Effective communication is one of the foundations of a Dominant submissive relationship. Actually, effective communication is one of the foundations of any healthy relationship, but it is even more important that you communicate well within a power exchange dynamic. Why? Because you are meeting the needs of the other person, and unless either of you are mind readers, you are going to have to talk about it. There are lots of other reasons why effective communication enhances a relationship and why it is the glue that holds the whole thing together, and some of those will be covered in this post.
Starting out in a D/s Dynamic
Communication is the key in helping to build and maintain a D/s dynamic. The foundations of a D/s relationship are love, trust, respect, honesty and open communication, but communication is the cement for those foundations. If you stop communicating effectively, or openly, the other elements seem to be affected. In addition, if something challenges one of the other foundations, it is only through truly open communication that you can really resolve it. Of course, effective communication is not just about talking, it is about listening too.
When you first agree to a D/s dynamic, there will be a lot of talking and listening. It is vital that you have a good understanding of where each of you is in terms of your own needs. If you are in a new relationship this will involve getting to know each other, as well as sharing information on previous experience so that you have a clear picture of limits, boundaries and things which could be positive or negative triggers. If you are in an existing relationship then much of this will be known already. It can feel like there isn’t the same need to share but it is important to get all the things you might not have felt important in the past out into the open, almost like having a clean slate.
In a power exchange dynamic, the trust between you will be required from the start. but it will grow significantly as you show your vulnerabilities by being open with your partner. Taking risks, not just in terms of play but in terms of being honest with yourself and with each other is what helps to get things off to a good start. There are always things that we choose not to share, but in D/s that is pretty much thrown our the window. The heightened level of trust required a heightened level of honesty so it isn’t just about answering when asked something, but about sharing voluntarily what is on your mind. Initially this sort of spotlight on your thoughts can feel uncomfortable but in time it will lead to an elevated level of intimacy between you.
What does communication look like in a D/s dynamic?
Well really, that will depend on you. No two people are the same and so it follows that no two relationships are the same. And who is to say that there are only two in your relationship anyway? So what you choose to do and how you choose to do it will be determined by your own personalities, your own requirements, and your own lifestyle. That said, there are things that it might be worth considering when thinking about effective communication.
One of the differences between a D/s relationship and a vanilla one, is the exchange of power. A lot of the structure of D/s, when it becomes a lifestyle, rather than a bedroom or play dynamic, is about keeping each party in their respective Dominant or submissive mindset. This is often achieved through the following of rules and rituals which become part of your set routine. Providing this sort of structure around yourselves allows you to remain in a mindset where the exchange of power is key. Communicating around these rules and rituals will play a big part in maintaining the right mindset or headspace.
Essentially, you feel submissive or you feel Dominant, because your actions require it and your behaviour demonstrates it. It becomes circular, working in a constant pattern of give and take where one action feeds the thoughts of feelings of the next. This is how a power exchange dynamic works, and so your communication has to become part of that. It has to be about reinforcing the foundations of your relationship and creating those Dominant and submissive actions and responses. It is not just what you say but the way that you say it, how you behave and what you choose to do. All behaviour is communication: as people we communicate things all the time without actually using words and although we think of talking, in reality only about 7% of our communication is verbal with the other 93% being non-verbal (body language and tone of voice).
Fitting structured talk time into your dynamic
For many couples practicing a D/s lifestyle, they will benefit from some sort of structured communication or talk time in order to support their dynamic. This can be especially the case where there is a busy family life and/or work demands to fit in around you. Not everyone will need this and so I don’t mean to be prescriptive and hail this as the only way, but having a structured talk time works for many couples. As one of those couples, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the benefits to us.
Having a structured time for talking means that I take time to think about what I am going to say. This was a change as previously I would have spoken my mind at the time, rather than waiting and being more considered. I often used language which was emotionally loaded as this reflected my mood at the time. When I took the time to think about it, I reshaped what I wanted to say in a way which was more rational and less of an emotional response to whatever it was. Taking time to consider my language, as well as my tone of voice, plays a positive part in demonstrating the respect that I want to show HL.
It also means that his response to me is more respectful. Previously he also reacted, either by becoming defensive or, more often, he felt attacked and criticised and tried to let it bounce off him while I calmed down. I felt that he was ignoring what I said and not realising how important it was to me. I felt that he didn’t care and so it become a vicious circle where we both drifted further from each other. Having a structured time to talk prevents this because I approach things from a different point and so does he. I have his undivided attention and he is able to listen to me meaning that we work through whatever it is together.
Prior to this he complained of feeling one step behind me as I would move so quickly from one idea to the next, that he sometimes just switched off. Filtering what I want to tell him, from a stream of consciousness to what is important, has been much better for him. Suddenly he was engaged and offering an opinion and I no longer felt like the constant nag that I had begun to become. Discussing these things in a respectful and constructive way means that he can make a decision which meets both of our needs. He is an essential and integral part of what we we do, and my contribution to the planning and thought surrounding it is valued. In short, this effective communication reinforces our power exchange.
Keeping yourselves as the focus
As a minimum we will have structured talk time one of the mornings at the weekend (usually a Saturday) and also once during the week – usually on a Wednesday before our midweek scene. During this time we talk about things like what is working well, what isn’t working so well, things that we would like to do and sometimes we also talk about where we want to see our relationship go. It is sort of a dealing with issues session and also a chance to reflect back on where we have come from and to look forward to where we want to go. Clearly we don’t do all of this all every time we talk but we will combine these elements, depending on what is most relevant and significant at the time.
While I make offers and suggestions, the final decision always lies with HL. At the end of the discussion, he will conclude what decisions have been made. Making the decisions does not mean that he has full responsibility for everything as he once feared he would. He will give me instructions or tasks which will include me being responsible for arranging or organising certain things. It allows us to be much more focussed, not just on our D/s, but on each other too. It can be so easy to let other life events get in the way but when we are communicating effectively like this it means that we are approaching things together, rather than as individuals. This has led to us working much better together as we are both much clearer about the outcomes, decisions and responsibilities than we would be otherwise.
Talking at other times
We will use these structured times to reflect, evaluate and plan, but either of us can and will also ask for this type of discussion as and when the need arises. As with anything, it will not fit neatly into an exact package all the time as life is not always predictable, nor would we want it to be. Although effective, open communication is essential to the success of any relationship, how you achieve that will be a personal thing. I am not suggesting our way should be your way, I am merely offering food for thought and an insight into how we have made it work for us. We have found that communicating in a much more structured and open way has helped to keep us on track, especially at the early stage, and it has been vital to us in building the trust that allows us to enjoy the intimacy and intensity that we want to have.
Of course, effective communication is not just about talking during structured times. HL has written a post about getting your Dom to listen which deals with how to make sure that you are heard at other times. Unfortunately no number of rules and rituals will mean that your relationship fits into such neat little boxes so there is always a need to be flexible and responsive. Thinking about how you listen will also be key and this is something that we have got better at by being consciously aware. At the end of the day, how you make you communication effective will be down to what works for you, but making sure it is in place will be important to the success of your dynamic.
Image by Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay