Dominant Vs. Abusive Relationship

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Some couples enjoy experimenting with submission and domination as an alternative lifestyle. Between two compassionate and caring partners, the practice can bring them closer together. However, there is a difference between a dominant partner and an abusive one. If your partner is hurting you physically or emotionally, it may be time to leave.

Negotiation and Consent

A dominant partner, or Dom, who cares about a submissive partner, or sub, recognizes the importance of negotiation and consent. A successful Dom/sub relationship, also known as a D/s relationship, is based on mutual respect between partners who are willing participants. In a D/s scenario, also known as a scene, both partners negotiate what will happen ahead of time. According to Sir Bamm, a member of the board of directors of the Safe, Sane and Consensual Network of North Carolina, a scene between respectful partners is a controlled environment. Abuse is an out-of-control situation in which the dominant partner's desires are inflicted on the submissive partner against her will.

Contact with Friends and Family

Those who participate willingly in a D/s relationship have regular contact with friends and family. Outside the confines of his life with the Dom, a sub has a "normal" life. A Dom who cares about her sub wants to help him discover who he really is, both in- and outside of their relationship. If your partner has isolated you from your friends and family against your will, that is abuse. You should never be fearful of the consequences of speaking to or seeing those you love.


Safety is paramount in a consensual D/s relationship. In fact, a fundamental tenet of D/s is the "safe word," which the sub can use if at any time she feels uncomfortable with what the Dom is doing. It is the responsibility of a Dom who cares about you to stop when you use the safe word. A partner who continues to inflict physical or emotional pain either after you have used a safe word or inflicts pain without ever creating a safe word in the first place is abusing you.

Shame and Self-Esteem

A consensual D/s relationship makes both partners feel good. A sub who is getting what he needs feels increased self-esteem and a sense of worth in his relationship. He knows that the Dom appreciates him, values him and enjoys spending time with him. He trusts his partner to guide him on an exploration of a previously unknown side of himself. In an abusive relationship, the self-esteem of the submissive partner is eroded or destroyed. He does not trust the dominant partner.

Leaving an Abusive Partner

Leaving an abusive partner is difficult and scary, but it can be done. Start by contacting a shelter, church or social services agency in your area. Purchase a suitcase your abuser doesn't know about and pack it with items he won't miss. Begin saving money as soon as possible, even if it's just a few dollars. Collect important documents such as social security cards, birth certificates, insurance cards and bank statements. The more prepared you are, the better your chances of getting away for good.