There is a mantra in the D/s world: make it your own, don't worry about how other people do it. This sounds so simple and so logical. Of course - whatever we do has to be adapted to our circumstances. We have pre-teen sons so I can't run around the house wearing only heels and a collar, even if we did turn the heat up past 60 and assuming I could walk in heels anyhow. On a bit deeper level, punishment and discipine in the way they seem to be most often described just don't feel right to either of us, so we have a different approach entirely. But there are absolutely things to be learned and ideas to be gained from reading about others' thoughts and experiences. I had found myself getting defensive when people would comment that I should not worry about how others do it, just make it our own. I was defensive because I thought that we had been doing it our way, but I also allowed for the possibility that they were onto something deeper that I hadn't quite grasped.
One of my (not always so admirable) personality traits is that I typically do care what other people think about me. I also (not so attractively) care about doing things the "right" way. I try very hard to check myself that my desires and feelings about this dynamic are from my heart and not from wanting to emulate someone or something else. But what I was not grasping was that my whole concept of D/s just wasn't complete.
I read a very personal account of an M/s relationship; not the what's and how's, but the why's. There was nothing about their rules, arrangements or logistics, certainly nothing about their intimate life. But I got to read very specifically and personally what their individual role does for each of them - what need it meets, and how meeting that need for the other brings them joy. Most impressively, I saw how it makes them both more connected and how that connection raises each of them to a higher level. The details of their relationship don't fit ours at all; their desires and motivations and personalities are entirely different from ours, but that is exactly what illuminated so much for me. I experienced a subtle, but very important shift in how I see things.
I had been looking at how to fit the peices of the lifestyle into our reality, now I see that the dynamic can be used to build our reality however we want. It isn't something to be laid overtop of, or crammed to fit into what we are now, but can be used to help build whatever we imagine. These are really abstract metaphors for it though; they express the shift in my understanding, but not what that implies for us in practical terms. In practical terms, what hit me about what I had read was that each of them knew the other and themselves really, really well. Also, they didn't need each other, but they each depended very much on the connection they had with the other.
I don't want the connection between my husband and me to be a generic thing, I want it to be based on an intimate knowlege of each of our personalities, motivations, and ways of being. I have a very strong feeling of wanting to know my husband this well, and of wanting to understand myself this well so that I can let him know me.
Knowing one's spouse is something that could happen without D/s - so what is there about my submitting (or his dominating) that adds anything to this process? There is the notion that if I have a submissive nature, I am being more true to myself to relate to him that way. Likewise for him and dominance. Maybe? Maybe being true to a part of our nature is more honest, with ourselves and with each other. I do think that the particular things I do to submit fulfill something in him, in his dominance, thus strenthening my connection to him. I also think that allowing or expecting me to do those things to submit fulfills something for me, thus strengthening his connection to me. And vice versa for him. None of this makes us dependent on the other, but it builds our relationship.
I have heard people say that D/s is a way to communicate, a language or a frame of reference. It may be that, but more than that, I think it allows us or frees us to communicate. Having the words is one thing, but feeling free to say them another. For example, for me, it's very easy to show him how I feel, but gut wrenching to talk to him about why. Being expected to do that anyhow, and agreeing that I will, is a step towards both of us understanding more. Likewise, I learn more about him because he feels free to ask for or show me what he wants. This is true literally, for speech, but also for feelings, ways of thinking or viewing the world, the more abstract things two people communicate to each other.
However we use the tools of D/s, it will be with the goal of increasing our knowlege of ourselves and each other so that we can use that understanding to strengthen our connection with each other. I'm sure my conceptualization of D/s is still not complete - but I hope that seeing things this way helps me imagine more than I would have. The task will be working out how to take the building materials that D/s offers and build our structure with them.