ERP 391: Understanding Dominant & Submissive Roles In Relationship — An Interview With Chris M. Lyon

By Posted in - Podcast September 26th, 2023 0 Comments

Dominant and submissive roles within relationships have always carried an air of mystique and intrigue. Yet, more often than not, these roles are shrouded in misunderstanding, creating confusion and misconceptions that can leave couples navigating uncharted waters. In the intricate dance of intimacy, it’s easy to fall prey to preconceived notions, equating dominance with control or submission with passivity.

In this episode, we delve into these intricate roles, unraveling the complexities and unveiling the truths that lie beneath the surface. By addressing common misconceptions and offering actionable insights, we hope to illuminate the path for couples seeking to understand and embrace these roles in their relationships. Through a deeper comprehension of the interplay between dominance and submission, couples can cultivate a more authentic, harmonious, and fulfilling connection with one another. Join us as we embark on a journey to demystify these roles and pave the way for healthier, more profound relationships.

Chris M. Lyon is a relationship expert and coach certified in applied neuroscience and brain health. She is the author of “Leading and Supportive Love: The Truth About Dominant and Submissive Relationships”. She developed L/s (Leading/supportive) Types that define common behavioral patterns exhibited by many couples. Lyon has coached thousands through crisis, trauma, and leadership for over two decades. She’s been featured in various media and teaches online courses at

In this Episode

5:32 Exploring Chris Lyons motivation behind the interest in dominant and submissive relationship dynamics.

7:58 Misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding dominant and submissive relationships.

14:51 The consequences of mismatched roles in daily interactions within dominant and submissive relationships.

18:39 Understanding relationship orientation on a spectrum.

24:10 Exploring attraction and cultural messages in relationship roles.

30:32 Trust, leadership, and the role of vetting in dominant-submissive relationships.

36:48 Navigating dominance: From skill development to cultural influences.

42:03 The interplay between dominance and submission in kink and relationships.

44:34 Addressing the issue of mismatched relationships.

50:26 Embracing authenticity in dominant and submissive relationships.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Before committing to a partner, engage in meaningful conversations and observe their behaviors to ensure alignment with your relationship orientation.
  • Take time to understand your relationship orientation, whether dominant, submissive, or somewhere in between, to ensure authenticity in your partnerships.
  • Engage in open and honest conversations with your partner about your relationship roles, needs, and desires to maintain a healthy connection.
  • Regardless of your roles, prioritize mutual respect and consent in all aspects of your relationship, especially in intimate and kink-related activities.
  • Establish clear boundaries and agreements to ensure both partners feel safe and satisfied in their roles within the relationship.
  • Both partners should invest in personal development and self-work to enhance their roles and the overall relationship.
  • When facing skepticism or misunderstanding from family members, calmly communicate your choice in relationships and request respect for your decisions.
  • Seek guidance from mental health professionals who are knowledgeable and non-biased when discussing your unique relationship dynamics.


Leading and Supportive Love: The Truth About Dominant and Submissive Relationships (*Amazon Affiliate link) (audiobook)

Leading and Supportive Love: The Truth About Dominant and Submissive Relationships (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

D/s Relationship Masterclass Collection

Increase Relationship Skills (survey)

Connect with Chris M. Lyon

Websites: |





Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins






Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 


Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Chris, thank you for being here, and I’m looking forward to our conversation.

Thank you, Jessica. I’m looking forward to it as well. 

Yes. We’re going to be talking about dominant submissive relationships, patterns, roles. I recognize I don’t actually have a lot that I have preconceived notions about around this, or have very basic understanding. So I’m really looking forward to what you’re going to be helping us understand. I have a few questions that I think will help to orient. But I would love, first of all, just if you’re willing to share, what got you interested in focusing on this area or this topic.

I think I watched those dynamics as a child, and I wondered about them, and I wondered if they were okay or healthy. Then I found out that I was one of those partner types, and I wanted to develop my part in that, in my relationship. I did a lot of research; I talked with a lot of people. I have actually lived this dynamic of a leader-follower relationship for pretty much most of my adult life. So it’s the big deal. Then I talked to people, went to the conventions, read about it, all of those things, just decades of research. I wanted to know more and learn more. Of course, found out that there wasn’t all that much information unless it was about a specific lifestyle.

Okay, that seems like a great segue. Because that’s where my curiosity, just to help us orient, I think a lot of people might be familiar with the dominant-submissive as it relates to sexual interactions and sexual intimacy. It sounds like you’re referring to a much broader comprehensive.

True, you’re nailing it. My area in this is in the day-to-day committed, long-term relationship, the foundational relationship. I know there are many people out there who educate in the kink and play partner and role playing. There are many people who do it, and they do a great job. That’s just not my area. Because I’ve had a ton of clients who are considered or consider themselves to be vanilla, who are still in that dynamic of leader and follower in their current relationship, or they just identify as that type of partner. So I felt that it was really important to find some kind of content, some kind of education out there, that was really for everyone, for any kind of lifestyle or belief system. This isn’t about what you believe. It’s about your relationship orientation. So it goes way beyond kink, and somebody’s maybe obligation or religious beliefs, things like that. It’s really who you feel you are and how you want to show up in the relationship.

