I’ve collated some of the more popular questions about Dom sub relationships below.
Whilst reading, remember that the stereotypical image of a woman wearing PVC chained to the wall whilst her Dom wearing leather and waving a flogger around is only one aspect of domination and submission.
Dom and sub relationships take many different forms.
There’s no way I can do them full justice in this article, but it’ll serve as a primer to give you the basics.
What is a dom sub relationship?
A Dom sub relationship is like any normal relationship, except the couple engage in some element of BDSM (bondage & discipline, dominance & submission, sadism & masochism), and there is a clear power difference between the two participants.
One person is the dominant and the other the submissive, although the type of dominant and type of submissive roles they play vary.
Some common types of Dom sub relationship dynamics are:
- Master and slave
- Daddy and little (DDLG)
- Owner and pet
- Sadist and masochist
- Dominant and submissive (a bucket for all D/s)
Power differentials change depending upon what has been agreed, either informally, or formally in a BDSM contract.
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Or you may wish to have an uneven power dynamic all day, every day, even when you are not together (remote domination can be a lot of fun).
And then there’s everything in between.
Why would you want one?
The power differential is a turn on for some, relaxing and comforting for others.
Take a DDLG (Daddy Dom, Little Girl) Dom sub relationship for example.
This thrives on a form of age play, where the dominant is caring for his little and making sure she is safe. The little gets the opportunity to take a break from the stresses of every day life by roleplaying someone younger. The father figure looks after her whilst she’s in littlespace.
A Master and slave dynamic is more worship and acts of service-led. The slave takes pleasure from doing things for her Master (read how to be a good submissive slave and how to train a slave if this appeals to you). And the Master takes pleasure from being in control and having things done for him.
And in a Dom sub relationship which only involves sex, the submissive can feel liberated from the shame and guilt of wanting kinky sex because the dominant is giving her permission to do all these naughty things.
Read my article on why a woman would want to be a submissive for further thoughts.
Are D/s relationships healthy?
Dom sub relationships are only healthy if you work on making sure they are, just like any relationship.
Due to the power dynamic, there is potential for the submissive to be abused or taken advantage of. Natural submissives love to please and follow rules. As a Dom you need be aware of this and act responsibly.
An unhealthy Dom sub relationship can end up being abusive (physically or mentally) or end up with the sub being co-dependent and the dominant exhibiting narcissist tendencies. (Read how to be a good Dom).
A healthy Dom sub relationship requires plenty of open, honest, and direct communication and check-ins to ensure everyone is happy with the arrangement.
Who really has the power?
Who is more in control in a dom/sub relationship? The dominant or the submissive?
This is a tricky question to answer.
The dominant has a more assertive personality by his very nature (otherwise he wouldn’t be a dominant). Technically he is in charge. He sets the rules, dishes out the punishments, choose where to go for dinner, and takes charge in the bedroom.
But this doesn’t mean the submissive has no control at all. She does. Lots of it.
Submissives may be dominant in one aspect of their life but choose to be submissive in the bedroom. Both the dom and the sub are in control, but the submissive is opting to relinquish that control to someone she trusts during the roleplay.
How long the roleplay lasts, and where its boundaries are, is completely up to you.
If a person has a naturally submissive personality and isn’t very dominant in any areas of their life, then the dominant is usually the one in control. The submissive isn’t roleplaying so much – it’s just her natural inclination to want to be led.
However, ultimately both parties remain an element of control because they are free to walk away from the relationship or withdraw consent at any time.
What are the signs of a Dom sub dynamic?
My Dom sub relationships would be pretty much indistinguishable from a normal relationship if you saw me out in public with my sub.
But if you watched us closely, you might spot a few telltale signs.
- She’d be wearing a day collar. When I”m out with my sub I enjoy being reminded each time I look at her that she is mine. Wearing a collar reminds us of the power dynamic.
- I’d be leading her. If we were asked a question then I’d answer. She’d look to me to make the decisions. I’d take her hand and direct her to where we are going.
- She’d be the shyer one and I’d be the more extravert. Only the case for naturally submissive subs. Many subs are incredibly extraverted, more so than their Doms.
- You’d see her doing little things for me. She might fill up my water glass at the restaurant. Or I might get her to order my food for me. Or I might have her run little errands for me such as popping around to the shop to buy more chocolate biscuits (fucking love a chocolate biscuit).
Other than that, you’re unlikely to know if a couple practises BDSM unless they tell you. We aren’t all social awkward weirdos who only wear ass-less chaps and leather waistcoats.
What is being in a Dom sub relationship like?
Like any other relationship, really. We hang out, go to the cinema, go for drinks with friends, lead our own lives, work.
But there’s always that hint of power play in the background, which to me is intoxicating. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing I have power over someone else and can have them do things for me.
In public, 95% of the time we are doing normal stuff.
5% of the time we are teasing each other and the power dynamic is evident (to us – no-one else would realise).
