Shift Happens Therapy

How to Tell if Your Kinky Relationship is Emotionally Healthy

As a licensed psychotherapist, I’ve worked with many survivors of domestic abuse on what abuse is, how to identify abuse and recognize red flags in relationship, and how to safely leave an abusive relationship.

For people who practice consensual power exchange and/or BDSM dynamics, knowing whether or not their relationship is healthy can be very confusing. Just like vanilla relationships, kinky relationships can be either healthy or abusive, or some mixture of the two. Abusive relationships are by definition manipulative, and many people, kinky and vanilla, don’t realize they are even in an abusive relationship until after the abuse has escalated or the relationship has ended.

So, how do you tell if your relationship is abusive when the traditional markers of domestic abuse, such as hitting, verbal degradation, and patterns of power and control by one partner over another, are actually treasured parts of the relationship? The answer is to really look at the framework of the relationship. Healthy relationships, whether kinky or vanilla, are based on a foundation of mutual respect and trust. So ask yourself these questions:

 

Is My Kinky Relationship Emotionally Healthy?

In BDSM and power exchange, power flows from the bottom up. What this means is that the bottom/submissive always has the power to stop any activity or withdraw consent. No always means No. However, a top/Dominant should never assume that an activity is OK just because the bottom did not explicitly forbid it. Any kinky activities should be explicitly consented to by the bottom/submissive.

While what your needs are may look different in a kinky relationship, in all healthy relationships, everyone is getting (most) of their needs met, especially whatever you deem is most important to you.

Relationships are messy and we make mistakes and/or hurt others unintentionally. In healthy relationships, all partners can assert their needs, give feedback, and have their needs and desires respected.

Missteps in a relationship are inevitable, from both sides of the slash. Healthy relationships allow for imperfection, apologies and reconnection.

Over time, you will change and so will your and your partner(s) needs. Some relationships adapt to the new needs, and some are time limited.

 

No matter what was agreed upon or promised before, you are always allowed to change your mind, just as your partner(s) are allowed to change their minds. While the decision to be in a relationship is mutual, it only takes one person to decide to end the relationship.

 

Another important factor to consider is your own individual mental health. Before being in healthy relationship with others, we need to have a healthy relationship with ourselves. Doing your own work, especially If you have experienced previous abuse or trauma, can only benefit your relationships.

 

Even healthy relationships can struggle sometimes. Here are also several books that you might find helpful:

Resources

Building the Team By Joshua Tenpenny & Raven Kaldera

“Instead of an adversarial model, this book outlines a cooperative Teamwork model where the dominant and submissive members work together to make effective progress in the goals of the relationship. The Teamwork method of building a mindful unequal relationship emphasizes mutual responsibility, problem solving, honesty, and trust.”

Dear Raven and Joshua: Questions and Answers About Master/Slave Relationships by Joshua Tenpenny and Raven Kaldera

“The world of consenting Master/slave relationships often seems murky and mysterious from an outsider’s perspective, and there are few models for those who are tentatively venturing into it. When it’s not just a fantasy any more, reality often turns out to be so different from fantasy that would-be owners and slaves don’t know how to make it work in a sustainable way. This book is as far from fantasy as it gets. Written by a real-life Master/slave couple who counsel people in power-dynamic relationships, Dear Raven and Joshua answers real questions about real problems encountered in daily living with M/s. Whether you’re playing part-time with a BDSM lifestyle, live in a leather household, or are attempting a 24/7 total power exchange, you’ll find this book is a trouble-shooting resource you won’t want to pass up.”

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

“Nonviolent Communication serves our desire to do three things:
1: Increase our ability to live with choice, meaning, and connection
2: Connect empathically with self and others to have more satisfying relationships
3: Sharing of resources so everyone is able to benefit.”

If you could use more support, either as an individual or in your relationships, finding a licensed, kink knowledgeable professional psychotherapist for counseling can be very helpful. You can visit the [Kink Aware Professionals List][https://ncsfreedom.org/key-programs/kink-aware-professionals-59776] to find a kink aware professional in your area.

If you are in the Austin, TX area and interested in learning more about my work as a psychotherapist, call or email me today to schedule your free consultation. 

 

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