The “drop”: The Pinnacle of Bullshit in D/s relationships

NOTICE: The article below deals with adult and fetish-related topics and fantasies. If you are offended by this sort of material and/or are not a legal adult, I suggest you leave this instant.

UPDATE 25 July 2017: Feel free to ignore the wall of text under the update notices. I no longer feel it expresses me, because I’ve grown way past the stage of sadness, shame, self-doubt and depression. Time to give you the TL;DR about it; we need to be brutally honest and blunt as hell: The “drop” is a sorry-ass euphemism that dom(me)s use when they’ve lost all interest in their sub. However, rather than having the decency and honesty to tell the sub up-front that they need to break up, they keep the poor sucker hanging on, as a crutch for their egoes, as a sounding board, as someone who’ll be always ready to respond and cater to their every need, while they hunt around for someone new, regardless of whether the new relationship is within a D/s concept or not. I should know, because I speak from experience – and other (former) subs have come to me and shared astonishingly similar experiences. So, when your dom(me) starts babbling about having “dropped”, just walk away. No. Don’t walk. RUN.

Oh, and learn to appreciate yourself more. The overwhelming majority of dom(me)s need the reverence, the deference, the submission, the surrender, the adoration and the adulation they get from a sub to justify their existence anyway – in this way, they’re every bit as needy (for lack of a more appropriate term) as a sub, if not more; like mosquitoes, they feed on the lifeblood of a sub’s mentality, which is basically an overblown need (stemming from other, unresolved, issues) to be accepted – and, to satisfy this need, the sub will invariably bend over backwards to satisfy the dom(me)’s every whim. As for the “sub drop”: It’s usually a consequence of the “domme drop” or a “scene” in which a little alarm bell rings inside the sub’s mind and warns them that what’s happening is not loving or sensual, but emotionally exploitative. I have also changed the title to reflect my current opinions and feelings. Also, have you noted that most articles that describe the desirable types of dom(me)s and subs are written from the dom(me)’s point of view, looking down upon the “lazy” sub and the “sub who tops from the bottom”, i.e. the sub who “doesn’t know his/her place” and has the… nerve to express ideas and desires and – Heaven forbid! – address the dom(me) as if they were equals?

On a final note: If you’re a dominant and you feel offended by what I have to say, I’m in the pleasant (for me) position to tell you that your opinion doesn’t matter at all, that the mere fact that you need to have power and control over someone else in order to get sexual satisfaction means you have serious issues, and that you can shove your impressive titles and paraphernalia up your self-important rectum.

PAST UPDATES: This article has been updated before on 22 September 2013 and 27 July 2016.

A relationship – friendly, professional, romantic, sexual – is, at its heart, an exchange between the persons involved; a process of giving and taking, which can also last for quite some time. D/s relationships are no different; the Domme and the sub engage with each other and there is a constant exchange of actions, behaviours, communication and feelings between the two (or more, depending on the situation). Now, this exchange sometimes might be stronger on one side than on the other, but it is not one-way. This differentiates a D/s relationship from the “exchange of power” (often referred to as TPE – Total Power Exchange). TPE does play a role in D/s relationships and BDSM play, but it is not absolutely necessary for a D/s relationship to flourish. Furthermore, power exchange is predominantly one-sided, i.e. the submissive gives the Dominant power over them – whereas a relationship is a two-way exchange, and this two-way exchange encompasses a lot more than just power.

Within a relationship, one side “feeds” off the energy (actions, behaviours, communication and feelings) of the other and vice versa. So, in a D/s relationship, the submissive “feeds” off the Dominant’s energy, and the Dominant can take encouragement, pleasure and energy in the sub’s responses to their exercise of control over them. It is important to note here that this exchange of energy, which is two-way, is free and subconscious, as both sides often don’t realise it’s happening.

Now, as time goes by, we often see that our energy levels fluctuate. We are not always enthusiastic and excited about something. And even if it’s something we might really enjoy, still we’re not always ready to give it our all. It applies to hobbies, work, everything – and, of course, D/s relationships. Both Dominants and submissives are subject to these fluctuations of their “energy” levels. When these levels are very low, what we experience is referred to as “Dominant drop” or “submissive drop”. Both of them can cause upset and worry, and they can cause a relationship to implode due to the extreme emotional stress that often comes with them.

There can be plenty of reasons that cause the “drop”: the tedium and stress of everyday life; worries for family members (or loved ones) who might be facing difficulties (such as health problems), work-related problems (or, in most of the austerity-stricken world, unemployment-induced problems and problems caused by job insecurity), lingering stressful memories and frustrations from past relationships (which do instill a certain kind of fear and worry in a person). But there are also other ways in which someone’s energy can be drained. For instance, when they have an extremely hectic schedule that requires them to spend too much time staying up late at night to finish a project or other things they might have taken on.

