Miriam at miriam the brave commented on my last post, and asked the following questions:
How do you know what a sub needs? Sometimes even the sub doesn’t know.
Do you fear that in her relying on you to meet her needs she will not be able to on her own in the unfortunate situation where you’re no longer around?
I felt that attempting to answer the questions with a few sentences in the comment section would seem trivial and do her an injustice. The questions are too important. In fact, an in-depth answer could fill a book, but that’s not appropriate for a blog, so I’ll give a condensed version.
First off, am I qualified to answer Miriam’s questions? After all, as the saying goes “opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one.”
I have a degree and background in psychology. I have over a dozen years investigative experience, that includes four specialties, one of which covers domestic relations and abuse. I also have extensive experience in inner city problems: battered women and children shelters, various halfway houses, gangs, etc. And I have nearly two decades D/s experience and research.
1st Question: How do you know what a sub needs?
The average Dom and sub are not psychologists or psychiatrists; so, allow me to give the four primary ways (or tools) the average D/s couple deals with this issue: communication, observation, research, and professional counseling/guidance.
I wish to clarify that my answers are specifically for 24/7 D/s couples with a foundation of love (I don’t believe part-timers and/or those who stick with public venues, dungeons, play dates, and casual hook-ups will acquire the level of intimacy and trust necessary to accomplish this properly).
To get the complete benefit from the power exchange in a D/s relationship open, honest, and constant communication is imperative. By loving and respecting each other enough to expose your secrets, fantasies, flaws, and other vulnerabilities you’ll reinforce your foundation and build a level of trust necessary to confidently tackle any issue.
Every individual and couple are different; so, the time required to build such an intimate connection is going to vary. But speed is not important, go at a comfortable pace for each of you. What’s important is building the intimacy, trust, and communication levels. The time will be well spent. We all know or have heard of couples that are so close they can practically finish each other’s sentences (similar to the two becoming one biblical concept).
If you, the sub, are openly, honestly, and constantly communicating with your Dom, they should become well acquainted with your behavioral traits. They will equally pick-up more by living with you, and observing you constantly (if they are making the effort to do so). They will begin to gain an almost intuitive sense of your positive and negative behavioral traits. And this intimate and intuitive level of observation will be used in conjunction with communication and the other primary tools to help decipher the sub’s needs.
If the sub is dealing with one or more specific mental, emotional, and/or physical problems it would behoove you, both Dom and sub, to research and gain as much knowledge about the issues as possible. Remember, knowledge is power. The more you know about what causes the issues and the best available solutions or treatments, the better your chance at making the best decisions for you, your situation, and relationship.
Sadly, many people have had atrocious childhoods, abusive relationships, or multiple traumatic experiences in their lives, which can easily cause multiple issues to deal with. And these issues may run the gamut from physical to mental to emotional, and require medical or counseling professionals to properly deal with.
Similarly, if Dom and sub need help understanding any of the research they’ve acquired, it’s better to get help from competent professionals, instead of taking advice from laypersons (D/s or otherwise).
Putting it all together
If everything goes according to plan the Dom will gain an intimate, almost intuitive, knowledge of his sub through continuous communication and observation. The communication and observational knowledge will be constantly compared to the knowledge acquired through research and/or professional assistance. And decisions will be made based on the collective knowledge.
[*In situations where neither Dom nor sub knows what the sub needs, you need to keep utilizing the tools. Keep communicating, observing, researching, etc. And even make use of trial and error until the need becomes apparent. Some issues take longer than others, and some people take longer, especially if there are multiple issues to deal with. But never give up!]
Real world example
Soon after kat and I met I discovered she had dark depressive episodes, which she claimed lasted as long as 7-10 days on average. Since this was during the long-distance phase of our relationship I wouldn’t be able to rely on observation much, if any. However, from the very beginning, kat and I have had an uncanny level of communication. So, I began learning as much about her past and present situations, including emotions, thoughts, fantasies, dreams, everything.
As a trained observer and active listener, it soon became very clear to me that kat—who had endured a few intensely traumatic experiences, along with two long-term negative relationships, and numerous years of emotional abuse—was dealing with all the emotional pain through an inappropriate method which she had started using as a child.
She had built walls around the bad memories, and when the memories and pain broke through she completely shut-down. She felt that feeling nothing was better than feeling the pain. Unfortunately, such methods are negatives not positives. They don’t allow positive solutions which tear down the walls and get rid of the pain for good.
Kat is an intelligent and strong woman. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize she was inadvertently prolonging her suffering with the inappropriate survival methods, because she had fought through it all by herself. She had never gone for any counseling.
I admired her strength and resolve, but she needed help, and I had the training and experience to help her.
We discussed the situation and I initiated a very simple plan that would begin during our long-distance phase, and continue for as long as necessary when we came together. The plan only involved four steps, but I knew they would work for kat—but it would take time (especially since we began it long-distance).
The steps are as follows:
When kat begins to focus on negative thoughts and emotions she needs to immediately fight back with positive thoughts and emotions.
She must never shut me out when she’s shutting down.
We’ll both focus on making an abundance of positive memories together to combat the negative memories (because there has been such a huge imbalance in her life).
[*This waited until we got together.] If she succumbs to a dark episode I will utilize a method of cathartic release to snap her out of it before it gets a strong hold on her.
Did the plan work?
We haven’t been together very long. However, though she isn’t completely rid of everything, the plan is definitely working. Kat has only had a handful of dark episodes since we’ve been together: all of them early during the long-distance phase of our relationship. And yet, even when still long-distance, instead of the 7-10 day durations, like prior to our relationship, the longest episode was 3 days (most were just a day). And, while she still has bad days, she no longer shuts down, she continues to function, and she never shuts me out.
2nd Question: Do you fear that in her relying on you to meet her needs she will not be able to on her own in the unfortunate situation where you’re no longer around?
As a Dom, I do not fear this in my situation with kat, for several reasons. I’ve already mentioned that kat is a strong and intelligent woman. And from the beginning of our relationship, which is built on a solid foundation of unconditional love, we view ourselves as loving partners in all things, including D/s. And the plan I designed for kat’s depressive episodes can, for the most part, be carried out by kat alone if necessary: especially after she’s been doing it so long. And the goal is to cure her from the depression altogether, a goal which is progressing very well, as mentioned above.
However, if per chance something happened to me before she was cured, the parts of the plan that I handle can be slightly altered so that kat could carry on alone, or with a new partner.
Doms predominantly have the last word in D/s relationships, but that doesn’t mean subs should have no word, especially with situations dealing with their mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
I value kat’s opinion, and want her in-put on every major issue before I make the final decision. And I would hope that all D/s couples would work and communicate wonderfully together. This way, if the sub, Dom, or both have issues they will discuss, research, plan, and institute the best plan they can, and the sub never has to feel she’s kept in the dark.
I understand that this is a condensed version, but all couples, even those with multiple issues to combat, can make good use of it. Keep your love and communication strong. Make plans specific to the sub (do not follow mine, it was tailor-made specifically for kat), and that can be altered for the sub to use alone if the need arises. Institute, maintain, and adjust plans to needs that are known—and never stop searching for answers to needs that are presently unknown: and get help if you need to.