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What is a Dominant Relationship? Everything You Need to Know About It

What is a Dominant Relationship? Everything You Need to Know About It

Updated on Oct 12, 2022

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Dominant Relationship - Definition, Types, Signs & How to Deal with It

So, you’re curious about a dominant relationship, but aren’t 100% sure about it?

Well, I’m glad you wanna make sure before involving any offensive dynamic in your relationship! 

However, if you’re already in one, it’s better to look out for toxicity and steer clear of them.

In this think-piece, let me introduce you to all you need to enjoy a healthy dominant relationship whether you wanna lead or be led.

So, without any delay, let’s hit off with the basics…

What is a dominant relationship?

In a dominant relationship, the dominant one controls their partner’s lifestyle, behavior, and choices. This might be due to their family dynamics or twisted desires. But it can also be because they’re good leaders and decision-makers.

When one partner controls or takes charge of the other partner’s life due to their dominant personality, it’s called a dominant relationship. The controlling person controls everything, even how their partner dresses, reacts or feels.

However, the dominant personality in relationships varies from person to person. A dominant partner usually emotionally overwhelms you to make you act their way.

This becomes clearer when there’s blame-shifting, temper, and disregard for your feelings in the relationship. They might ask you to change the color of your outfit to tailor your social circle.

A dominant man usually acts in such a way because of underlying insecurities and feelings of being threatened.

Or, it’s because of his family dynamics where his father dominated their mother excessively. However, it might also be because he thinks women need to be controlled and disciplined.

Some amount of toxicity plays along in such relationships, but there are healthy ways to assert dominance.

However, such relationships aren’t one-type-fits-all. So, let’s know the varieties here…

Types of Dominant Relationship

When someone mentions a dominant relationship, most people picture a male with all the power and a female worshipping him at his feet. But the reality is far from that.

So, let’s skim through all the possibilities here…

1. Dominant Submissive Relationship

In this kind of relationship, the one playing the dominant role is in charge of everything in the relationship.

The partner playing the submissive role must always obey the dominant partner without any question. The dynamics are always like this and there’s zero chance of power exchange.

2. Master Slave Relationship

In such relationships, submissive partners give consent to stay obedient to the other one.

This might seem similar to the last one, but the dominance and submission dynamics are much more intense. The submissive or slave doesn’t have any authority to defy the master.

3. Male-led Relationship

As the name suggests, in these relationships, the dominant man defines everything in the relationship including the life choices of the submissive woman.

This is the most usual marriage or relationship dynamics in dominance and submission since ancient times.

4. Female-led Relationship

In this one, the female dominates the relationship and the male’s life. All responsibilities in the relationship like decisions and goals are hers solely.

Though uncommon, this kind of relationship dynamic is rising slowly.

5. Equal Relationship

In this type of relationship, both partners have equal power to decide for the best for both. This keeps the bond healthy and mostly results in long-lasting commitments due to the understanding nature.

You might debate why it is on the list if there’s no particular dominance. Well, each partner asserts dominance in things they’re good at.

They switch their roles based on their strengths. Here, the goal is a stable relationship and not coveting total control.

Not all dominant relationships are respectful, in fact, let’s know when it goes off-track here…

Healthy Dominant Relationship vs Unhealthy Dominant Relationship

In healthy dominant relationships, partners maintain respect, trust, loyalty, mutual understanding, equality, and consent in and outside the bedroom. All or many of these dynamics lack unhealthy dominant relationships.

Men and even women sometimes don’t understand the meaning of dominant relationships. They try to take advantage of the power imbalance and meet their twisted desires. So, let’s check how they differ here…

Healthy Dominant Relationship

Your partner might be dominant in the bedroom only or they might be dominant all day long. It doesn’t matter when it comes to the health of your relationship

Instead, it depends on whether your relationship has core values like trust, honesty, respect, communication, equality, and above all, consent.

