What does dominant and submissive mean in a relationship? What are the benefits, roles, and rules of a D/S relationship?
When it comes to defining and understanding BDSM, people (especially those in vanilla relationships) generally link it with Fifty Shades of Grey and Christian Grey’s kinky equipment like handcuffs, chains, ropes – you name it.
Their fictitious BDSM relationship revolves around power dynamic, power play, and bondage and discipline. Christian Grey is evidently a male dominatrix (the dominant partner), whereas Anastasia Steele plays a submissive role.
Now, when we shift to reality, the first question that probably comes to mind is: Does that kind of relationship really exist? How does it work? And those questions aren’t that hard to answer. First of all, it does exist and, just like in the movie, it’s about one partner who dominates the other because of the power they have in the relationship.
When you look around, you can notice that in every relationship, there’s one partner who is more submissive and the other who is more dominant. Even though women are mostly represented as those who fall for dominant, strong, and powerful men who are just waiting for a fragile and gentle woman to come their way, the roles can be reversed as well.
As a matter of fact, nowadays, there are lots of men who are dying for the touch of a hot dominatrix and this has become their biggest sexual fantasy. Now that we covered the basics, we can proceed to explaining it in detail.
Also, if you continue reading, you will find types of Dom Sub relationships, traits and roles of the dominant and submissive, and, of course, top rules to follow (with some examples). So, stay tuned!
See also: 10 Steps To Becoming A Submissive Wife
What is a dominant-submissive relationship?
BDSM stands for and includes Bondage and Discipline (BD), Dominance and Submission (DS), and Sadism and Masochism / Sadomasochism (SM). In the simplest words, a dominant-submissive relationship, aka dom/sub relationship or simply a d/s relationship, is basically a relationship where one partner is dominant (a sadist) and the other one submits to his/her partner (a masochist).
Both dominant and submissive partners have their own roles.
The truth is that this type of relationship isn’t only about sex, even though most people may think it is. Actually, the dominant-submissive relationship can be seen in all aspects of life.
The dominant partner protects, leads, and guides the submissive, while the submissive is a fragile servant who’s there to please their master. It does sound bizarre to most of us, but in actuality, relationships really do work this way; maybe even better than standard ones.
In this type of relationship, there are strict rules that the submissive must follow. They are not usually extreme, but they have to be respected in order for the relationship to work.
It doesn’t have to be a contract, like in the movie we were talking about before, but rather an open conversation about what each partner wants in the relationship and what the submissive is willing to do for their dominant partner.
In most scenarios, the limits of the submissive side of the relationship aren’t crossed. But for that to be true, the dominant one has to know exactly where those limits lie. Gathering information in average relationships is very important, but here it’s crucial.
The best way to gather information about your submissive partner is honest communication, by asking questions and never disrespecting their limits.
One important thing to say is that the roles in a dominant-submissive relationship aren’t absolute. They can be changed. For example, if a woman is the sub, she can give her partner a massage and please him in ways he commands, but the next day, they exchange roles and he has to do whatever she asks him to do that’s within his limits.
This relationship style is actually a lifestyle people take very seriously. These couples live a completely normal life that merely involves two people living for the pleasure of each other which means that their relationships aren’t really much different from the rest of us.
If you were wondering: yes, these relationships really do work! Not every dominant-submissive relationship is the same as the next, but at the end of the day, they are all very dynamic and open-minded. These people can work very well together if they want the same things and share the same interest in BDSM.
Types Of Dom Sub Relationships
The biggest misconception about BDSM relationships is physical contact. While a d/s relationship can be physical, this is not a prerequisite. Domination and submission, role play, and the like can be conducted digitally or over the phone as well.
Also, people in a d/s relationship can be romantically involved with one another (or not). They can be in a monogamous, polyamorous, or open relationship, and of any gender and sexuality.
Another type of BDSM relationship is TPE (Total Power Exchange), aka a master/slave relationship. This means that partners in this kind of relationship take on their roles full-time. Their entire relationship is built on the principle of dominant-submissive and they are constantly fulfilling their roles in everyday life.
