I’ve been meandering around this idea. Conflict has to be dealt with in a relationship; vanilla or D/s. It is a natural part of any relationship, and the strategies a coping mechanisms you use evolve naturally as you and your relationship evolves. We certainly don’t fight now like we did when we were 20 – THANK GOD! But in the light of D/s I am left with a different, more specific question; Does conflict in a D/s relationship need to be handled differently than a vanilla relationship? That is, do you need to incorporate or use different strategies for resolution because of the power dynamic?
Here’s my argument for NO:
- Entering into D/s does not supercede being human, and human emotions have to be dealt with. If you ignore a negative feeling (including cases of a Dom ending or silencing an argument, without dealing with those emotions), be it anger, hurt, or disappointment, those negative feelings will crop up again – no matter what. Possibly a negative cycle continues, possibly ugly comments get made later, possibly trust slips. (…and we all know what badness ensues when trust slips in D/s. Yowza!) It doesn’t matter who you are, emotions are human. They have to be dealt with in some fashion.
- The same steps to resolving a disagreement still work when there’s a power exchange. Neither my submission, nor his dominance, change what’s needed to create a resolve. See this post from Submissive Guide as an example. You still have to find a solution, and come together on equal footing to do it.
- Mistakes are mistakes are mistakes. Each of our unique personalities make way for unique mistakes that will create or escalate an argument in their own way – even if that mistake is silence. Maybe we shut down, maybe we make angry statements, maybe we pass blame onto others, maybe we deny or refuse to discuss things. Whatever it is, it is unique, and it is human. Being D/s doesn’t erase those mistakes, or our capacity to make them.
However, the power exchange can’t simply be ignored. It is an important part of the dynamic, and valued by both partners. It must be sustained.
So, here’s my argument for yes:
- Maintaining the power play feeds the dynamic, which in turn feeds the trust involved that is required for the dynamic. It is cycladic. If a set of conflict strategies are in place that feed that dynamic, the resolve and process will keep the balance.
- Breaking trust in a D/s is considerably more impactful than in a vanilla relationship. A sub must trust her Dom to great, great depths in order to submit, in order to give over control. A break in this trust, while not necessarily fragile, is by far more problematic then in a vanilla relationship.
My Dom and I have had a few arguments since we entered into D/s, mostly simple misunderstandings, as most all arguments are. Two early arguments come to mind as good examples. One argument was HUGE (the trainwreck), another minor. Both could have been avoided if we had made more time for communication before they happened. But here’s this thing: that wasn’t possible. During the first few weeks of our D/s we communicated so much it was literally impossible to communicate more. Not that there weren’t discussions and negotiations we both wanted to have, but that there is only so much time in a day, with so many more conversations to have. We talked, and talked, and talked. We talked so much, and it was so emotionally draining and exhausting (yet fulfilling) that every evening I would literally hit a place where I was physically incapable of processing another word, my own or someone else’s. I swear you could have walked an elephant through the room right in front of me, and I wouldn’t have known. I simply shut down.
My point is, it’s inevitable. Fights are going to happen. Sometimes, you’ve done everything you possibly can, but it’s not enough to prevent a misunderstanding or disagreement. They are part of life.
I don’t regret either of the fights we had, including the trainwreck. We both learned quite a lot from them. In particular, we learned how to lean into our roles in order to get out of those fights, end them, and move back to a positive place through our roles. We have had knock down, drag out fights before. We have raged and stormed and created lasting damage in our marriage. But in these fights, we didn’t.
So I created a new list.
Strengths of leaning into your D/s roles during a fight:
- You are aware of the risks of slipping into bad habits, or emotional human mistakes, which is greater and more riskier then in a vanilla relationship. Because of that, you hold yourself to a higher level, you pull back and commit to a higher level of self reflection.
- Fights end quicker. Our trainwreck could have been a fight with lasting damage. It could have ended us as D/s. It didn’t. It didn’t because we leaned into our D/s roles, which pulled us back to a place of sanity rather quickly. The last time we had a fight of that magnitude it lingered – even after our apology – for days, maybe weeks. It stayed with us. The trainwreck never did. It was over with some reflection, some discussion, and we learned more from it, rather then holding back. In the end, it felt very positive. That came from us leaning into our roles.
- Appropriateness and fairness of your roles and the expectations of those roles make you think about your actions before committing to them. It would be flat-out wrong for a Dom to use their power to ‘win.’ Just as it would be flat out wrong for a sub to use broken trust to pull back and withhold connection following resolution.
- You have rules that (hopefully) push you into deeper growth, and those rules are in the back of your mind. Whether Dom or sub, if you are about to break a rule, you know it. You think about it, and you question if it is worth it. You helped to write and design those rules, and it is no light thing to break them. That includes in a fight. You will – if at all possible – stop yourself from breaking them.
- *singing* Make up sex is better! Jk. – All sex is better. Not kidding. 🙂