I hope you 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!
A couple of days ago, I was asked a question regarding managing the problems of having multiple subs who serve you at the same time. As my readers know, I’m not talking about multiple play partners, but rather, multiple partners who are striving to fulfill my expectations, desires, and preferences.
The question was how I avoid the problems of multiple partners, particularly in the area of sexuality – how I manage intimacy with different subs. The person asking was having trouble rationalizing multiple partners and how to split your time, attention, and commitment between them.
This person was seeing all sorts of problems with treating all subs “equally”, yet having some who are closer than others, and what that does to them in terms of jealousy and competition.
This became yet another excellent use of the “layers” concepts (rather than rehash that here, I refer you to my books, fetlife, or other articles that discuss the layers analogy). Bottom line, the way I look at power dynamics simplifies these questions. The layers concept views D/s relationships as relationships (of some sort) to which we’ve added a power dynamic. I currently have D/s relationships with 4 people. All of them are dedicated to serving me in whatever way I define their submission. They’re all my submissives and the power dynamic with all of them is very similar.
However, their underlying relationships are very different: One is my husband, one is the husband of a close friend, one is basically my lawyer and the fourth is a friend, turned business associate.
Naturally, the relationship I have with my husband is very different than those I have with the other 3 – however, it’s not because of a difference in the power dynamic (or their intent within the power dynamic) – it’s due to differences in the underlying relationship type. Clearly, one doesn’t feel the same way about a friend than they do about a spouse – with or without a power dynamic! You trust your spouse more than your lawyer (lawyer jokes aside). You communicate better with your business partner than the husband of a friend (you hope).
Resolving the Paradoxes
The way the person had asked the question conflated relationship-level attributes with power dynamic level attributes and hence, they were having trouble resolving the paradoxes: How can you have the same type of power dynamic with someone you love versus a friend? How does your spouse have more privilege than your friend without jealousy?
For me, it’s simple: I have relatively equal power dynamics with very different types of relationships…and therefore the blended whole of each relationship is very different. But from the perspective of the power dynamics – how they serve me – their intent – the rules they live by — those things are nearly identical.
The question about sexuality is moot when considered within the context of this separation: Sex is something that (at least for me) depends on the underlying relationship type. Whether I am sexual with someone has nothing to do with their service to me, it has to do with the type of underlying relationship we have.
If you’re not the type to have sex with the husband of a friend, or your lawyer, or your business associate, then you’re not going to have sex with them if they’re your submissive! So, I don’t have sex with those submissives. I do, however, have sex with my husband. The fact that they’re all my submissives doesn’t change that…because it’s not the power layer that defines the sexual component of our overall relationships.
The other subs understand this separation – they don’t feel jealousy because they understand that, while they are equals when it comes to submission, they are not on equal footing in the underlying relationship. They don’t EXPECT to have that type of intimacy, because theirs is not that type of relationship.
The Team Approach
When it comes to managing the submission of multiple partners, the number one rule is that they operate as a team: My submissives comprise “Team Rika”. The overall success of Team Rika is my happiness – how well the overall team serves me. It has nothing to do with the relative position or performance of any particular team member. Each team member brings their strengths to the team and together they fill in each other’s weaknesses. They work together to be the best team they can be. They can only succeed together.
I have a couple of rules of thumb that govern this team, which help to eliminate jealousy and competition – both of which are poison to a multiple-partner dynamic:
1) I segment the areas of their focus. I don’t assign two submissives the same area of my life. If one sub manages the kitchen, another one manages transportation, another will manage wardrobe, another will manage the garden, etc. This keeps them out of each other’s hair and avoids two of them trying to serve me in the same space.
2) Competition is the enemy of good teamwork. A lot of folks believe that you get the best out of a person when you make them compete. This is true for the performance of an individual, but I don’t believe it’s the best solution for a team. The focus of each team member must be the performance of the team, not their particular performance.
3) Due to #2, a sub who is competitive has lost sight of the ultimate goal of the team, and will no longer be allowed to serve. They will be given opportunity to change their ways, but ultimately, if I feel they are continuing to act in a counter-productive manner to the benefit of the team, I will remove them from the team – no matter what they’re bringing in terms of individual performance. The health of the team is far more important than any one person. I have luckily only had to do this once in almost 30 years.
4) I don’t show favorites. As I already discussed, the underlying relationship types factor into the overall relationship and how I treat that partner, however, as far as the power dynamic is concerned, everyone is held to the same standard. Everyone is expected to strive to fulfill their commitment to the dynamic. I provide equal assessment and feedback, simple gifts, clear communications of my expectations, recognition, and active attention.
5) Tattling is a big ‘no-no’. I’m not interested in individual guilt or assignment of blame. The team succeeds or fails together. The team needs to work within itself to grow. They need to help each other and correct each other. They share a common objective and if they keep their focus on that objective, they will help each other work through their differences and insecurities. Personal goals are most visible when you take your eye off the team’s goals. It’s fine to want yourself to succeed, but if that surpasses your focus on the objective of the team, you’re priorities are out of alignment.
This is not an easy thing to manage multiple submissives, however, it is very doable when you understand the forces at play. As the dominant, you need to be clear as to your expectations – not only regarding how they serve you, but also their responsibilities to each other. When a team is functioning well, it feels effortless. If you find yourself resolving conflicts, managing egos, reassuring insecurities – then something is amiss within your team and you need to snuff it as quickly as possible. Determine the root cause and if you can’t remediate it, eliminate it. Your team will serve you well – and a well functioning team will serve you better than any one person can.
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