And there are also those who only practice their roles during play scenes. Again, sex is not a prerequisite in BDSM relationships in order to be called so. A d/s dynamic doesn’t have to be limited to sexual activities only. It is more a matter of choice and personal preferences.
Also, a d/s relationship – on the contrary to SM – is more about power than physical sensation. Being in such a relationship brings power dynamic to another level and that is why many partners prefer it.
Sex life is also based on power, and the fact that one partner is more dominant than the other brings equilibrium to sex life and relationship overalll. So, we could say that choosing this kind of relationship is more like choosing a lifestyle.
The Benefits Of D/S Relationships
Believe it or not, practicing kinky sex and being in a dom/sub relationship in general has many advantages when it comes to overall health and well-being. Dr. Sandra LaMorgese (sexpert; professional dominatrix; fetishist; and holistic practitioner in mind, body, and spiritual holism) claims that BDSM can help couples create a stronger bond and feel at ease.
She explains in the following words: “During BDSM sessions, clients often experience a release of dopamine and serotonin, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. These two chemicals are associated with feelings of happiness, tranquility, joy, self-confidence, emotional well-being, and motivation. In addition, the release of the chemical vasopressin compels people toward feeling bonded to one another.“
So, if you’re still having doubts whether you should try the charms of d/s relationship, here are some of its benefits that may help you decide:
- Improves communication
- Increases intimacy
- Encourages fidelity
- Improves mental health
- Reduces psychological stress
- Reduces anxiety
Physical contact between BDSM couples helps them express their sexuality and be present in the interaction instead of just following the same pattern (as is the case in vanilla relationships).
And this is what helps improve their mental health. People who practice BDSM are basically more open and more secure in relationships because this type of relationship requires trust and willingness to comply.
Apart from mental healing, there is also physical healing linked to the power of touch. Dr. Sandra LaMorgese explains physical healing: “The skin is the largest organ of the body, with millions of receptors right under the surface; receptors that, when stimulated by human touch, can lower our cortisol levels. When someone touches our skin, through massaging, playing, hugging, hand-holding, or having physical sex, we begin to experience physiological and physical healing.”
So, besides pleasure, BDSM can benefit both our mental and physical health, which is quite amazing. Now that we know the definition of a dominant-submissive relationship and its types and benefits, it’s finally time to proceed with traits and roles of the dominant and submissive and, of course, the rules of such a relationship with some examples.
Traits and roles of the dominant
In order for you to better understand how all of this works, let me tell you some traits and roles of the dominant one in this type of relationship. Male doms are not easily spotted, because as I said before, many men love to be adored and worshipped in this way – some just love it a tiny bit more.
- Takes control over everything
- Expects to be pleased
- Is responsible
- Prioritizes their own desires
- Demands obedience
Traits and roles of the submissive
While the dom is all about being in control, the sub enjoys being controlled and loves to please their partner in every way possible. This doesn’t just include in the bedroom, but in fact every aspect of life in which they can fulfill the needs of their dominant.
The important thing to realize is that the submissive isn’t forced to do anything they don’t want to do. They are not a slave; their desire is simply to please their partner. The traits and roles of the submissive include:
- Prepared to please their partner’s wants and needs
- Accepts being controlled
- Puts the needs of their partner above everything else
- Shows a desire to please the dominant
10 rules in a dominant-submissive relationship
As mentioned previously, this is a specific type of relationship in which rules have to be established for everything to work properly and so that every side of the relationship gets what they need in order to be happy.
Just to be clear, there are no set rules across the board, because these rules are created by the principles of both sides of the relationship, so that both know what to comply with, what to avoid, and how to enforce the rules.
If you want to engage in this type of relationship without having had any previous experience, then be careful and open-minded to all the rules that are about to come about in order to get the most out of it.
As mentioned before, keeping an open mind really is crucial in this type of relationship. In every relationship, you have to be open-minded about the values and perspectives of your partner, but more so in this particular one. Why?
Well, because, in dominant-submissive relationships, even though the doms are the ones who executes the commands, it doesn’t mean that they can’t learn something from the subs. It all depends on the experience you both have, as well as the willingness to learn from each other and work together. This is a dual effort and you have to work together to make it pleasant.
