emotional) is nearing or has been reached.

While is it likely that you will have discussed pain and tolerance levels, it is hard to gauge in a comparative way. Thresholds for some activities are difficult to pinpoint and so often people will choose to play right up to their limits. This can be the case particularly with pain play when the endorphins produced can create a natural high known as subspace. Although partners in long-term relationships will often be able to read the signs of approaching a limit, this won’t always be the case which is why having a safeword for this sort of play is always recommended.

Soft Limits

Soft limits are often the things that you might do, but only up to a certain point, or only in a certain set of circumstances. This is where regular discussion and check ins are vital. If you are engaging in a type of play or kink which is one of your soft limits then you need to be talking about it. You need to make sure that you have provided a full explanation and understanding of what it is which would be ok and what it is which would be too far. This can be really tricky and it is often difficult to do at the time so make sure that you are careful.

From experience, I would say that soft limits change all of the time. Sometimes they can change because of your own mood or external factors. If you are in a long term relationship then this will probably be easier because you know each other well, but for this who don’t you need to remember to share the way that you are feeling, even if this changes plans which have been made. It is better to be cautious and safe than to be hurt on an emotional level because you ended up doing something that you didn’t want to do.

This will be upsetting for both parties as D/s is based on trust that the power is exchanged from one to the other. You have a duty to use a safeword if play is not working out for you, as much as the other partner has a duty to keep you safe by observing it. Safewords can be used by both the D or or the s if this is the case. Often couples will have a safeword which indicates that they need things to slow down or stop as a limit is being approached and this can be a good way of managing things.


Boundaries really are the areas where the limits sit. You can have a boundary at the start of this are, or a boundary at its edge. This can make things challenging and it is why the communication is so important. People can find it exciting to push past the boundaries they have set. It can be exhilarating and consuming which is why so many people enjoy it. The boundaries around soft limits are quite a grey area so you may play in that grey area for a while. Sometimes it isn’t about moving in a forward direction, but also about adding breadth and depth.

Adding breadth and depth is a good way of pushing the boundaries that have been set and can allows for a slow and gentle approach to change. It can allow you to try different things and find out what works and what doesn’t. It feels like a more controlled and more managed way of pushing things forward, but often that is where this sort of approach will lead. It also has the advantage of discussion after each point so that can be really fruitful in terms of where to go next.

Limits and Boundaries

This is a more personal piece I have written about limits and boundaries on my own site

6 thoughts on “Limits and Boundaries

  1. This is such a great resource and will be useful to so many! I wish I’d found this what feels like a million years ago!
    Very good explanation of how limits and boundaries work ☺☺

    1. Thank you Mrs K. The idea on the blog here is to build a resource like this for people starting out so I am glad that you think it would have helped. And if you ever have any topics which you feel you would be willing to write about, we would love to have your insight and tips ?

  2. Thank you Missy,

    Our play last night failed because my Dom had reached her limit but got upset and walked out rather than using her safe word. I Also allowed her to keep going with the play even though i suspected she was getting tired. (My body was not responding as she expected it to)

    Our conversation afterwards was very much a discussion around better communication including both of us checking in when we suspected it was not going well.

    Your article reinforced to us what we did in aftercare was correct.

    1. Hi. Thank you so much for commenting and I am glad that the post was helpful. I think there is often a lot written about a sub and their limits but less so about a Dom’s. From our experience it hit HL really hard when he had planned well and then my body didn’t respond as it might have. We learnt that this was often to do with my mind and the way I was thinking, and knowing that he had to engage my mind first helped a bit. These days he will stop and take a pause to talk. He is then able to change direction to something which he thinks will work better having listened to me, but it has taken time and confidence for him to get to this point. I think there is less said about the emotions for a Dom afterwards. Now only do they have to have that intense focus during a scene which takes a lot of effort but they are often also doing things which feel counter-intuitive (like inflicting pain on someone they love) so the psychological side can be a big thing to overcome too. I am glad that you were able to talk and sort things out. We try to see the times it doesn’t go according to plan as opportunities to learn more about each other and out changing needs. It is hard when it happens but I think it is usual and although we have been at this a while, it still happens to us too. missy ?

  3. I trully love limitless sex. I like to do whatever I want with my partner while in bed – no boundaries. Call me old-fashioned but I don’t like to know what he likes before we do everything in the bedroom. From my experience, there are not many things a person would not like in bedroom. Once you find the right person, you may find that with the person you’re now you find quite erotic some things that with the other person you used to find them somewhat unappealing and avoidable.

    In my opinion, limits are a bad idea in sex – except for things that can physically harm you, of course.
    I like your article, keep up the good work! 🙂

    1. Thank you Jordi. I understand what you mean about there not being things that you wouldn’t do but most people have things that they are less comfortable about and might need more support around. Talking can also mean that things are easier for your partner as they are confident that you are ok with something. I know that in some M/s relationships limits tend not to be there in an overt way the same, but usually they have been previously discussed. It sounds like you have a lot of trust with your partner and the right sort of balance for you which is great ?

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