What can Vanilla Relationships Pull From BDSM and Poly?

To kick this off let me define what I mean by Vanilla , BDSM, and Polyamory.

“Vanilla  Relationship” derives from the use of vanilla extract as the basic flavoring for ice cream, and by extension, meaning plain or conventional. This means  sexual behavior that is within the range of normality for a culture or subculture, and typically involving sex which does not include elements of BDSM, kink, or fetishism. In relationships where only one partner enjoys less conventional forms of sexual expression, the partner who does not enjoy such activities as much as the other is often referred to as the vanilla partner.

 

BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline (BD), Dominance and submission (Ds) and Sadism and Masochism (SM). BDSM is a lifestyle and/or sexual practice. BDSM is a variety of often erotic practices or role playing involving bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadomasochism, and other related interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. I could write a whole book on the history of BDSM; however, for the purposes of this blog I am referring to it as a lifestyle.

 

Polyamory describes a form of relationship where it is possible, valid and worthwhile to maintain (usually long-term) intimate and sexual relationships with multiple partners simultaneously.  Poly comes from the Greek and means “many,” while amory comes from Latin meaning “love.” Even mixing Greek and Latin roots is against traditional rules, and according to popular culture and societal norms so is loving more than person romantically and/or erotically.  Poly is concerned a relationship orientation and can be mixed with the BDSM or Vanilla sex worlds.

 

I feel the number one thing in any relationship is COMMUNICATION.  In both Poly and BDSM communication is one of the cornerstones of the relationships. In Poly, communication allows for each partner to know what is going on in the relationship at any given time. In BDSM it allows for the Top/Dom/Master/Handler to know how to reward and punish the bottom/sub/slave/pet. When the individuals know how to communicate they can express their wants, needs, and boundaries with one another.

 

Boundaries allow for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual safety. In BDSM everything is negotiated in advance to make sure everyone involved in the play is safe. If a boundary is crossed or a person feels unsafe in the situation there is a SAFE WORD. This word is like calling for a time out during a sporting event. During this time out ALL PLAY STOPS, the individuals come out of their roles and discuss what is going on as individuals. It would be nice to have a safe word in reality so each person knows it is okay to discuss issues openly with their partner (s).  This also occurs in Poly relationships such as the use of condoms, barriers, or sex. Some other boundaries in Poly may include work, family events, or coming out to people very similar if not the same as vanilla relationships.

In the vanilla world we can be stuck in our cognitive distortions like mind reading or expectations; the “shoulds” of the world. It is healthy to take the guessing out of a relationship. I have heard countless times, “Well, he/she should know, we have been together x amount of years” or “Everybody does these things so they should know what to do.” Everyone is different and that means an endless amount of preferences, communicating these preferences to your sweetie (s) will benefit your relationship in the long run. Every relationship has a different user’s manual.

 

Along with boundaries comes knowing your role in the relationship. I love poly for the sheer fact that it is selfish to think one person will meet all your needs all the time. In Poly different partners satisfy different needs.  When an individual communicates those needs to their sweetie they begin to learn their role in the relationship. In BDSM the roles are very clearly defined as well as the expectations, sometimes with written contracts. Performing within the defined role creates trust in the relationship.

 

From communication, trust, and knowing the role comes another level of attunement. Yes, the relationship builds upon itself with deeper and deeper layers. This comes from being very aware of your partner(s)’ facial expressions, body language,word choices and much much more.  If you watch a seasoned Dom/sub dynamic you can see how attuned they are with one another. The Dom knows how far he/she can push the sub and what one more spanking, flogging, or touch will do to him/her. Also, the sub knows what her/his master may need at any given moment. This can happen in a vanilla relationship as well. Self-disclosure, my husband and I are very aware of each other and typically say the same thing at movies and television. I know what to order him if I go to eat without him and I want to bring him back a meal, typically chicken fingers is a safe choice and cheese cake.

 

One last thing is coming together after a hardship.  In BDSM the term aftercare is used for time after a scene for a Dom to receive and care for his/her sub. There is petting, stroking, kissing, soft words, much like pillow talk. This time allows for the bond to grow. I am a science and brain geek. So it allows time for the bonding hormone oxytocin to kick in which strengthens bond. This is why it is important for a couple, triad, etc to join after a hardship. They need to cuddle and discuss how much they mean to one another. AGAIN, no one is a mind reader contrary to the characters in  Marvel, DC, DarkHorse comics, etc.

 

If you would like help navigating your relationship , vanilla, kink, poly or otherwise, please give me a call at 678-964-4739 or email me at relationship.positive.therapy@gmail.com . Everyone’s relationship manual is different, let me help you write yours.

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