Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Here are some excerpts from a recent post. The writer had ended an M/s relationship “and one of the most revealing aspects of that termination was the feeling of liberation.” Liberating actions included “getting my hair cut,” “los[ing] weight,” and “start[ing] my own checking account.” She ended the post with “Anyone else want to share their liberation moment???”

            My reaction to the post was simple and direct. Ending any dysfunctional relationship is going to be liberating. I say that because the implication in the post was that an M/s relationship was not liberating. It is obvious that her relationship was restrictive and unhealthy. Therefore it seems that she was right to end it.

            What though can we expect from a relationship? What are the hallmarks of a healthy relationship of any kind?

            The answer is a rather long list but I will try to give some idea of its characteristics, though I certainly don’t mean to be declaring a definitive list, nor one that illustrates any kind of priority or weight for the given items in it. In actuality the most important “list” for a healthy relationship is the one that you create for yourself.

            Here, then, are some of the signs that indicate a relationship is healthy: honesty, openness, empowerment, liberation, authenticity, enjoyment, peace, affection, understanding, and stability.

            There are two thoughts that this list brings to mind. The first is that in defining each of the characteristics we will be expanding the list. For instance, empowerment includes the idea of mutual support, which in itself could easily be seen as another characteristic.

            Likewise a couple could apply “empowerment” in two different ways. For one couple it might mean that they work together to accomplish a goal, while for another it might mean that “we’ll leave each other alone so that each of us has the peace, quiet, and time to accomplish our individual goals.” Patrick, for instance, often asks me to leave him alone so he can do something, since he hates to work with my looking over his shoulder.

            The second idea is that the list ought not to be used as a guide for ending a relationship. Instead it is meant as an aid in creating or improving a relationship. I say that because the interpretation and application of any one of these criteria is highly subjective. Too often we opt to end a relationship instead of improving it.

            On the other hand, the plain fact is that sometimes a relationship cannot be improved, therefore ending it is the only realistic outcome. That said, there are times when putting up with what you have is just a plain and simple necessity.


            Honesty involves truth-telling. Ah hah! Even with that I am in a trap. For the truth is that some partners don’t want to know all the details of the other’s life. Still, I think that deception cuts off a part of oneself from the other and over time this separation leads the partners along individual paths culminating in the disintegration of the relationship.

            It is honest to agree not to discuss a topic. It is not honest to hide a topic because one doesn’t like the expected reaction the honesty will bring.


Akin to honesty, openness means that we are willing to share ourselves, our whole selves, with the other. It also means that we are willing to listen to the other with an open mind. It means that we can talk freely without fear of reprisal or ridicule and grant our partner the same kind of respect.


I firmly believe that the reason the author of Genesis wrote “It is not good for man to be alone” is that two people can accomplish so much more than one working alone. Some tasks in fact cannot be done alone and most are more enjoyable when done with a partner.

Empowerment means we aid the other in becoming all that he or she can be.


Empowerment primarily means that we aid the other in becoming authentic, that is to discover, realize, and live their true self-hood. We help each other arrive at our innate, fundamental, and essential integrity. Authenticity, in light of the often oppressive nature of society, is often difficult but it is the only true path to happiness.


It is sad that the author who wrote the post above had to leave her relationship in order to become liberated. Relationships, by empowering authenticity, ought to liberate the real self. That is the most important liberation. A relationship that lacks liberation is one that needs work.


As my friend Race Bannon writes, fun is important. Here we use the word enjoyment in its widest sense. Not only do we need to enjoy doing things together but there ought to be enjoyment in just being together. If we don’t find enjoyment in our relationship, then something probably needs to change.


            Simply put, the relationship should engender feelings of peace and security. That doesn’t mean there aren’t ups and downs and “for better and for worse.” It means that there a sense of contentment with one another, the ability to relax and be oneself, and generally agreement on the everyday ways we live.


            Face it, you have to like each other and feel an attraction to one another. Though there are many different ways to express affection, I think that each of us needs to remember to do so.


            Relationships work because partners understand one another and can feel what the other feels.


            And lastly, like peace, the ups and downs of life are experienced because of external forces, not because the partners are ambivalent about each other. Stability assures us that the relationship can be depended upon and that one’s partner is dependable as well.

So what?

This is not an essay to challenge partners to evaluate their relationship as much as it is a challenge for people who expect to partner, or who are beginning to do so, to evaluate their own expectations for the relationship and to make their needs known one to another.

If this essay shines light on the need to improve your relationship, do so carefully and gently. Perhaps you might even be better off seeking professional help, rather than do it yourself.

For the liberated lady, if she follows these ideas before she enters her next relationship, she just might find herself liberated and coupled. Now there’s a good idea.

Have a great week.

Join me April 1-3 in Chicago for Sinsations In Leather. This three day event is worth every minute you spend there. I’m the keynoter… and am debuting a new workshop (not for the faint-hearted) about the Dark Side. I hope to see you there! You can find out more about the weekend at

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1 comment:

  1. I love this post today, Jack, because what we've felt for a long time -- expectations need to be realistic but they also need to be empowering for everyone involved. We don't care if that sounds un-M/s to some folks.