The “red tape” of a D/s relationship as a stress factor

As unlikely as it seems, there are elements of D/s relationships that can add stress to the people involved. More so than “vanilla” relationships, D/s relationships put the couple within certain roles, from which specific behaviours are expected – and, in some cases, practically demanded. Within the realm of D/s and BDSM, there is some sort of protocol, or “red tape” as I call it: specific ways to address others, strict rules, behavioural expectations etc. In some cases, they could make Weberian bureaucracy seem informal and casual – and here lies a major pitfall in D/s relationships.

All too often, we see online D/s relationships (and D/s relationships within Second Life certainly fall in this category) that are defined by the establishment and enforcement of rules, instructions, protocols, behavioural regulations etc. The submissive is expected and/or required, either due to the Dominant’s orders or due to how the “requirements” for their role are perceived, to adopt certain behavioural norms, manners of addressing others, attitudes, etc. The submissive is expected/required – and also expects and, more often than not, requires – to be obedient, deferential, compliant, respectful, and to address others using D/s honorifics that label them as a submissive on most occasions; in some cases, we see a submissive address everyone they meet as “Master”, “Mistress”, “Sir” or “Miss”, even outside the context of a D/s session. More often than not, the submissive is also burdened with objectives and requirements that a Dominant may consider important for the relationship, which is bounded by them.

In the beginning, all of this seems beautiful and fantastic; it seems like it’s everything the submissive was dreaming of, and everything the Dominant expects. But here lies a trap. All these rules create an artificial environment that can be – in the long run – every bit as stifling as working in a highly bureaucratic organisation. And it is not only stifling for the submissive, but also for the Dominant as well. As the Dominant sets these rules for the submissive, they obviously create a certain framework within which the submissive is allowed to express themselves – and also the Dominant creates a self-imposed set of restrictions for their own expression and behaviour. In other words, a scenario is created for both the Dominant and the submissive, to which they both must adhere and play their roles. Essentially, the Dominant and the submissive assign roles to each other and each one to themselves and, in their effort to perform them as best as they can, they end up missing out on the exchange, sharing and communicating of feelings, desires, wants, needs, fantasies, hopes, dreams and the way they evolve – instead, they focus on playing the roles that they have assigned to each other and to themselves; roles that may very well even be alien to their own inner personalities. In these cases, the relationship devolves and, instead of satisfying the evolving desires, fantasies, feelings, needs, wants, hopes and dreams of the people involved, it becomes a series of endless dress rehearsals.

I typecast you, I typecast me; you typecast me, I typecast you

A Dominant that expects and requires the submissive to be submissive at all times and in all places also creates – at exactly the same time, without noticing – a requirement that they themselves be Dominant at all times; they not only create this expectation and requirement in the submissive, but also within themselves. This can become a burden to the Dominant, as they find themselves restricted to functioning only within a certain framework of expectations and having to always wear the role, the costume, if you like, of the Dominant at all times, without a chance to express other facets of their personality. This can make them increasingly resentful of the role they’ve typecast themselves in (and we’re talking Star Trek-style typecasting here), but also of their own D/s-related fantasies and desires, this whole aspect of their character and personality, even of themselves.

But it doesn’t end here, as the Dominant ends up with the added burden of guilt for their reactions. The reason is that it indeed appears that it’s the Dominant’s fault: it was going so well (i.e. according to the “plan”, the “scenario”, the “script” and both the Dominant’s and the submissive’s expectations) and now it’s falling apart. So, it has to be the Dominant’s fault, as the submissive did nothing “wrong”. This, of course, adds further stress to the Dominant. To make matters worse, the Dominant ends up in an extremely awkward position, because the Dominant is also supposed to be the strong one in the relationship, the one that never falters – so, they fear that sharing these feelings without losing the submissive’s reverence, without letting the submissive down or without destroying the “foundations” on which the relationship was built – and by “foundations” here, I am referring to the expectations the Dominant and the submissive have of each other and themselves.

This makes the Dominant feel increasingly worried; they find themselves completely empty and in disarray; they become increasingly withdrawn. And the communication protocol they have set for the relationship doesn’t help at all, because it restricts not only the appropriate tone of communication, but also the content itself, effectively barring the Dominant from expressing personal worries, concerns and fears.

The “drop” sets in and rears its ugly head

All the aforementioned factors add stress to the Dominant and cause them to feel uncomfortable and out of place within the relationship – even within themselves. So, they try to escape from the relationship; they become withdrawn – more and more so as time goes by, in an attempt to “ease” the submissive out of the relationship: they become more and more distant, reserved and constrained in the way they interact with the submissive. The playful moments, even simple tender gestures that the Dominant used while spending time with the submissive disappear; some abruptly, some gradually. Even when the submissive does things that they knew would please the Dominant – these things go uncommented and ignored; met with a (seemingly) cold indifference.

In more extreme cases, the Dominant might resort to outright avoiding the submissive. Not logging in, or even rescheduling their online times so that the submissive will find it increasingly inconvenient (or downright impossible, due to RL obligations or because of different time zones) to be with the Dominant. And plausible (or semi-plausible) excuses will be made, of varying honesty and sincerity.

