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Dom and Sub Relationship: Definition, Types and How to Start

dom and sub relationship

If you’re fascinated by everything related to BDSM, you may be looking to explore what exactly it means to be dominant and submissive. You’ve come to the right place because, in this article, we are taking a deep dive into the world of Dom/Sub relationships. Keep reading for the inside scoop on types of doms and subs, safety precautions, and of course how and where to get involved for yourself.

What is the relationship between a sub and dom like?

A dom/sub relationship is a common way for people who share an interest in aspects of BDSM and kink to opt to engage with each other - whether it be in a romantic or sexual capacity. As you may have guessed, the term dom is short for dominant, and sub is short for submissive.

If exploring a consensual dom and sub relationship is something you’re interested in, you better believe it can be a wonderful experience for you and your partner(s). However, as with anything that relates to your physical and/or emotional safety, it’s so important to establish and respect boundaries for yourself and other people. Engaging in a dominant and submissive relationship is best practised in a safe space where all parties feel comfortable.

What is the role of a dom?

The dynamic of a dom/sub relationship is established on the foundation of control, which has been consensually transferred from the submissive partner to the dominant one. A dom will typically be excited by the opportunity to assert power over the sub, being assertive and essentially directing their own fantasy.

A dom’s role is to guide the sub, lead the activities, make decisions, enforce, and protect. Possibly the most important responsibility of a dom is to uphold the trust that has been instilled in them by ensuring boundaries are respected.

What is the role of a sub?

Conversely, if you present as a submissive partner, your desire will typically be found in consensually relinquishing control, and surrendering to the control, power, and guidance of the dominant partner.

What are the types of relationships between a sub and dom?

In the word BDSM, the D and S actually stand for dominant and submissive. Occasionally, it is even stylised as D/s to visually represent the power dynamic.

As with all modern relationships, this style can be of many configurations - long-term, short-term, romantic, exclusive, poly, friends-with-benefits, or one-night stands.

The world of doms and subs is not a one size fits all affair. In fact, there are a number of different styles of dom/sub relationships. Let’s go ahead and explore some of them.

Dom/Sub Lovers

They may not have a drawer full of ropes, chains, and whips, but they probably own a few vibrators. If you were engaging in this style of sub/dom relationship, although the sex would play out similarly to “regular people”, one person would be running the show.


As the name suggests, there are dominant and submissive partners engaging in dom/sub play all day, every day. Generally in this scenario, the roles remain fixed and it would be rare for partners to switch from dom to sub and reverse.


The keyholder style of dom/sub relationship usually involves some kind of chastity play. The key referred to is one to a cock cage or chastity belt, which allows the dom to have control over when the sub is able to touch themselves or experience an orgasm.

Training relationships

In a training relationship, the dom will typically treat the sub as their private student of sorts - or perhaps even a role-play animal. The dom sets a training schedule and the sub works hard to develop their sexual skills.


In a caregiver/little style of relationship, the dom would usually be roleplaying as a caregiver figure such as a parent or babysitter for the sub engaging in age play. This play could involve acting as a baby or child and being nurtured or punished. Submissive partners who engage in age play describe it as a great way to relax, by regressing to a time when they can be completely cared for - having their hair brushed, or enjoying bath time.

Female-led relationships

This brand of dom/sub relationship is typically practised by a dominant woman and a submissive man. This may involve the dom (or domme as female-presenting doms can also be known as) engaging as the lead decision-maker in matters ranging from finances to clothing, chores, or many other areas.

Master and servant

The master and servant brand of dominant and submissive relationships involves more than the basic principles of sexual service. Picture the classic vision of BDSM - the sub worshipping the dom’s leather apparel. Another example of this dynamic may be laying out the dom’s clothing and ensuring they don’t need to lift a finger to get ready.


It is quite common for dom/sub partnerships to specialise in living out their bondage fantasies by utilising harnesses and other suspension tools to explore with each other. As this involves quite a level of trust, it is recommended to establish this dynamic with a regular partner.

Ready to dive straight into your own dominant/submissive relationship?

We hope you’ve found some useful information here, and that you’re feeling more energised than ever to explore your own interests and desires related to the dom/sub life. If that’s the case, we’d just like to share some handy hints for you to keep in mind before you venture down this path.

Do you know what you’re getting into?

One of the best things you can ever do is research. Fortunately, thanks to the internet, this is pretty easy - regardless of the topic. When it comes to dom/sub play, learn the styles, what they entail, and what you’re into. It will make it feel less overwhelming if you step into the BDSM world with an idea of what direction you’d like to head in.

What are your boundaries and limits?

Possibly the most important element of any dom/sub relationship is boundaries. Identify your own boundaries before even thinking about beginning this type of play. Both parties need to sit down and discuss their limits and boundaries with each other. Depending on the circumstances, a contract may also be a good idea.

Safety first

Going hand in hand with the point above is the need to respect and prioritise the submissive partner’s physical, mental, and emotional safety and well-being at all times - as well as the dominant. As these relationship styles involve an imbalance of power and control through activities such as bondage and punishment, the dom should always stay as clear of mind as possible - limiting alcohol and drug use and trying to always stay completely aware of the sub’s current state of mind and being.

A safe word is also an excellent addition to any BDSM play, so be sure to agree on a word that when said, will result in the immediate end to the current activity.

Who will be your partner in play?

Before jumping right in, it’s important to think about who you’re interested in exploring the world of dominant and submissive relationships with. Do you have a current partner, and would they be on board with this? If you’re unsure, have a chat with them. If it’s something you both agree to explore, it’s a great idea to include them in any research you carry out to ensure you’re on the same page.

Find your people in the BDSM community

As with any activities or hobbies in life, it can make them more exciting to find people who mutually share those interests on the BDSM communities or BDSM sites. When you’re around people who just “get” what you’re about, you can find role models and more experienced people who can offer advice, support, and guidance.

Take your first steps

If you’re wondering where to begin, you could try:

  • Practising commands in the bedroom with your partner - perhaps demand a massage and take small steps with taking/giving orders to see how it makes you feel

  • Invest in some ropes, handcuffs or blindfolds, and other toys, and introduce them to foreplay and sex

  • Test out punishments, including spanking, for pre-determined violations. If you really enjoy yourself there’ll probably be a lot of deliberate limit-pushing

  • Trial some language that you agree upon in advance. If you like degrading or being degraded, enforce that through your words

  • Start small - spanking, hair pulling or slightly more aggressive sex than usual

  • Taking the dom/sub mentality outside of the bedroom. You can continually apply the principles to your daily life for extra excitement

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