I have been putting this post off for a very long time. Over the course of the couple years that I’ve had this blog, I have received a number of emails from submissives who want to know if a particular pattern of behavior on the part of their chosen Dominants is abusive or if they have done something wrong or something similar to those lines. I’ve seen it several times, in slightly different permutations, from several different sources, so I want to make it clear that I’m not singling out any particular email that I may have received recently as the source of this piece.
The question is usually of this form:
“I <used my safeword / cried / didn’t want to do something> and now my Dom is acting cold and distant with me. Did I do something wrong, or is he being abusive?”
The last portion of the question there is sometimes missing, or slightly perturbed, as in “was he abusing me all along and I just now realize it?” etc…
I almost never have enough information from the email that poses this question to make any sort of determination along those lines, but I do always try to be helpful.
One thing that I think a lot of people miss is that D/s relationships are still relationships and relationships are hard. Dominants are people too, with our own problems, emotional baggage, and deep histories which sometimes include shame and remorse or things that we just wish we’d had the presence of mind to handle differently at the time.
I don’t have a panacea here. Some of these situations may be actual abuse. There is certainly a period of NRE that can mask things that are truly bad, but aside from that, if you normally have a communicative relationship where you can talk about things and express your desire to each other, then incidents like this may just be part and parcel of relationships, though they manifest themselves in strange ways in this particular context.
To offer any advice in this context is a bit controversial, if not entirely ill advised… but this is a persistent question I get, so there is clearly a need for information that is not otherwise being met and I will do my best to address the issue.
The key thing to remember here is that a D/s relationship is still a relationship, and as with all relationships, be they romantic, professional, familial, or something that falls outside of all of those buckets, communication is the most important thing into which you can invest time and energy.
How can you tell if it’s really abuse? That’s not really an easy thing, but generally if you’re talking about a single incident in what is otherwise a good relationship, I would give your partner the benefit of the doubt – he may just be having a bad day, or you may have hit one of his triggers. However, if something that makes you uncomfortable repeats, there may be an issue, and this is where you may have to force the point and really talk about it. Even if it is just a single incident, you need to talk about it, but a pattern of behavior is almost always a deeper issue than a single incident.
If you don’t have the sort of relationship where you can talk about these things, then you have deeper problems. Aftercare is typically the place where you would talk about these things. Don’t wait weeks or even days to talk about something that went wrong – talk about it right after it happens, find out where the problem came from, let him know that there is a problem (because he might not even realize it,) and do something to either correct or avoid it for the next time.
I fear that I’ve rambled a bit in this post… the point that I’m trying to get across is that Doms are people too – we have bad days, we have emotional triggers, and sometimes something will happen that causes us to have an abnormal reaction. There have been times when I’ve hit a trigger of my own that causes me to emotionally retreat without even realizing it. Usually I can come back around and see things for what they are if I’m given enough time, but in almost all of those cases, a few words or questions from my sub would have brought me there a lot more quickly.
A single bad experience may be bad enough to chuck out the whole affair, but probably isn’t unless things aren’t that good to begin with. A pattern of bad behavior though – that’s something else, and that’s something that you should not continually put up with.