have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all of my articles in KinkWeekly!
This week, I’d like to rekindle a thread I started a bit over a year ago in my FetLife group. The topic is “Escalation”; a concept on which many relationships stumble…so, I think it’s a particularly important area to discuss.
Escalation is a common technique employed by people while trying to introduce a new dynamic to their “vanilla” partners. The logic is, start slow, get your partner used to it, and then escalate to deeper and deeper intensities. When your partner does small things, you react openly with lots of positive energy, rewarding the for their efforts, and then after a while, once they’ve gotten comfortable with that level, you move to take it to the next. That’s the way escalation is thought to work…
…Only it doesn’t really work that way.
The reality of escalation is that, to the escalated partner, there becomes no end in sight. This can be a particularly scary revelation, if they don’t feel in control of when escalation occurs, or if you both will escalate at all. They may feel that you will never be satisfied; that no matter what they do, their efforts will never be enough – and they won’t want to continue. If they feel that you don’t appreciate what they’ve done already, your efforts will feel like you’re manipulating them to do more, and they will resent it…and resist it.
Still, starting something new by going slow is a good idea. So how can you help your partner to be comfortable trying something new, without jumping in full-bore? Here are some recommendations that have worked for others:
- Don’t try to hide your intent. Talk about escalation up front. If you’re starting slow, let your partner know that. Let them know that what you’re doing is designed to give them a feel for an activity and then see if they want to take it further. Note: if THEY want to take it further. Give your partner the decision power (in reality, it’s theirs anyway, so you may as well let them feel that it is) and make sure you’re willing to stop and not push further. This will remove the pressure your partner is going to feel from you and make them feel more in control.
- Check in with your partner periodically and be open to THEIR direction for escalation. Do they enjoy the activity? Do they think this is something that they may want to continue with? You’re enjoying it, but Is there some variation that would bring your partner more enjoyment? The escalation does not need to follow your intended path…perhaps they’d like to escalate it in a direction that suits THEM better? Your way is not necessarily better…because what’s going to be better for you is going to be what’s better for your partner. Having a partner who is happy doing what they’re doing is going to be more fulfilling than one who constantly feels like they’re doing you a favor.
- Provide realistic, tempered feedback. There is a temptation to overplay how happy you are with the early levels of experimentation. You think that, by showing your partner overwhelming happiness – how incredibly excited this all makes you – they will want to do more. But you’re setting yourself up for disappointment because, when the conversation turns to escalation,
they’re going to feel that their efforts aren’t “good enough” and that your excitement wasn’t genuine. They will feel manipulated, even if they know the escalation is coming. Be happy, show that you’re happy…just keep it realistic and within the scope of the level of escalation that you’re in.
- Provide feedback that’s focused on your appreciation of your partner, not on the activity itself: When you demonstrate your happiness, don’t focus on what your partner’s doing or how they’re doing it – don’t critique their execution (good or bad), unless they ask you. Rather, focus your feedback on how happy THEY make you by being so open to ideas, and by being courageous and willing to try new things. Show your appreciation that they’re willing to go on this adventure with you.
- Lastly, be sure your partner knows you’re happy with who they are, not just what they’re doing. They’re doing this for you, and even if they suddenly come to love the activity, keep your enthusiasm focused on your appreciation of your partner and who they are. Another way to consider this is, it’s a feeling that’s special and unique because of your partner. Not just anyone could make you so happy just by doing the activity…It’s best because your partner is exploring this with you.
This will give you a chance to find happiness and fulfillment with your partner. You will not be manipulating them, rather, you will be engaging with them and moving together towards a new destination.
I hope you keep this in mind when you find yourself embarking on a new direction with a partner! As always, I welcome your thoughts!
I wish all of you, health and safety during this crazy time.
Ms. Rika is a lifestyle dominant, educator, and author; living in the suburbs of NYC with her husband/slave. She has written several popular books on her approach to adding Dominant-Centric, Service-Oriented D/s to relationships. You can find her books (in both print and eBook formats) at Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/msrika), or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iStore, Books-A- Million, Kobo.com, or anywhere books are sold. Search for “Ms. Rika”. Write to me at Ms_Rika@hotmail.com