Training vs. Romance: The View From The North Wing

I outlined this piece no fewer than four times. I was trying to eliminate the tone of inherent judgment. I’ve realized that is not going to be possible. "Vs." implies contest, and by virtue of selecting one method over the other I have made an endorsement. At least, I see it for what it is and am honest about it. This article then is about the primary difference between training and romance, which one I selected, and how that shapes my relationships. The primary difference between a D/s relationship based upon training and one based upon romance is motivation. For the purposes of this discussion motivation will be used to mean why you do what you do and action to be what you do. I am motivated to do my job (primarily) by the salary I receive to do it. You can think of motivation as cause and action as effect. It is useful to note that the reinforcement which serves as a motivation can follow the action it was intended to produce.

In a D/s relationship based on romance the primary motivation is love/affection, which is a powerful motivator but has strong emotional implications. The most obvious example of romantic motivation is "I do ‘this’ because I love them and want to make them happy". This inherently ties the quality of your D/s relationship to the quality and/or quantity of your affection for your partner. Dissatisfaction with the D/s aspect easily takes on broader implications and is taken to mean dissatisfaction with the relationship and emotions involved. It becomes impossible to ask for something your partner is less than happy about giving because who has the right to say my feelings and happiness are more important than yours. That is the passive aggressive playground made up by phrases that start out "If you really love me, you will …." There is no high ground there. Emotion, despite what we like to believe, is not quantifiable. Any method of measurement would be subjective at best. Which is why emotional endeavors are usually evaluated on the "It’s the thought that counts" model, wherein the evaluation is based on effort not results. As long as effort is present, the performance is deemed passing. The evaluation having less to do with the actual performance quality than the fact that it happened at all. Bottom line, if love is your motivation, it is not possible to adequately justify requiring someone to do something just because it will make you happy if it isn’t going to make them equally happy. In a D/s context, what’s left is a no win situation. Each partner saying, "I want you to be happy". The Dom unable to ask the sub for anything that doesn’t make the sub happy to give and the sub unable to make the Dom happy because the Dom isn’t getting what they really want (even if the Dom is getting all they are asking for).

In a D/s relationship based on training the primary motivation is commitment to a common goal, the best D/s dynamic you can have. A common goal requires that you pursue it without a personal agenda. The very mutual and specific nature of the goal prevents any skewing of the situation for personal benefit from actually being conducive to the stated goal. Each person has a choice to make, whole hearted commitment to the the stated goal or commitment to their personal agenda. You are either working for the common goal or you are not. It is that simple and that clear. Even if it is not what you want to hear or do, you each know when something is good for the dynamic. The nature of the stated goal obligates each person to get behind the things that are good for the dynamic and eliminate the things that are not. In a D/s context, this usually involves adding things, like rituals, a covenant, accountability, and a formal review procedure, which take your D/s from "when the mood strikes" to an inherent part of your interactions. These contribute to a better dynamic by: placing a certain amount of D/s in your daily interaction with your partner; creating a set of examined guidelines which cover each person’s rights and responsibilities; giving recourse to each person should another fail to live up to their responsibilities; creating a period of amnesty where it is not only acceptable but expected to be critical and vocal regarding the relationship.

For me, D/s is a graded endeavor. There are definitive levels of achievement. There is an unacceptable level of performance. Effort is not enough to make the grade. When I was figuring out what I wanted from my D/s, I discovered not only could I separate love, sex and D/s, but it worked better when I did. Separation of these elements allows clarity not possible without the distinctions. It enables me to have healthy, productive D/s relationships with people I do not love. It relieves me of the compulsion to justify my D/s by saying I love my partner. It enables me to deal with the real issues instead of the emotional icing. Basing my D/s relationships on training is the most compatible structure for what I expect to both give and get in my relationships. I am looking for the best possible D/s dynamic we are capable of. That means effort, on either part, isn’t enough. I expect to create a covenant and live by it. Sometimes, that means doing things that neither of us wants to do. I am obligated to make sure we do things the right way, no matter how tempting the easy way may be. Because my D/s is training based, my first priority is achieving the best possible D/s dynamic. The best is not what you get when you aren’t giving your best, settle, make excuses or let things slide. This commitment to the dynamic requires that we separate our feelings and the facts. Loving my partners doesn’t stop me from giving harsh punishment if earned, and because they know my D/s isn’t about love, they wouldn’t expect it to. Punishment or praise are not judgments of, or reactions to the feelings we have for each other. They are component parts of the dynamic we are building. There is a wonderful, liberating knowledge in that. My affection is not conditional to their compliance with my expectations. My collar, however, is. But, my collar is not about love, it’s about D/s and our covenant.

– Sir C