Thank you. If I’m understanding you correctly, that likely, many, if not the majority, of people fall into a lien. I’m hearing you too, if I can reflect also, that you’re saying leader-follower, not dominant-submissive. So I’m sure there’s intention around that. Do you want to speak to that first before I ask my other question? 

Well, it’s a good way to describe it. I prefer dominant-submissive relationships. That’s just how I identify, and that is what’s used more in the mainstream. That’s the terminology that we use, and that’s fine. But it has negative connotations too, which can prompt people to go into some confusion about it, or misunderstanding. So I actually took a poll in a survey that I did with DS partners and said, hey, it’s dominant-submissive relationships. But I’m going to give you some choices, what would you vote on, if you’d like to have the word you’d like to have used? It shows leading and supportive. So that’s what I use in my book. Leader-follower, I use that in an introductory way only. The rest of the time, I say dominant-submissive relationships.

Okay, so you’re giving us the intro. 

Yeah, just so people don’t get confused. 

Yeah, it’s super helpful. I think that if you’re going to help us understand there’s some characteristics or traits and descriptors that will help people orient a little bit more, rather than whatever stereotypes exist. Okay, I even see you rolling your eyes, so tell me.

Yes, people would be surprised. Of course, and I’m sure we can talk about this, there are people who say they are a certain type of partner, and they’re not. There’s a couple reasons for that, and we can talk about that. But as far as who they think that they are, whoever thinks they’re a follower, whoever thinks they are a leader, it’s not really what they’re doing in other areas of their lives. It’s what they’re doing or what they want to be in their relationship. It may not be what they’re doing in their current relationship either. So there’s that. I don’t know if that answered your question, or was answering your question. There’s so much here. But there is a lot of confusion about who is what and what is who. It’s really, if you feel like you want to be the leader in the relationship, if you want to be the follower in the relationship, people feel this very strongly, and a lot of times, they feel very out of place in their current relationship because of it. 

It’s rough. But people think that dominant partners are going to be, just by default, predatory, and they’re going to be domineering. But what I have found is that, generally they’re not. Generally, they’re great followers; they respect the structure and authority, they can follow very well. Generally, they’re very conscientious people. They can also be very sensitive. They’re very private. This is in general. And they question themselves a lot. They take their responsibility very seriously, and they don’t make it about them and what they want. With the submissive partners, and people would be surprised about a lot of that, submissive partners, people don’t realize that some of the greatest leaders we have in the world are submissive partners. They know how to lead, they know how to guide, they know how to do all the things. But they don’t want to have to do that and make a lot of decisions in their primary relationship. They don’t want that; they don’t prefer that. They want to be led. They want to feel that safety and security. Of course, the partner who’s the dominant partner, they feel more safety and security when they’re leading.

Okay, so you’re helping us maybe steer away from some of the stereotypes that exist. I’m hearing you really distinguish between what looks like domineering, I guess, if I’m using your language. It has to do a lot with power, probably, and that there’s this power-over, or the sense of one-upping or being in this position of authority, if you will. And what I’m really hearing you describe, it’s not so much about power or being power-over. That it’s this quality of feeling safer in making decisions and leading for the health and betterment maybe of the relationship. Am I hearing that right?

Yeah, it’s more about a teamwork dynamic. It’s just, that’s how it is. It’s a leader and follower teamwork dynamic. It’s about the team, and the leader knows that. Now, these misconceptions, there are reasons for them, and I don’t like to avoid them. Because a lot of people come across, let’s say, submissive partners, and this is probably the number one problem that I see with the dominant-submissive relationship dynamic. There are a number of them. 


“The biggest problem I see is that submissive partners, when they’re attracted to somebody as a potential partner, when they’re attracted to someone, they unconsciously believe that person is a leading partner. They’re not going to think any differently, because they think that’s the only dynamic that they think of; that’s how they’re oriented.”

So when they see someone who seems competent and knows what they want, they’re attracted to them, they go after them and go after what they want, which is great. But the unfortunate part is, they find out later that they are just domineering and selfish. It happens as a submissive partner ends up beginning to take over the leadership in the relationship, and they never wanted that. They do that waiting for it to change. So that happens. 

There are a lot of predatory people who are like, you do as I say, and control you, and they’re very controlling and manipulative. Those aren’t what we talk about when we talk about dominant partners in this dynamic. That’s not healthy. So that’s not what we’re educating about. We’re not saying, hey, go get that. So they end up even either being someone who’s a predator, someone that’s just super, super horribly selfish, and can even be abusive and gaslighting. Or they end up being a submissive partner trying to please their submissive partner; they try to force themselves into that role of leadership. I’ve seen people do this. I’ve talked with couples that people have done it for 10 years, 15 years, 20, and they’re just sick and tired and they don’t want to do it anymore. They never did.

