Commitment in Power Exchange Relationships

Posted: June 16, 2015 by KC in Advice, Learn Something, Philosophy

Editors Note: This article was written by our new contributor, KC, who will bring to XCBDSM the perspective of a female slave. We’re excited to have a new voice.  You can find KC’s bio here. If you have something to say and are interested in writing for XCBDSM, click here

I remember my mother once saying, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

This old saying was meant to keep young girls from living “in sin” with a man. The expectation was that you meet someone, date, marry and live happily ever after. While marriage is a still considered a cornerstone for a relationship structure today, people can now obtain a divorce with ease. Since there is now far less stigma attached to having even multiple divorces, walking away from a relationship is not unusual, even if you are living together or married. In fact, many now choose to live together without being married in order to ease the end of such relationships.

Why would someone go into a relationship planning their break up? How can a person who has the “happily ever after” mantra in their head keep one foot out the door, just in case? That is not how people have been taught to prepare for their “ever after.”


In planning change, one is prepared for change. That statement sounds a bit redundant, I know, but think about it… if a person understands people can and do change, then they are prepared and can adapt, change alongside each other, and grow through it.

This is exactly what is established from the beginning by many in the Master/slave, Dominant/submissive lifestyle (also known as a power exchange relationship). I am talking about a 24/7 relationship of course, one which is beyond role playing, beyond the occasional, maybe once-a-week BDSM activity. Many living the day in and day out of this lifestyle define themselves as a slave, as a Master, as a submissive, or as a Dominant, and they often begin the relationship with the same commitment ideals as any other couple.

The commitment to each other tends to be more solid than one of a vanilla relationship. And while there certainly are those in the BDSM lifestyle that enjoy play for physical gratification only, there are many more who prefer a bonded, fulfilling, and committed relationship, just as many vanilla married couples do. In fact, some research shows that break ups (let alone divorces) are less frequent in power exchange relationships than in vanilla, married couples (Dietrich, 2003).

So where does the difference between relationships in each lifestyle lay? I believe it is in the fact that honesty self-expression, and forthrightness are generally valued in serious BDSM relationships. This is not to say everyone in this lifestyle feels this way, as we well know there are exceptions to every rule, but in my own research I have found that a majority of partners in a power exchange relationship value this ideology in their relationship. For many, this begins on day one.

It is common for these relationships to begin with a negotiation where each partner is able to establish their needs, limitations, and obligations for one another, often resulting in a contract that expresses those terms. A contract in the BDSM lifestyle is not legally binding, but can mean much more to those participants than a marriage license. Likened to writing one’s marriage vows, both Master and slave have the opportunity to map out explicitly what their relationship will look like and how it will function. Rules are discussed and compromised upon, with each party openly discussing what they want and need out of their relationship. Great care is taken in the construction of each provision because the most in the lifestyle take these commitments very seriously.

The contract sets the expectations for future, as well, often establishing set dates for review and renewal of the commitment. In doing so, the partners acknowledge the necessity of adaptation and alleviate some of the insecurity and anxiety that can come with it. This acknowledgement of fluidity empowers each partner to regularly speak up for themselves and make changes to the relationship as needed, up to or including the end of the relationship if that is what is best. These relationships are not failures, because each partner fulfilled their commitment to one another, and ensured that the people in the relationship remain more important than the relationship itself.

And while sexuality is certainly an element in many BDSM relationships, I can also note that the strength of these relationships are not reliant on sex, but rather on a sense of stability which I believe comes from those set and established rules created prior to the relationship. Master/Dom and slave/submissive both have a clear understanding of the expectations, desires, demands, and requirements for one another.

The driving force for a successful relationship, of course, is the people themselves, and while there are certainly exceptions, my experiences and observations of others in the lifestyle lead me to believe that BDSM relationships tend to be more stable, more adaptable, and longer lasting than those in the general population, due in no small part to these principles, approaches, and attitudes.


Recommended Further Reading From The XCBDSM Bookshelf

Partners in Power by Jack Rinella
Ties That Bind by Guy Baldwin
The Loving Dominant by John and Libby Warren

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