Kayla Lords commented on my recent post Letting Go Just a Little More:
I’m reading your “good” submissive comment as a subjective thing about what *you* consider to be good and not some standard of “goodness” — because there is no standard of that. It’s about whatever works in your relationship, and I wish you good luck and joy in figuring out what that means for both of you.
And I will say that although my submission is this weird “natural” (a loaded word I don’t love but I haven’t found a good alternative to yet) part of my personality, even I (and many of us) have those moments of not wanting to do something — because we’re busy, because we’re not interested, because we’re annoyed, because of whatever. I use it as a test of my submission. Can I do the things that I don’t feel like doing it because he asked it of me? When I find myself having problems with not wanting to do things (and I have and will in the future, I’m sure), I know we need to have a conversation because something isn’t quite right. That can be on a really small scale or a big one, but it’s also a reason for a check-in and communication. I guess I’m saying all of that so that you know it’s more normal than you might realize, and if it happens again, it doesn’t mean your D/s isn’t working…maybe just that it’s time to talk about what’s on your mind.
I replied to her comment:
Yes, when I say “good” submissive, I know the definition is personal and subjective (there is likely a lengthy post in that). And I am considering what it means to be a good submissive to me and to my husband. It’s a partnership, and it doesn’t work if both parties aren’t willing to do what the other needs. And I definitely agree with the “test of submission” comment you have made here, and the communication. Those are two of the things that I feel are most helpful to my own growth in this.
But, as I constructed my comment, I realized there was a whole slew of things I really wanted to say about the topic. So, I’m continuing my comment as a post.
Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages:
words of affirmation
acts of service
His book explains that most people give love in the way they prefer to receive love. Chapman posits that close observation of how a spouse or partner loves can help to uncover their love language (though, there is a quiz in the book – and on the website linked above – that can also do this).
Several years ago, Mr. D and I both took this quiz and uncovered that his love languages were (not surprisingly) words of affirmation and physical touch. Mine were quality time and acts of service. As expected, if one believes Chapman’s hypothesis, Mr. D is more likely to show his love (and require it in return) through touch and verbal expression. And I would, undoubtedly, agree that this is exactly what he does. I, on the other hand, tend to express love by seeking time together and doing things for him (though not the “acts of service” he would prefer – which would namely be sexual in nature); rather, I tend to do things for him that I wish he would do for me, such as doing household chores, running errands, and making our home comfortable and inviting. In Chapman’s opinion, this is expected behavior, and also the very thing that leads to trouble in relationships. He explains that knowledge of our partner’s love language(s), and understanding of our own, and communication about expectations can lead to positive changes and strengthened bonds.
Whether you believe in Chapman’s “language” theory or not, it is hard to dispute that understanding each other’s expectations and communicating clearly about needs and desires will lead to a stronger relationship. I’d put it in the “no shit” category.
So applying this same concept to D/s would seem to make sense. If we supplant “D/s” for the word “love” in Chapman’s theory, making this D/s Languages, Mr. D still thrives on and prefers to give words of affirmation (“good girl”/”dirty slut”) and physical touch (restraint, the occasional spanking, physical power-play). And I can openly admit that he is much better and giving what he wants in return. I am weak on both of his love languages. In fact, in terms of D/s, I’m not even good with my own. I do an acceptable job with quality time, but “acts of service”? No. I am nowhere near the level I need to be to truly make either one of us happy in this kind of relationship. I’m pretty good at receiving all of these love languages, but I’m sub par at giving any of them.
That’s a rather painful thing to admit, because it surely means that I am selfish, right? If nothing else, it at least proves that I have some work to do to learn to communicate with Mr. D and to make him happy, as a husband, lover, and Dominant. These are also skills I need to improve to be a “good” submissive, which is what I meant in my prior post
To clarify: a “good” submissive is one who is attuned to his or her Dominant’s needs and desires. She is constantly shifting tactics to meet His demands and expectations. This rolling balance and imbalance should, theoretically, follow a pattern of possible confusion or challenge, re-calibration, failure or success (or some blend of the two), internal reflection, communication, and growth. Likewise, a “good” Dominant is one who is attuned to His or Her submissive’s needs and desires. He is constantly shifting tactics to challenge and stretch her. He may struggle to do this and may fail or succeed over time, which is His challenge. He must also, in accord, re-calibrate, reflect, and communicate, which will lead to His own growth.
While the amount of power held by Dominants and submissives is not equal, the importance of each role very much is.
Another point that Kayla makes in her comment is that she considers times of busy-ness, disinterest, and annoyance as a “test” of her submission. This is very much the way I see it. And while I haven’t had much recent opportunity to practice this, I know that I have a tendency to let life get in the way of everything important. I am too easily distracted by work and household chores. My to-do lists often takes my mind and mood hostage. I snap. I become irritable. And in these times, which are too common, I am not only not a “good” submissive, I’m simply a terrible partner, in general. Learning to be a “good” submissive is as much about learning to make my husband happy (and speak his D/s languages) as it is about learning to control my own emotions and focus on what matters. Becoming a better submissive is most importantly about becoming a better person, altogether.