This is how Dominant drop manifests itself.

The submissive’s role

It is argued that Dominant drop is sometimes initiated – more or less unwittingly – by the submissive. In the early, enthusiastic days when the relationship is blossoming, the submissive may be trying to experience everything that may be offered by such a relationship. The use of rules, attire, boundaries, honorifics etc, not only satisfies the submissive’s desires, but also amplifies these desires and causes the submissive to try to trigger dominant-like responses by the Dominant, believing that they have finally found the one and only Dominant that will give them the experiences and feelings they crave, forever and ever (and I’m pretty sure similar feelings are experienced by the Dominant w.r.t. the submissive). Of course, this does not happen only in D/s relationships. As a matter of fact, in every romantic and/or sexual relationship there’s this initial enthusiasm in both lovers that keeps them coming back for more, rushing headlong to trigger the desired responses from their partner with extreme eagerness. Well, in exactly the same way, the submissive partner tries to trigger the desired responses from the Dominant; the overly enthusiastic way in which they do everything can be perceived (correctly or not) as “throwing themselves at the Dominant”, trying to be as submissive as possible, conforming to every behavioural standard and cliché in the book, in order to cause the Dominant to, well, dominate them.

Now, while this is all viewed as fine and dandy in the beginning of the relationship, things do get awkward, to say the least, when Dominant drop begins to set in. Now, in a strictly casual D/s relationship, where it has already been mutually agreed and understood that the relationship begins and ends when the scene at hand begins and ends and that there are no further, deeper commitments, things are simple. In other D/s relationships, where a commitment and a bond between the Dominant and the submissive are formed, things are far more complicated. I mentioned the overly enthusiastic approach on the submissive’s part, where they basically try and try and try to coax dominant responses from the Dominant. It may seem counterintuitive, but this approach will not help sustain the relationship. Quite the contrary; it is very likely to cause Dominant drop and even make it worse, because – even though no Dominant will readily admit it – the submissive is now portrayed in the Dominant’s mind in a very unfavourable and, more often than not, unfair manner: as an unwanted person that tries to take from the Dominant something they are unable or unwilling to give, seeking only their own gratification without the slightest regard for the Dominant’s situation and feelings.

Other contributing factors to Dominant drop can be real life emotional conflicts. For instance, there are Dom(me)s who have a strong inner desire to dominate, but are pressured by their family, professional and social circle to be docile, submissive and subservient to others, sacrificing their dreams and desires to satisfy others’ expectations and demands; in extreme cases, there have been people who do have a genuine desire and drive to be dominant, but, because of pressure placed upon them by their families, they are forced to abandon and delete this side of their personality, to avoid “embarrassing” their family with the nature of their love life. This is especially true in small, backwards societies and in families with an excessively strong “moral” and religious background, where recreational, not-for-procreation, sex (especially if it takes even the slightest detour from the “Approved by G-d” missionary position, sans condom or other means of STD protection & contraception, of course) is a “sin”.

Also, one needs to consider the importance of past, hurtful experiences that may have left scars in the Dominant’s heart; scars that even they themselves may not want to admit to having – or they may not want to admit that they still have the potential to affect their future relationships. These scars of course include a lingering fear that the Dominant might be let down and/or betrayed by this particular submissive too, as they were in the past, by someone who may have been just as enthusiastic in the beginning.

The role of the Dominant’s past

Dominants who tend to involve themselves emotionally with their submissives and take the relationship beyond the stage of mere no-strings-attached roleplay with no further commitments do run the risk of being hurt – by an inconsiderate submissive who may betray their feelings, by circumstances that might prevent the relationship to culminate (star-crossed relationships) or by other factors. Depending on the strength and intensity of the feelings and on how acrimonious, hurtful or sad the separation may have been, the Dominant will be left with scars which can harm – or even ruin – the relationship if they have not been dealt with and healed before the new relationship starts.

Scars from the past can be an extremely awkward issue to deal with. First of all, a person (regardless of whether they are Dominant or submissive) who immediately moves from a failed relationship to a new one is unlikely to have worked things through with themselves. And even if time has passed since the separation, how thorough has the healing been? How certain is the person that these scars will not find their way to poison their new relationship, triggered by a correlation-seeking mechanism that identifies actions, words and behavioural nuances that would otherwise go unnoticed with the actions of a person with whom the relationship ended badly and painfully. The connection is made and doubt, self-doubt, fear and sad memories come back to haunt the sufferer, who is then liable to eventually cave in to those ghosts and start acting in a way that will eventually harm the relationship.

The Dominant drop through the submissive’s eyes

To the submissive, Dominant drop is nothing short of baffling. They are suddenly thrown in a downright unpleasant, confusing and impossible – at least at first – to explain and resolve position where, without any prior signs that something was going wrong, the Dominant (whom they obviously desire) becomes detached, cold and withdrawn. And all this without any apparent reason. Now, there are three main paths that the submissive usually takes in response to this new situation. One is to “return the favour”. It happens. The other way is the opposite: the submissive may construe this distance as a reaction to a failure on their part, so they will try to be “better” in their assigned role as a submissive. Other submissives will lavish the Dominant with gifts and try harder to trigger the dominant responses they once enjoyed.

