What Matters and What Doesn’t Matter in Your Power Exchange | 30 Days of D/s
Plenty of people worry about getting their power exchange relationship “right.” They want to have the “right” rules and protocols, follow the “right” dynamic, and use the “right” titles. Those things matter a lot less than you think.
Yes, finding the power exchange and/or kinky acts that fulfill you is important. But there’s no single “right” way to do any of it. (That’s an example of One True Way thinking in kink and it doesn’t work. It only stifles real desires and gate keeps what is essentially a very individual practice and experience.)
The things that actually matter to having a happy, healthy power exchange relationship are less about kink and more about finding your way forward with a partner who’s good for you.
Here’s what does and doesn’t matter in your power exchange.
Things That Don’t Matter in Your Power Exchange
When you’re figuring out what kind of power exchange you want with a partner, and what fulfills you as a person and a kinkster, certain things matter a lot less than you think. Here are three:
Labels You Use
Some labels might be more common than others, “Dom and sub” or “Master and slave” for example. But there are no rules that say you have to use certain titles or labels with specific power exchanges. Whatever words you use to refer to each other and your power exchange only need to make sense to you. Reject any labels and titles that don’t feel right or fit. Use what speaks to you or skip labels completely.
You get to pick the labels and titles you use, and there’s no other rule than that they feel right for you. Reminder: You cannot arbitrarily decide what label/title your partner will use. They don’t have to accept a label you want to use for them.
Rules You Set
You can be in a power exchange without ever setting a single ongoing rule. You can also have a fulfilling power exchange with ALL the rules and plenty of micromanagement. And of course, you can pick and choose what (if any) rules you want to set or follow and then change them when it makes sense to do so. Power exchange is about leading and following or about receiving or giving up power/control. It’s absolutely possible to do it without a laundry list of rules.
Pro tip: Even if you reject the notion of rules completely, we highly recommend discussing and managing expectations. Both of you should be on the same page about who will do what, when, and how.
Doing a Dynamic “Right”
Maybe you want a quintessential 1950s Household power exchange except for that part about how you dress. You might want a Caregiver/little dynamic but you hate the idea of calling your partner Mommy or Daddy. You don’t have to follow every “rule” of a dynamic to consider yourself part of that dynamic. The rules are a bit arbitrary, and there’s no governing body that will take away your kinky license for skipping parts of a dynamic that don’t suit you.
Pick and choose what appeals to both of you from any and all examples of power exchange you find. Create your own mash-up of different dynamics, a Kinkenstein’s Monster of a dynamic. You’re “allowed” to do that (not that you needed our permission).
Will people tell you it’s “wrong?” Yes, sadly they will. If you’re both happy and give informed, enthusiastic consent, it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else to be valid.
What Actually Matters in Your Power Exchange
The details of your power exchange should be unique to you and your partner. It’s about what you both mutually want. Think of it like a Venn diagram. You have your wants and needs. They have their wants and needs. What makes your power exchange work is the places where those wants and needs overlap or align. That means you can make your dynamic into anything that suits both of you – even if it doesn’t look like any power exchange you’ve ever heard of.
In figuring that out for yourself, and living your best kinky life, there are a few things that absolutely matter – always.
This may seem obvious but it can never be said enough.
Consent is ongoing. The work you put into getting consent to set your power exchange up has to continue through your relationship. You or your partner can withdraw consent, renegotiate your dynamic, and re-set boundaries at any point.
Neither partner should expect something decided at the beginning of your relationship to remain the exact same all the time forever. People change and grow, which means what we want and don’t want change and grow.
Tip: Get into the habit of checking in regularly to make sure you have consent even for “common” activities you’ve done for a while. It’s never a bad thing to say, “I’m checking in on this. Are we still good here?”
Communication is one of the building blocks of kink and power exchange. (Consent is the other.) Nothing happens if you can’t talk to each other – and more importantly, listen to each other.
Like consent, communication must be ongoing. The conversations you had to set up your power exchange are just the beginning. To keep it going in a healthy way for the long-term, you’ve got to keep talking and listening.
Whether it’s something you do constantly in a more casual way or something that’s scheduled and done with a lot of structure, both partners need the space to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with each other. Skip this, and your relationship won’t make it.
Reminder: Communication doesn’t have to be verbal or face-to-face to be valid. If it’s easier to write it down or voice record something without the pressure of your partner listening, that’s okay. What matters is the exchange of information in the way each of you best receives it.
Trust and Integrity
If you have consent and communication, trust tends to follow. Trust grows when both partners have integrity. This means doing what you’ll say you’ll do, being who you say you are, and when something interferes with either, talking it out.
Be honest. Say the hard thing. Show empathy. Be consistent. Remember that you’re a team and work together.
Words matters but actions are louder. And loudest of all are patterns of behavior. Want trust? Make sure your behavioral patterns match your words.
These things are the necessary parts of any healthy relationship. They’re skills you can learn, and they get easier with practice.
Reminder: When (not if) you fuck up, own it. Apologize and/or make things right. Then, most importantly, do your best to never repeat that fuck-up again.
There’s a lot more that goes into a happy, healthy power exchange relationship. It’s never as simple as following a short checklist to get a good result. You’ve got to be vulnerable and allow your partner the space to be vulnerable, too. Relationships shouldn’t be hard, but they do require effort.
The trappings of power exchange can be the “easy” part, and they often matter less than we think. They’re infinitely customizable and should adapt based on what you both want, where you’re at in life, and what works for you right now (not some mystical, air-brushed future perfection).
Forming a kinky relationship that’s good for both of you is both simpler and more difficult than we imagine. It’s doable but only if we focus on what actually matters.
Want to figure out what Dominance, submission, and power exchange mean to you? You can do 30 Days of D/s, too. Get the 30 Days of D/s workbook here!