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BDSM

Overcoming Obstacles in Your BDSM Relationship

Published: FEBRUARY 18, 2022 | Updated: JULY 21, 2022 08:33:05
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Reviewed by Dr. Laura McGuire
on February 3, 2022
Adopting a realist perspective, practicing empathy and communicating effectively are absolutely essential to successful BDSM relationships. 

No discussion of kink play—whether it’s a few tentative first steps or graduating to more intense play—would be complete without acknowledging how it can be challenging to even the strongest of relationships.

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But it doesn’t have to be. And one of the best ways to deal with things going wrong is for everyone involved to understand the perils and pitfalls of BDSM relationships.

For one, working on accepting kinky adult entertainment, or our cherished erotic fantasies, barely scratches the surface of the BSDM scene; it has nothing to do with its sometimes harsh realities.

Here are some more common struggles to exploring BDSM in a relationship—and how to overcome them:


Real BDSM Won't Be Like Your Fantasies

Aware of it or not, everyone uses their imagination to weave themselves into an ideal life or pleasurable situations.

This is especially true when it comes to sex—and even more so when it’s kinky sex. From latex fashion sites to erotic books and stories (like those written by yours truly), we love to cast ourselves as perfect submissives or flawless dominants—fantasizing a reality wherein every sexy scenario is flawlessly smooth and nothing ever goes wrong.

Read: How Writing Erotica Helped Me Overcome Low Libido

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However, real BDSM play is anything but perfect. Sure, when people know each other very well, it can get pretty gosh-darned close—but arriving at that point is likely the end of an extremely rocky path—with no guarantee that things will work out.

There’s nothing wrong with fantasizing. What isn’t advisable is turning them into a rigid delusion that kink play should live up to these unrealistic expectations.

So if you and your partner(s) have done the necessary emotional homework and feel you’re prepared to try the real thing, put aside your fantasies and get ready to spend time—lots of time—learning what an actual, no-rose-colored-glasses BDSM scene is like.

It's Not For the Faint of Heart

Despite its fondness for black leather and stern, almost brutal imagery the kink community seems to enjoy painting itself with, BDSM can be chock-full of giggles, guffaws and downright silliness.

Read: The World-Changing Kink Community

This is fantastic as it shows a scene doesn’t have to be dark and intense to be fun. And I’m bringing it up because—no matter the lighting, the fetish fashions worn or the play—for those new to the scene, I recommend thinking of BDSM as a sexual activity.

Yes, I’m aware genital-to-genital or mouth-to-same is fairly rare in public playspaces—and lots of kinky folks get off without any direct sexual stimulation (there or at home). But until they gain experience, people starting to explore kink may not understand how it can push deeply intimate buttons.

To illustrate, 63% of BDSM practitioners reported "cheating" on their partner, according to a 2021 survey by BDSM dating app KinkD.

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I use quotations around "cheating" because I’ve never liked the word. It implies judgment and reinforces the idea that people in committed relationships somehow "belong" to each other—which, I feel, objectifies everyone involved.

That aside, the survey revealed a majority of people stepped outside their relationships because they were frightened of expressing their BDSM interests to their partner. Due, no doubt, to how they (and probably their partner) think of kink as sexual.

Getting back to my point: If you or your partner are novices, resist jumping head-first into the kink scene until you've both dedicated a lot of time, and even more effort, to processing your emotions around sex—even if no one’s considering doing anything with their naughty bits.

Read: Healing from Purity Culture

You Can Never Talk Enough

I think the biggest relationship mistake anyone can make, whether or not you partake in BDSM play, is failing to deeply, earnestly communicate with each other.

As I mentioned, the sexual aspect of BDSM can lead to all sorts of unexpected and intense emotional reactions. But what makes things even more complex and challenging is that these feelings can bring up pre-existing resentments or insecurities. Unwinding what lies behind or triggered them requires a great deal of soul searching—or consultations with a mental health professional.

Another important tool for overcoming the strong emotions BDSM can trigger is to talk to your partner. Easy? Sometimes—but sometimes not. Remember: You’re going to be discussing sex, which isn't the easiest topic for a lot of people to be open about. But ignoring the importance of communication will make it an iron-clad certainty that something emotionally traumatic will happen.

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That said, don’t just talk at each other. Reflexive listening is a great tool to get down deep— which begins with one person speaking, without interruption, as their partner listens and earnestly processes what they said. After, the listener attempts to repeat the essence of what they heard. Then, when they are done, the first person clarifies if needed—and it goes around and around until you reach understanding.

Read: How to Ask Your Partner to Be Your Dominant

Another effective communication technique is to make a firm agreement that either person, for whatever reason, can slow down, renegotiate or completely stop what’s going on—be it a BDSM play session or any aspect of the relationship. This will take a good amount of work as kink can have a uniquely feverish erotic momentum (think letting loose in a steaming-hot sexual amusement park). But for a relationship to grow stronger, everyone has to accept these essential things about BDSM.

The Bottom Line

To recap: First, there can be a massive disconnect between erotic fantasies and real BDSM scenes. Second, whether or not you’re planning for sexual activity, avoid doing anything without fully considering how you or your partner may feel about it. Lastly, recognizing problems quickly, feeling safe about expressing concerns and desires, processing, healing, and growing as a couple is only possible through effective communication.

Because as a submissive, dominant, switch or whatever kink play you may get into, relationships should forever be built around trust, honesty, compassion and caring for one another.

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Photo for M. Christian
M. Christian

M.Christian is an author who has been published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even nonfiction, but it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and in fact too many anthologies, magazines, and sites to name. In addition to writing, M.Christian is a respected sex and BDSM educator, having taught classes on everything from polyamory to tit torture for venues such as the SF Citadel, Good Vibrations, COPE (in Columbus, Ohio), Beat Me In St. Louis, Winter Fire, Floating World, Sin In The City (Las Vegas), Dark Odyssey, and many others.

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