Okay, so just to be clear, you’re saying a submissive oriented person that enters into relationship with another submissive, and they take on the leadership role, and they’re exhausted. But that dynamic is never going to change.

Yeah, it doesn’t change. They don’t shift into being a leader. Now, what I like to do is underlying that most or many submissive partners are not submissive people. You could say the same thing too, it’s like a lot of dominant partners aren’t dominant people. So that’s why I am super careful when I describe them. I like to say, submissive partners, dominant partners. I’ll kind of lose that here and there, but I really like to stress that. Because a lot of people are very dominant in other areas of their life, but they’re a submissive partner. So however the submissive partner is, they go after somebody, and they go after them because they think that they have this leadership potential and that they’re leader. But in those situations, those are several of the situations where it goes wrong. A lot of times, it’s just another submissive partner, just trying to please them and do what they want. Then what happens is, the submissive partner who chose them continues to wait and push them into a place of leadership, and it doesn’t fit. It feels horrible for both partners, and it just goes all wrong. Because of these misunderstandings, I have seen so many families devastated, and its people in relationships for years or decades, when it wasn’t a match. It wasn’t a fit, it wasn’t compatible.

This sounds like, if I’m understanding, this could be in daily interactions that are just this cumulative stress. That could be planning a vacation, or what are we going to do for the weekend? Is this the type of thing that is like: No, I’m waiting for you to plan, or no, I want you to plan? Is that kind of what we’re talking about?

Yes, or where are we going to go eat, or how are we going to solve these problems, or everything you’re saying as well. It’s the day-to-day stuff. One of those partners is waiting for the other one. They’re waiting for the other one to step in and take the leap, and it’s not happening. It’s just not. What should be happening is that the leader should be looking after what both partners want and need. So the submissive partner wants and needs hard limits; need to be not just known or discussed, they need to be addressed. A good leader is going to do that. There are way too many people who say they’re dominant out there, who aren’t good at communication. They’re not. Now they can read and learn about all these ways to use a whip and toys and gear. That’s not going to pay the bills, it’s not going to visit the hospital, it’s not going to raise the kids, it’s not going to take care of and nourish the relationship with day-to-day.

Or the family, and steer in a way that’s for the overall well-being of everyone.

Exactly. But what I see is that a lot of these people are putting their time and effort and money and energy, all of it into learning about toys to play and the gear. That’s so hard for me to see. Because I see people lead with their vetting that way, which is like, oh no, goodness no! But people go into the relationship like that, and what you have is you have adult children that are put in a leadership position. That’s just hurtful for everybody. It doesn’t work. It goes horribly wrong.

Okay, I have some questions. So do you feel that most people fit in one or the other, or is there variation? So is it binary? Like, people, you’re more of a dominant or you’re more of a submissive, everyone? Or do you feel like there’s some in between, and then there are other people that are much more pure in their orientation?

I look at it as being a spectrum, and my education for dominant-submissive relationships is for the people who are on each side of the spectrum. So those are the people who are like, I don’t really know how to have a relationship unless I’m being this, I don’t know how to enjoy and have a healthy relationship unless I’m being this and I have my counterpart, and that’s the right counterpart. People are somewhere in between sometimes, and sometimes, I did say the dominant partner, a lot of the time they may not be the best communicator. So the submissive partner may be the better communicator in certain situations. In that case, then the dominant partner would be having the submissive partner help to guide their sit-downs, when they sit down and they would kind of help guide; they can both teach each other. The submissive partner guides a lot. I have learned more about my life and relationships from submissive partners, by far, than anyone else. Period. 


“Everyone may have their strengths. You may have a dominant partner, and having the submissive partner take care of and track the finances and do the investing. But still, the dominant partner is still the one who’s the leader in making those decisions. It’s kind of like captain and first mate, and so they both have the job as a team to work together for the journey.”

But they both have to see what their strengths are, and the submissive partner needs to communicate their needs and wants and what’s going on to the dominant partner. There needs to be that wonderful communication back and forth. 

I want to just clarify what was behind that question. I was wondering if there are people that do orient more for the dominant or the submissive and maybe don’t know. That they just don’t have the language or they haven’t connected with these terms, and therefore, it’s been a little inaccessible to them. Does that happen?

I think that’s how it is for most dominant and submissive partners. I know it was that way for me. I just know that I took the leadership in the relationships, and that my submissive partners wouldn’t guide me to do that. They would want that, and I wanted that. That’s how I enjoyed the relationship. That’s how I felt came into my own power in the relationship and was able to help both of us. So when I would go into that space, which I don’t know any other, really, it’s all I know, but I would do that, and you know that you’re in the right place, you know that’s what you want. But you don’t have the word; may not have the terminology, may not have the words to it, may not know exactly how to handle it as a leader. 

So yes, there are many people who are like: Hey, I am the boss, but I don’t know if I may be a submissive partner, but I can’t be because I’m an alpha out in life, doing all the things, making the decisions. No, it’s always what type of partner you are. 


