I’ve been writing a lot about rules lately, so this article felt like it was long overdue. What I’d like you to do is read the title and put an emphasis on with. Making rules /with/ your submissive. What I see too often, both in fiction and in real life, is that the Dom simply hands down a list of rules that they think are in the best interests of the submissive, without actually discussing it with them.
I’m sure those of you who’ve read Fifty Shades remember the scene where Christian gives Anastasia a multi-page contract that’s filled with rules that he’s decided she needs to follow. A lot of people got annoyed at that scene and called it unrealistic, but here’s the thing… it’s not. Contracts yes, those are unusual and when they are used, they are mostly restricted to M/s relationships. But a Dom deciding that a sub needs to have every moment of their day managed happens more often than we’d like to admit.
Now Ana went along with it, reluctantly, but she wasn’t happy about it. A lot of submissives will do the same because obeying comes naturally to some of us, but resentment will fester over time. This is not how you want to start a D/s relationship. And there are other good reasons for having the sub involved in making the rules too, which we’ll get into shortly.
When trying to set up a structure with your submissive the first thing you need to discuss is whether you’re even going to have rules, and what type. I’ve already written a lot about the different types of rules and more than once, so I’m not going to reiterate that here. If you are interested you can find them here: Types of Rules and Their Purpose
Now, obviously a Dom/Top/Daddy needs to have some say in the rules, but a submissive should never feel like they have no option but to safeword or mark a rule as a hard limit just to get something off the list. Ideally you should both come to the table with flexible ideas, which you can consider together and only after discussion will you be writing down any specific rules for the submissive to follow.
As I’ve said before there are plenty of subs who don’t want to be given rules like when to go to bed and whether they can eat cookies without permission. With daily rules and life rules you absolutely should not, as a Dom, decide what your sub needs without discussion, even when you see a problem.
Sometimes the submissive is just not ready or willing to work on that issue and rule discussions should happen fairly frequently as you continue together so it can always be revisited later.
There are few D/s relationships that don’t have some kind of rules in them. I guess they exist I’ve just never known anyone in one. Rules are a way for a Dom/Top to flex their power, and for a sub to feel controlled. But a sub may only be okay with protocol rules and not want life rules at all. When it comes to protocol rules those usually do come from the Dominant partner in the relationship.
They still should be discussed but it’s not usually a problem for the Dom to insist on being greeted in a certain way or order the submissive to use a certain title when speaking to them; that’s just part of the dynamic.
Life rules/Daily rules get trickier though since they actually affect the submissives life beyond the D/s dynamic. I have always been the kind of submissive who needs these more than anything else, and I know a lot of other submissives who are the same, but it’s a mistake to think that just because someone is a sub they want you to control their life outside of the time you’re together or in a scene. Do not assume this.
You have to consider first that it’s a matter of respecting the submissive, and trusting that they are aware of what they need in their life. To skip that and assume that the Dom automatically knows better is putting the submissive in a child’s role. Even littles who want to be treated like children also want the respect of being asked what they think their needs are.
If the submissive wants to leave it all up to the Top to decide on rules, that’s okay. Lots of submissives want to feel powerless and that can be part of it, but it’s still not the best idea to make rules without a discussion. Why? Well, let me give you a scenario:
She scowled and put her hands on her hips. “That’s not fair! I don’t want to go to bed at ten! I’ve never gone to bed that early in my life!”
He folded his arms across his chest and gave her a stern glare. “I don’t care. Going to bed earlier is healthier so that’s what you’re going to be doing from now on. If you want to be able to sit comfortably, that is.”
“But all my friends are online at night. And I don’t even get home until eight! There’s no way I can get my stuff done and be in bed by then. And I won’t get to talk to anyone anymore!”
He shook his head. “You’re going to have to manage your time better then. This is my final word on the matter.”
She bursts into frustrated tears. It’s not possible for her to do this but he’s not listening.
“Stop pouting because you don’t like the rules, young lady! I’m not going to change my mind just because of a few crocodile tears.”
What we have here is a Top who just tried to enforce a rule the sub never asked for, doesn’t feel she needs, and doesn’t want. And then when she tried to explain this he dismissed her, treating her like a child.
Even when the thought of a rule like that upset her to the point of tears, he simply saw it as her being manipulative to get out of it. Even if she gives in now, and she might, I would, it’s going to build up major resentment because she’s doing something she feels is unhealthy for her just because he thinks she should.
Now let’s try a different scenario. In this one the Dom and sub sit down together and work out the rules she’ll be following:
“But I don’t want to go to bed at ten! I hate it!” Her bottom lip rolls out in a pout and she gives him a pleading look.