For instance, when it comes to being sexually dominant, every practice in a BDSM relationship must be consensual to keep things healthy despite the roles.

Both partners must establish their rules and boundaries in the relationship and respect those. The whole point is about mutual pleasure and not torture.

So long as everyone feels safe, the relationship rules don’t need any changes. If you feel uncomfortable, you can stop right away. Partners settle on safe words ahead of time for this.

Unhealthy Dominant Relationship

A dominant relationship becomes unhealthy when it has no similarity with a healthy one. There’s a lack of basic respect, trust, loyalty, and communication.

So, the dynamics go like this…

1. No consent in power exchange

2. No mutual respect or understanding from the dominant partner

3. No clear boundaries or lack of respect towards boundaries 

4. No open and honest communication

5. Discussion regarding physical, mental, or sexual health

6. No safe words, safety measures, or aftercare for BDSM

7. No compromise or negotiation

8. No respect for refusal to certain activities or decisions

9. The submissive feel afraid because the dominant can’t follow safe words (in the bedroom) or will push their boundaries knowingly

10. Everything is for the dominant’s selfish desire and not mutual pleasure and growth.

Wondering if your partner dominates you? Anxious whether your relationship is unhealthy? Let’s know it here…

Signs of a healthy dominant partner in a relationship

Often people adopt dominant submissive or passive dominant relationships unknowingly because of the types of relationships they saw since childhood.

Since a dominant relationship can be healthy or unhealthy, the signs are also different depending on it.

So, if you’re with a healthy dominant partner, you’ll observe such examples of being dominant in a relationship…

1. They never depend on you

A healthy dominant partner doesn’t want to take advantage of you. So, they’ll always try to take care of their responsibilities all alone.

For instance, even if they’re dog-tired after a long day at work, they don’t shift their chores on you. They try to complete their part to show they can take care of themselves.

They decide to accompany you to your friends and family without prejudice whenever possible. They don’t make you ask for it and take charge of things.

2. They never settle for less

When they face a disrespectful situation with you or another person, they won’t hang out and take it in silently. Contrarily, they know nothing is worth getting them riled up.

So, when a situation calls for it, they simply walk out with their intact self-respect. If you don’t treat them right, they know what they deserve and aren’t ready to compromise with that.

This allows you to calm down and think through your mistakes. They don’t attack you to stop as they know it’ll only worsen the situation.

3. They don’t brood over anything silently

If they disliked your action, they might walk away silently until you realize it. However, if you don’t understand the problem, they don’t let the situation be. They don’t believe in bringing up past issues during fights months later.

They always aim to resolve situations when it’s still fresh and understand snowballing issues won’t benefit the relationship. A healthy dominant partner never suppresses their own or their partner’s emotions.

They’re ready to have uncomfortable conversations if that means it’ll bring them eternal happiness.

4. They never lose their calm and confidence

A good sign of a dominating personality is their straightforward nature. They’ll stand for themselves and won’t get controlled or manipulated by you or any outsider.

They’re always ready to prove they can protect themselves. They won’t let others take advantage of them and never fear fighting for their rights.

If someone says they don’t deserve something they rightfully do, dominating partners never accept it. They’ll argue and freely express themselves if the situation demands.

5. Their priorities are sorted

Suppose, your partner made plans with friends but you want them to stay back randomly without a valid reason. If they’re a dominant partner, they won’t stay back in this situation. They’ll show how life can’t revolve around only romantic relationships.

They prioritize their “me time” to put enough effort into the relationship. However, if you’re in a pinch, they know you need them and will stay back.

Signs of unhealthy dominant partner in a relationship

On the other hand, in unhealthy dominant relationships, toxicity spreads throughout the relationship.

Even without a list of signs, you’ll feel uncomfortable, unappreciated, and unheard by your partner. But to make sure, here’s how you know it…

1. You can’t expect privacy and space

In an unhealthy dominant relationship, your dom partner believes they own you. They won’t allow you any personal space and even snoop through your devices out of insecurity.

If you confront them, they’ll convince you how they’re protective out of love and try to sway you with twisted words.

They reek of mental health issues due to social norms and family dynamics in their childhood.

If you ask them to trust you, they’ll pinpoint how you behave suspiciously and that led them to investigate you. They’ll say “Why do you need space from your lover?” or “what do you want to hide from me?”

2. They’re unnecessarily jealous

Many people believe a little bit of jealousy is sweet in relationships or that it’s proof of love. But, it’s actually a huge red flag of not having a healthy relationship.

They feel incapable and insecure and they envy your accomplishments. They aren’t ready to allow you to prosper in life because “What if they leave me because I’m not good enough?”

So jealousy is an alarming sign of toxic domination.

3. They don’t accept your refusal

If you must always accept their demands whether it’s about a sex position or a reply to their text… or, hell breaks loose… that’s a glaring sign of unhealthy domination in your relationship.

They won’t care whether it hurts you or you have prior engagements. They have zero respect for your matters and they demand complete non-consensual submission from your side. However, they won’t reciprocate such dynamics.

4. They judge your folks all day long

Another major sign of a bad dominating partner is their reaction to your friends and family. Whether you want to hang out with your other people or invite your partner to it, they’ll always complain that everyone you know is stupid.

They’ll say “I better spend my day doing nothing than waste it on them” or “Don’t meet them if you don’t wanna get in trouble. They all have ulterior motives”.

You end up distrusting your old close ones because of them and keep yourself shut at home.

5. You become responsible for everything… always

In toxic domination, your partner will always turn the tables on you. If you get harassed at the bar, you’re wrong to visit one. If someone else offends you at work, you definitely did something to deserve it.

If their parents are unhappy, you definitely did something. If they don’t get promoted, it’s because how you don’t let them use a sex toy on you.

They find absurd ways to blame you and you become sick and tired of defending yourself.

6. They act too possessive and you can’t understand why

“Where are you?” “Why can’t you pick up my call?” “Why do you need makeup if it’s work?” “You don’t need a new shirt for the office!” “I won’t let you show so much skin… who do you wanna show off anyway?”

These are a few basic possessive traits in toxic domination in your partner. Initially, you might not even notice if it was anything toxic and call their traits cute, but it slowly turns claustrophobic.

7. They never let you breathe calmly

A major red flag of a toxic dominant partner is that you can’t be yourself freely.

You fear the emotional abuse that follows right after you do something innocent like meeting your friends, going on a family vacation, or preparing your favorite food.

The smallest things anger them and you helplessly tiptoe around your relationship. Even your differing choices make you feel unlovable. You feel it’s better to stay quiet than to express yourself.

8. They hope you can babysit them perfectly

A toxic dominant partner will always hope you know and do everything for them. For instance, they’ll say, “If you really loved me, you’d have known I hate/want that.”

They’ll make you feel guilty and manipulate you to behave as they desire. If you don’t follow their rules, you feel like a bad partner. This controlling behavior engraves the anxiety of failing them as a partner.

9. They always behave like the “Important one”

An alarming sign of a dominant partner is that they’ll always put you down. If you say you had a bad day, they’ll say they had it worse.

If you want to rest for a while, they’ll make you guilty for pushing your responsibilities on them… after all they had it worse. They always make you the inferior and less important one.

10. Both verbal and non-verbal dismissal is on the table

A toxic dominating partner won’t ever understand your situation. If you complain about your day, they’ll say “You’re such a sissy”, “Be a man”, and “stop the dramatics!”

If your partner is a person of fewer words, their body language speaks louder. When you’re on the verge of a breakdown, they’ll scoff at you. When you act silly, they’ll glare to make you stop.

All of these make you feel you’re wrong and undeserving of their love.

Think you’re in a dominant relationship and your partner is the dom? Then let’s learn to make it work here…

How to deal with a dominating partner?

A dominant relationship isn’t trouble at all, so long your partner understands and respects you. However, you can always improve a relationship and your satisfaction with more efforts like this…

1. Set boundaries and maintain them

Whether your partner is dominant in bed or in the entire relationship, boundaries are important for you both. You have your limits, boundaries, and rules to feel comfortable and loved in your relationship.

Write each of yours down and exchange them. Don’t be afraid to seek your happiness. You’re not “sissy/needy” for this. Don’t let them confuse you into thinking you’re selfish for having boundaries.

2. Be more expressive

Whenever something goes wrong in the relationship, you have all the right to speak up. Even if your partner is the financial backbone, if they don’t allow you medical expenses because of tight finances, stand against it.

However, don’t let your emotions take the better of you. Stay calm and collected to give away a mature vibe. This will show them they can’t kid with you.

3. Follow through with every promise

If you give a word, keep it anyhow… otherwise they’ll get the chance to say “You’re all talk and zero action”. They’ll easily overpower you if you don’t as they think you’re too weak to take charge.

You’ll always hear the end of that one time you made trouble with broken promises. So, unless you’re in a dire situation, stay true to your words.

4. Live by honesty

A dominant partner overwhelms you and you behave more defensively. Even when you make mistakes you fear their reactions instead of feeling apologetic for your actions.

This one is hard but try to calm yourself and own your mistakes. They’ll understand you’re mature and they don’t need to control you.

Tell them what you did wrong before they find out, apologize, share what you plan to do to fix the situation, and how you’ll deal with similar issues in the future.

5. Know when to walk out

If you find toxic controlling traits or match with any of the unhealthy dominant partner signs, talk to them about therapy.

Give up on the relationship if they don’t agree to change or they make empty promises about it.

Make sure you never compromise your self-respect. You don’t deserve to play along with your partner’s toxicity.

However, if you find you’re in a dominant relationship… and you’re the dominant, you have lots of responsibilities, so follow the trail…

How to be dominant in a relationship and NOT controlling?

Though the patriarchal society might differ, dominant relationships are all about being better, setting an example, and helping your partner follow suit.

It’s nothing manipulative or controlling. In fact, you too can be a lovable dom with these…

1. Understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy domination

From the signs of a dominant partner in a relationship, check the toxic and unhealthy traits of domination. Try to implement most of the healthy signs if not all and avoid any unhealthy ones.

If you feel any of the toxic traits attract you, know that something is off and you better seek therapy. It doesn’t mean you’re mentally unhealthy, but it won’t hurt to figure out your needs with a specialist.

2. Discuss it with your partner

In this century, not everyone is ready to be dominated even if you have zero negative domination traits.

If you’re a woman and your partner is a man, he might hope to be the dominant one because that’s the usual. Or, if you’re a man and your partner is a feminist, the idea might not sit well.

No point in such surprises, so tell them how you feel and even share the link to our think-piece. Let them choose for themselves.

Your partner might be unsure about the entire arrangement, so discuss the dynamics you desire in the relationship. Which parts will you lead in? What will it look like?

If your partner feels unsure, try to negotiate a little to help them feel comfortable. If some of your choices cross their boundaries, be open to change.

4. Practice discipline and self-control

To prove yourself as the leader of the relationship, show your capabilities.

The easiest way is to have self-control and discipline. If you maintain a strict diet to stay fit, a good work-life balance for mental stability, and be calm when most people lose their calm, that’s the deal.

These are impressive ways to show you’re more than talk and you only want healthy dynamics in your relationship.

5. Set and accomplish your goals

Be serious about your life to show who’s the boss. A dominant partner must set attainable goals, be committed to them, and reach them within time.

If you stay true to yourself, your partner will know you’ll treat them the same. These can be any minor goals like weight loss or even building a business empire. Make sure you work on it and don’t slack off

6. Create a plan for you both

Further, you can’t be selfish in the relationship. Chase goals that are beneficial to you both. If you only look forward to your growth and that inconveniences your partner, that’ll be an issue.