Also, you need to be open-minded to try out new things that you might not have liked or considered before. Maybe this time and the way he does it is actually different? Who knows? Give it a try and see what happens, as long as it’s not going to hurt you too much (unless you want it to).
I know that it sounds weird, but even though your submissive partner loves to be dominated, it doesn’t mean that they don’t see your human side. Your partner wants to fall in love with your human side, too; the one who knows how to have mercy and the one who is willing to bend the rules and give lighter punishments.
Empathy is the keyword when it comes to creating a successful BDSM relationship. For example, if your partner doesn’t agree with something, you as the dominant one shouldn’t force them to do something they’re not comfortable with. Remember that this is not a part of your role. You should always be ready to show empathy when your partner expects it – this shouldn’t be negotiable.
The only way to be trusted is to show trustworthiness first. You have to show your partner that you can be trusted to respect the rules and not cross the line. Even though it’s expected from the sub to play the part of a servant, it’s also expected from the dom to act as a worthy leader.
No woman in this day and age will go on her knees for someone who doesn’t deserve it! That’s why it’s very important to build trust between the two of you. You have to trust your partner that he won’t strike you too hard when he’s punishing you and that he won’t go all out when it comes to flogging you.
Imagine if a grown man would hit you as hard as he could, just because you trusted him and you let him do it? Well, it’s not a dominant-submissive relationship anymore, but an abusive one.
4. Lower expectations
You can’t expect your partner to fulfill all your crazy fantasies. You have to lower your expectations to match the willingness of your partner. In any other way, the relationship simply won’t work.
For example, if you are a dominant, don’t expect your partner to get undressed every time you come home from work or to always call you Master. Just imagine if you came home from work with a friend and your wife was sitting on the floor in front of the door completely naked. It shouldn’t be about embarrassing your partner! And also, if she doesn’t want to call you Master at a certain moment, then you probably haven’t deserved the title at all.
Also, if you’re a submissive, don’t expect your partner to praise you every time you do a good job; know that he can do things on his own, which means that he won’t always need you to do things for him. I know that you are there to please him, but remember that you’re not there to do everything for him. You are his partner, not a slave.
5. Honest communication
Communication is key in this type of relationship, as in every other. You have to gather information about each other in order to actually see if you’re compatible for a d/s relationship. You have to talk about health, boundaries, sex needs, and your previous experience in this type of relationship.
Women especially want to have their minds read, but it’s not that easy. Unless you verbalize what you want and don’t want, it remains in your head.
For example, if you’re the dominant one and you want to push the limits a bit, then you have to sit down with your partner and talk everything through in detail so you know if it’s appropriate or not. If you refuse to talk about your wants and needs, then the relationship is doomed to fail without a doubt.
You want this relationship experience to be a positive one, don’t you? If yes, invest in your communication and show your partner that they can be heard at any given time, because you will dedicate the time and energy needed to meet their needs.
6. Use a safe word
When you’ve decided that you want to start this type of relationship, make sure to establish a safe word. Because of the fact that BDSM can get a bit dangerous in-between the sheets, make sure to have a safe word that your sub will say so you know that they need to stop.
Don’t use any word that you would usually use in a sexual scenario. Use a word that’s unusual and that lets the dominant know that everything is not OK.
You can also establish words that show you’re either OK or that they need to stop right away or you’ll get seriously hurt. Many people use the green/yellow/red system here. Green means “go ahead,” yellow is “proceed but with caution,” and red is a simple and clear “STOP!” The dominant partner has to obey the safe word in order for the relationship to proceed in a healthy manner.
The dominant-submissive relationship requires both partners to be mentally and physically healthy. This involves good sleeping habits, a minimal intake of alcohol, a nutritious diet, and a stress-free lifestyle.
If your sub isn’t able to meet your needs because of health problems, then don’t force yourself on them. Rather, invest in their well-being and let them take as much time as needed in order to regain their strength, then you can continue your relationship as before.
You have to respect each other’s comfort zones and if you do experiment, don’t do it without the consent of the other. There are more important things in life than sex, so if you see that your partner simply can’t continue to please you, then stop. It’s not worth it.
