To say that communication is important in a relationship is like saying that man must breathe to live: one simply shouldn’t have to specify its importance. Yet somehow, although I have never heard of a person who died because he forgot how to breathe, I have seen many relationships fall apart due to a distinct lack of communication or inability to communicate.
We all know from experience that effective communication is hard enough when you’re occupying the same physical space as another person, but when you’re across the state, the country, the world, from your loved one, complications can increase tenfold. Luckily for those of us who are in long distance relationships, this is no longer the 1920s and there are hundreds of nearly-free ways to communicate over vast distances: e-mail, telephone, text, instant messenger, video conferencing, instagram, FaceBook, and goodness knows how many variations of each of those there are; but even having the means does not automatically make communication happen.
With the world separating us, my Dom and I have to make a conscious effort to make ourselves available for each other throughout the day in one form or fashion. I want to emphasize that this is not a rule that my Dom has given me, it’s a standard that both of us have set for ourselves. Under no casual circumstances is it acceptable for either of us to trot off from all means of communication without word—especially not for longer than a day. If we know that we are going to be inaccessible for the day—even for a few hours—it’s something that we make a point to share with each other. So, if you’re thinking of entering a long distance relationship, or you’re already knee-deep in one, make sure that both you and your Dominant understand that there are very few circumstances where it is okay to not check in throughout the day.
Granted, sometimes staying in touch takes a little bit of creativity. For instance: today my Dom is out of town visiting friends. She told me last night that she would be away from the computer for most of the day. Neither of us have international texting (which we found out the hard way, unfortunately), but both of us have smartphones that are connected to our e-mail addresses. Both of us get notifications when we get new e-mails, and both of us have the ability to read and respond to e-mails from our phones. So naturally, on days like this when one of us is away from the computer but has access to our phone, we spend the day e-mailing back and forth.
At the end of the day, how you communicate isn’t always as important as why. Being able to talk to someone, feeling safe enough to express your concerns, beliefs, points of view, is the foundation for any kind of working relationship. I stated before that I had seen many relationships which didn’t face the challenges of being long distance crumble under lack of ability to effectively communicate—sometimes even lack of trying.
The Three Types of Communication Within D/s Relationships
Having come from a family of psychology majors, I could sit here and explain to you the technical process that people go through when they communicate (effectively or ineffectively, whatever the case may be) but for the purpose of this article, we’ll say that there are three major types of communication within a D/s relationship: companionate, elucidation, and disclosure.
The word “companionate” is derived from “companion.” It implies two things: the first is that you are equal to the person you are with; the second is that you and the person you are with provide each other with an equal source of comfort and company. I have said in the past that a good foundation for D/s relationships comes from being with someone that you’re compatible with outside of the life-style, and so the first type of communication that you need to be aware of is the general, every day communication—the companionate communication—of general, every day relationships. It’s the part of communication where you tell your partner how your day went, what happened at work that bothered you, or summarize the funny section of the book you’re reading. You share your interests, your fears, your ambitions, not with your Dominant, but with the person you love and respect as they love and respect you.
Elucidation, from “elucidate” or “illuminate” and “clarify” can then be describes as communication that takes place directly within the confines of the D/s aspects of your relationship: you say, “I don’t feel comfortable with what you’re asking of me because…” or your Dominant says, “I want you to adjust your behavior in this regard…” In this way, unlike companionate communication, there is a distinct balance that can be maintained by using certain words and phrases from the D/s lexicon to appropriately express yourself to your Dominant—and for your Dominant to appropriately express him/herself to you.
The last form of communication, disclosure, is pretty much exactly as it sounds. Disclosure can exist inside of the D/s aspects of your relationship, overlapping with elucidating communication, or it can exist without those aspects, running parallel with companionate communication. Its purpose, more or less, is to convey dissatisfaction, anxiety, or confession, and as you can probably guess, it’s one of the more turbulent forms of communication because it deals directly with conflict. Often times, disclosure is necessary when there has been a lack of companionate or elucidative communication. One of the things that you must not forget, then, when disclosing something to your partner, is that, in order for effective communication to take place, there must be an originator (a speaker) and a receiver (a listener). Just as you expect your partner to receive, or listen, to what you express, you must, in your turn, commit yourself to the role of receiver. Remember that if what you have to say on your end of the conversation is important to you, what your partner has to say is just as important to them. Also remember that just as part of your partner’s role as your Dominant is to be aware of your values and concerns so that he or she might better take care of you, part of your role as a submissive is to be aware of your Dominant’s values and concerns so that you might better serve him or her.
Baring all of this in mind can be exhausting, but it’s all integral to being able to maintain a healthy relationship—especially one where body language and verbal tones are often excluded in casual conversation. Taking care of issues when they’re smaller through companionate and elucidative communication is often much less stressing than waiting until they’re larger problems.
Above all, dedicating yourself to finding time to communicate companionatively or elucidatively with your partner, especially in a long distance relationship, can help keep your relationship strong—even on the few days when circumstances prevent direct communication.
Now, as super professional as all of this sounds, bare in mind that this is a very creative modification and application of very real a very real and complex psychological study. If you’re at all interested in reading actual psychological theories of communication, Columbia University has a fantastic article called “The Psychology of Verbal Communication” by Robert M. Krauss, which you can read by clicking HERE. His articles “Communication and Conflict” and “Models of Interpersonal Communication” are also available on PDFs, if you’re up for a Google-search fest.
Next time, I hope to go into detail about how to overcome obstacles when it comes to meeting up with your partner and getting the most out of your time with him/her; in the meanwhile, consider the questions about communication below and feel free to answer or ask questions of your own in the comments.
- What are some ways that you and your Dom maintain communication throughout the day?
- What are some of the challenges you face when communicating with your Dom? Do you have conflicting schedules? Are you in different time-zones? Etc.
- How difficult do you consider communicating your needs or ideas with your Dom?
Until next time!