In previous power exchange relationships, I focused on the value that I provide through service. Sure, these people were with me because they liked me as a person as well, but the main element I provided, I thought, was my service. Now this took a very flexible definition of service as well. At one point when I was recovering from surgery, caring for myself was framed as service. However, even a broad definition of service didn’t relieve me from the following concerns.
Basing your self-worth in a relationship on the service you can provide can prove difficult, even if only in the long term. You might become disabled or have your capacity reduced in some other way. Even if and when your partner reassures you that it is understandable that you cannot serve in the same ways that you did before, either permanently or temporarily, it will eat at you that you’re not providing the value agreed upon. Never believe that there’s no way your capacity for service could be reduced. I am not being pessimistic when I say that the reality of the situation is that even healthy people age, and with that comes reduced physical and cognitive capacity.
It can also make the relationship feel conditional – “Ah, well he’s only with me because I cook for him.” This can feel sexy and titillating for a time, but trust me that in my experience, conditional relationships tear you down slowly, especially if you have a history of poor self-esteem and or attachment issues. Conditional relationships can also make other structural aspects of a situation feel insecure or unsafe. If you’re living with your partner as part of your relationship, and your relationship depends on your service, this can cause anxiety about your capacity and performance. This extends to other things such as family life or monetary support as well.
What’s the alternative here, especially for particularly service-oriented kinksters? Well, Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny, noted kink educators, have pointed out that power dynamic relationships tend to fall somewhere on a scale of service-focused to control-focused. Using this scale can be helpful in this regard, as either extreme can lead to instability. A mix of both service and control can help avoid the pitfalls of focusing your value of your relationship purely on service.
Additionally, I find that having some elements of your relationship that exist beyond service is vital. Romantic elements or a deep friendship can help a servant feel that they provide value by being themselves. These things may be present at the beginning of a relationship, or they may develop over time. I recommend discussing this foundation during initial and ongoing negotiations. Creating a norm of discussing these needs and boundaries is essential to fulfillment.
Shifting my thinking has been a healing journey for me. As a disabled servant, I can’t serve in the capacity that I want to. Even when I was able to serve excellently, I felt that it was never enough. Developing a relationship where I personally recognized the value I provided as a person, a companion, and a lover has helped me heal. It has improved my self-talk and self-concept. Ultimately, it has helped me move past the limiting beliefs that I had about myself.
In many ways, this piece is a continuation (or refutation) of an early piece I did that asserted that servants should center their lives around their principle as the hero of their story. I’m going to leave that piece up to spark discussion, but I think I’ve moved away from the points that I made in that piece.
Have you ever been in a situation where you focused too heavily on the service aspect of your relationship? How did this affect you and your partner? For those of you who haven’t been in similar situations, what would you say is the value you provide to your partner in a power dynamic?
The founder of The Kinky Butler is slave chase tramel.