“That’s why I like to call it your relationship orientation. It doesn’t matter what you may have gotten pushed into or what relationship you may have fallen into in the past and learned from, or what you do in other parts of your life, or how you are with your kids. It matters what type of partner you are.”

A lot of people don’t know because they compare to the other relationships, other parts of life, and then they don’t have, like you said, the terminology; they don’t have the knowledge about it. I saw that people did not have this, and I talked about it for years. There are people who aren’t into specific lifestyles, they aren’t into kink, or they may not want to learn about all the lovely books that share about all the discipline and control over submissive. Maybe that’s not their big thing they want to focus on. Believe me, that’s a big issue. 

So I thought there needs to be a book that’s for anyone who feels like they’re anywhere, on one side of the spectrum, somewhere in there, to understand themselves more, and what they’re needing in relationships, and their relationships more. That’s exactly what had to happen. I talked about it for a couple years, I’m not going to lie. I talked and talked and I thought: Oh, I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to talk about it and never write it. So even today, it’s the only book that I know of out there, that is for this type of leader-follower team dynamic in relationships, that is regardless of your lifestyle. You could be polyamorous. You could be owner-owner, master-slave, or daddy-little girl, or any of those things, or vanilla, and still be able to relate to the information in the book.

It sounds incredibly important to have this be translatable and transferable to other spheres, because if there’s a lot being offered in the sexual arena or the kink arena, that helps in that domain, but perhaps not in other domains. You’re really giving a lot of guidance in this. I’m curious, as you are very clear about orientation, is another way to identify what you’re attracted to and stories or archetypes. Is that something that you find useful?

I think it is. I think when people look back, when submissive partners look back, they’re going to see that they really fell for the people who seem to be in control and make the decisions and vice versa. I’ve heard a lot of people use, for example, the show I Dream of Jeannie. You’ll hear: I wanted to be Jeannie so bad, I wanted to be Major, whatever his name was, the master. That’s kind of how you start to know, when you see these characters in these roles and you resonate with it. That’s a good tell right there. 

Then there’s one for submissive partners that I’ve used for years and years in my office, and I actually put this in my book. What I do is I tell them, hey, listen. What if you have partner or you’re dating someone you’re really excited about him, and they call you up and say: “Listen, I want you to be ready at six o’clock. I’ve got everything arranged, we’re going to go out and have a great night. I’ve got everything taken care of, just get ready and look good. Be ready to go.” Submissive partners that have heard this instantly have a reaction. They have a physical reaction to this, and the physical reaction is them lighting up and smiling like, well, I would love that, that would be great. The dominant partners, not so much. They get a little confused. They have a little bit of resistance. “Well, what, what if we? I want to know more.” That kind of thing. Now that’s as a rule, and there’s exceptions to rules. But I have seen, I could not tell you how many faces I have seen lit up of submissive partners when I give this example. A lot of times I give that example because I suspect they are anyway, but it’s going to be up to them always to determine that. 

My education, I come up with ways, there’s profiled points in my book, I tried to come up with ways to give them examples to see if there are things that they can resonate with and relate to. I usually can spot it pretty easily if we’re talking about somebody’s relationships, after all this time. It’s really strange, because it’s what you are, and a lot of people said: “Well, I thought all relationships are like. I thought everybody.” No, no, no, some people want their partner to be a boss in this area and this area, but they’re going to be the boss in this area, and they’re both going to come together and figure it. No, and I wouldn’t know how to do that. I would not know how to have a non-dominant and submissive relationship. I wouldn’t know how to do it. I wouldn’t be good at it. Because I’m good at what type of partner I am, and I’ve worked really hard to do that, and I still do. 

So I urge everyone, besides determining where your priority is, is it in the relationship? I understand that kink and play go together, totally get it. I do educating on that just with my clients, not regularly publicly. There’s so many people who do, I totally understand that. But they’re two separate things. And where’s your priority? That’s what I talk to a lot of people about, like, where’s the priority here? I try to point that out, because I’ve seen a lot of problems because people prioritized the thing that didn’t help them the most. Then also, identifying what kind of partner they are, and a big one, identifying the type of partner that they are dating or vetting, kind of identifying and trying to see if they’re really who they say they are. Don’t assume they’re dominant partner, just because they say they are. Don’t.

Their characteristics or how they express themselves in the world, the persona. And we’re notorious as humans to project in those early stages and fill in the blanks. So we can get very, very attached. Yet, we don’t really know. I want to slow down though, I have a few more questions. So I’m wondering, with cultural messages, you were referencing this more collaborative, sharing, co-creating. I believe that can be done in the dominant-submissive, but I also feel like there’s a lot of messages of more egalitarian sharing, and like you said, you head up this domain or I’ll head up this domain. Do you feel like people get confused with messages around what relationship roles and orientations are like? Or do you feel like people have an innate kind of feeling of this and maybe just a little lost and not finding home yet?