Why are you doing all of this? To enjoy yourself, right? You both do it in order to have some fun and to enjoy your relationship on a whole new level. That’s why you have to respect each other, because otherwise you won’t get what you are searching for.
Remember that it’s not about punishing someone or doing everything that’s needed in order to please someone just because it’s easier that way. Look for the joyful part in it and don’t forget why you started all of this in the first place: to get the most out of your relationship.
Don’t push each other’s limits just so you can punish them for doing something you aren’t a fan of. Look at their face and see if they’re enjoying it. If not, stop.
You don’t have to run around commanding your partner every step of the way. Start it as with every other standard relationship. Understand each other, communicate, and be gentle. Don’t rush anything. Have patience and your partner will thank you afterwards.
In order to create a comfortable atmosphere for the submissive to relax more, the dominant has to be gentle and caring. I know that it’s not in your nature if you’re the dominant one, but your relationship will last longer if you put in that extra effort and really do have patience with your partner.
All of your fantasies can’t come true at the same time. Have patience as the dominant or the submissive. Don’t just rush your partner into doing things right away, but have faith that they will loosen up with time. It’s very important to not forget that you are both human beings who have to take their time in order to get the most out of their position.
10. Follow the rules
If you have established rules at the beginning of the relationship, then be sure to fulfill them. Don’t pipe up to your dom out of nowhere, telling him that you didn’t want to do something. If you have established certain rules, be sure to stick to them.
This is how you build trust in your relationship and it’s how you know that you are both getting something out of it. You’re not being taken advantage of and your partner respects all the rules. That why you should, too.
Follow all the rules that you have agreed on and if you really want to change something you’ve already talked about, then make sure to let your partner know beforehand instead of telling him right before or in the middle of sex.
Examples of submissive rules to follow
Because you might be a beginner in the world of a dominant-submissive relationship, I am going to give you some examples and ideas for submissive rules to follow. It’s nothing too much, simply some inspiration and insight into this type of relationship.
Spanking doesn’t always have to be a punishment. Sometimes it’s used to let the submissive know that their work is being acknowledged. But spanking should be as hard as you two agree on. Here, it’s really important to use your safe word if needed.
2. You will not wear panties around the house
A simple and effective rule. The dominant knows that he’s in power, while the submissive isn’t harmed by it.
3. You shall provide sex upon command
To let the dominant really feel his power, rules like these are needed. The submissive partner has to please their dominant at any given time of the day.
4. Ask for permission before you cum
No explanation needed.
5. Remember who you belong to
The submissive shouldn’t have any other sexual partner while they’re in this type of relationship. By being monogamous, it lets the dominant know that they are in full control and that there’s nothing they need to fight for. The sub has to know to whom they belong so that the dom never takes their loyalty into question.
6. Make Master proud
Again, the submissive doesn’t have to call the dominant Master unless they deserve it. But making their master proud actually has a deeper meaning. It’s not just about the pleasing of their physical needs, but also about making them proud of you in every aspect of your life. This will improve both your physical and mental health because you will feel sensations of accomplishment, trust, and the ultimate bond.
7. I speak, you obey
Whatever the dominant says he wants, he gets. But, you shouldn’t really be strict when it comes to this one. It is okay not to obey something you really don’t feel comfortable with.
And that is why it is good to inform your partner about some things that you’re not okay with so that they don’t insist on it during the action. It’s all about agreement and your performance in accordance with it.
I know that most of these things might sound confusing and perhaps even scary, but believe me, they can be very romantic and pleasant for both sides of the relationship. Don’t get scared off by BDSM porn, because it is too brutal and unrealistic.
A true dominant-submissive relationship is respect and care, and every woman wants that in her relationship. The only difference here is that there are strict rules established that you have to follow in order to keep both parties happy and satisfied (just like in 50 Shades Of Grey).
When you do it for the first time, it will probably be different than you expected, but with time it will get better and better. So, if you give it a try, you may just fall in love with this type of lifestyle.
Maybe you are the dominant one and you will find your submissive whom you will make happy and who will do anything to please your every need. These relationships can be better than the majority of vanilla relationships people think of as normal and functioning.
So don’t worry! Even if you merely want to explore a bit, just make sure to let your partner know that when you’re establishing the rules of the relationship.