Polyamorous relationships come in an infinite number of configurations. For more about how different open relationships might look including an owner loaner relationship, you can find one of my articles hereand a seriesof podcastshere.
D/s relationships are ones in which dominance and submission are the primary feature. D/s relationships are authority transfer based relationships because the submissive gives authority over part or all of their lives to the dominant. Full time authority transfer based relationships are Master (Mistress)/slave or Owner/property or Daddy/boi/girl or Mommy/boi/girl.
Some D/s relationships involve bondage and discipline or sadism and masochism but others do not. The feature of the relationship which turns both parties on is the power exchange (authority transfer). One person is in charge and the other agrees to submit to their rule. Submission can be part time, sexually only for example, or it can be full time (e.g. in all aspects of the relationship). D/s relationships often have clear structures, with rituals, rules and expectations all spelled out. Many people who engage in them gain pleasure from all of these aspects. The submissives enjoy giving up control and being led by someone else. The dominants enjoy the control over their partners, having someone do as they desire. This is a simplistic description of what both parties might get out of the relationship. For more on these relationships, listen to this seriesof podcastsfrom Sex SpokenHereand D is for Dominant from the A to Z of Sex ®podcast.
D/s relationships can be very straightforward or very complex. Some include significant role play as well as the exchange of power. There are marriages that work on these principles as well as long term living together relationships. However, it can be difficult to maintain these roles when living with someone full time especially if the person who is in the submissive role is dominant in the outside world (at work, within the household, the main bread winner). As a result, in some relationships, the D/s aspects become watered down which often leads to dissatisfaction on the part of both parties.
A solution to managing this dissatisfaction is to make sure that there is specific time set aside for D/s. As long as this is a substantial enough amount of time and it is ringfenced so that the rest of life does not intrude, this will work for many relationships.
One solution to this situation is to consider opening up the relationship. A couple can agree to engage in D/s play with other partners and not each other or with other partners and still engage with each other. Deciding who will do what with whom can require some intricate negotiation. When done properly, this is a great solution that increases everybody’s enjoyment and fulfilment.
One issue that arises is the need for a person to have agency and autonomy to create and manage multiple relationships. When one is in a hierarchical relationship, the person who is in the dominant role is the one who is in charge. If that person is giving authority over what relationships their partner can form, then the submissive does not have the agency to form additional relationships or continue them. Non-monogamous relationships for people in hierarchical relationships can look different depending up on if their hierarchical relationship is full time or part time. Non-monogamy in part-time D/s relationships can run the gamut from simple dating through to relationship anarchy to polyamorous arrangements.
Myra and Robin were involved in a D/s relationship for 10 years before they moved in together. Both are high powered business women, running their own companies for over a decade each. They met at a Women in Business event and the connection was instant. They quickly discovered that they lived in the same state. Their first date highlighted their desires. Myra quickly took control and Robin revelled in her submission. They talk each day and meet each weekend to spend time together. Their relationship grows and deepens and finally they decide to move in together.
At first things work well. Weekends are the time that they set aside for the D/s side of their relationship. During the week they look like any other couple living together. Robin sometimes finds it difficult giving up control on the weekend, especially on weeks where she is travelling for work. But things are still working and they are both still happy together. After 6 months living together, Myra decides to take a sabbatical. She is working on a book and needs the time to write. They agree that Robin will be the main bread winner for those 6 months. This is when the D/s relationship truly begins to break down.
The women came to see me when Robin found it too difficult to submit to Myra. They were both upset by this change and were motivated to look at how they could make sure their relationship would survive and thrive. After 4 coaching sessions, Robin raised the issue of opening the relationship. She proposed that they both seek to create a D/s relationship with someone else. At first Myra was resistant to this idea, concerned that they would lose one of the best facets of their relationship. After some negotiation, they decided to choose partners for each other and were clear about the limitations. They decided to restrict the relationship to D/s in the bedroom. After a few false starts, they found situations which suited both of them. After a month of exploring new D/s relationships, they told me the spark had come back between them and they left coaching. In this situation, they were each involved in negotiation and setting the limits of other relationships.
