In my first post on this topic, I defined the concept of a “limit” and covered recognizing when you run into one. In my second post, I talked about the potential causes of limits and separated them into classes based on cause. In this third and final post, I plan to discuss how to work with a limit if you and your partner choose to do so.

To recap, when a limit is encountered, the Dominant/submissive couple must make a decision. They may choose to accept the limit, and then refrain from future activity that might run up against it. By doing so, they close off the BDSM “track” that the activity lies on to further exploration. Alternatively, they may choose to work with the limit, with the goal being one or both of the following:

  1. Extend, mitigate or remove the limit to enable future progress along a track
  2. Leverage the power of the limit to add energy and excitement to BDSM sessions and recharge the D/s battery within their relationship

The ability to work with the limit is greatly influenced by the limit’s cause. Limits caused by adherence to conventionality (Limits of Convention) or lack of accurate information (Limits of Ignorance) are relatively easy and often highly rewarding to work with. Limits due dislike of a particular type of activity (Limits of Preference) are less easy to work with, and unlikely to bring many rewards. Limits due to rational concerns (Rational Limits) regarding an activity are usually not malleable and are best accepted. And limits based on irrational fears such as phobias (Irrational Limits) should be accepted and left alone.

When you and your partner discover a limit during a BDSM adventure, it is best to back away from it and proceed in a different direction for the remainder of the adventure. Once the adventure is over and a little time has passed, however, you should talk about the limit with the goal being to decide whether to accept it or to work with it. Part of the conversation should be to try to understand the cause of the limit, so that you can classify it. However, as mentioned in the last post, it’s not always easy to determine the cause!

I recognize that we are talking about a D/s relationship, but true limits are serious business. Both partners should participate in the decision on how to proceed. Inputs into the decision should include the cause and classification of the limit (as best it can be determined), the desire of each partner to include (or not include) the limited track in their BDSM repertoire, and the overall strength of the relationship (as testing limits can sometimes place a strain on relationship bonds). If there is disagreement about what to do, one possible compromise is to decide to accept the limit temporarily, but revisit this decision after time passes.

If the decision to work with the limit is made, here are some guidelines and suggestions to follow that may help you to be successful. Please note that success is by no means guaranteed, and if you are not successful, you may need to reconsider your decision and instead accept the limit as-is.

  • Define the boundaries of the limit – What activity actually triggers the limit? Are there small modifications to the limited activity that might make it more acceptable? In the example I used in my first post, Joanne had a limit around gags. Is it all gags? What about open-mouthed gags that don’t interfere with breathing? What about a simple cleave gag? Boundary determination may be most effectively done through conversation.
  • Don’t highlight what you’re doing – There is no need to call it out every time an activity is done to work with a limit. In fact, it’s counter-productive to do so. Subtlety counts for a lot here. Joanne’s partner, Stan, shouldn’t point out gags to her every time he has the opportunity or ask her frequently whether she still dislikes them. Doing so will annoy or stress her and only increase resistance.
  • Leverage the power of fantasy – Especially when working with a limit of convention, but even when working with other types of limits, fantasy can help make the limited activity more appealing. If Joanne’s objection to gags is because it makes the bondage scenario seem too extreme to her, then it may help to watch a movie or read a book in which someone is gagged in a sensual situation. If Joanne sees someone else, even in a film, wearing a gag and enjoying being ravished, it may help the idea to become more acceptable to her. Role-playing a scenario where Joanne is gagged (hostage during a bank robbery, perhaps?) might also be an idea, even if the gag is imaginary.
  • Take incremental steps – I preach this over and over, but it’s especially important when working with limits. Approach the limit slowly, one baby step at a time. Stan could start with browsing through a BDSM catalogue with Joanne so that she sees pictures of models with gags in their mouths. Later he could employ the movie idea mentioned above, and perhaps repeat it with another video a few weeks later. He could ask her to gag him if the relationship supported switching roles. And assuming these were relatively well-received, he could then perhaps attempt using a simple handkerchief as a cleave gag and tie it loosely around Joanne’s head, so that she could easily work it out of her mouth if she felt she needed to.
  • Leverage the power of feeling helpless – One often-overlooked beauty of bondage is that the bound partner can luxuriate in a perception of helplessness, which obviates them from having to feel guilty. This is especially helpful when dealing with a Limit of Convention, as the limit-holder can tell themselves that they can’t help what they are doing, even though it is beyond what they had considered acceptable behavior. It is important to be very sensitive to your partner if employing this technique, however. It’s one thing to take your partner beyond their comfort zone when they secretly desire (but are afraid of) it, and another to force them to do something they do not want to do. In the case of Stan and Joanne, Stan might find it useful to bind Joanne before trying out the loose cleave gag we described above, as it might help remove her guilt and simply enjoy the feeling of “being bad”. However, he needs to be certain that she truly is enjoying it.
  • Let experience work its magic – Over time, people change, and as they gain experience with other tracks through the wilderness of BDSM, what once was fearsome may become less so. If all else fails, accept the limit for now, and work around it. In Stan’s case, he could forego gags for Joanne, and pursue other types of bondage. He could explore cuffs and spreader bars, blindfolds and chastity belts. He could lead her down the path of pain into spankings and floggings, or move deeper into domination and submission. And in a year, after many shared experiences and much joy and excitement, he might find that Joanne’s limit has shifted all on its own.
  • There are many other techniques for working with limits, and I bet that if you think about it, you can come up with ideas of your own. Hopefully the thoughts I’ve shared help to prepare you for dealing with limits when they inevitably arise. As long as you recognize them, treat them with respect, and work together with your partner to decide how to treat them, you should do just fine.

    Enjoy Yourself!

    Jake

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