My last serious blog post discussed relationship maintenance, especially where it applies to D/s partners. The importance of occasionally going through your rules and protocols to discuss what’s working and what isn’t, cannot be underestimated.
I mentioned some specific things to think about when having the discussion, like what needs to be added or discarded, and also just in general how everyone in the relationship feels. If you haven’t read it, I really suggest you do—and then take it as a reminder to find some time for this serious discussion with your partner.
You can find it here: So… Isn’t It Time for You to Do Some Relationship Maintenance?
I wanted to do this topic as a follow-up. Because, once you have that discussion with your partner you may discover that things aren’t working, that changes need to be made. And all of that can be handled during the talk. But … what happens if the changes aren’t made? What happens if you’re not getting what you need, but things just stay how they are even after discussing it?
This can be a really tough situation on both sides of the relationship. And Tops can be the ones feeling this too. They can totally be the ones who are not getting what they need. But—in my experience it’s a little easier for them to get by without topping, than it is for lifestyle subs to get by without being topped. So, this piece is going to focus more on the bottom side of the equation.
Some bottoms, not all, depend heavily on their Top, more so than a partner in a different kind of relationship might. When the Top suddenly isn’t able to give, it can leave the bottom feeling lost, confused, maybe even angry.
Worse, depending on the type of relationship, you may find your daily life falling apart without the authority you are used to. Slaves, for instance, are often very deep into the submissive headspace and are used to having a large portion of their life controlled. If they suddenly aren’t getting that instruction they can flounder and this can affect everything, even their jobs.
Service subs and also Littles who spend a lot of time in a younger headspace often have the same issue. It’s not uncommon for them to start being reckless or unhealthy in their lives because they no longer feel the rules apply. Or subconsciously because they hope their Top will take notice.
Is this healthy? No, not really. A submissive is still an adult who should be able to function as an adult without someone telling them what to do. Everyone should be able to survive outside of a relationship without letting things fall apart.
But managing and thriving are not the same thing.
Many submissives are in D/s relationship specifically because they know they need them. Many are specifically in discipline relationships because they know they need structure and consequences. Many are in relationships where they aren’t in charge because they have unhealthy behaviors, and the rules and structure give them something to hold onto instead of those behaviors.
So no, it’s not healthy, but it’s also not unusual. And in this case, they are using D/s and/or BDSM to mitigate their unhealthy behaviors. I’ve discussed this when it comes to self-harm. So, in a way, it’s like taking medication because you have a chronic illness and then running out of pills.
You needed the medication to keep the illness under control, and now you don’t have it. You may be able to struggle along, but you’re probably not thriving. This is, btw, why I do think even the deepest D/s relationships needs to encourage a certain amount of independence. At least enough so that the sub is able to tread water for a while if they have to.
This is one of the big differences between a bedroom sub and the type who needs authority and discipline. A bedroom sub loves to be dominated because it’s a turn on. They may crave it, but if they go without it’s more of an annoyance than a real-life struggle. Just like having to go without sex altogether is annoying but you’ll live without it for a while.
Someone who is used to having a list of rules to follow, and guidance in their decisions doesn’t do so well when that guidance is suddenly gone. And I think this year there’s been a lot of that happening. So many people, including Tops/Doms/Caregivers are struggling right now, even to manage their own lives. That means they may not have the energy to manage someone else’s.
It’s perfectly understandable and no one’s fault, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have a bottom struggling desperately to keep their head above water. And again, it could be the Dom who isn’t getting what they need right now, but the Dom side of the partnership is usually much more able to keep things together when they aren’t getting what they need.
So, if you are in this position of feeling like your needs aren’t being met, then you are faced with staying with the familiar, which used to be great, but now isn’t. Or walking away, which can be heartbreaking, especially if you deeply love your partner.
It needs to be said that love isn’t always enough. As painful as it is, if your needs aren’t being met and your partner can’t or won’t work with you to get to a better place, then you’ve got some hard choices to make. It’s never simply a matter of going to find something ‘better’ when you love someone.
There are so many factors in this decision. It gets even more difficult when it’s not your partner’s fault that they can’t give you what you need right now.
And this is specifically relevant at the moment because of Covid. During this past year and a half, I know of many relationships that were solid and have now fallen apart because of health issues or depression. When you’re deeply depressed, as so many people are right now, it can be really hard to make yourself carry on with your role as usual.
Depression can make you tired. It can make you angry. If you’re a sub it can make you need to take back your power, which means making more of your own decisions and not following rules.
For a Dom it can mean being too tired or apathetic to chase someone around to make sure they behave. And for both it can cause you to avoid the kind of scenes that require energy, and that can mean punishments fall by the wayside.
So, is it fair to walk away from a partner because of something they can’t help?
It’s not a matter of what’s fair. It might feel that way but it’s not. It’s about whether you can make it without those needs being met, or if you need to find someone who can help you.
That’s a decision no one can make for you. I wouldn’t even attempt to give you advice on whether you should walk away or stick it out. Except to say … you can only do what you’re capable of.
I think if you value the relationship then it’s worth giving it some time to recover, again this is especially relevant right now. Please remember we are facing something that none of us, in our lifetime has faced before.
I do want to emphasize something about the Top side of the equation because the heavy work in the relationship often falls on them. Doms are not superhuman. Sometimes they aren’t as strong and that can be hard for a sub to accept. There are times when they may not be able to fill all of your needs. Sometimes they break down too.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discuss these things. I think, if anything, it’s even more important to be clear on everything. But it means that even if you aren’t getting enough and aren’t getting things that you are used to expecting, you shouldn’t go into the conversation feeling confrontational.
Try to be calm and understanding because it can be a lot of work to manage your own life, while trying to take care of someone else. And the first instinct for many people, including me, is to feel like a burden and try to distance themselves instead, so they aren’t making any work for their Dom.
That’s a bad idea. That distance will grow and eventually it will destroy your relationship. Your job as a sub isn’t to hide things from your Dom even if you feel like they don’t have any energy for you. They may NOT be able to do as much for you right now, but that doesn’t mean they want to be kept in the dark.
Additionally, sometimes feeling needed can actually help them. Being a full-time Dom is work. It’s effort. But it’s worth it if you’re the type of person who needs to be needed. There are benefits to it, that they may need to be reminded of.
Sometimes they just need a wakeup call that things are lapsing and they didn’t notice. Or sometimes they literally just can’t do it, in which case you’ll at least walk away from the discussion knowing that you’re on your own for a while. And that is really scary for a sub, but it may not be worth ending the relationship over. Given enough time sometimes (but not always) things do come back around, and you may choose to wait for that.
For Doms having a D/s partner is usually done for enjoyment. Either entertainment from play, because it’s arousing, or because they love being able to help someone. That doesn’t mean they don’t need a kinky lifestyle or relationship because I think need is on both sides. But it does mean that in some ways it can be optional for them, when it’s not always a choice for a submissive.
Any advice on how to survive?
Okay, so … I don’t really like to give specific advice; I like to lay out your options for you. I think that’s more practical all the way around, and then I don’t get yelled at if something doesn’t work. My experience is not the sum total of everything and what worked for me may not work for you.
Being without an active Dom when you aren’t great at self-motivation is miserable. It’s rough. I’ve been there. When your needs aren’t being met it makes everything else harder.
But if you’ve had the maintenance discussion, and you’ve pointed out your struggles and still nothing has changed then it becomes a matter of how long you can handle not getting those needs met. And this is, again, something only you can decide.
Your choices are: end the relationship and try to find a new one where you’ll get what you need. Or stick around and wait to see if things get better. Most people try the first one and then, if that doesn’t help, eventually they end up at the second. Depending on what’s happening and why, there is a good chance things will eventually improve, if you’re both committed to the relationship.
Those seem like fairly obvious and simple choices, but that doesn’t mean making one will be simple. Finding a new Dom, especially right now, can be hard. So, you may leave one relationship only to continue to not get those needs filled.
I’m not discouraging you from ending the relationship if you aren’t happy. When you reach a point where you can’t struggle anymore with the waiting, sometimes it has to be done. But it’s different if you’re leaving because you need something you aren’t getting, rather than leaving because you don’t love them anymore.
If you love them and they love you, but you feel like you have to go because you’re a sub who is not being Dommed that is a very specific problem. And there might not be a solution for it. Unless you have someone waiting in the wings who will take you on, you might continue to struggle for a while, and I don’t really have much advice for how to find someone new. We all know how difficult that is.
What I can do is give you some practical ideas on how to keep yourself afloat while you wait. These are not going to apply to bedroom subs but for people who need structure and rules and aren’t getting them. None of them are going to help if what you’re missing is sexy domination time, but fantasies and vibrators might help out with that aspect.
Whether you are leaving or sticking it out, you might want to try one of these, or all of them. You still need to survive until you’re getting those needs met again. And even though these items are addressed to subs, this is for you Doms too. If you want to help, but you just can’t do much, maybe something on this list is an idea you can try.
- Make less work for your Dom to track
I don’t mean hide things. I mean discuss a much smaller modified list of things that your Dominant partner might still be able to help with. Find the most important things that you are struggling with and ask them if they can handle helping you with just those.
If you’re both struggling, a 20-item list of daily things that have to be checked on is probably overwhelming. Cut it down to 1-2 of the most important. For instance: “I know you’re struggling right now, but I really need help with taking my meds. I keep skipping them and it’s causing health problems. Do you think you can handle checking in with me on this?”
