This article has been on my mind for a while now, but I’ve had trouble getting the words right. Usually if I wait long enough things will more-or-less form up in my head and then I can spill them out in one long whoosh.
That didn’t seem to be happening with this one and then I realized it was because I was working with the wrong title.
I started out with: Subs Are Not Children. And that’s true. Even if the sub identifies as a Little or a Brat, they aren’t children. The distinction between a childish headspace and a child is hugely important for many reasons.
But that’s not really what I want to discuss right now, so I gave it a title that more accurately reflects what I was trying to say: Manage your expectations. That is nice and compact, but it’s also a bit vague.
To be more specific this is a short version of ‘Manage your expectations of how much permanent influence you will have on a sub’s behavior.’ This comes from an, often faulty, assumption that whatever training and guidance you ingrain in a sub will permanently change them.
I’m going to break this into two parts. First, we’ll discuss your expectations when entering a new relationship. Then we’ll discuss relationships that have started to flag because the Dominant isn’t being as active.
This is mostly aimed at those bottoms who need discipline and structure as part of their life. When we speak about it happening in new relationships, I feel like it comes up more often when people get together in an emergency kind of situation.
We all know that it’s best to start a new relationship when we are in a good place. We know that it’s healthy to make sure you are stable before you dive into any relationship, but especially a D/s one. However, those of us who live the lifestyle also know that this isn’t always an option.
This is another place where D/s in books tends to be different from real life for some people. This doesn’t need to be an issue for bedroom subs, or people who play casually. Those who just enjoy being spanked or going to clubs may never have the struggle of being without a Dom and being unable to function.
But there are some submissives who don’t do well on their own. You can say ‘well, that’s unhealthy’ all you like, but it’s a reality. Service subs, slaves, Littles who spend a lot of time in little space – those are all different kinds of submissives/bottoms who tend to flounder without a dominant influence in their life.
It puts them into a state of panic and emergency where things fall apart. And it can be dangerous. In that headspace they aren’t always going to make the best choices about anything, but especially not about Doms/Tops. Desperation pushes them and common sense can be left behind.
But we’re not going to get into choosing the wrong Dominant to trust today.
We’re going to talk about the good Doms who come in ready and willing to help. Many Doms/Tops/Mommies/Daddies/Etc can feel when a sub really needs them. There is a vibe that says ‘help me!’ and they can sense it. (Yes, the bad ones and wannabes can too but this isn’t about the ones who take advantage.)
These helpful Doms come into a situation where a sub is drowning and desperately in need. That need calls to a part of them that wants to help and needs to be needed.
They may not think of it as a permanent situation. They may not be looking for a sub at all. In their minds they might be thinking of this as a temporary thing where they can get the sub back on track and then go on their merry way.
The Dominant in this scenario may even normally be submissive themselves. Because subs are people pleasers and helpers. That need to help can push them into a Top role that they didn’t expect to find themselves in. It actually happens a lot.
But when you take on this desperate person with the intention of just helping ‘for awhile’ you often end up over your head. Starting a relationship under the assumption that you can ‘fix’ the submissive, make them stable, and then leave with a job well done is a mistake.
Do not do this.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying you can’t form a temporary relationship. I’ve had temporary Doms and Tops many times. Dominant friends who knew I was on my own and struggling and were happy to take me under their wing for a short time. And yes, also friends who were normally submissive but for me put on a dominant role.
But this is the difference … we knew it was short term. BOTH of us knew. And if it changed and seemed like it might be a permanent thing, we both knew that was happening too.
Subs are not children. You aren’t raising them. They are adults whose behavior in certain matters has been set for a very long time. Your influence over them is going to be temporary and pretty much just for as long as you’re setting the rules.
With rules and punishments subs quickly get back on track. They start doing all the stuff they are supposed to do, because that’s how submission works. But without someone maintaining that structure with them… you’ll see they slide back into bad habits just as fast.
New Doms and inexperienced Doms often make the mistake of thinking they are fixing a sub with their structure, teaching them better. But it doesn’t work that way with a sub, or any adult really. They will do what you want for just as long as you are there telling them to do it.
So be aware that if you take on a submissive or a bottom, intending only to get them on track and then leave—you’re probably not going to help them much in the long run. Sure, you might give them a few weeks of stability and then what?
It’s a much better idea to be clear with the submissive that this is temporary. That you are helping them out for now, but it won’t continue. If possible, depending on your situation, you can stay with them until they find someone permanent.
You take on the role of a guardian. By doing that you keep them from accepting the wrong Dom out of desperation. You keep them fairly stable so they can start to heal and recover from their last relationship. Their life runs smoothly at the moment, and then hopefully the timing works out and you can stay with them until the right Dom comes along.
Now, the other situation is when you’ve been in a relationship for a while. Things are steady and stable. The sub is being well behaved and getting everything done. Discipline problems are few so the Dom turns their attention elsewhere.
When a relationship is new, Doms are very attentive. They watch every little thing and expect prompt obedience. Subs react well to that kind of focused dominance—but it doesn’t tend to last.
After a while things get lax. Maybe the amount of time the Dom had to supervise a new sub isn’t the amount of time they will have going forward. Maybe it’s just gotten less exciting. The shine is off the new toy.
Or possibly the Dom gets busy or is having personal issues and needs to pulls back from keeping track of things. Domming is a lot of work and takes a ton of energy. Sometimes it’s just not there.
When this happens the sub usually trucks along for a while because of physics (objects in motion tend to stay in motion) and they want to please, but eventually things will slip. They fall back into old ways and stop following the rules.
A submissive who isn’t being dominated enough will naturally do this. It is not a failing on their part. It’s a cry for the Dom to notice and help.
No matter how many times I hear about this, or see it, it always amazes me that the Dom is shocked and disappointed. Without fail they bring out the lectures like: “I thought we were past this.” “I thought you knew better.” “We haven’t had to deal with this issue in a long time. Why are we dealing with it now?”
That is because they assumed that they and the relationship had magically fixed the submissive and changed them into a different person. They thought that they had trained the sub into new behaviors. And they thought those behaviors would be permanent.
But that almost never happens, because submissives aren’t children or pets. They are people who need to be dominated. If you know, going into a relationship, that your sub needs rules, structure, and punishment to manage their life … you need to assume they will always need those things.
It’s who they are. By the time a person is experienced in submission they generally know what they need and will tell or show you. Taking them on, knowing these things, but just assuming those needs will go away eventually is unfair to everyone in the relationship.
As I said before, this mostly applies to subs or bottoms who need external structure. These people know that when they aren’t dominated, they end up wrapped up in executive disfunction. Usually, they are quite open about it.
I’m one of them. I always have been. I can function fine on my own, without being dominated, but only by completely cutting out the submissive part of myself. To me that feels like living a half-life.
It’s not me. It’s a shell. So, I know what I need and I’m very clear about it anytime I get into a relationship.
Bottoms, of whatever flavor, please be open and honest with your Tops when starting a new relationship. Tell them clearly what you need and make it clear it’s a need, and not a want.
Tops, please remember that you can’t fix someone you’re in a relationship with. You can guide them. You can love them. You can make their life easier. But you’re not repairing them or making it so that they no longer need things from you.
If you don’t dominate, you can’t be surprised or disappointed when they stop following the rules. Cause and effect.
So, if your sub suddenly stops getting things done, seems to be struggling, or doesn’t obey then a good place to look is at how much attention they’ve been getting from you. Obviously, that’s not the only possible reason, but discussing it will help you figure it out.
And while I do try to focus mostly on D/s here. You should be aware that managing your expectations of how much you will change a person goes for all relationships. The person you love with anxiety and abandonment issues … will probably continue to have those issues even though you are there loving them.
The person with commitment issues, the one who lies and sneaks around … is not going to change because you love them enough. In most cases an adult is the person they are and nothing you do will change them into someone different. They can change themselves, if they want to, but you have to accept that it probably won’t happen.
So let me repeat: You cannot permanently fix a person by loving them or dominating them.