Unfortunately, none of these responses is right – all they do is to add more pressure on the Dominant. Let’s take the first response. How is the Dominant supposed to construe it? Most likely, they’d think that the submissive is holding it against them, and/or perhaps is considering walking away.  What about gifts, or attempts to be “more submissive”? These are usually seen as demands for attention that the Dominant is unable or not willing to give at the time. Whether this view is right or wrong is another topic altogether, but, sadly, that’s how these attempts are seen by a Dominant who is experiencing the drop.

What is certain, though, is that the submissive suffers, and it does appear that they are suffering without any real justification. Even taking into account their role in the Dominant drop, as explained previously, does not really seem to make what they end up going through seem even remotely justified. After all, they were acting in a way that they thought would please the Dominant, because past experience had showed that this behaviour was pleasing to the Dominant. They are at a loss when it comes to comprehending and explaining their Dominant’s new behaviour, and, more often than not, the communication and discourse protocol between Dominant and submissive might hamper or downright sabotage any attempt or intention on behalf of the submissive to ask the Dominant what’s happening. So, the submissive can really be left in the dark, with no way of knowing what to do to bring things back to “normal”. The fact that the Dominant drop is basically dropped on the submissive as a “deal with it” fait accompli doesn’t help matters at all, even if the Dominant themselves may be experiencing stress and worry due to the artificial constraints that roles and rules within a D/s relationship can impose in their communication with the submissive. To the submissive, it’s still a sudden change for the worse and for no apparent reason, thus potentially making the Dominant seem inconsiderate and unsympathetic – it can, in fact, make the Dominant seem like they had their fun and now that the submissive has strong feelings for them, they have decided to kick them out with no regard for their feelings. In all fairness, I must again point out that the Dominant is (usually) suffering just as much, but the submissive doesn’t (usually) know it, and the Dominant doesn’t know what the submissive is feeling; all this makes the Dominant drop even more awkward.

In the worst cases, the relationship can collapse, with the submissive often developing feelings of resentment towards themselves and the Dominant for what they perceive as an unfair and inconsiderate treatment; to the submissive that is kept in the dark and is suddenly or gradually deprived of the Dominant’s attention and affection (and by affection I mean even non-D/s words and displays of endearment whose importance to the submissive might elude the Dominant’s grasp). More often than not, the submissive, feeling rejected for no apparent reason by the Dominant, enters a self-regenerating emotional death spiral (like the economy of a country that’s being “cared for” by the sociopathic charlatans of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank) that drowns them in an abyss of anxiety, depression, detachment, coldness, jadedness, self-loathing, bitterness and even anger towards themselves and the Dominant – and that’s when the submissive experiences submissive drop (also known as submissive rebound).

The submissive drop

Yes, submissives experience the “drop” too. Quite often, the submissive drop manifests itself as the submissive’s psychological response to their exposure to Dominant drop and the feeling of rejection that comes with it, which, in turn, triggers feelings of anxiety, bitterness, coldness, depression, detachment, and even downright anger. When all of their attempts to reignite the flame that once existed between them and the Dominant have failed, this is all they have left – they are now an empty vessel, broken emotionally and feeling discarded like a gift puppy that started growing up and ceased being cute and, therefore, welcome. This saps the submissive of their energy and can lead them to “drop” – they can walk away from the relationship (in great pain), perhaps after having tried and failed to accept a lesser, non-romantic role in the Dominant’s life. They can abandon D/s activities altogether. On more extreme occasions, they might even abandon Second Life – or other such environments – completely, even deleting their account (and then perhaps joining the “SL is just a game and I was addicted to it” brigade).

Other contributing factors can be the same that cause the Dominant drop: RL conflicts and pressures, and also a D/s relationship that relies too much on roles, boundaries, rules, role requirements and behavioural/communication protocols that do not address the evolving needs, feelings, dreams, wishes, hopes, worries, fears and needs of the parties involved, but instead create an artificial framework that entraps both the Dominant and the submissive in fixed roles that choke them and don’t allow them to breathe and communicate properly with each other.

Another important factor that needs to be considered carefully is the emotional attachment of the submissive to the Dominant. In D/s relationships that have a strong emotional content, the Dominant becomes the centre of the submissive’s attention to such an extent that the submissive dedicates a lot of effort, attention and – yes – energy to even the slightest expression or gesture of the Dominant; even the most subtle and seemingly insignificant detail of their interaction with the Dominant. This is true in RL D/s relationships and even more so in online relationships, where the on-screen communication (perhaps enhanced with voice chat) becomes the only real way of interacting with the Dominant. In such cases, the submissive winds up identifying themselves so much with the Dominant that they perceive themselves as an extension of the Dominant’s presence and will (and this is often encouraged – to say the least – by many Dominants, actually, as is evident in many profiles of D/s-oriented users). This association often leads the submissive to be unwilling to do anything when the Dominant is not around – so, when the submissive is deprived of the Dominant’s presence (and, more specifically and importantly, the Dominant’s active presence in a D/s context), they are very likely to withdraw themselves as well.