Well, I mean, people who aren’t dominant-submissive partners don’t necessarily get confused. I think they get confused on who’s going to lead what, and I see a lot of power struggles in that when I’ve worked with people that are not dominant-submissive partners. With the dominant-submissive relationships, there is less confusion, and there are generally less power struggles. So there’s not too much confusion, and I think both partners love that, because they see enough of confusion out there and in power struggles, and they’re like: no, no, no. No, I don’t want that. I want this, where I know where I’m at, I know my place and they know their place. I want to be able to depend on that they’re going to be able to take care of this, and that they’ll be able to depend on that I’ll be able to take care of this stuff. 


“It doesn’t seem too much confusion, unless you have been with a partner who’s not a match, or if you’re comparing what you do in the rest of your life. People really aren’t confused about wanting a leader or follower in their relationship.”

Unless maybe they resonate with both and they’re a little bit on the spectrum.

They’re a little bit more on the spectrum. You know what, my advice is, go ahead and take over most of leadership and the other stuff that you guys don’t want you to be the leader about. Go ahead and let them do it, work that out both of you what you’ll be responsible for. I think more people should do that. Take those power struggles out for non-DS relationships. But I hear what you’re saying. Some people, actually it’s interesting, can be a dominant partner in one relationship, and be a submissive partner in another. So it’s almost, I don’t know if it’s in the same vein, but people in the kink lifestyle, they can top or bottom, I call them the switch. So in dominant-submissive relationships, if you can be dominant in this relationship but submissive with this person, that can be called a switch. That’s a general term for it, and people do it. I’ve actually dated the switch.

It exists. 

It’s rare. 

Okay, that’s good to know, because I was curious. I wonder if part of what you’re saying is, if someone isn’t quite clear, there could be a way to experiment with the roles, and that could be telling. Like, does this feel natural? Does this feel enlivening and safe? Or does this feel uncomfortable and like, no, I don’t want to do this? If a lot of couples are trying to share a lot of the duties, but it’s not really that fulfilling for either one, maybe there could be some experimenting. Would you recommend that or is that valuable?

It could be. But if you know, if you are a natural leader, there is really not confusion. You’re going to go and do it by default anyway. Your partner may fight you on it, and the relationship may not go well. But you’re going to try to do that, and when you can’t do it, you’re going to be shut down, and you’re going to know what you’re going to feel. Same thing with a submissive partner. If they end up having to take the leadership in the relationship, they know. They know they didn’t want it, they didn’t ask for it, and they’re not happy with it. It’s just, you just know. It’s just part of the thing. 

There was an area for submissive partners. Sometimes, and this is another theme that I hear, is that submissive partners get confused, because they end up being their own boss, because they can’t trust anybody; they’ve been hurt a lot. So a lot of them end up being very independent, and then it’s hard to let someone in. Period. But to let someone in to lead them, it’s scary. So in those situations, and dominants can get abused too, but in those situations where you’ve been so hurt and there’s so much healing to do, and to trust, it’s really hard to trust somebody in a relationship. Really, you wanted someone to lead, and boy, they just completely blew it. It’s really hard to trust again. So their nervous system basically is telling them, no, you don’t; you did not want this, this is not what you want. No, you don’t want to give this up, you don’t want that. But really, inside, if they really look at what kind of relationship they really want if they felt super safe and they could trust, that’s what they would want. So I think these conversations are important, I think they need to be had. I have had 50,000 conversations with people trying to figure out where they are here. So I would have to ask those questions like, well, at work, you do this, but what do you? That kind of thing. Well, no, I just think I’m dominant because of this and that. Okay, so you want to lead? Well, I don’t want to lead, I’ve always had to. But the lack of trust thing is hard.

Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you mentioned that. Because when you were speaking earlier, I’m like: Ah, I imagine trust is a huge factor here when one is leading and the other is following in a submissive. To your point around if it’s someone who’s domineering and perhaps isn’t thinking about their person or their significant other, or being abusive, that’s toxic to your point. It does take trust, and it does take a health of that leadership to really submit.

True. So along with that is where I go to, when I say that true dominance will be happy to earn trust. They won’t demand it, they won’t assume it, they won’t push; they’re happy to earn it. If submissive partners will give that a chance, to go back to vetting, that’s the vetting process that’s key. It’s not starting with kink and sex. Someone sent me a lovely messaging, kind of like a sequence of how it started and then how it shut down. They shut someone down who said they were dominant partner. I thought that was cool. But in the beginning, this person started with talking about kink and sex. Why would you do that, though? There’s other things to talk about relationships, the future and where you’re at now. Just why would you start there, why would you begin and start on that note? But a lot of people start on the note of, I’m a dominant, and you will send me these pictures, and you will do what I tell you. Again, they’re not your dominant, until there is a commitment, at least as facility or relationship.

Whatever is defined by the couple.