Maybe she’s been commanded not to wear any panties under her skirt. Maybe she’s wearing vibrator I can control remotely whilst we sit at dinner. Maybe I’ll push her into a doorway on the way home, pull her hair, and whisper in her ear what a good girl she is.
In private things get spicier. The dynamic is amped up and is more explicitly sexual.
She might be cockwarming me, or making me dinner, or kneeling naked waiting for my commands, or walking around the house in nothing but heels making me dinner, or curled up in my lap with me stroking her hair, or tied to the bed with some restraints as I pleasure her.
At kinky events
Kink events fall between public and private, depending on what time of event it is.
Or I might indulge in my exhibitionist side by pulling down her panties and publically spanking her.
Or I may enjoy talking to other people about what I did to her the night before, or what I make her do for me (this is a turn on for both of us).
The power dynamic is the key part, not the activities themselves.
Any act can become a Dom sub act when done the right way.
Even a simple act as a kiss.
Kissing her on the forehead for example, rather than the lips. It’s highlighting her ‘littleness’ because it reminds us of being cared for as a child. For that brief moment she feels cherished and safe (submissive to her dominant).
What are some guidelines to follow?
General guidelines for D/s relationships are:
- Get great at communication. You must be able to articulate how you are feeling, and feel completely comfortable talking to your partner about your wants and desires. Become a great listener. Take the time to allow your partner to open up to you.
- Compromise. You’re unlikely to find someone who ticks all your kink preference. Learn to compromise in some areas.
- Don’t judge. If you do, your partner will close off and stop telling you important things. If they tell you about a fetish they love, but you hate, don’t tell them you think they are disgusting. This only causes guilt and shame – the antithesis of a great D/s dynamic. It’s okay if you aren’t into everything they are, but don’t shame them for opening up to you.
- Have fun. This is meant to be fun! Don’t take the power dynamic too seriously or overthinking it. You don’t need strict rules in place to say you are in a Dom sub relationship. Do what works for you.
How to avoid being a Fake Dom?
A Fake Dom is someone who things their are a Dom but in reality they don’t care about and are only using their sub.
Fake Doms are bad for the community because they care little about consent, and are often emotionally manipulative towards their subs.
A Fake Dom isn’t just a beginner Dom. There’s a difference between someone who is new to the lifestyle and wants to learn, and a Fake Dom who thinks they know it all, and believes the sub is there to do whatever they want all the time.
I highly recommend reading 7 Ways to Spot a Fake Dom (and Why You Should Avoid Them). If you’re a sub it will help you figure out if you’re dating a Fake Dom and how to avoid them in the future. And if you’re a Dom it’ll give you a list of things to check you aren’t are Fake Dom.
How to start a Dom sub relationship?
You build a D/s relationship like any other.
You meet someone, either online or in-person. You get chatting and building rapport.
If you like their personality and how they look, you ask them out on a date. You continue to go on more and more dates as long as they continue to be fun, and eventually you find yourself in a relationship!
The only real difference when building a Dom sub relationship is a question of timing the D/s reveal!
When do you bring up the fact you are a dominant or submissive?
There’s no one answer, but my thoughts are generally as follows:
If you meet at a munch or kinky event
If you’ve met the person at a kinky event you can be upfront.
Although please treat everyone as human beings. Don’t go to a munch and wander around looking at people as though they are kink dispensers.
Get chatting to someone, and if you like them, once you’ve built some rapport, you may want to ask them their preferred dynamic and how they identify (as dominant, submissive or switch).
With that out of the way up front, the rest of the dating process is as normal.
If you meet on a vanilla app
If you use the standard dating apps, you have to be a little more under the radar. I’ve tried two approaches.
Option 1 – Keep it quiet
I have a normal dating profile with no references to kink at all.
I match, get chatting, and try to get a sense from their responses if they are submissive.
I’m quite a flirty person by nature, so the banter between us gives me clues as to how experienced they are with BDSM, and if they are keen.
As an example, a conversation might go like this:
Me: Hey, what are you up to today?
Her: I’m still in bed. Don’t wanna get up!
Me: Oh yeah? Is that because you’ve got some stud lying next to you preparing for round two.
Her: Haha of course 😉
Me: Well tell him from me to give you a few spanks on the ass.
Her: If only he was real… ?
From her responses I know she is open to the idea (and may in fact already love) being dominated in the bedroom.
This doesn’t mean she would want the same type of D/s dynamic I enjoy outside of the bedroom, but it’s a stepping stone in the right direction.
Option 2 – Be more open
The second option is to be more open and honest in your profile. You can outright say you are looking for a D/s relationship, or just sprinkle a few words here and there that people in the know will clock.
I’ve seen people use the line ‘Vanilla is only for ice-cream‘ or simply put ‘D/s’ at the end of their profile.
The benefit of this approach is vanilla folks will have no idea what you are talking about, and won’t mention it. Kinky folks will start chatting to you about it.