Subspace and submissive drop

“Subspace” is something that is very often discussed in great detail, but its importance in the phenomenon of submissive drop is often overlooked. All literature I’ve read regarding subspace a topic I haven’t touched upon yet, but I believe you’d do well to read the relevant post by Inara Pey) says that, during a very intense D/s scene, a submissive is exposed emotionally and that many submissives experience varying degrees of detachment from reality during the scene; other sources say that this detachment from reality also occurs when the submissive is near the Dominant. During the scene, the submissive might enter a euphoric, trance-like state, which is their body and mind’s response to the scene at hand. This state of mind is called “subspace” and much has already been written about its nature and about the need for proper “aftercare” to ease the submissive “back” or “down” after such a scene.

There are, however, some issues that need to be considered w.r.t. subspace. While in subspace, the submissive experiences an emotional and actually quite physical high due to the chemical reactions that take place in their brain during the scene. Their inhibitions go away and they have a sense of freedom to really “let go” and cast all reservations aside. As all these vanish after the end of the scene and the submissive returns to the “real world”, with its inhibitions, reservations, requirements for people to be “vanilla”, it is quite possible for them to find themselves struggling to reconcile their desires and what they did during the scene (which, according to the gossips that have appointed and anointed themselves as society’s Moral Guardians, is “illicit”). It is during these moments that a sense of guilt, as in having committed a sexually-related “sin”, can kick in; it is then that the submissive is close to experiencing submissive drop, and may very well experience it if the Dominant is not attentive, aware and mindful of the sub’s situation.

Things with subspace can get trickier if, during scenes that cause the submissive to enter subspace, their limits are stretched (always with their express prior consent and within the RACK or SSC principles – depending on which set of principles is chosen) beyond what they are familiar and comfortable with. In such cases, even though the submissive willingly and actively participated, it is not unheard of for the submissive, in their post-scene return from subspace, to experience feelings of guilt and shame – directed towards themselves – and resentment towards the Dominant for having led them so far. The scene might – unwittingly and inadvertently – awaken unpleasant, frightening or otherwise unpleasant memories or feelings in the submissive, feelings and memories associated with unfortunate experiences (RL or SL) in the submissive’s past. Whether these memories and feelings stem from D/s relationships and activities or not is irrelevant; awakening such memories and feelings can cause the submissive to feel anger and resentment towards the Dominant. If this is not “diagnosed” and dealt with properly,  the submissive, upon exiting subspace, can become overcome with feelings of confusion, shame, guilt, vulnerability, upset, even betrayal – and so they might plunge into sub drop and distance themselves from the Dominant.

Dealing with the “drop”

Unfortunately, as is always the case with conditions that can be caused by any of numerous possible causes and combinations of causes, there’s no such thing as a “silver bullet” that can prevent the drop from occurring or treat it in such a way that will restore things back to the way they were. There’s no such thing as a rollback here. Each case is unique, as each individual involved in a D/s relationship is unique and carries their own experiences, wounds, fears, hurts and worries. Certainly, diagnosing the symptoms of the drop and communicating with the other party can help the Dominant and the submissive deal with things.

The importance of communication

I mentioned communication in the previous paragraph and I think it is worth elaborating upon this all-important aspect that is often neglected in the initial desire of the Dominant and the submissive to create a set of rules, boundaries etc. To make matters worse, communication is often neglected and/or hampered (and sometimes downright prevented) either because of each side’s ego (i.e. they might think they can “sort it out” themselves without telling the other person – who, in the meantime, is suffering by seeing the person they love drift away from them, seemingly irreversably – anything) or because confusion and fear of “breaking the protocol” or “losing the other person’s respect” gets in the way.

It is extremely  important that both Dominant and submissive give themselves and each other the freedom to communicate openly, honestly,  sincerely and without fear or shame about anything that troubles them or clouds their hearts. They need to understand that, once they have become intimate with each other and allowed themselves and each other to explore and share erotic and romantic pleasures and fantasies together on a regular basis, in the context of an emotionally charged interaction that is not a casual, no-strings-attached, emotion-free play, they are in a relationship and they are lovers and that they have certain responsibilities towards themselves and each other. Of course, lovers must also be friends and companions, so they need to share their feelings openly, honestly, sincerely, without fear and in a timely fashion. Normally, this should go without saying, but experience has showed me that nothing should be taken for granted. So, both the Dominant and the submissive need to open up and speak up.