Right. So the submissive partner, and this is what I say is a true dominant, the other thing about a true dominant. I’d love to try to clear up all the confusion that I can. The true dominant partners in general, from what I’ve seen, and from my point, and from my own experience, they’re not going to come in leading when you’re first getting to know each other in dating. They may choose a place to go eat or to get together. I mean, hey, there’s this great play, sure. But they’re not going to be telling you what to call them, what to send to them, how to act, make rules for you, all the things. They’re not. They’re going to step out. They’re going to ask questions, they’re going to observe and see if there’s a chance that they may want to step into the responsibility of leadership. 

So vetting, people have to be very careful when they’re vetting. A lot of times it’s hard to get confused about who’s legitimate and who’s not. It’s also tough too with if you’re submissive, what are you going to do? Go on an app and say: I’m submissive, I want someone to lead? No, you can’t. I help people use keywords. But you’ve got to be careful, because your mark if you do.

I’m wondering, even as you’re describing one that is more of the dominant and is engaging in what might be kink, or leading with those conversations, or even displaying dominant behaviors without that responsibility of that commitment first. Is it just they’re still developing their skillset? I mean, some people, I can imagine, might have more competence in the sexual arena, just because that’s what they’ve learned more about, and maybe they don’t have as much confidence in the emotional or the relational or the other spheres. I don’t know, help me. Is there truth to that?

You’re just nailing it, you’re so right! Everything you’re saying is just right. It’s interesting, because in your questions, there’s some familiarity there somehow. But I would say that I love talking about this because a lot of people like to say, when dominants are coming out telling you what to do, they’re all horrible predators, they are awful people. Now there are a lot of predators out there doing this. But the other side of the point is, is that there are people who have found that their relationship orientation is one of being a leader, and they haven’t learned how to do it. So they’re out there, kind of going through the motions, trying to make it.

They’re flexing a little bit without really, like they’re young still, and they’re learning.

Without doing the education, without learning, without finding out more about how to be a better leader in the relationship. So there are some key questions here and there that I have people ask of dominant partners. 


“Those dominants need to learn before they go out flexing and thinking they’re going to lead. They need to learn. Because I guarantee you that most of the people that do this have read plenty and learned plenty about, guess what, kink and sex. Especially when they’re like, well, you have to do what I say.”

Kink. Kink. Kink. They have the books, they have the things. The books are great. Hey, the gentleman who wrote SM 101, he told me happy birthday and invited me to join a group there. That’s great. Great people, they’re awesome.

You’re just like, there’s more information I want to help share, yeah.

Priorities, priorities, priorities. But there aren’t that many educators out there who are focusing on the relationship itself. I’ve asked why, I’ve wondered why all these years, why is that? Why does it constantly go back to lifestyle, constantly go back to kink? Now, there’s some good educators that do teach about the relationship, but there’s very few of us. There needs to be more, and there needs to be more books on it.

Right. Do you think there’s anything around combating culture, where I think, historically, especially in more patriarchal societies, there’s some oppression and dominance in ways that are harmful? So the trust that gets built, or even mimicking what one might think is dominant might be some of these ways in which we’ve been influenced, and then even to the kink and dominant-submissive in the sexual arena, that might not be very mainstream, and therefore there’s a little bit more promotion to have acceptance. I don’t know, do you feel like culture plays a role in this?

It does. My heart goes out to the many men who are pressured to be the leader in the relationship. I’m not saying they’re all submissive. I’m saying that they’re somewhere along the spectrum, and they’re being pressured to be the leader. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s just immoralizing, and it’s horrible. Because they’re not being heard, they’re not being seen for who they are. People are just putting expectations on them to be these leaders. So they’re going around saying, well, I’m dominant. Then they get upset when they don’t know how to do it and it doesn’t come naturally, they get frustrated. That’s a bad recipe right there. They think they’re supposed to assert themselves in a forceful way, or maybe they think that being a dominant is being protective and going and building things around the house. I know, actually a mass lesbian told me: “Well, I thought I was dominant and I told these women I was dominant, because I thought I’m protective of them and I go on to fix things. But I like 50-50.” I’m like, you are not dominant, more submissive. But she determined she’s more on that side of the spectrum. 

But my heart goes out to people, and there’s a lot of women who are great dominants, and my heart goes out to them when they have been put in this little place, this little corner, to be submissive, growing up and in their first relationships. That’s horrible. So that’s why I’m trying to get this out there more. To see if you are one of these partner types, that’s what you want to be and that’s what you want to learn about. Really nothing else takes, it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if your family hates the fact that you got with somebody who’s controlling, maybe they don’t like the fact they have control over you as much anymore. That’s a whole different thing there. Big problem for dominant-submissive partners, people on the outside, in a couple of ways. That’s another totally different area there. 

I know, you’re saying so many things! I want to follow up on a couple of questions. So you had mentioned one other thing about the kink and sexual arena, and that the whole domain of the relationship. Do they correlate, even though you’re describing they’re very different? But would one indicate the other, do they tend to be similar if their preferences are a way in the sexual space?

