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“We Need to Talk”: Ambiguity in Relationships

“We need to talk.”

Its the sentence many of us live in fear of hearing from our partners. When we get a text or a message or a partner says, “We need to talk,” and then leaves time between the statement and when they clarify what the talk is about, most of us start to mentally spin horror stories.

A text of “We need to talk. Are you free tonight?” generally means for the next umpteen hours we will be running through a variety of scenarios all ending in horrible, relationship-ending versions of our world.

This mentally spinning out happens in many cases with ambiguity. When we are not clear about something, we spend a tremendous amount of time and energy thinking about various outcomes and scenarios. Our mind seeks to put together clues- oftentimes things that are not related at all to the issue at hand- trying to create a sense of certainty.

When a situation is uncertain, it creates internal tension. This tension can ultimately be put to good, kinky use! I want to talk about “Dom(me)s Prerogative” — a game I have played with several dominants.

Dom(me)s Prerogative comes down to setting up a scene while leaving several or many key elements unplanned or unknown to the s-type in order to create tension and lessen the control a subby type has over the situation. While I would never advocate giving over total control to a D-type you don’t know well and deeply trust, there are plenty of ways to give over more power than you normally would as a sub and still play safe.

Always make sure your play partner knows your hard limits and will respect them. This is basic kink safety. Your partner(s) should absolutely know what your hard limits are and respect them in any scene.

Have an established safe word/gesture. Always have a simple safe word /gesture with your partners. Affirm the safe word for both of you before play. The more control an s-type gives up, the more important it is to have a clear way to communicate when something goes awry.

If your hard limits are firmly established and you and your partner(s) are clear on safe words, you are good to play Dom(me)’s Prerogative.

The Game

The basics of the game are to plan a scene with the D-type providing as few details as are necessary for the s-type to prepare. Depending on what kinks you are into and how intricate your scenes are, this will vary. Since many D-types enjoy their s-type preparing for a scene with grooming rituals, clothing options and/or setting up a space often the D-type will have to provide some clues as to what the s-type needs to do.

For example, I am really into impact play as are many of my D-types. So when I do Dom(me)s prerogative for impact, my D-type will send instructions like: I want at least two skeins of rope, all your impact toys, a gag, and you should be wearing a butt plug when I arrive.

This means I have to have ALL the impact toys (and there are many) cleaned and ready to go when he arrives. All the time I take to clean and check the toys, lay them out so he can choose, and make sure the area is ready to go, my focus is on him and the attention to the scene. This means there are several hours over the course of a week planning for a big scene where I am hot and bothered.

The ambiguity of not knowing what type of impact scene (sensual with lots of flogging and spanking), rough (with lots of belts and whips), cathartic and very painful (lots of caning) means my brain continually searches for “the answer” as to what type of scene. Of course then, this means my fantasies are running wild the entire time I am prepping for a scene. If this is coupled with edge play or chastity, by the time Sir arrives, I am about 90 seconds from climaxing.

During the scene, there are ways to continue to increase ambiguity and tension. For example, adding a blindfold or turning the s-type away from where toys are set up means the sub cannot anticipate what sensation is going to happen next. By snapping a belt or swishing a cane through the air, it provides a sub with a clue. Of course, snapping a belt but then quietly picking up a flogger for the next impact keeps a sub on their toes throughout the scene.

The goal Dom(me)s Prerogative is to create tension which will eventually be resolved by carrying out the scene. When it is finished the s-type has the answer as to “what will my D-type do?” As that tension releases, there is a mental release that can also help many s-types reach climax easily.


It can be fun to add anxiety and uncertainty to your play. However, people respond differently to uncertainty. If your partner has clinical anxiety, this is not going to be a good game for them. You don’t want to introduce situations which will trigger mental health issues. If your partner has anxiety, talk to them about what kinds of uncertainty are tolerable and what kinds are intolerable.

Second, newer players tend to have many more “hard” limits. This is a common way of trying to control the fears that come with experimenting with BDSM. If you have someone who is new-ish to BDSM, I strongly recommend talking about scenes and the specifics of a scene before playing. Until someone has a good understanding of their personal triggers and responses to certain types of play, creating scenes where there is a lot of uncertainty creates more opportunities for a scene to go badly.

This is not a time to introduce an entirely new type of play. Its one thing to use a new type of toy within the scope of the play you and your partner(s) enjoy. Surprising a partner with a new type of play all together when you haven’t talked about it is a quick way to violate boundaries, set of triggers, and go from fun to RED fast! Its one thing to add a new whip to an impact scene with a partner who enjoys other forms of impact. It is something very different to choke a partner with whom you have never discussed doing breath play with.

Benefits of Uncertainty

Most parts of long term relationships thrive on consistency and certainty. Knowing your partner is there to support you. Knowing that on Saturdays you go for a long walk with the dog together. Knowing that every Forth of July you go to her parent’s place for a cookout. These certainties lend stability to a relationship.

Sex lives do not thrive on certainty. I think this is best captured in the opening scene of The Ref. Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey are a married couple in therapy with BD Wong. Davis describes their sex lives as follows:

By our forth anniversary our routine had gotten pretty stale. A couple of kisses, a couple of nipple twists. It would all be over in the time it takes to make a cappuccino. I know because I timed it once. It’s no wonder I had an affair. The Ref

Finding ways to keep uncertainty and surprise going in your sex life helps it last. Even if you have amazing, kinky sex, if it is always pretty much the same amazing, kinky sex you will get bored. I speak from experience.

Ambiguity allows your partner(s) to surprise you. It allows you and your partner(s) to continually try new things in lower pressure situations. You don’t have to suddenly try and introduce a third person or role play into a decade long relationship to provide spice. Regularly introducing anticipation, ambiguity, and small bits of new fun keep the sex and kink fresh. Dom(me)s Prerogative is one method of doing this.

Stay kinky!

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