The “rules” of communication in general

As written before, efficient, honest and open communication between Dominant and submissive is crucial when dealing with the drop – and not only then. If this communication is to be successful, both Dominant and submissive need to remember a few things that will help them in avoiding undesirable developments.

  1. Be open, honest and sincere to yourself about what you want from yourself, the other person and your interaction with the other person.
  2. Never expect the other person to “guess” something, even if you have left hints that could possibly lead them there; only explicitly given information counts.
  3. Always remember that the other person has wishes, desires, fears, wounds, wants, dreams and fantasies and that they are every bit as important as yours. Be willing and prepared to not only listen when the other person feels like sharing them with you, but also to actively encourage them to share.
  4. A communiqué is not a valid form of communication. Announcing out of the blue something to the other person, especially knowing that it could sadden and/or hurt them is not a valid form of communication, because they can have no say whatsoever and no choice but to accept a fait accompli.
  5. From the moment you’ve allowed, accepted and/or encouraged someone to invest emotionally in you, you are in a relationship and you must treat the other person as a lover, partner, companion and friend, whose feelings you must consider very seriously and very carefully. This means, of course, that you have an extra person to think of. If you don’t want to take someone else’s feelings and situation into consideration, then don’t start relationships.
  6. Be prepared to listen to what the other person has to say about the situation at hand. Also be aware that you may not find what they have to say convenient or pleasant, as they may be hurt by the situation they are put in.
  7. Don’t get defensive.
  8. Don’t be quick to place the blame on the other person and, more importantly, don’t try to make them feel guilty for their feelings, desires, worries, dreams, fantasies and fears – especially if these feelings, desires, dreams and fantasies once gave you pleasure.
  9. When you are having issues that you believe can affect your relationship with the other person, don’t leave them in the dark. Explain things to them and, if you actually care about them, show them that you really do care for them while you explain the situation – you’ll certainly find ways to show it.
  10. Always remember that there’s a real person, with real feelings, desires, wishes, dreams, fears, wants, worries and wounds behind the avatar you see on your screen.

Communicating past wounds

OK, this is an awkward one. Ideally, before we get into a new relationship, we’re supposed to have worked things through, mourned for the lost relationship, scrutinised things, found out what went wrong, where we were wrong, where the other person was wrong and, stronger and wiser, we can move on to hit it off with someone new. That is seldom the case, however. We all carry our history with us and our past wounds, and these often come back to haunt us, often triggered by trivial, insignificant events.

How and when do you speak to the person you are with (or are beginning a relationship with) about your old battle scars? This is a major concern for many people, as finding the right words to say and the right time to speak about these issues seems to be one of the most daunting tasks one can think of. To most persons, talking about our past wounds to a new lover is one of those situations where we feel we’ll be “damned if we do, damned if we don’t”, not least because these old scars are oftentimes viewed as “emotional baggage” that we may be carrying over to a new relationship, forcing our new lover to put up with it and – quite possibly – play the role of a therapist (or, more often than not, a crutch that we’ll lean on and then discard). Below, I’ll give three scenarios that cross the minds of most persons and prevent them from speaking about their past wounds with their loved ones, as Inara Pey presented and explained them in a recent discussion we had on this matter:

  • If one risks opening up right away, it can seem like they are bringing a few tonnes of emotional baggage into the new relationship. This could scare the other person away, so this option is immediately rejected.
  • The other option is to not say anything and “hope for the best”. But, if the old wounds start working their way into your mind and poison your relationship, then resentment can build up in both parties.
  • Alternatively, they can wait until “the time is right”. The problem is, that this “right time”, when they decide to sit down and explain things is usually after a row or other bitter exchange triggered or caused by the old wounds, and the “right time” turns out to be the wrong time, as the other party can easily construe this explanation as subterfuge and a pile of excuses that don’t address the issue at hand.

This is how fear can accumulate within someone who has been hurt in the past and still is affected by those wounds that haven’t healed entirely. This fear, as is obvious, can be quite crippling, communication-wise, and can prevent the other person from gaining access to crucial information and insight into what’s happened to their loved one and how it affects them. But is this fear of opening up justified? In some cases, it is: in our pursuit for a “no drama” relationship, we can become picky about the information we share with our partner. Now, while we certainly don’t need to inundate them with detailed narratives of each and every relationship we’ve been through even since we became romantically and sexually active, this fear can actually lead us to censor information that might be important for the building of a strong and successful relationship. Of course, this fear is a psychological reaction that has developed through personal experiences and through social conditioning. We fear that, just like person A walked out on us, so will person B, because they’ll think (or at least that’s what we fear) we’re not over person A. It’s basically doubt and self-doubt.

