It has been about a year since my last purposeful writing on this topic — the metaphors and terminology Jalan and I use for our “dynamic.”
In no particular order, we are: Owner, pet. Dominant, collared submissive. Top, bottom. Husband, wife. Keyholder, in chastity. Lovers. Partners.
Pet is the metaphor that has always made the most sense to me in how I feel about being the submissive partner in D/s (used broadly) relationships. I call it a metaphor. It is also a role and, yes, a label. It also associates a label, owner, with Jalan. This is not, as far as I know, a label she used before we were together. But, after discussion early on, she understood what the owner and pet labels mean to me and was happy to adopt them, along with her preferred label as my “dominant.” But why do I prefer this? I am writing this without having re-read last Summer’s entry. I am sure there will be points of both congruence and discrepancy.
To me, a pet is owned. That connotes a tremendous degree of authority held by the owner. The authority to decide for, influence, control (insofar as a person can be), and, yes, train. Almost anything but the right to abuse — just as would be true for the four-legged kind. That thorough yielding of authority to Jalan is right for me. But there is reciprocity. The pet is loved and cared for (both in the sense of experiencing caring and that of being taken care of). The pet is expected to be loyal and obedient, but there is, in the other direction, a duty taken on by the owner: to see to the pet’s well-being. The pet trusts the owner to do so, and the owner has an obligation to not betray that trust.
That is the core of our D/s dynamic. There is more to our relationship than the owner/pet aspect, but that, to me, summarizes the strength of our D/s bond. To say that I trust Jalan with my life is an understatement — in a very real sense, a bondage bottom (particularly) trusts a top in that regard routinely. More, I trust her with myself. To care for me and take care of me in ways I do not or cannot myself. In return, I offer and give love, loyalty, obedience, and presence.
I am available when called on — I may ask to be allowed to get to a stopping point in what I am doing, but I am willing, regardless. When we are physically together, we may be doing different things in parallel, but when we are together as she wakes or before I sleep, or when one of us particularly wants or needs the emotional and physical closeness of touch and snuggling, I do my best to stay mentally and emotionally present as well as physically. When she requires something of me, I obey to my best ability. Though I do have certain duties, formal service is not a central part of our relationship — but I look to be of service as I can, whether that service is domestic, personal, sexual, or something more general. These, along with utter honesty with her, are Jalan’s fundamental expectations of me.
There are many ways in which our relationship is reciprocal. One of our principles and aphorisms is that “service comes in many forms,” and we serve each other in that sense. Her putting me in restraints before bed each night is service, every bit as much as is my making her tea the next morning.
This brings me to leave the owner/pet metaphor, as I begin to talk about the symmetry. Above all else, we are partners as we build a life together. The reciprocity stems from our love, respect, and compassion for each other. We are not perfect human beings. We have strengths and weaknesses. We respect and appreciate each other’s strengths, have compassion for the weaknesses, and — no less important — respect each other’s awareness and handling of our own respective weaknesses.
One of the fundamental characteristics of many (most?) successful long-term relationships is that both partners feel somewhat overbenefitted by the relationship — that what we each gain from it outweighs what we each put into it. A relationship that is too lopsided tends be uncomfortable for both partners (there are exceptions). Jalan and I both feel somewhat overbenefitted. Again, the benefits are not symmetric — which is part of what makes the mutual feeling possible. Contributions and benefits can be relational (e.g., she feels better when in control, I feel better when I have structured expectations), in personal service (tea, bondage), in decision-making (she needs to know how much money or other resources are available to make decisions, I love creating spreadsheets), economically, in making a house a home, and many other ways.
We are good to each other, and we are good for each other. It works both ways.