Communication is a tricky thing. It comes and goes, waxes and wanes. What you do with it can make or break a situation or a relationship. Having it alone isn’t enough. Quantity does not equal quality, and sometimes less is more. But not having enough can be death’s kiss.
If you are in a power-exchange relationship, or playing in kinky scenes, you know the importance of communication. It gets really ramped up when you are engaging in activities that include a calculated risk. Engaging in risk, however, and the trust involved with that risk, has a lot of benefits for both yourself and the relationship. You just have to make sure you do it right.
Here’s a few few specific communication strategies that we have been using, and found a great deal of long-term success in.
Normalizing Conversation or Rug-Time: We complete our morning ritual at a rug in our bedroom. Master has a chair positioned at the end of the rug, and I kneel on the rug. It has become a place of grounding and connection between us, and the location has naturally evolved into having a lot of meaning. I describe this location, and its meaning because it matters to this strategy. Not that you need to have a rug, but that you do need to pick a place where you feel safe and comfortable in a natural or casual way. You also need to perform this act with dedicated regularity. That is the crux of this strategy. For us, the regulatory is scheduled once a weekend during working months, and more open and frequent when not. It always immediately follows our collaring ritual, and happens everyday where we don’t have a schedule to keep (i.e. an event or place to be first thing in the morning). Once you have a place selected, and a routine or schedule established, there’s only two expectations you need to make this work. Rule #1) Talk about your dynamic – only. Don’t talk about work or family. Don’t talk about the news or TV shows. Don’t talk about your plans for the day. If you would talk about this same stuff in the kitchen, and not care who hears you, it doesn’t belong here. It should be the stuff you can’t talk about in front of your kids or your vanilla friends. It may be really intimate stuff that you wouldn’t talk about in front of anyone else ever, or it may be conversations about something you read or a munch you went to. So long as it pertains to your D/s, your power-exchange, your kink, whatever your dynamic is, you are fine. Rule #2) Talk. You have to talk, you have to communicate about something. It doesn’t matter what it is under the very broad field of your dynamic, so long as you talk. If you don’t have a topic ready to go every week, pick a media source (a blog, a podcast, a vlog) that pertains to your dynamic or kinks, and discuss their ideas. You could even take turns bringing in sources and topics, or read them together. There’s one big goal here, to normalize the act of having a conversation about your dynamic. Sometimes you may have some specific thing on your mind that needs to be discussed, but more often you won’t. Use it as a place to congratulate yourself on how well you are doing, and the successes you have made. Use this space to discuss your rules or goals when you need to. Overall, be sure to keep it casual and lighthearted. Remember the goal is to feel comfortable talking about your ideas and feelings about your shared dynamic. If you can normalize communication about your dynamic, eventually all the hard stuff to talk about gets easier and less demanding to bring up. With time, it will be easier to ask for stuff, discuss fears and worries, share feelings about how scenes went, and other secrets you may not know you had. Your walls will slowly break down, the anxiety and pressure of starting and having conversations will slowly fall away.
Draw conclusions and share those conclusions – This strategy is useful in all conversations, and is a great way to both reassure the other party that you heard them, and to be sure you really did understand them. Whether you are in a rug-time conversation, or not, serious or not, listen to what the other person is saying, and repeat it back to them in a summary. Sentence starters should sound like this; “So I hear you saying…”, “What I think you mean is…”, “Are you saying you feel…”, “Is your opinion…”. They should always be posed with an I statement or in a question, giving the other person a chance to confirm or deny and correct. This strategy is particularly useful in stopping miscommunications and different definitions or expectations about what was said. Some words – a lot of words in kinky and D/s communities – have multiple definitions, interpretations and variables. It is incredibly easy to walk away thinking you both have the same idea, only to find out when things go wrong that you never did.
Keep a conversation journal: This is not a personal journal, but more of a relationship journal, or even a handbook or catalog. Write your dynamic rules in there. Write conclusions you got out of conversations you had. Write out discussed scenes and negotiations. Write goals, desires. Write something every time you have rug-time. Write down when punishments are administered and why. Write down what rewards were given out. Write down the most important part of your dynamic, as it pertains to you. It doesn’t have to be demanding or time-consuming. It can be a decorated or as plain as like. I like to use colored pencils, and switch colors with each new topic or conclusion. Sometimes I draw stick figures or simple faces. Anything more should only be done if it gives you personal joy to do it. Always date the pages, but don’t fret if you missed writing sometimes. It just matters that you do write stuff down. When you are done for the day or session, read it aloud together, and be sure you both agree with what is said. Make adjustments to vocabulary if needed. Similar to drawing conclusions, this practice affirms you both understand each other equally. Every so now and then, go back over it and read several pages or months of pages aloud. You will see your progress and your journey. You will see your growth, and get that joy and pride of success. When you find stuff you didn’t do, make another note of that, and it will stay on your mind. Note when you found that something didn’t work, and why. Note key moments and habits that made something really successful. But don’t get so caught up in writing, that it becomes a chore. Keep it light and fun. It should feel rewarding. A few sentences, or even small jotted notes that only you understand is fine. If you like paragraphs and multiple pages, that is fine too. It is totally up to you. It should be done in such a way that it is easy to maintain for your habits, so it becomes routine. Writing has some powerful effects on the brain. It implants learning in a way that talking or thinking alone cannot do. The stuff you write, somehow naturally becomes part of you and your ongoing decisions in a subconscious way. All you have to do is write it down. Easy!
Futuristic Goal writing: Take a day, once a year, or so, and discuss your dynamic in a fantastical, futuristic way. Don’t worry about how to get there. Draw a mental picture of how your dynamic would ideally function, and who you want to be in your dynamic. How would you behave at your best? How would your partner behave at their best? What would that look like? How would you treat each other? Talk about it like it is way off in the future. Write it all down, drawing conclusions about what you are all saying. Draw this mental picture together, and make sure it is something that you all desire, a compromise where everyone is happy with the results, and you have the same goals. Then put it away. That’s all you need to do. The act of discussing it, and writing it down will put this ideal in your mind. Knowing what equal desires you have, and where you are headed will naturally drive your daily decision making. Soon, you will find yourself much closer to that ideal without putting too much effort or pressure into each little step, or ramping up the rules to force it to happen. It will just come into being slowly and naturally. When you forget, or aren’t sure if you are headed in the right direction, go back to that list. Read it together, or to yourself. Are the habits you are acquiring moving towards that ideal, or away from it? Most likely, you’ll find yourself right smack in the middle of it without even knowing. If not, reassess and realign, and go at it again.