Congruent Joy

How to Satisfy Your Partner Without Doing What They Want

When you're topping in power exchange, your partner desires that you not be doing what they want (to some degree, depending on how much power exchange you’re doing)… but how do you do that without neglecting them?

Let’s say, for example, that someone desires to be tied up so that they can’t escape, even if they want to escape.

In this specific way, to be controlled. To desire something, in this case to be free of bondage, and to have that desire frustrated.

Is it normal, is it healthy, to want to be frustrated? To want… to not get what you want?

Consider that we can have multiple desires, but we can’t always satisfy two desires at once.

I might desire to play a pleasant tune on the flute; I might desire to blow bubblegum; I can’t do both at the same time.

And so we temporarily set aside one desire so that another desire might be satisfied.

For a top, it can get confusing how to be responsible while doing things that their partner doesn’t want.

Even with consent. To practice BDSM we should, of course, have discussed what we both desire and our limits, to have the informed consent of all participants, to have safeguards in place such as a safeword.

But while necessary, consent doesn’t get at the heart of the issue. How, as a top, should I use my power?

In fiction, someone being dominant is usually depicted as being domineering, cruel, heartless, or an evil “bad guy”. Because then it’s obvious that they aren’t doing what the other person wants.

But still, for those of us who aren’t sociopaths, we generally wish to be making a caring connection with our partner, a heart connection. Not to actually be heartless.

We might like a roleplay of being heartless, and roleplay can be fun. A roleplay doesn’t even need to involve any actual power exchange. Two people can be doing a scene together which to an outside observer appears as if the top is totally controlling, while the action is actually doing exactly what the bottom wants step by step.

Yet even if we might be roleplaying someone heartless and evil, we wish to satisfy the needs and desires of our partner. To not neglect them.

Without doing what they want.


I found the description of the Two Systems of the Mind to be very helpful in resolving this conundrum for me.

Which, I don’t mean to say this would be the only solution. (I don’t claim to have a monopoly on solutions :) Merely that I personally found it super useful.

We don’t choose our innate desires. They come from our brain, our System 1, automatically. My brain desires to eat sweet food. Even if I might prefer not to desire to eat sweet food, my brain generates this desire anyway.

I, my conscious mind, my System 2, can choose whether to satisfy this desire. I’m on a diet, so I use my will power to not eat something sweet, even though my brain desires it. If I choose to satisfy a desire, I can choose how and when I’ll do that.

In power exchange, when I’m topping, my partner wishes to give that choice to me. To a greater or lesser degree.

The power exchange could be as small as, “I’d like to be tied up for five minutes, so that I can’t escape. I don’t want anything else to happen to me, I just want to be tied up. And after five minutes, or immediately if I use my safeword, let me go”.

Or, it might be as large as, “I’d like to be your complete slave for a month. Within my limits, you can do whatever you want with me”.

Just as I can responsibly choose whether and how to satisfy my own needs and desires, I can responsibly choose whether and how to satisfy the needs and desires of my partner.

Including their desire to be controlled, to have no choice, to not be getting what they want. For whatever the scope we’ve agreed to for our power exchange.

What’s the difference between a “desire” and a “want”?

We often use the two words interchangeably, however for our purpose here it’s useful to describe wanting something as specifically being about our conscious mind imagining and predicting that getting some specific thing will satisfy a desire.

Thus “I want a cookie” is a shorthand for, “I predict that eating a cookie will satisfy my brain’s desire to eat something sweet”.

For my partner to have “no choice” in something means their conscious mind is not the one choosing whether to satisfy one of their brain’s desires, or, depending on how much power exchange is going on, how.

Within the limits of the engagement, such as within a specific time period, or until someone uses a safeword.

In fiction, greater power exchange is associated with greater irresponsibility.

The “good guys”, who are responsible, don’t force anything on anyone, unless it might be necessary. The “bad guys”, who are irresponsible, are the ones forcing things on people.

In reality, the opposite is true.

With greater power exchange comes greater responsibility.

The responsibility to choose, within the agreed-upon scope of the power exchange, which and how of your own desires together with your partner’s desires you’re going to satisfy.

Email me: [email protected]

Return home to Congruent Joy.