My Master and I had the pleasure of attending a Zoom forum recently about kink and related topics. It was a group meeting in which people of all backgrounds—kinky or not—could ask questions and offer insights about the topics that get posted. It was not quite a munch, not quite a workshop, but fun, very relaxed, and informal information exchange.
Partway through, someone curious about kink asked the moderator, "How do you keep a dynamic going? How do you delineate between life and a 24/7 M/s relationship?" I'm always drawn to those kinds of questions because I see them as an indication that someone is interested in the intricacies of making a relationship of this ilk work.
The answer that instantly presented itself in my mind was simple: ritual. But I knew, surely, there was more to it than that. I was immediately inspired and jotted down a note to write on it later. I felt no response given that could fully explain the role ritual can play in maintaining dynamics over time and harmonizing power exchange with other aspects of life.
The Effect of Ritual on Maintaining Relationships
There's an argument to be made that ritual is vital in maintaining relationships of any sort. Engagement parties, wedding ceremonies, school assemblies, graduations, performance reviews, retirement parties at work—these are all examples of "ritual" for keeping personal, educational, and corporate dynamics going. They are, after all, meaningful established procedures, often influenced by the traditions of a community.
Think about it: you know what to expect when you show up to a wedding or graduation because they're intended to happen by a predicted script. There is security in that consistency. As people, we are all drawn to symbolic moments that assign meaning to our lives.
Kink has its own rituals that mark the passage of time, the growth of individuals, or the relationships between individuals. Those rituals firmly root the constructs of how we think and how we relate to each other into the realities of how we live.
Those rituals are like anchors we tether ourselves to. By stabilizing us in the tumultuous seas of our day-to-day lives, these rituals help us remain unwavering to stay the course. This allows us to pursue the paths we wish to, with some added certainty and redirection when we need it. Rituals outline our expectations and prepare us for moments to come.
Delineation: A Choice, Not a Necessity
To answer the original question posed in the virtual session, I don't think people always have to delineate between life and a 24/7 M/s dynamic. I think they could, if they choose to (and ritual can help with that), but doing so is not necessary if they don't feel it is.
Everyone does power exchange a bit differently. There is no single set way to do it "correctly." Personal relationships are designed (by the people in them) to meet the needs of those involved. So naturally, there is great diversity in how power exchange can be expressed.
Drawing the Fine Line
Some people might choose to separate their "outer lives" from their 24/7 dynamic. It can be a way of compartmentalizing or differentiating between their colliding worlds. For example, if the slave works outside the home, maybe they need to draw a line between "outside life" or "work-life" and the relationship.
Perhaps it is a matter of mindset. Going from work to home is more than just a question of a dull or taxing commute that moves a person from point A to point B. It can also entail moving from headspace A to headspace B: going from making decisions to deferring to a Master, or, adjusting from giving direction to taking direction. Those can be tricky transitions.
If you spend all day managing people and then have to go home to a situation where you're not calling all the shots, you're bound to get tripped up once in a while. Submissives and slaves aren't robots. We can't just press a button and switch modes.
We can, however, use rituals to help us transition between "modes." A lot of slaves who juggle work life and M/s home life do! The rituals they practice draw a boundary (or distinction) between two aspects of their being—like the "S" curve in a yin-yang.
A submissive in this circumstance might perform a ritual upon their return home (or their Dominant's return home) to focus on being fully present with their Dominant. Thus, there might be a work-appropriate, vanilla collar (like a pendant or bracelet) in addition to another collar that can be worn at home or outside of vanilla settings. The homecoming ritual (or transitional ritual) might consist of doffing the vanilla collar and donning the traditional one. This can be performed by itself, or along with kneeling or saying some words which the submissive finds powerful and meaningful—to remind them of who they are or who they hope to be.
This should be a mindful, unhurried transition to allow time for the submissive's or slave's intention to set in. Pulling a Clark Kent to Superman transformation "super" quickly (embrace the pun) in a meaningless and discreet place isn't great. It might be more conducive to making a small ceremony of the ritual: to conduct it calmly and consciously in a private and special place. They could do it, for instance, in a room they share with their Dominant or Master, or inside the entrance of their home.
For submissives or slaves who are not yet collared, or who only have one collar worn continuously, other similar transitional rituals can be performed for the same purpose. Some examples include greeting rituals and refreshment rituals. The possibilities are as endless as the imagination!
Choosing Not to Compartmentalize
However, such transitional rituals aren't always necessary—because, again, there is no single way to live the lifestyle. Some 24/7 submissives feel they are property of their Dominant. Everything they do—regardless of where they are or what they are doing—is an act of devotion and should honor their dynamic. These types may not feel a need to shift gears with return-home rituals. They might consistently carry that streamlined mindset. Thus, no delineation between "life" and "24/7 M/s" would be necessary. In essence, they view their life as being 24/7 M/s.
This doesn't mean such individuals and such relationships can't be served by ritual. They might utilize rituals to express care for their Master through service or to prepare a space to come together in an atmosphere that feels dedicated to their bond. Every relationship can apply ritual in a way that's particularly suited for that union.
The Power of Ritual
No matter how you view your life, rituals can help define the power structures we choose for our relationships. They also help maintain our dynamics by offering consistency in our daily lives. No matter how you choose to apply your rituals, they can serve your dynamic by ensuring stability and poignancy. Rituals can enrich power exchange by giving reinforcement, regularity, and depth to relationships in a unique and beautiful way.