In relationship anarchy, relationships are not bound by rules set by society or culture but are only bound by rules set by the people involved. In relationship anarchy, hierarchy between relationships is avoided. This can cause issues when a relationship is hierarchical depending upon whether that relationship includes control over other relationships. However, if this is not the case, then relationship anarchy starts with putting yourself first and then being very deliberate about your relationships – making conscious choices about them at all time.
In full time D/s relationships, the person in charge is also often in charge of whether there are other relationships as well. Because of this, the person who is in the submissive role does not have the agency to begin, continue, or end relationships with others. All relationships are had with the permission of the dominant. One dominant woman I know talks of being an owner and therefore loaning out property rather than her slaves having separate autonomous relationships with others.
In the ‘Owner Loaner’ Model, the owner sets the rules for the other relationships that their property might have. The owner may do all of the negotiation, be an integral part of the negotiation or give the property the details about what is acceptable and allow them to do the negotiation. No matter how the negotiation is organised, the owner is the one who is giving permission, not the property. Morloki describes this as a ‘Time Share Model’ where the other interested parties can ‘request regular rental weeks during the year. Chosen family rentals can be had with special terms’.
If other relationships are not included in the hierarchal relationship, then the other relationships are negotiated directly and terms are agreed between the participants only. Each relationship has rules about other relationships, whether it is hierarchical or not.
For some this raises issues about consent. In this type of relationship organisation, the owner gains the consent of the property to loan them to others and the parameters of any loan (and therefore any other relationship), are negotiated between owner and property. The owner then restricts the terms of any loan to those the property has consented to as part of their relationship agreement (owner loaner model). Property can still withdraw consent at any time and this is made clear to any other playmate or partner during negotiations. Property cannot agree to extend the terms of a loan relationship. This is negotiated with the owner.
Jeff and Cindy are in a full time Owner/property relationship. At the beginning of their relationship, they negotiated the possibility of other partners – intimate partners, emotionally intimate partners, play only partners – as part of their long term relationship. A few years into their relationship, Cindy met Larissa. Jeff negotiated with Larissa to loan Cindy to her for a full BDSM relationship including sexual contact. Jeff prefers an owner loaner model and that relationship worked well for two years until Cindy felt that Larissa was no longer meeting her needs as agreed to at the beginning of the relationship. She spoke with Jeff about this in detail and Jeff ended the relationship as he felt that this was simply causing stress for Cindy (his property). In this case, Cindy spoke with Larissa first and said that she wanted to end the relationship. When Larissa didn’t take this well, Jeff stepped in to make sure it was ended properly and with as little rancour as possible. Three years later, Cindy’s first love got in touch with her. She asked Jeff if she could see Bob and also if she could see where a relationship with Bob might go. Jeff agreed to the date and when it went well, he agreed to loan Cindy to Bob for an emotionally and sexually intimate relationship for an indefinite period of time. Two years later, the relationship continues.
In some M/s or O/p relationships, the dominant partner will introduce other people into the relationship on specific occasions. When this is the case, it will have been agreed between the parties when they set out the terms of their relationship. Josh likes to bring people home to have sex with Jeremy, his long term slave. The people he brings home are really clear as to who is in charge and what the rule are.
Some people become polyamorous because they discover an interest in dominance and submission and want to enter authority transfer or D/s relationships but their partners have little interest in exploring with them. They choose to open their relationships. In my experience many of these relationships are poly monogamous relationships. For more on poly monogamy see my article here. These relationships can work well however couples need to communicate well and negotiate extremely well in order for them to do so. Coaching helps couples learn the communication and negotiation skills needed to create exciting and well-functioning poly monogamous relationships.
It is currently trendy to avoid hierarchy when it comes to relationships, particularly in the non-monogamous community. Hierarchical relationships can be extremely exciting and satisfying whether they are part time (D/s) or full time (M/s, O/p). For people who have multiple relationships that include one or more hierarchical relationships, the relationships can look like ordinary polyamorous relationships where all relationships are separately agreed and negotiated and maybe even equal when it comes to time and attention or they can be owner loaner relationships where the Master/Owner/Dominant is loaning out the slave/property/submissive to the people with whom they have other relationships. Consent and negotiating boundaries is more complex when D/s and non-monogamy are mixed and more time may be needed to get relationships off the ground, but these relationships can be very exciting and fulfilling in the short and long term.