I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly great at negotiating. Mostly on the “I forget it’s a thing” scale and a “things I need to remember to say” scale. The first is mostly that I don’t do a lot of pick up play. It’s just not my thing so the few times I’ve done it, I’m scrambling in my brain to remember what I need to tell this person that I don’t have a close relationship with. I’ve been lucky and blessed to play with people who are very attentive during negotiations and remember to ask all the questions ranging from “when did you eat last” to “what words can I use during this shame scene.”
However, I have cultivated a checklist that I’ve used, passed out, taught with.
It’s 13 pages.
I created it around the same time my current Daddy and I were negotiating a play partner relationship. It gave us a starting point to figure out each other’s experience and knowledge and what activities were on a never list, a maybe list, and a definitely list. I made a point to fill mine out in reference to him. There were some activities that I did do but only with my dating partner at that time. Just like now, there are things and language I consent to have my Daddy do or say to me but would move off the table with a casual play partner.
The checklist allowed us to find common ground and figure out what we could do together. Eventually, we renegotiated both the relationship and activities and moved into a power exchange dynamic. Currently, we’re renegotiating our contract into a more structured power/authority dynamic and it’s taking a lot of time, a lot of conversations, and a lot of reading. It’s something that’s very precious to us so we’re spending a lot more time and energy on this contract than we have previously mostly because we’re outlining protocols more specifically.
There are a lot of ways to approach negotiations and I think it’s important to keep in mind what you’re negotiating and why. Negotiating a scene is very different than negotiating a relationship and the skills for both are important to cultivate. If you’re negotiating a relationship, I think it’s important to write some of your thoughts down – even if it’s not a full out contract – because you’ll want to revisit them later. What’s not working for you? What is working and why? What sort of things do you and your partner want to change and adjust?
The more we learn about what relationships can look like and learn about different ways to navigate different situations, the better we get at nailing down exactly what we want in a relationship. Sometimes the way we previously described what we wanted – say, an Owner/pet relationship – isn’t what we’re living now – Master/slave – and it’s time to renegotiate.