I came across an article recently on a vanilla/mainstream psychology website. You can view the original article here, but basically it talks about doing relationship check-ins.
The author advises couples to sit down on an annual basis and review their marriage – this article advises doing it alongside a professional, such as a therapist. She relates it to a performance review that may happen in a workplace. However, I relate it to the relationship contracts we create as part of D/s dynamics.
Once a D/s couple has created a contract, typically it includes an annual review or even a monthly review – or anything in between. The author basically describes a check-in that consists of creating a safe space to discuss issues that have come up and give one another feedback. In this sense what the author describes and what D/s partners do is very similar. We go over our contract and offer feedback as to what we think has been working and what we have issues with. We go over protocols that may have been forgotten (which is why written contracts come in handy – they work as reminders), others that haven’t worked out well, and confirming the ones that work. Depending on what we include in our contract, the “review” may include updating limits and/or rules or boundaries surrounding poly dynamics.
For both the vanilla and D/s version of this idea it creates a sense of closeness and connection while identifying issues that may have come up over the past year, month, 3 months, etc. It also confirms all the things that have been, and still are, working. For the D/s relationships it strengthens the bond of the power exchange as well.
What I love about all this is that here is an example of something we have done in our community for decades – and the mainstream community is catching on. I think as we continue to find and expose more examples like this (there are plenty) and could explain what is happening under the kink jargon to mainstream people, we could show why more and more studies are concluding that D/s relationships are just as healthy, if not in many cases healthier, than vanilla ones. Perhaps some of the stigma we face would be lifted.
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.