Know thyself. I say this a lot to my classes and my clients. I have lived and continue to live in a way that I discover more about myself every day. One thing this community and lifestyle can teach you are lessons about who you are, what your limits and boundaries are, and what you strive for. Over time these things can change of course, however growth and commitment to self-exploration are essential.
Many of us do this as we go along in this world. It’s not like you go through a phase of life where you learn everything about yourself and then you’re just done all of a sudden. I believe we should be growing and learning until we die. So it’s not exactly reasonable to tell people to not live this lifestyle or begin to explore until they have everything figured out. It is however, reasonable to ask people to at least begin the journey of self-exploration and really start working hard on major issues before they enter into a serious D/s commitment with another human being. Whether it’s issues from childhood or baggage from past relationships – these things should be addressed with serious concern and attention. I’m not saying if you discover something that needs work and you are already in a relationship, to break it off and seclude yourself until you figure it out. However, if you aren’t yet in one – take advantage of this time to sink your teeth into issues that may come up in a dynamic.
Now, many people think this is mostly a D-type issue. That you can’t lead or be in charge of an s-type if you don’t have your own sh** handled. While I agree that if you are a D-type you should certainly be working on yourself and have the ability to maintain control over your own life before taking the lead of someone else’s, I definitely don’t think it only applies to D-types.
S-types also have a responsibility to work on self. We commonly talk about triggers when it comes to play and perhaps working through negative emotional reactions when dealing with poly dynamics or other issues the D-type introduces. However, an s-type needs to also be working on his or her self as an individual. An s-type cannot depend on their D-type for everything. First of all, be a whole human being with individual thoughts, interests, hobbies, and friends. Learn to develop personal boundaries and respect for yourself and those around you. These are all things that will support you in contributing to your relationship and your dynamic. Secondly, heaven forbid the D-type is gone – whether via break up or death. The s-type needs to be able to function independently. Otherwise their choice is what? Flounder around clueless or desperately chase the next relationship which may be unhealthy just because they don’t feel they have a choice? This is not ok.
I grew up with a mom who used to tell me that getting an education is incredibly important no matter my life plan. She would tell me she would fully support me if I decided (after getting a degree) to be a stay-at-home wife and mother for the rest of my days. However, if anything happened to my partner (divorce and death are rarely expected) she would know that at least I had an education to fall back on. This is a very similar concept when it comes to developing yourself independent of your current or future partners.
As a D-type you should encourage your s-type’s growth, as you continue to grow as well. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, continuously work on self. You can’t afford to ignore major issues. If other people point out a problem, don’t let ego get in the way. Stop and examine what they’re talking about. Be willing to explore and change/work on what you need to.
Know thyself on either side of the slash. It will do you, your partners, and this community a lot of good.
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.