Can I Teach My Partner to be a Dominant?

You want it, but it’s just not on your partner’s radar. It’s really not uncommon, and it’s a commonly recurring chat topic on forums like Fetlife:

I got married two years ago, and while we’ve been together I’ve suppressed my urge to be submissive due to him being mostly vanilla. He says he wants to be what I need him to, but wants me to instruct him? It’s kind of an odd struggle for me. I want him to be dominant, and I want him to just know what to do, but I understand that he doesn’t, and why. It’s hard for someone who is a submissive (mostly) to really instruct someone to be dominant. Does anyone have any advice for a couple new to the scene?


A lot of people jump on any question about introducing a partner to D/s by saying that “you can’t make someone dominant if they are not”. That’s not entirely true. It’s important not to confuse dominance as a personality trait with Dominant as a sexuality or role identity (“a Dominant”), and what it means to be a Dominant.

There is a pervasive myth online that a Dominant is some kind of collection of personality traits that you “are”. It leads to people claiming to be dominant from birth, “natural dominants” or “alpha dominants”.

I think there is very little truth in that. I do think that certain types of people (people with dominant personalities) are likely to choose to become “a Dominant”, but for everyone I have ever met it has been a choice, and something that they have learned to do.

Anton Fulmen’s book The Heart of Dominance: A Guide to Practicing Consensual Dominance doesn’t give you a five-point checklist for what a Dominant is, but instead gives a simple overarching guideline:

The work of dominance is to enable or inspire submission. We don’t make our partners submit; we create the opportunity for them to submit. Maybe that sounds like I’m just saying the same thing in a different way, but understanding the difference between making someone submit and enabling them to submit is crucially important to dominating well.

There are other ways of looking at Dominance, but what they will all have in common with Anton’s concept is that it’s really not about some personality trait you were born with.


Doms are not generic. They’re not like rice or petrol. He will never “just know what to do“, because what you really mean by that is “know what to do for me”. If you want him to be YOUR Dom then it’s a journey you will need to take together. We all want magic, where you put the slipper on and it fits, but he’ll need to find the type of dominance he’s comfortable with and you’ll need to adjust your own desired role as a submissive to synch with that. If you don’t do this dance together, sooner or later someone’s toes will be stepped on.

He can learn to be a Dominant if he’s motivated to do that:

  • There are excellent books that will fill in a lot of the theory (Dossie Easton, John Warren and Anton Fulmen are all good names to Google)
  • Sites like Fetlife and B.E.S.T slave Training have excellent resources, and Fetlife has a fantastic community, offering the chance to learn and interact
  • Local events and interacting with a real, live group of people is an opportunity to not only discuss D/s-related issues, but observe (and form friendships with) like-minded couples

But, probably the most powerful way he’ll acquire the skills is the interaction within your relationship.


All the guys in my family play golf except me. It’s just not my game, and I’ve never been able to bring myself to learn.

Although I believe that Dominance is a choice and learned, whether a person can be dominant or submissive (in a sustained way) depends a lot on what’s already inside: their dreams, fantasies, desires.

You can teach someone to be a Top — to do kinky BDSM play to you. And whether he’s actually into it or not, he could enjoy it just by seeing your reactions. Being able to turn your partner on is a great aphrodisiac and could well make topping enjoyable for him.

You could teach him how to play the role of a D/s Dominant. The theory and the motions.

But you can’t teach someone to BE a Dominant. That’s something that comes from inside.

Sometimes such things are nascent: many people, in fact, do acquire a taste for dominance or submission after being satisfied for a long time with conventional sex. Most people I know who practice BDSM were not even aware of these interests when they were young.


You’ll hear a lot about how important communication is in power exchange. This is one of those times when open, clear, non-judgemental communication is the only way you’ll ever find success.

Don’t think of it as being about education. Think of it more as gauging desire. I’m suggesting this route because if someone develops desire and interest in dominance for themselves, because it makes them feel good, the education part will take care of itself — or rather, if it’s something he finds he likes, he’ll likely make up for lost time!

Something I’ve written about before is the idea of giving your partner permission to be Dominant. It can involve a lot of re-evaluating the moral codes of our upbringing and of society around us (“nice guys treat their partner THIS way”). So, probably the most important thing you can do is reassure him, through words and actions, that it is more than OK to play with power this way… that it’s actually what you want.

Why not show him some imagery you find very arousing, or share some hot links? Maybe you could both watch some short, explicit non-educational BDSM movies together, nothing too extreme at first but definitely hot, and see what his interest is like. Does seeing a woman getting cropped or helplessly bound arouse him? How about later? Does he feel guilty over liking this sort of thing, does he think it’s a great way to live, or is it an “I can take it or leave it” sort of thing for him?

BDSM Checklists are fun to do together, and can lead to some surprising conversations. We have a good one in our free downloads here.

And certainly, if he’s ready to explore Fetlife or your local community, throw your support behind him without trying to steer him too tightly. Let him look around, see what’s there, and see if it’s for him.

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