Developing Rules for Your Relationship

If you’ve bounced in here from our previous article A Reverse Pyramid Look at Rules in BDSM Relationships, you might be thinking “well, he’s no fun” and it’s true, it wasn’t a particularly fun look at rule making.

But, in that article I was talking about the newbie error of substituting rules for Dominance, and I think there is a world of difference between the things we do because we think it’s expected of us in our role and the things we do because it lights our fire (and our partner’s fire).

Rules within our relationships about sex and our fantasies (and ego) can be hot, if both partners are on the same page. And, having a hot relationship is part of the reason why we’re doing this, right?

So, if you’ve both fantasized about a slave dressed only in collar and chains who sits at his Master’s feet, work out how that scene will start and stop and go for it. If there are sex acts you want at specific times or on command, set that up. If controlling your slave’s undergarments or when and where they orgasm turns your crank, that’s a perfect choice for a protocol.


An ideal place to start looking, when you’re thinking about rules for your relationship, is the things you already do on a regular basis. Eating, sleeping, bathing, dressing, walking on the street, and so on. These are areas where Dominance and submission can smoothly be incorporated into your life, if it pleases you. Do you want your clothes laid out? Do you want to choose your submissive’s clothes? Should coffee be served in the morning at a certain time?

The other area to start with, of course, are things which fine-tune the relationship to better suit you. You probably have a fair idea what turns (both of) you on and pisses you off. You also know how your lives and schedules impact things. How you organise things from there is up to you. If you like to cook, then cook. And if you like doing dishes, then do dishes. There are really no “dominant things” or “submissive things”, but some people seem to get it into their heads that there are.

Certain things are done for me in my D/s household, but in general I share household chores with my boy. We’re both busy people and we do what it takes to care for the other person and keep the show on the road. I also think that the smoother our life runs, the less either of us gets bogged down in the boring stuff and the more time we have for the fun part.


I wanted to look at rules again from a different angle, and in particular the nitty-gritty’s of how to set them up so they don’t come back to bite you on the butt.

So, let’s start with the assumption that you, and your partner, want more structure in your relationship, and you’ve decided to take the wheel and provide that. You’re looking for protocol that’s specific to your relationship, and for the sake of this article I’ll assume that you like a certain level of formality, though obviously you can adjust everything up or down to suit yourself.

Here’s a good set of starting rules:

  • Do whatever makes the most sense to you, unless I tell you I want you to do it differently
  • Don’t assume you did anything wrong just because I tell you to do it differently
  • Don’t permanently change the way you are doing something just because I tell you to do it differently once. If I expect a permanent change, I will make that clear
  • If you ever find yourself in conflict between two directives, clear it up with me
  • If you want to know how I want something done, ask
  • If you have a suggestion about how you can do something better, say so

That sets a base-line and provides a kind of “relationship common-sense”. From there, you’re in a position to layer on rules specific to yourself, your submissive and your relationship like bricks, to build protocol that works for you.


So, how can you go about building a set of rules for your relationship into protocol for a hot and healthy exchange?

1. Consider how flexible you need things to be

At some point in our journey, we all come across that fantasy Master/slave protocol, where  the slave is expected to be kneeling at the door whenever Master gets home, dinner prepared, cigar and whiskey on the coffee table next to the leather armchair, where the slave will sit naked and silent on the floor at his Master’s feet.

Perhaps it’s not total fantasy, maybe it works for some people. But my experience is that most of us don’t have the kind of consistency in our lives that would allow that to happen. You’re likely to end up with a lot of melted ice cubes, burnt dinners and bored slaves with sore knees from waiting at the door.

So, “be kneeling at the door with everything prepared when I get home” is probably too rigid for most of us in real life, but let’s say you do want to have a protocol in place for when you get home. You could consider these:

“When you hear me get home, come to me from wherever you are in the house and kneel so I can greet you. Be ready to come to me when I have settled into my chair to ask if there is anything I require.”

“When you hear me get home, come to me from wherever you are in the house and kneel. After  I have greeted you, you can go back to whatever you were doing and I will call you if I require anything.”

“Come to greet me when I get home.”

Any of those would work, it really depends what you want. Don’t trap yourself with rigid rules. Most people need some amount of flex in them.

2. Consider what it is that’s important (or interesting) to you

I often refer to myself as being “not a micro-manager”, and that’s half true. I recently experimented with a period of amped-up control that involved a lot of micro-management, and honestly, it felt nice. I can see what people get out of it.

But, I have a busy life, I have a lot of “me” stuff on my mind, and I tend to find micro-management to be a negative rather than positive experience. My boys are both intelligent. switched on and eager to please, and they’re quite capable of operating within broad brush-strokes. It has occasions where it leads to conflict, often because I assume something is understood when perhaps it’s not as clear as I think it is, but on the flip-side having them take authority and responsibility in the relationship brings a certain level of randomness and unpredictability to our lives, and I enjoy that.

So, I have little interest in choosing what underwear they wear on a given day, or what they eat for lunch. But, I know that other people love being in control of that kind of thing.

Set your own rules for your relationship according to your own interests. If you try to control things that are not important to you then you’re not going to enjoy the work involved.

3. Consider where to start, and radiate out from there

ruleshopscotchYou are setting your submissive up for failure if you sit down and hammer out 100 rules that apply to all aspects of your relationship. It’s too much for anyone, including you. You need to focus your energy in one place and start with a few rules. When that’s working well for you, add a few more, then a few more, then a few more.

It’s going to be easier for everyone if you don’t scatter the rules for your relationship too randomly. You could start by setting rules specifically about cleaning, for example. Or rules about grooming and deportment. Or about playtime. You don’t have to be so focused that you ignore everything else, but it will help to cement behaviours if you can mainly focus your energy in one direction at a time.

An advantage of this approach is it gives you a chance to test your rules before you move on. Are they practical, do they work, how do they feel? There’s nothing wrong with adjusting, or even removing, a rule if it just isn’t working.

4. Consider whether some rules require levels of protocol

Perhaps you require him to say “May I bring you a drink Master” at home, but how’s that going to go down at your nephew’s birthday party?

Quite often, we’re hesitant to set rules because we can see all the situations where we’ll have to neglect them. Rather than not set up protocol, the solution is really in setting up protocol that is flexible enough to deal with reality.

It’s extremely common for couples to have some equivalent of low, regular and high protocols, with triggers for which is appropriate in a given circumstance.

And again, there’s no right or wrong way to set these up. It’s entirely up to you. There are occasions when I just want to hear “yes Master, no Master”, but to be honest, my boys are also companions and friends and lovers. When we’re out in the sunshine on the weekend, I want to hear their opinions and see them being silly and smiling.

It’s totally sensible to have different protocols for different situations, and if you’ve built things up in a slow, clear and consistent way, there’s rarely any confusion about what kind of interaction is expected that can’t be cleared up with a few key words and a raised eyebrow.

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