“At birth a person is soft and yielding, and at death stiff and hard. All beings, the grass, the trees: alive, soft and yielding; dead, stiff and hard. Therefore the hard and inflexible are friends to death. The soft and yielding are friends of life. An unyielding army is destroyed. An unbending tree breaks. The hard must humble itself or be otherwise humbled. The soft will ultimately ascend.” ~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Over the years I’ve chatted with countless people who are in dominant/submissive relationships. I’ve heard about the good, the bad, the challenging, the joyful – just about every aspect of such relationships you can think of. Out of these conversations have emerged many insights, but one common thread consistently pops out at me and I sum it up in one short phrase…
Adapt or die.
I don’t mean die literally. What I mean is that unless those in a dominant/submissive relationship adapt to the changes that naturally occur over time, the relationship will die. While I know this might apply to all relationships, I think it has particular relevance to dominant/submissive relationships. Here’s why.
Part of the dominant/submissive mindset is often a rigid set of rules and structures. On some level these rules and structures are what make such relationships appealing in the first place. The dominant partner has the primary control and thereby often sets the rules and structures in place for the relationship. The submission of the other partner often relies on the acceptance of such rules and structures. This can be hot. This can be exciting. This can be exactly as the partners want it to be – for a while.
Eventually real life creeps into such relationships and plays havoc with the rules. People’s sexuality often morphs over time and each partner might move in one direction or the other on the dominance/submission scale. People’s sexual interests change over time. Practical considerations like the illness of a partner, financial responsibilities and changing emotional needs come into play. In short, life happens.
So what do you do in such situations? If you want the relationship to survive, you adapt. You constantly renegotiate to assure that everyone is getting what they need. I don’t want to put the blame on dominants, but the resistance to this concept often does seem to come from the dominants who feel such adaptation is a challenge to their mastery over the relationship. It shouldn’t.
Some might say that they don’t anticipate anything changing that will affect the relationship’s dynamics. Especially in the early stages of a relationship this might seem likely, but I’ve seen just too many such relationships in my 36 years amidst my kinky brethren. I can’t point to a single relationship that’s lasted more than a brief time that hasn’t adapted in some way. Not one.
I’ve always contended that any bonding of two (or more) people around any sexual paradigm requires the skills of those involved to adapt and change over time to keep it fresh, to keep it interesting and to keep it relevant to their needs. Otherwise, why bother? Why would anyone want to stay in a relationship that doesn’t meet their needs? Isn’t that part of why we form such relationships?
Is this easy? No. Change is often hard. But the necessity for change (adaptation) is the norm, not the exception. Rigidity, for its own sake, is a surefire way to bring anything to a grinding halt, especially a relationship.
The most successful dominant/submissive relationships I’ve encountered seem to embrace the adaptation concept. How each partner expresses their dominance and submission will inevitably change. By anticipating the need for adaptation, those people in such relationships will be prepared for the challenge and be able to adjust the rules and structures to accommodate their needs best. Those who don’t do so at their own peril.