But this withholding of such information may actually be construed in a different, equally negative, manner than what  we feared: we fear that the person we’re with will walk out on us, because they’ll think that either we’re using old wounds as an excuse for our behaviour or we don’t trust them enough to share our past pain with them. It can be seen as a display of a lack of trust, in that we don’t believe in their willingness and ability to offer support and a sympathetic ear to help us heal and to nurture us in order to exorcise those demons and ghosts and enable us to engage  with them, free from fear and doubt caused by our past. This – perfectly plausible – interpretation of our stance can go a few steps further and be construed as a sign that (a) we don’t believe they love us enough, (b) we don’t really love them, because if we did, then we would trust them to at least listen to us. And this can easily kill a relationship. So, keeping these old wounds to ourselves “until the time is right” (which is actually the wrong time) is anything but an optimal solution.

Personally, I believe that the best way to handle this issue is to:

  • Let some time pass before we take on someone new,
  • Actively reach out to our friends for support.
  • Speak openly, honestly and sincerely to our new partner in the early days of our relationship with them about it.

I believe that any decent person out there who has sincere and honest feelings for us will not only be willing to understand, but also feel honoured that we have chosen to share this information with them, enabling them to at least try to help us if and when the need arises. This will also encourage them to be open and honest in their communication with us, putting D/s protocol aside.

Ways to prevent and/or treat the “drop”

All of the above does paint a rather bleak picture. However, there are some ways that can help us reduce the frequency and intensity of the “drop”. Some of them are actually quite simple, yet elusive – and they elude us mostly because of what we expect a D/s relationship to be and what we expect ourselves and each other to be within such a relationship. Thus, as has been mentioned before in this post, we tend to get trapped in a complex and often stifling set of boundaries, roles and rules, which not only come with their own demands (naturally), but also tend to overshadow and exclude all other aspects of our personalities and interests, potentially reducing the two parties to being essentially “one-trick ponies”.

To prevent this, it is a good idea for the Dominant and the submissive to (a) realise, understand and accept that, once they have allowed feelings to form between them and regular, frequent and not devoid of sentimental content contact between them to occur, they are in a relationship, which means they need to care for each other’s feelings, desires, fears, wants, wishes, dreams etc., (b) realise, understand and accept that D/s is only part of what they are all about and thus need to create room in the relationship for each person’s own non-D/s personality.

The second part means that the couple needs to create a “neutral” space; a context in which the Dominant and the submissive can operate, both individually and – most importantly – together, outside the confines and requirements of D/s (and BDSM, to the extent in which it may be used in the relationship). In simple words, the couple needs to make room for both of them to enjoy other things (interests, activities etc), especially together. We’re human beings, after all; we all need to share a joke, to laugh, to have fun with all sorts of different interest we may have: going out, meeting friends, dancing, shopping – and, in SL, we might enjoy shopping, exploring, dancing, clubbing, etc. We also want to simply cuddle together with our loved one, talking idly or sharing how our day has been, in a tender context, without any assigned roles, that, although it’s parsecs away from the typical D/s protocol, can bring us closer together and strengthen the feelings of affection, care, dedication, love, tenderness and – yes – desire. After all, a relationship – D/s or “vanilla” – is about the people involved, not about outsiders; so, a couple in a D/s relationship should never feel pressured and/or obliged to don any sort of uniform to show others that they are indeed a D/s couple.

It is very important for both the Dominant and the submissive to satisfy as many of their personalities’ aspects as possible within the relationship – and that also includes the times they spend alone, when the other person is unavailable. Identifying yourself as “Dominant” or “submissive” doesn’t mean you have to assume this role all the time. If you were to do so, then you’d shut out many other aspects of your personality; you would effectively exclude the satisfaction and indulgence in your other, non-D/s interests. And you should be able to do that either together with your partner (if they express such an interest) or on your own. For this to happen, the couple needs to create the space for these other aspects to exist, to be savoured, explored and enjoyed. This can be immensely beneficial to both persons, because it not only allows them room to indulge (and also have a fuller SL experience), but also to grow as individuals, understand each other better and – most importantly in the context of D/s relationships – liberate them from the constraints that can wear any (or both) of the persons out and bring about the “drop”.

Be sensitive to each other

It should go without saying, but it still needs to be said, that both parties need to be sensitive to how each other is feeling and to their particular circumstances, which affect and determine their “energy”. It is not uncommon in SL-based D/s relationships for the submissive to log on and expect to (a) be with the Dominant, (b) be dominated. Likewise, it is not uncommon for a Dominant to log on and expect to (a) be with the submissive, (b) dominate the submissive. Especially when either of the two has had a really bad day, this expectation can be stronger than usual, as the prospect of this happening will seem like a good way to break away and unwind, releasing the tension of the day. But what if the other person has had an equally bad day and this has sapped them of all energy, making them want to simply kick off their shoes, cuddle and chat, keeping the leather or latex outfit in the drawer?

It is at this point that I need to remind two previous posts on the loving Dominant and the caring submissive. The submissive will need to remember that one of their priorities in being with the Dominant should be to recognise any stress that the Dominant may be experiencing and do their best to relieve them from it – although it must be said that this can be hard to do if the Dominant is as good at hiding hurt and stress as a cat. A good submissive is patient and gives space and time to the Dominant, allowing things to run their cycle. Also, a good submissive strives to blend in with the Dominant’s life, sharing the better moments and helping out through the bad ones, with an open heart, an open mind, and with acceptance, thus strengthening the Dominant’s desire to be with them. But blending in with the Dominant’s life doesn’t mean that the Dominant has any right to treat the submissive as an accessory or an ornament to their life.

