How To Become Dominant In A Relationship In A Healthy Way

By: Samantha Dewitt

Updated August 09, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers

BDSM is an umbrella term for a relationship or activity involving various erotic practices, including bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. BDSM may occur within the entire relationship or in certain situations and practices in the bedroom or during fantasies. One partner may often take the dominant or the submissive role, but in some relationships, the partners may alternate these roles, asserting dominance during some activities and submission in others. This may be dependent on their preference or mood at that given time. These dominant and submissive roles are subjective to the individual relationship and entirely up to the partners who practice BDSM.

There are often many stigmas and misconceptions associated with BDSM practices and relationships, especially around dominant and submissive roles. Some individuals may find BDSM intimidating or believe that practices involving dominance and submission may be considered too aggressive or abusive to incorporate into their relationship. However, a BDSM relationship can be extremely healthy and pleasurable if the partners develop mutual trust, practice consent, and have open communication. If you're curious about a BDSM relationship or are beginning to take part in one, you must practice and live out your fantasies in a healthy way that's beneficial to both you and your partner.

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Healthy Dominance

Dominance is a relationship that consists of a partner having authority over the submissive and holding power and control. Some partners may like to assert dominance in the relationship 24/7, while others choose only to take on these roles during fantasies. Healthy dominance in a relationship is built on trust, respect, honesty, equality, communication, and consent. A BDSM relationship, and any practices, should always be consensual, regardless of who exerts dominance in the relationship. A healthy BDSM relationship will establish rules and boundaries ahead of time that both the dominant and submissive partners follow and respect. A dominant/submissive relationship revolves around mutual pleasure where one partner, the submissive, willingly submits their power and control to the dominant. Both partners in the relationship should compromise on these terms and always provide and respect consent. If either partner in the relationship feels safe or comfortable in an activity, they can stop. Healthy dominant/submissive relationships always use safe words and respect when their safe word is used.

Unhealthy Dominance

Consent, or lack thereof, is what can ultimately makes a dominant relationship an unhealthy one. The power exchange between the dominant and the submissive should always be consensual in the relationship. Dominance is unhealthy when there is no mutual respect or understanding between the partners involved. When there is dominance, there should always be clear boundaries and communication. If you find yourself in a BDSM relationship and are unsure if it is healthy are not, here are some red flags of unhealthy dominance to look for:

  • Never consensual
  • There are no rules
  • Safewords or safety measures are never used
  • Drugs and alcohol are involved
  • There are no compromises
  • No discussions of limits
  • A partner does not respect "no."
  • A partner feels scared
  • A partner is not able to stop the action or fantasy
  • No equal power exchange between dominant and submissive
  • You don't feel respected in the relationship
  • Dominance is used solely for control instead of pleasure

Equality

The concept of equality regarding a BDSM relationship with a dominant and submissive role is where some individuals may feel confused. When there is a dominant and a submissive in a BDSM relationship, it may seem like these partners are not equal, and the dominant partner has all the control. However, a healthy BDSM relationship should have an equal and consensual power exchange between the dominant and submissive. The submissive partner in the relationship should consensually and willingly agree to submit to the dominant partner. The submissive can, at any time, take away the authority and control of the dominant, therefore allowing them to have power and control over the situation or relationship. The submissive should never feel belittled, uncomfortable, or unsafe at any time in their relationship. They submit to the dominant by choice, which benefits and provides pleasure to both partners, ultimately making the power exchange in the relationship equal.

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Aftercare

Aftercare is an important aspect of BDSM relationships, especially if you or your partner are new to these fantasies and practices. The dominant and submissive roles individuals play during BDSM play are not necessarily who they are in their everyday lives. Aftercare allows you and your partner to return to reality and discuss your BDSM experience and share what each of you liked and what you didn't like. This allows you to ensure you understand your partner's needs and expectations and allows you to improve in your next fantasy. Aftercare discussions can be very intimate and allow both partners to be incredibly vulnerable, ultimately strengthening your bond and your relationship. During this time, you care about each other's physical and emotional needs. As a dominant, aftercare is the time to show you're grateful and appreciative for their submission and give them love, respect, and care. Aftercare may look different in every relationship, and it's important to be understanding and attentive to your partner's needs. Some common aftercare practices may include cuddling, a massage, providing a warm blanket, or bringing your partner something to drink or eat.

Only Do What You Feel Comfortable With

If you're getting into a BDSM relationship, start slow and only participate in activities you feel completely safe trying. You should never feel guilted or pressured into doing something by your partner. Be clear about what you are or are not willing to do with your partner. If you don't feel comfortable verbalizing these concerns to your partner, you may want to reevaluate getting involved in a BDSM relationship with that individual. You should always feel safe and comfortable in an intimate relationship. Suppose you are taking on the dominant role in a BDSM relationship or activity. In that case, it's incredibly important to have a clear conversation with your partner to understand what they are willing to try and what they feel comfortable with.

Sexual Health

In any intimate relationship, your sexual health is incredibly important. It's important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about any relevant information on your sexual history before beginning a relationship. You could discuss what kind of protection you feel comfortable using. Before getting intimately involved with a new partner, it would also be beneficial to check up on your sexual health with an STI check and make sure you're both healthy and safe.

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Conclusion

If you're trying to navigate your BDSM relationship or are just getting involved in these practices and fantasies, you may feel naturally confused at times. It may be helpful to reach out to a relationship therapist for professional advice. ReGain is an online therapy platform specializing in relationship therapy. They can match you with a therapist that will best suit your needs, and it's completely confidential. They can provide you and your partner with guidance and support to improve your relationship right in the comfort of your own home.

If you or a loved one ever feels unsafe in a relationship or is experiencing any abuse, it's important to get help right away. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers guidance and supports 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it is completely free and confidential. The hotline can be reached by calling 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or by texting START to 88788.


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