“I know you hate it, but didn’t you tell me that you’ve only been getting four hours of sleep most nights because you stay up too late?”
She frowns and then nods slowly.
“And didn’t you tell me you overslept and were an hour late to work the other day because you didn’t get into bed until one?”
She’s shrugs and looks down, finally saying, “Yeah” softly.
He reaches out, taking her chin in his hand and lifting it so he can see her face. “And when we were making up your rules didn’t you specifically say that you needed to start getting in bed earlier so you could sleep more?”
“Yes sir…but I don’t like it!” She blurts the words out in a sulky tone.
“If you did like it you probably wouldn’t need a rule about it, right? So, unless you have a good reason to change the rule, I think you’re just going to have to get used to it,” he says firmly.
She lets out a long sigh. “Okay, but I’m going to sulk about it for a while.”
He laughs and wraps his arms around her, giving her a gentle kiss on the forehead. “I figured.”
She’s not happy about the rule and she doesn’t like the rule, but because she knew there was a problem and wanted to fix it, she’s not upset when he follows through on holding her to it. Submissives ask for rules because they know they need them. And incidentally, when the rules are based on problems the sub knows they need help with, you spend a lot less time arguing with them about why they need to do it—which is one of those other good reasons to have the submissive involved.
And another great reason is that the Top never has to feel guilty about not doing the same healthy lifestyle choices. They never have to feel like a hypocrite for lecturing a sub on how going to bed early is important, while they stay up until 1am every night—because the sub asked for the rule themselves.
Those of you who know me personally know that while my submission does tend to take my focus, I have had my own subs at times. Most of my subs were the type to need and want rules so this is how I set those up. Shortly after accepting a sub I would give them an assignment to write a list of 5 short, and 3 long-term goals. I asked them to be very honest about the things they needed to work on and things they thought they needed help on. This was their first assignment from me.
Some of them had a lot more issues they wanted help with, but I think going from no rules to a hundred is too much, even when you’re asking for them. So, we always started off fairly small. Those goals were the direct basis for the first rules I made for them and believe me I flashed that assignment at them many times when they complained. It helped cut down on the arguing significantly. Here’s an example of the original assignment:
These are some really good goals, and most of them are pretty common problems. The great thing is that they are all going to work together. I’m not going to give you a step-by-step of my thought process on the rules because I think it will be fairly self-explanatory, but keep in mind most of them will start off fairly easy and then slowly tighten until they reach this:
Fast food days, for instance, would be cut down slowly and finally end at only once a week after a while so the sub has time to adjust. It’s going to help with the long-term goal of losing weight, as well as the goal of saving money so the sub will actually be working on all of them at once even though we aren’t necessarily addressing every need directly.
All of those rules will be efficiently working towards being healthier, more organized, and saving money because those are basically what the sub felt she needed. You don’t need fifty rules to accomplish something when fewer will work.
Some of these goals, especially the long-term ones, aren’t going to be handled by daily rules, and that’s okay. Consider working with them through assignments, you can even use them as punishments at times.
“You didn’t get all three of your workouts in this week? Well, next week you will be doing four, and on top of that you can spend a couple hours sorting out how many of your credits are still valid, and look into what classes you will need to complete for your degree.”
“Oh, you had late bill fees so you didn’t have enough money to put into your savings this month? Well, now I want you to go find some videos on budgeting and after watching them you’re going to use that information to put together your own monthly budget. You have two weeks to present me with a basic budget plan that includes all of your bills, monthly expenses, and savings.”
Obviously, this has to be tailored for each submissive but any issues that would come up, won’t be a surprise because they’ve been right there with you explaining things.
Once the sub develops good habits in problem areas, they may feel like they no longer need to have such strict rules around them, and then the Top should absolutely be open to discussion on dropping them or making them less restrictive.
You really don’t need an ever-increasing list of rules and believe me, neither of you will be able to keep track of them all past a certain point anyway. It’s better to decide to remove them than just to forget about them over time.
One last note and then I’m going to wrap this up. Rules are meant to provide structure for a stable relationship. If they are making either person unhappy then they are actually doing the opposite of what’s intended. Please bear that in mind when you set them up, and over time. If a rule is a serious struggle for a submissive and they are constantly breaking it then you have to balance the need for it with the damage it’s doing to the submissive’s self-esteem.
It’s not just on the bottom side either. If the Dom in the relationship feels like they are playing an exhausting game of whack-a-mole trying to keep up with all the rules being broken then they are going to burn out or decide they aren’t any good at being in charge.
So remember—if anything you try isn’t helping to make your relationship more fulfilling and stable for everyone involved then dump it. It’s not worth it