On the other hand, the Dominant should recognise those actions, events, words (including theirs) that can cause the submissive to drop, not only during a scene, but also during everyday interaction. During a scene and/or during post-scene aftercare, tell-tale signs can include a sudden interruption of the submissive’s participation without them resuming (so this excludes a computer crash or a network connection failure, for scenes taking place within SL and other such environments), lower feedback to single-word statements, etc. Other signs may be subtle – they can include changes in the submissive’s verbiage (chat, emotes, IM) regarding their feelings, changes in their online schedule, etc. The Dominant needs to recognise whether the submissive is struggling with a potential “drop” and take appropriate action. When in a scene, this should take the form of gently easing back and/or deftly and gently bringing it to a close that will not make the submissive feel uncomfortable in any way.

Of course, very intense scenes that can push the submissive out of what the couple knows to be the sub’s comfort zone need to be entered into with great care. Not only does the scene need to be carried out carefully and with consideration of the submissive’s reactions and feelings during the scene, but it must be ensured that the Dominant will be there to provide the necessary aftercare. Remember, it is the Dominant’s responsibility to nurture and protect the submissive, Protecting the submissive also includes their emotional state and stability. What are the chances of this goal being accomplished if the Dominant disappears hastily after a scene, however valid the reason? Doing so undermines the submissive, by making them doubt themselves and feel worthless (“why did S/He leave? Why am i not getting any response to the other ways W/we use to keep in touch? Am i not good enough?” and so forth). Really, the first step to easing a submissive, post-scene, is to be there. Also, systematically and without notice going AFK during a scene is not only a faux pas of epic proportions, but proof of rudeness.

However, it does appear to me that there is a disconnect between all the attention that is given to post-scene aftercare for a submissive and the out-of-scene behavioural nuances (however subtle) that can undermine a submissive’s emotional status and cause them to resent themselves and the Dominant – perhaps because much of the available literature is written by Dominants, through the eyes of a Dominant. This leads to not enough attention being given to the mistakes Dominants make in their interaction with submissives, mostly due to misconceptions and generalisations.

What are these misconceptions and generalisations? First of all, the notion that the submissive is supposed to be some sort of a clairvoyant who will instinctively sense the Dominant’s situation and do everything that’s needed to make them feel better. Then, there is the perception and misconception of the submissive as an eternally horny person that exists only for and within D/s scenes, without having any off-scene (such as RL) factors that affect their mood. A classic complaint Dominants put forward is that the submissive “doesn’t understand” that they may have had a crappy day that makes them only want to cuddle with the submissive. I have something to say here that may surprise most Dominants: the submissive is just as likely to have had an equally crappy day, which makes them want to be with someone they love and cuddle with them. Finally, the submissive has feelings. Besides all the regalia that are hallmarks of D/s equipment, regardless of all the D/s honorifics, the submissive that enters a romantic relationship with a Dominant is not someone who simply seeks sexual gratification without any emotional content entering the equation, but a person that expresses their love towards someone else through willing submission and deserves respect and love.

With that in mind, the Dominant that goes through the “drop” while being in a relationship needs to understand that their submissive cares for them and loves them – and that, if they truly love and care for their submissive, they will have to show it, even without the honorifics and other accessorising that is associated with D/s. After all, the factors that make a D/s relationship strong are the very same factors that make a “vanilla” relationship strong: affection, care, desire, love – both the Dominant and the submissive need to remember this.

So, to a Dominant that’s “dropped” while in a loving relationship, I say this:

“Get your act together. You have beside you a person that loves you, cares for you, desires you and thinks highly of you and, despite the fact you’ve “dropped”, has decided to stay by your side. Do you love that person? If you really do, then… Show them you love them. Take them in your arms, kiss them, hold them, make love to them when you both want it, be there to listen to them and help them, as they are expected to be there for you; and allow them to listen to you and try to help you as best they can. Anything else is but a pathetic excuse.”


As written before in this post, there’s really no unique way to properly deal with the “drop”. A couple’s best chance is to establish an environment where both Dominant and submissive can communicate openly and honestly. An environment where they can express their feelings, worries, dreams, wishes, desires, interests, vulnerabilities and everything else that needs to be said and shared, without fear of being seen negatively, without the demand for this communication to fit any assigned “Dominant” or “submissive” role and without assumptions and misconceptions that – often subconsciously – lead any of the two persons to be typecast in the stereotypes of the assigned roles. Only through open and honest communication will this flow of energy – to use Inara Pey’s words – be enabled, without the obstacles that can sabotage and prevent the couple to rejuvenate and replenish their love for each other, eventually getting out of the dark tunnel of the “drop”.




See also: