(NOTE: The term Master/Submissive are used in this text and a state of RESPONSIBILITY not skill level. )
You've decided that this type of lifestyle is for you, and you're interested in pursuing a relationship with a Master or a submissive. You think you are prepared for everything that you will encounter in the Mastery lifestyle, but have you thought about the actual future? Have you considered how the relationship will progress? How things will change as time goes on? Are you really prepared for the commitment you are about to make? I'll take you through a general relationship's lifespan, and allow you to see what is to be expected over time. This is meant as a general itinerary, nothing more. Each Master is different, and will have different plans for the training of his slave. Some will follow a close path to the below, while others will differentiate from it greatly.
The first actual emotion you will encounter and overcome is the fact you are Dominant, or submissive in nature. Some of you will have mixed emotions, of being both Dominant and submissive, which we in the scene call "switches". First of all, you must accept these desires as being worthwhile of investigating. Once you accept the feelings you have, you can then go ahead and either try the lifestyle in the role you seek, or seek your own identity as a Master or one who kneels at the Master's feet.
Finding and Meeting
More than likely, you will find somebody on the Internet to talk with regarding your feelings. You will also use all the resources at your disposal to educate yourself regarding the Mastery and BDSM lifestyles, and will attempt to seek out others that have the same desires as you do. As time passes, you will see that this lifestyle intrigues you more and more, and the fear you have of actually entering into this lifestyle will lessen enough over time to actually introduce yourself to this way of life.
Each one of us has had to take that initial step into the lifestyle, to overcome the fear and terror we have felt for a length of time, and to find out if this is truly what we sought in our lives. Some people experiment with it, and find this lifestyle is not what they thought or desired; while many others embraced what they have found with open arms. Only you will know when the time is right to go past the point of turning back, and to see if the dreams you have had are equalled to what you will find in this new world.
In time, you will find somebody that has the qualities you are searching for. If you have Dominant traits, you will find somebody that has submissive desires, and/or vice-versa. There is no telling where you might meet this person, however the two biggest methods would most likely be over the Internet through a newsgroup or chat group, or in person at a semi-public or private munch (gathering of practitioners of the BDSM and Mastery lifestyles). No matter where, you will learn that many others have the same desires as you, and will happily help you in your search for your own identity.
Through one of the available mediums, you will find that significant other that you are searching for; and the two of you will eventually decide to meet. During your meeting, this is the time to talk about each other's desires and wants, along with experiences and safety measures each knows of. If you find yourself compatible with this Dominant/submissive, and are comfortable with them in all ways, then you can progress to discuss either partaking in a scene together, or possibly establishing a relationship with one another. Ideas and limits are important things to discuss, along with all safety measures (such as use of safewords and actions, proper tying techniques, avenues for immediate release from bondage, etc.) that will be taken.
The Initial Commitment of a Relationship
Whether you have previously scened together or not, the majority of people in this lifestyle seek some form of commitment to the person that they are involved with. There are many levels of commitment, and what each person wants should be thoroughly discussed up front. Lack of communication is a major problem in all types of relationships, and if your able to be open with your Master/sub, you will find that many potential problems can be dealt with before they have a chance to happen.
Through your talks, you have established limits to both the Master and the slave; and have come upon an agreement as to what manner and to what extent control will be given to the Master. The two of you will have discussed the progression of the relationship over time, and what is to be expected of both the Master and the slave.
It should be stated here that the bond will always continue to grow, and that love (if it is felt) will continue to magnify as well. Both emotions may be felt from the onset of meeting one another, however the depth of it simply becomes amazing. In no other type of relationship is trust so important, for once you allow somebody to restrain you from escape, you are totally at their mercy. Make sure you know the person who is taking away your ability to protect yourself.
Short-Term Aspects of the Lifestyle
The first priority of the Master is to "break-down" his submissive. By this, I mean getting the slave to drop old habits, and to adopt new ones through the Master's teachings. There are many things brought to the relationship that the Master will cherish, but there may be just as many things that he will not care for as well. Each Master molds his slave into his ideal image of how she shall serve him.
I've had slaves come to me, with years of experience, that have been calling their previous Master "Sir" or "Lord" for years. If that is what the Master wanted, the slave has learned to adapt to that. The problem arises from the fact that I am unlike any other Master, just as each is different from the next. My slaves call me "Master", for that is what I personally prefer. Problems arise from the fact she has learned (some call it conditioned) to address her Dominant in a different way. A fake "master" will conitnually punish his slave for each infraction, whereas a real Master will understand that through time and patience, and gentle (but firm) instruction, the slave will easily adapt to her new surroundings. In essence, it will take that slave a period of time to "re-learn" the proper method of address that suits me; as well as all the lessons that I teach her so she may serve me in the way that pleases me.
