Relationships are predicated on trust. Trust makes up the foundation without which they cannot stand, and anything that shakes that trust in turn threatens the relationship it supports. While this is true for any type of relationship, it is especially true for a relationship which features the level of power exchange found in Dominance and submission.
When looked at from the point of view of the submissive partner, the need for trust is clear. The partner gives up control of themselves and their body to their partner, oftentimes to such an extent that they are at their partner’s mercy. To do so requires a strong belief that the Dominant partner will take care of them, will not subject them to an experience that they cannot handle, and will act in a way that keeps the submissive’s best interest in mind. If that trust is violated, consent to submit may easily be revoked, and if the violation is serious, the relationship itself may come to an end.
However, trust is also required going the other way. The Dominant must also be able to trust the submissive. To effectively dominate, the Dominant must know that they have consent from their partner, must know that their partner accepts the basic premise of the particular D/s compact they have in place, and must have confidence that their partner will at least attempt to submit and abide by any rules they have implemented.
Note that the above allows for imperfection! No submissive is perfect, and neither is any Dominant! It’s absolutely possible (and it happens often) that the submissive partner may struggle with a rule, or have a day in which submission doesn’t come naturally. It’s also perfectly possible for the Dominant (and it happens often as well) to ask for too much, to tread too close to a limit, or to fail to dominate when their partner wants or needs them to. Perfection isn’t required for trust to be maintained, but what IS required on both sides is a best effort. If you believe that your partner is really trying to live up to their side of their side of the bargain, your trust can remain unshaken even if they make an occasional mistake.
It’s when you no longer have confidence that your partner is trying that a crisis of trust develops. If you are the submissive, things that might shake your confidence in your partner include lack of respect for limits, placing you in situations you feel are physically or emotionally risky, a diminished interest in domination, etc. If you are the Dominant, symptoms that might cause you to doubt your partner include a lack of interest in submission, limits that get more stringent over time, or simple refusal to comply with reasonable and accepted Dominant requirements.
Communication is essential when trust is at risk. The issues that have caused trust to be threatened must be surfaced and addressed or progress will be impossible and the relationship may fail. In many cases, communication may restore the trust that was lost, as it can reveal and correct misunderstandings, expose and explain hidden motivations, and allow unexpressed feelings a chance for expression.
Joy and I have occasional hiccups in our relationship. Sometimes the hiccups go away in a day or two, but occasionally they last longer (anybody know a good cure for hiccups?). Fortunately, however, the trust that we have in each other remains strong. We each know that the other values and enjoys our relationship, and will do their best to make sure that we are happy and healthy. And that knowledge itself acts as strong medicine to help us through relationship woes.