The downside is you are likely to be rejected by potential matches because they don’t understand what a D/s dynamic involves, and it scares them off (even though they might actually love it if they fully understood it).
The other downside for women highlighting they are into BDSM on their profiles is it is likely to increase the number of creepy messages they get from men. Nothing you can do about this sadly – you just need to spend more time looking through them. There will be a gem amongst them somewhere.
Try both approaches and let me know in the comments which works for you.
If you meet in-person
If you meet the person in public, at a house party, or get talking to them in a bookstore (does this really happen anymore!?), how should you start things then?
The same way you would on a vanilla app. Be friendly. Don’t bring up sex, BDSM, or kink at all.
Take the time to get to know her, flirt a little.
If you’re a woman you’ll pick up if he has a naturally dominant personality (although that doesn’t mean he is good at being a Dom at all).
If you’re a guy you’ll sense if she has a submissive nature (although again, this doesn’t mean she wants a Dom sub relationship), which is a good start.
From there, go on a date, get to know them. Depending on how flirty they were, I would subtly introduce the topic of dominance and submission in the bedroom (much like how I do it in the text example above) and gauge her reaction.
If she’s interested, I open up more. If it’s making her uncomfortable I switch back to more vanilla topics.
After we’ve slept together once or twice I would want to have a more frank discussion, and be very open about my enjoyment of D/s, and take time to listen to her thoughts on the subject.
She may bolt out the door (hopefully not if you’ve built a good rapport), may politely decline, be somewhat interested in learning more, or turn out to be a kinky little freak who’s going to teach you a thing or two!
You just can’t tell until you have an honest conversation.
What do we call each other?
What names do you call each other? Once again, the moniker or pet name you use is entirely up to you.
Most dominants will enjoy Sir, Master or Daddy, whilst submissives can be Baby, Babygirl, Little Girl or Kitten. But this is far from a complete list.
How long do Dom sub relationships last?
Dom sub relationships last as long as normal relationships.
They can be short-term, lasting but a few nights, weeks or months. Or span multiple decades (a married couple for example).
The longer the relationship has lasted, the better the Dom sub dynamic is likely to be, because the dominant and submissive have had time to learn each other’s ways of doing things, likes, and dislikes.
You could have kinky BDSM sex during a one night stand, and have a D/s power dynamic going on, but I wouldn’t call that a Dom sub relationship.
What about ending a Dom sub relationship?
Some element of grief and pain is natural at the end of all relationships. A Dom sub relationship perhaps more so due to the increased trust and connection you have with that partner.
You may wonder how you will ever find another submissive like her, and she might wonder how to cope without the safety net of her dom.
As this quote from an article on ending a submissive relationship says, there is a more intense connection created in a D/s relationship compared to a vanilla one, making post-breakups more difficult.
…a submissive and a Dominant ‘bond’ to each other in ways beyond love or even a vanilla marriage. This bond may or may not end even when you make the ‘mental’ decisions to leave. You may still experience the same needs and desires. You may find yourself vacillating even though you know that the relationship is not forward moving for you or positive. A Dominant can feel these same connectors. In addition many will feel a continued obligation to ‘protect’ submissives long after that submissive has moved away into other relationships. The linkage may never truly end and that is something that both sides need to be cognizant of especially if their relationship moves into one of friendship.Mistress Steel writing on SubmissiveGuide.com.
However, don’t think that just because a woman is in a Dom sub relationship she is completely reliant on her Dom. This should not be the case.
I want my sub to function without me, not just to sit in the corner waiting for me to tell her what do to at all times.
So when a breakup happens, although there is an element of emotional pain left by the hole your partner used to fill, it isn’t the end of the world.
The submissive may be the one who ends the relationship. Although the power dynamic is often tilted in favour of the dominant, the submissive has the right to speak up if the relationship isn’t suiting her, and end things.
Any dominant who thinks this isn’t the case, and only he has the power to let her go, is probably more of an abuser than a real Dom.
What books are there I can read?
There certainly aren’t as many books on Dom sub relationships as there are on traditional relationships. It’s one of the reasons I started this website – to share as much knowledge on the subject as I can.
I recommend the following books:
The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (for dominants)
The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (for submissives)
The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino (for both)
To help the relationship and person growth I would also recommend:
Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth by Brad Blanton.
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg and Arun Gandhi.
So there it is – the mega article on Dom sub relationships.
Ultimately they are like normal relationships, but with aspects of BDSM and power differences thrown in. The barebones are the same for everyone, but it’s the nuances and detail which makes each D/s relationship unique.
Communication and trust as key. Listen to your partner and evolve your relationship over time, keeping the good stuff and throwing out the bad.
Above all, remember that the purpose of a relationship is to make you feel happy, content and act as a platform for personal growth. If you’re not getting that in a relationship (regardless of whether its a D/s relationship or not) then something has to change.
Enjoy meeting kinky people, and building a D/s relationship of your own.