Not necessarily. It’s interesting how you say there are dominants that can bottom and want to bottom because of the intensity and the rush. But they’re still in control in their relationship, even if at the bottom of their partner, they’re still in control. There are a lot of submissive partners.

But is that submissive or is that dominant because they’re in control?

If they are a dominant partner, they can also be on the bottom.

But wouldn’t you say that’s still dominant?

No, they’re a dominant partner, but they’re not dominating at that time. But they’re still. The way I look at is this, is that people don’t realize how assertive submissive partners are. Submissive partners, again, like I said earlier, they go after what they want, and they go after who they want.

Well, it will show up in the bedroom, though, to your point. Even if it looks submissive, they’re still controlling. That’s what I was agreeing with you, that it’s still dominant.

Yes, 100%. Even the submissive partner can be the one who’s more sexually assertive at times, but they’re not the dominant. They’re not trying to dominate; they’re just being more sexually. So yes, it’s true that from what I’ve seen, is that most dominants, if they’re into kink, are atop, what you would call atop or dominant in kink. And most submissive partners, from what I’ve seen, and submissive in their relationship, if they’re into kink, they prefer the bottom. Some can be switches, yes. But in the relationship, one doesn’t give up being the dominant or submissive partner no matter what you’re doing. 

It’s going to show up sexually.

Yeah, exactly. So it’s really either way. The kink part, you’ve got a lot of people saying they’re dominant who are top too, and a lot of them are, but I know there are a lot more submissive partners who are switches in kink.

Okay, for play and various other reasons. So as far as the mismatch, that feels really important to put some attention on. If someone is in a mismatch relationship, what do you recommend?

It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t look good, and it doesn’t usually come out real well. I’ve seen this over and over again. I recommend that they find out more about who they are and what they’re needing, and that talk to their partner about it, and that they talk with someone about it. Now there is a directory called Kinka, where professionals, and a lot of them are people who can facilitate, and not about kink, but they understand the kind of dynamic. I just think that there’s some kind of communication that needs to happen. I do. A lot of times the communication is: “Well, you know what, I love you enough, I’m going to just take care of whatever that energy is, hanging out with my friends or whatever.” That’s rare, that it works out and they’re super happy. But that can happen. Then there’s the other part about: “Hey, I really need to have a partner who matches me, but I still want to stay with you. So I really want to have that energy with the other partner.” So people talk about that. But a lot of people aren’t polyamorous, so then there’s some struggles there. Then there is the one about: “Hey, this isn’t working. We can try to fit a square peg in a round hole all we want, but it just does not fit.” Then what I’ve seen is when people do that, they go and they find somebody that is their counterpart, and it is the most amazing transformation.

Well, it feels like there’s an energy that is generative when one is in their orientation in their relationship, rather than what you’re describing, this drain of this exhaustion, as you described, with the ten years, this stagnation.

Yeah, it’s rough to watch people live their lives like that. It’s really, really painful for them. They love the other person, and they want to stay with them. It’s just not working, and a lot of times that’s why. There’s a lot of times there’s not abuse, there’s not any of those problems. Then you see when that submissive partner gets angry with their partner for not being dominant, and that’s painful too.

The resentment. Well, this is heartbreaking. But to your point, this is why you’re educating, trying to help people have this on the front-end, and that goes to the vetting.

Oh yeah, getting educated and master your vetting. Big, big, big things.

All right, I know we have limited time with you. Do you want to talk about the vetting? Because it sounds really important.

Sure. Both partners have to be careful about this. If they find out that they prefer a leading or a following partner, they need to have the conversations without going into the kink sex part. What I say is don’t get into texting where you’re chronically texting each other. That’s not how your relationship is going to be anyway, don’t get into that. Texting is low effort, and you’re not presenting your true selves anyway. This is DS or not. So if you’re going to message for two or three days, go have conversation, get on the phone, talk on audio or video, whatever. Just make sure you talk, have the conversation. I’ve had a lot of young clients, I don’t want to talk before on date, we’re just going to message on the day. Then I hear afterwards, what a nightmare, horrible, awful day they wish they never had. Talk first, once or twice on the phone or video, and then determine to get together. 

Don’t get together at an event where you’re going to go do fun things, don’t do that. Don’t go where you’re going to get inebriated, or there’s going to be some weird stuff happening overnight. Go during the day. Go somewhere where you’re not making that much commitment, but you’re sitting there talking and asking questions, observing and asking more questions and sharing. There’s a lot of that, and you’re doing that in order to see if you’re going on a second date, you know, if you’re going to proceed. But it has to be more than just chemical. I say transactional, because you’re talking about what you did with this, and what you where you’re going what you’re wanting to do. But I think people need to look at that balance. Because when you’re texting with someone, and all the chemicals are telling you it’s great and it’s perfect and everything, it ends up being horrible, so many times, way too many times. So one of the things that a submissive partner can ask is, what have you done for your partners in the past to help improve their lives? Now, I know someone who asked this, and the other person is like: “Well, you know, I bought them this, and I gave them this, and I did this for them.” Turned out, they were submissive. So you’ve got to see how they’ve helped change their lives, you’ve got to listen a little bit.

For the leadership, for the characteristic.

Yes. Then there’s another question you’re going to ask about, what have you done to get educated to be a leader in your relationship? Now, that’s a curve. Because like I said, a lot of these books out there, they’re great books, there’s certain lifestyles, and a ton of them are all about disciplining and controlling the submissive partner. That’s not what the leadership is about. It’s not. That’s not how to be a good leader in a relationship. Just sorry, it’s not. But there is some good stuff out there. But what have you done to get educated in that? A lot of people are like: “Well, I have watched this movie, and I read whatever bondage book. So watch for that, to see where they are in their journey. Then the other one would be how you feel about the dominant partner being in service to the submissive partner? Because they are. I have heard a lot of dominants say: Oh no, I am not in service. They’re wrong, they’re not doing it. They’re not being the leader. You’re serving each other.

The way in which you do it is what is these two orientations. So Chris, I don’t know if you would agree with this. But it feels as though you’re bringing the humanity, the authenticity, the dimension, the multi-dimension of being human and all the multifaceted-ness of being human, and also relational dynamics, into this discussion. That so often, maybe people are attracted to these orientations and are playing a part, and that’s part of the journey perhaps, or perhaps learning and exploring and adapting or trying things on. But it sounds like you’re really bringing a lot of authenticity. Am I sensing that correctly?

I would hope so, I definitely think so. It is about being authentic. People can learn about kink, what they want to do and play, and see how it feels. It’s not really that way with dominant-submissive relationships. It’s you are or you aren’t. A lot of people try to make someone be one, and they’re not. If you are one, you need to be a better one; you need to work on being the best partner you can be. But it really is your relationship orientation. 


“It’s kind of like, if you’re a true dominant, you really can’t turn into a submissive partner all of a sudden and not be a dominant. It doesn’t really work that way.”

So you just have to find out who you really are in these relationships. Is it on either side of the spectrum or close to that, or is it somewhere in between? Be honest about it and authentic, and find other people who are honest about it and know where they are on their journey, and continue to move forward. You’d probably agree with me that it’s important for both people to agree that they’re doing their own personal work. Instead of, a lot of people are like, well, I’m in therapy. That doesn’t say much if you’re just in therapy.

Okay, I know our time is limited, and I can tell I’m just firing away. You had mentioned something about family, and I know that probably could be a whole episode in and of itself. Is there anything you want to say or direct people towards, maybe your book? Is there anything you want to say about that here?

Just real quick about families. A lot of family won’t understand, or they will be resentful. You can’t let that affect your relationship. But you have to tell them: “Hey, this is what I chose. I chose this type of relationship, and I chose them.” I’m going to reply: “I hope you respect that, and I will respect your relationship.” There’s more to that, but that should be the bottom line. 

Also, with mental health professionals, to be careful, some of them do have a bias against this type of relationship. You come in to talk to them about something else, and sometimes they will tell somebody, get out of your relationship, it’s not healthy. Even though the person is happy with their relationship and it’s going great. They don’t understand the dynamic as much. So a lot of people give my book to the therapist so they understand that better. 

Leading around to my book, yes, it’s called Leading and Supportive Love. It is on Amazon, and Audible, and iTunes, and people can take a look at it there. I’m also at, which should be pretty easy. There I have a course that will help people with vetting in relationships, it’s pretty comprehensive. So that’s a lot of what I have to offer for DS partners.

So you have your book, both in written form and also on Audible, which is wonderful for people. And you did it yourself, that is not easy.

I narrated myself, and boy, did it hit different years later. Reading my book out loud, it just hit different. A lot of people have heard it, and it doesn’t take very long. I wrote the book to be on eighth grade level, it’s a pretty easy read. People have enjoyed the audio version because they didn’t want to read. So either way, it’s good.

Okay. So on your website, you can find the course. Is it a hybrid or is it self-study?

It’s an online course. I mean, there’s no assessment. It’s my DS relationship masterclass collection, so it’s actually two courses, the main one. It does have a journal in it, it has some hypnosis in it as well. So there’s that one. Then also, for my other courses and relationships stuff that I do, it’s, they can go there and get all the other stuff there too. 

Okay, and what might they find there? 

Oh, my goodness. Well, they will find a course on relationships that I think DS people should take as well, called Optimizing Relationships. They’ll find some other things on there, courses on grief and nervous system regulation and different things to help. Also things about highly sensitive people, a lot of help there. So that, and then find out about my program, Breakthrough Transformation Program, where you’re working with me, and people are wanting to make a lot of results in their lives. That’s the kind of work I love to do. So they can find out more about those things and my resources on those two sites.

Excellent. I will make sure to have those links on today’s show notes. Chris, thank you for being here and sharing so much with us.

Thanks, Jessica. It’s a pleasure. I loved it. Thank you so much.

Signing Off

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.


Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching