I’m working through this week’s Bible study (bear with me for this one paragraph, this really is about power exchange relationships), and learning about how one of the core purposes of prayer is to provide us with an opportunity to ask God for what we need. Now, this is not so we can tell God what we need, because if He really is all-knowing then He already knows. But rather, this is because when we go to Him and ask for what we need, and He shows His love and power and provides for us, then we get to experience Him, draw nearer to Him, know Him better, and trust Him more. God could simply give us what we need, but then we do not get to actively build that relationship with Him and come to know Him through our experience. So this got me thinking about my past relationships.
Early on in my relationship with my first formal Dom, I remember at least a few instances where my former Dom would give me certain instructions like ‘Be careful with the icyhot and make sure you don’t get it in your eyes,’ and I would respond by indicating, politely, that I already knew to be careful. I didn’t do this because I was trying to be sassy or because I felt he was being condescending; I just felt the need to show that I wasn’t a little child or clueless and I didn’t need to be told.
Because at that time, I felt my former Dom was telling me those things because he believed I needed to be told. I’ve since realised it wasn’t really about the specific instruction, but rather a show of his affectionate, caring domination over me. He was being protective. He was dedicating himself to my safety and ensuring that I had all the information I could possibly need and want in that situation to minimise the possibility of negative incidents that might detract from what he was giving me. Whether certain instructions were precisely needed or not was incidental; the purpose of those instructions was to express his abiding care for me and to give me an opportunity to experience that care.
Over time, I figured this out, albeit not so explicitly. I stopped feeling the need to assert my knowledge (in part because I knew he respected me and knew my abilities, and he made me feel safe just being me, without having to prove anything, which was incredible in and of itself), and I instead would reply ‘Yes Daddy, I will,’ and endeavour to honour his instructions and reminders. Even before I figured this out, he continually reminded me, helped me, guided me, not because he thought I was an idiot or helpless, but because he cared and he realised I needed to experience that care, actively, day in and day out. And gradually, my continual experience of that care led to the development of this phenomenal trust and intimacy developed between us. I savoured those commands, because I had all this experience of his care before, and I knew that whenever he gave me instructions, whenever he updated my training, whenever he told me to do anything, it was out of this deep, consistent, genuine care. Of course, there were other things that we both did which fostered this, but I realise now how those commands, that attention to detail, the consistent care and instruction even when he could have assumed I knew well enough on my own, they made a world of difference in our dynamic.
In my second formal relationship, my responses became quite different when I felt I could not go to my significant other at the time. Not for lack of invitation or even willingness on his part, but because I saw how busy he was, how he was often preoccupied with his own struggles and difficulties. He always was dealing with something big, and I either didn’t want to intrude or didn’t think he’d be available. Sometimes I would go to him, and things would be okay for a little while, and then something would interrupt us again.
I have known for a long time that I can take care of myself, and I will. But in one of those relationships I was given the chance to develop intimacy and trust. I got to see that I mattered and that there was a space in my former Dom’s life and mind where I mattered. I learned that my physical and emotional safety was a priority. And it was not done through bossiness or arrogance or extra rules. It wasn’t done through whips or toys or stellar erotica either. It wasn’t done through degrading me, diminishing what I knew or what I was, nor through proving himself my superior in some way. It was done through this simple expression of his care. In perhaps unnecessary instructions, that became absolutely essential to our dynamic.
In my second relationship, I learned a great deal about myself. I learned to love myself. I learned to take care of myself. I learned to look for my own answers and not use someone else as a substitute for God, eventually to look to God myself. All of this has been invaluable, and I am forever grateful. But amidst all that, with all the time, energy, straining, fighting with myself, the determined bandaging of my wounds before attempting another round, we never quite developed that trust and intimacy that we both needed. That the relationship called for, and, if we had been able to form that first layer of trust and intimacy, that a D/s dynamic would have required. This was partly because, I firmly believe, the relationship was not meant to be, and I fully own that relationships go both ways and everything I ever did or said or neglected to do or say also shaped the relationship. I just see this…factor. Where he didn’t seem to have the opportunity, and sometimes the energy, to give me that kind of consistent care, and we never seemed to grow past a certain point. It is not that he did not care deeply for me, I know he did. But we never got past a certain stage of trust, we never got to develop the intimacy, and we never got to do much more than scratch the surface of D/s together.
I’m not writing this to rehash my relationships, but because today something clicked regarding the nature of domination and submission. The experience of domination, I am slowly realising, is not just in the giving of instruction, nor is the experience of submission just the obedience to that instruction. We tend to say things like trust and intimacy are the essential foundation of a power exchange dynamic; I wonder if that would be better nuanced if we said that trust and intimacy are the the very nature of a power exchange dynamic. That the faithfulness, the consistency, the very basic follow-through of a dominant-type and a submissive-type where they endeavour to keep their word even in the smallest things, where care is shown in simple ways but reliably so, that perhaps this is not the foundation on which the power exchange relationship is built, with all the rules and kinky things, the accessories, the scenes, the titles, the protocols, and everything else we see as pieces (or potential pieces, we get to mix and match) of a power exchange relationship. Perhaps this consistency and faithfulness, this reliability and genuine commitment and care, is the relationship itself.
Let me attempt to clarify this another way. If the exchange of power, of control, cannot happen without trust and intimacy then it follows that a genuine power exchange relationship must include trust and intimacy. Therefore, if we define a power exchange relationship (D/s, M/s, DD/lg, O/p, etc.) as a relationship in which the power of one is given over to the control of another, then it follows that as much as the exchange of power is part of the core nature of such a relationship so too are trust and intimacy. Not merely the means by which we get the power exchange, not the necessary hoops, not the process that comes before the fun stuff, but the very core nature of what a power exchange relationship is and requires in order to function well over an extended period of time.
And the more I think about the people that I have seen over the years building their relationships, growing closer, taking further steps into intimacy, learning to trust more and more, some to the point where they do not even feel the need to have limits so insanely, miraculously, beautifully intimate is their relationship, the more I think that yes, these are people who are consistently caring for one another, on good days and bad days, through thick and thin, not with big grand gestures but brick by brick, every chance they get.
The little things are the ones that matter the most.
Perhaps this is just me, maybe I’m overreaching (two relationships, count ’em, one, two), and perhaps this is something that has more emphasis in a DD/lg relationship (which I am more familiar with) than in other dynamics. I can certainly see how I am biased here in that consistency and people simply doing what they say they will do is of paramount importance to me, so I don’t want to impose this on anyone. I also realise I’ve focused more on domination than submission here, and I do not mean to imply submissive-types are not also responsible for earning trust and building intimacy through consistent care and genuine faithfulness and all that good stuff. It goes both ways, I just didn’t want to make this twice as long as it already is. This is a theory, and I lay it out here because I would so love and appreciate your thoughts on this. Does this resonate at all with your experience? Does this seem warranted or a stretch? Is this even helpful and worth discussing? If you disagree, why?