It just takes time to learn both what the Master wants and expects, and what the submissive is capable of. The first few weeks/months is basically a "getting-to-know" stage in the relationship. No slave can come into a new relationship and completely please her Master from the start, and the experienced Dominant knows this. The Master knows how to guide and teach his slave, with patience and a constant eye, not allowing her to backslide in her training. The submissive learns proper mannerisms and positions, she learns what is expected of her daily, and she concentrates on allowing the control she has given to him.
Some Masters and subs, for whatever reason, may decide to only scene together once or for a short term. The bond never increases to the point of where people living LTR's (long-term relationships) together get to feel. However, if your interests are based on the physical relationship and not the emotional attachment, then perhaps you should shy away from entering into a relationship where the other person is looking for a bonding experience with you...which usually happens with most LTRs to some extent.
Long-Term Aspects of the Lifestyle
The main thing both Masters and slaves have never expected in a lengthy relationship is the fact that even hard limits soften over time. The cause of this is simple...the bond and trust that has accumulated over time between both people. After scening together, and knowing in your heart that the other person cares for you regardless of your desires, it becomes easier to loosen restrictions that you had previously placed on yourself. Once you know you can completely trust your partner with your life, you may find yourself willing to go into some activities or increased endurance levels that you never thought possible.
It is safe to assume that over time, and with a continuing relationship, the Master and the slave will find that the bond has strengthened enough to where they may be able to try new things. Both will look back to the past, and be amazed both at the natural transition of their abilities, and with the endurance each is able to bring into their play. Time is what is most needed to be able to bring the relationship to the level that both people desire.
There is one very dangerous aspect to a LTR. It is called "falling into a routine". While not dangerous from a physical sense, it is very dangerous to the submissive's mental well-being over time. All Masters realize that what makes a slave feel complete is in her submission to the Master. It is very important for the Master to construct a measure of control over his slave on a daily basis. This is especially true in those relationships where micro-management is practiced. A submissive that does not feel owned or controlled does not feel wanted and complete in her being, and will become both restless and self- destructive. If your an experienced Master, and after a long period of time your slave starts a pattern of getting into trouble or acting out, it could be that she is becoming restless of the never-changing routine she is encountering.
It's ok to give a routine to your submissive that makes things required of her on a on-going schedule. The problem comes when the Master does not initiate new avenues for the slave to explore, or give her opporunitites to both learn ways to be a better slave, and to allow her to expand her mind. If the Master accepts his sub for a LTR, he takes on the responsibility of keeping her just as interested five years down the road, as she is at the start of the relationship. This is much harder than it sounds. Imagine being responsible both for yourself and another person, and then having to figure out new and creative ways to both exert your control over her and to allow her to be more submissive to you. Sounds easy? Try doing it daily for YEARS.
It can be a very rough assignment for even the most hardened Masters. However, it is a challenge that most Masters would like to accept, and usually are able to accomplish to a satisfactory result. The slave's main duty is to please her Master, in whatever way she can. The Master's main duty is to be responsible for the on-going training and use of his slave, so she may feel whole herself.
When the Relationship is Over
Just as in any "vanilla" relationship, a large percentage of those created in the Mastery lifestyle will end. There are too many reasons why a relationship may end to list them all, so I'll attempt to go over the emotional "fallout" that happens at the end of this type of commitment.
When the slave asks to be "released" (let out of her commitment), or the Master releases his submissive, the relationship is over. Unless the submissive is in a captive role in her submission, she can walk away regardless of her Master's wishes. The vast majority of Masters and submissives have no desire to be in a relationship where the other is not consensually happy, and the commitment is therefore allowed to end.
It is a sometimes a very traumatic time for the slave during this period of being un-owned. Like a regular relationship, it has taken a period of time to develop a bond of trust and/or love for your Master, and to suddenly be released can be a major shock. You have depended on another to make your decisions for you, to love you the way you are, and to take care of all of your needs. Suddenly you find yourself alone. Unfortunately, this does happen in this lifestyle, and there is but one cure for the depression you now feel...time. Time may not heal all wounds, but it will allow you to find the strength to move on with life.
It is a very hard step to lose your Master, then later have to re-submit to another. However, you will find that this lifestyle is what makes you happy, and you'll know in your heart when it is time to come back. Just like any other lifestyle, it can be very dangerous to be pulled into the "rebound" effect, and immediately search out a new Master to care for you. Make sure not to fall in this mode of survival, for you will find that you may get into a situation you never counted on, and could have avoided had you had your wits about you.
This type of lifestyle offers both advantages and disadvantages over the conventional type of relationship that society practices. If you find that this way of life is for you, as long as you use your head and be smart about the choices you are given, you will find this to be a very rewarding way to live. Relationships are the same in all facets of society, and they are only worth what you make of them.