Aching to Serve

 Posted by on July 24, 2011
Jul 242011

By Sarah Sloane

Dear Sarah,

I identify as a slave in a full-time Master/slave dynamic with a strong service component to our relationship. I also suffer from chronic pain which has persisted over a year and escalated in the last few months. There is currently no foreseeable end in sight with my illness and I have yet to find an effective treatment for relief, although some days are better than others. As a result, I am not able to serve my owner in the ways I was previously able. I understand that my owner decides the level of service that is required of me, but I struggle with comparing myself to the slave I was, or the slave I could be if I wasn’t in pain. Although this has not happened yet, I can see how it can be easy to use my illness as an excuse to not push myself and become lazy with the lowered service expectations.

How can a Master/slave relationship continue build on a service dynamic during difficult times?


Aching to serve

Dear Aching,

Your email affected me profoundly; as someone who has had ongoing pain issues for years, I sympathize with the frustration of being unable to do what you want to do in order to be fully present to your Master. I also appreciate your level of self-awareness and your desire to not become complacent with a lesser level of service.

It’s important for everyone who is in service to remember what you stated in your email: that the person who accepts & directs your service is the person responsible for deciding what is appropriate and what is “good enough”. Most service oriented bottoms are far harder on themselves internally than any dominant could ever be; I have yet to meet someone who is passionate about service that believes that they do everything “good enough” all the time. The challenge with that mindset is that it can be just as defeating as it can be inspiring; reaching for our best is a wonderful thing, but the stress that we experience when we feel like we constantly don’t meet unrealistic expectations can take an emotional (and physical!) toll on us.

The most important thing to start with is maintaining (or developing) a consistent, honest awareness of what your abilities are for each day (or during the day, if your pain or fatigue changes throughout it), and communicating that to your partner in a way that leaves the decisions up to them. Stating it clearly – and without glossing over your pain or overstating it – and then relying on them to direct you accordingly is your primary job. You are not responsible for their feelings around it, and you are not responsible for being a “super slave”.

Think of it as you’d think of your budget. If you are responsible for maintaining the checking & credit card accounts, and you’re asked what the available balance is, giving them the accurate balance means that they can then decide how to spend the money. If you overstate the balance – telling them there is $500 when there’s only $100 – they will then spend more money than what’s available, and end up putting the account into negative numbers, which then requires even more work (and money) to rectify. If you understate it, they may feel the stress of scarcity where none exists. In either case, once they find out that you’ve been withholding information, they may begin to doubt you in other ways.

The other thing that I would suggest as a starting point is having a discussion where you and your Master can create a list of “fall back” service tasks; things that you can do when you have very limited ability to do your usual work. These can be tasks that you can do when your energy is very low, you’re having trouble focusing, or you’re in discomfort that keeps you from completing your other tasks. This may require some creative thinking over time for you both – we tend to go for the obvious tasks as ways to offer service, but there can be many other ways that you can serve your Master with distinction.

Perhaps you can work on a larger project that can be done in small bursts of work, like cataloguing the books & music. Maybe you can serve by supervising or directing other people that can help with the work that needs to be done. It may be that you can find other ways to complete your usual responsibilities, like using a massager to work on your Master’s aching back rather than your own hands. You may even find that your service would be improved by taking on a slightly different role as a slave – perhaps more of a companion and personal service slave and less of a household slave.

Regardless of how you and your Master structure your work around your day to day abilities, remember one thing: you serve from your heart and soul, and regardless of whether you are able to do everything that you wish you could do, your attitude and willingness to be consistently of service to your owner are what will, in the end, be most valuable to them.