- Make daily lists
Write down all of the things you need to get done so you can keep track of yourself a little better. If you have to be your own Dom for a while, then do the job right. Plan your own small punishments and rewards. If you complete the list, you get a couple of cookies. If you miss things you have to scrub the bathtub.
It’s not as helpful as outside motivation but it can keep you on track. Is there something frivolous you’ve been wanting to buy? Make yourself earn it with completing a fair number of daily lists.
- Set alarms
If you’re having trouble remembering to do the things you need to do, then take advantage of technology to remind you. Use your computer or phone to set as many detailed alarms as you need to. Even if that means it goes off to remind you to drink, to remind you to take your pills, at mealtimes, when it’s time to sleep.
Set them for paying your bills. For taking care of your animals. For showers. Literally everything you need to do you can program a handy alarm to remind you. And if you find it doesn’t work because you shut the alarm off and then forget to do the thing anyway … don’t shut it off until you start working on the thing.
Alarm goes off at 5pm to drink… don’t just shut it off. Let it continue while you get up and get a drink. Come back sipping and THEN shut it off. It goes off to remind you to pay your bills? Let it play until you pull up your accounts and start getting those bills paid. It’s not easy to procrastinate while an annoying chime is going off over and over.
- Friend or fellow sub accountability
Do you have a friend who procrastinates all the time? Do you have fellow subs who are currently without Doms or are struggling just like you? Help each other. Be accountable to each other. “I have to get this done today. If I don’t you can pick the worst house chore you can think of for me to do.”
Something like that can be surprisingly helpful. Authors do it all the time by sprinting together. If you tell people what your goal is, and you have to report back whether you met it, it can be harder to blow it off.
- Try imagining how your current or future Dom would react
Would they be pleased with your behavior? Would you get scolded or punished for what you did? Would they praise you for keeping things together or give you a reward? Imagination is a wonderful tool when real life fails to provide.
It’s not nearly as good, obviously, but imagining how they would respond to situations can help you make the right choices. You could even write out a short story of how you think things would go. Or even write a letter confessing misbehavior and why you did it.
- Keep track of broken rules
Your Dom might not be able to do much for you now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually catch up to you. Make a plan with them to keep track of broken rules and misbehavior. Maybe on a google doc you can both access it, or a list pinned to the wall that you can both add to.
It can help you stay in line if you realize you are racking up a heavy tab that will have to be dealt with. And it ensures that if/when things get back on track those things will be taken care of so you can clear the slate between you.
- Take it one day at a time
Sometimes you just have to concentrate on getting through each day. Every day you make it through is a win. Did you manage some of what you were supposed to do? That’s better than nothing, so try not to beat yourself up (figuratively and literally).
If you got one thing done today, try to build on it and get two things done tomorrow. Focus on the things that are essential for survival first: food, water, sleep. If you got nothing else done all day at least you took care of your most basic physical needs.
Celebrate the small victories where you can. Try to slip in at least a few minutes of self-care each day, whatever that means for you.
- Find someone who can help temporarily
Do you have a bossy friend or a Top/Dom you’re close to, but not in a relationship with? Maybe they can help temporarily. I have a ‘big brother’ who used to do this for me sometimes when I was between Doms. I also have other bossy people in my life who have no trouble telling me to do stuff when they see me struggling, because they know I’m generally submissive.
If you are remaining with your partner, I do not suggest doing this behind their back. That is a sure way to destroy everything. D/s relationships are built on honesty.
It will need to be discussed between you, maybe some limits set on both sides. Explain that you need a Dom until they are capable again and if it can’t be them then you will have to have someone else. Explain that you aren’t leaving them, but just putting in a substitute for now.
This might spur them to step up their Dom game to give you what you need, but I do not recommend manipulating them by pretending you’ll go elsewhere. Do this to keep them in the loop, not to force them.
For most people this will probably be a last resort especially if their D/s relationship is romantic based, but just because your D/s with one partner is romantic doesn’t mean it has to be with everyone. If it’s the discipline you’re missing it can be entirely platonic and that might be a limit that your Top puts into place if they agree to someone else stepping in.
Does your Dom have a Dom friend that they get along well with? Maybe they could ask the favor of looking after you for a bit.
You could try adding a third to the relationship officially, if you are all the types who can handle that dynamic. I have two Doms, and this was one of the biggest reasons why that works for us. Both of them have issues that can keep them from being attentive at times. With two, someone is usually available.
I hope some of those will be useful for people who are struggling right now. Does anyone out there have other suggestions of how to deal with not having your needs met? What has worked for you? Please leave it in the comments.