For instance, if you plan to build a huge business but ask your partner for funds, that’ll out them off. You can definitely seek your partner’s help but don’t force them to.

Plan bigger goals together depending on both of your needs. If your partner can’t help you, tell them it’s alright and you love them the same.

7. Keep trying hard together

Sometimes, life just doesn’t follow the plan and you feel demotivated. But, if you wanna keep your “dominating partner” crown, never let the setbacks stop you.

Whether it’s only about you, your partner, or the entire relationship, if something doesn’t work, keep hustling for more ideas.

For instance, banks won’t sanction your home loan. Try to know the reason and how you can solve it.

8. Don’t get pressured into anything

Know when to say “no” to your partner and anyone else. Don’t let anyone walk over you. If you feel anyone wants to take advantage of you, never accept that silently.

You can’t treat your partner strictly and be lenient with everyone else. Your partner will think that’s unfair and they won’t take your boundaries seriously.

Of course, know when to accept their genuine pleas and not brush them off.

9. Use good body language

Your body says a lot about how much you respect yourself and your partner.

If you’re a woman, avoid slouching to show you’re confident. Be approachable to show you’re grounded. Smile, make eye contact, and shake hands firmly to hint you’re not a pushover.

If you’re a man, put your arms around your woman to protect her. Brush her cheeks or neck with the back of your hand to show how much you like her.

10. Be decisive in every field

Whether it’s about where you wanna eat, which movie you’ll watch, what color dress you want, where you wanna invest, how you’ll deal with unanticipated situations, or how you’ll save money… be sure about your plans with full-proof research.

You, as a dominant partner, can’t delay your decisions because you’re unsure. Decisiveness is a hot trait and it also helps your partner and children become confident.

11. Push your comfort zone

If you don’t know when to take risks, you’ll probably stay stable… so stable that there won’t be any growth.

In fact, you might feel it’s better to avoid any financial risks for now… but that risk might help you secure your life in the long run.

You might feel chasing your passion is a waste of time. However, you might make it your full-time source of income if you stay devoted.

Go all out but think deeply and have backup plans. You’ll succeed in your dominant game in life.

12. Keep the swearing off-limits

Most of us can’t keep our calm when we encounter a tough situation or when our partner doesn’t understand our point. But how does swearing help?

Show them you’re a mature person by being calm.  Don’t raise your voice or behave violently. Control isn’t about manipulating others, but controlling the darker side of our personality.

13. Share your opinions assertively

In any situation, don’t hesitate about sharing your take. If your partner’s idea is lacking or you feel the idea might put you on the spot, don’t stay silent. Tell them how you feel about it and ask them to change it.

Allow your partner equal independence to speak up if your decision doesn’t favor them. Create a safe space and speak without feeling judged.

14. Respect is the key to success

Just because you’re the dominant one, it doesn’t allow you any special discounts. You must stay committed to your partner and meet their needs. Make sure you’re both on the same page before you decide on something new.

If your partner refuses something, respect that. In the end, you’re both humans and deserve respect and affection.

15. Let your inner dom out in bed

If you love the idea of controlling your partner, pour it all out in your sensual desires. Usually, alpha males love to take charge, but who said women can’t lead in role-playing?

If you wanna try bondage and discipline, communicate with your partner. If you wanna try talking dirty, know about their comfort zone. Don’t concern yourself with gender roles and be the leader in bed.

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

Whether you love leading or enjoy the idea of your partner leading, remember that both too much control and too much relaxation might ruin your relationship.

Excess control will overwhelm your partner… over-dependence on them will show them you’re not serious about the relationship.

Balance is the key to practicing anything successfully whether in relationships or elsewhere.

Never take advantage of your partner’s role or let them walk over you. Mutual respect and understanding with clear communication help you experience a wonderful journey.

However, if your partner crosses the line on purpose and consistently, know that you’re better off without them.