It’s been a while since I’ve written an installment on Kink and Gottman’s sound relationship house.
Read part 1 here and part 2 here

We now move up to the next floor of the Sound Relationship House: Fondness and Admiration. According to John Gottman, fondness and admiration are crucial antidotes to contempt. In The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, he writes:

Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elementsin a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Although happily married couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner’s personality flaws, they still feel that the person they married is worthy of honor and respect. When this sense is completely missing from a marriage, the relationship cannot be revived.

While not all kink dynamics are marriages or even long term partnerships, there are many examples of fondness and admiration systems throughout the kink community. Language, titles and symbols in kink become building blocks of those systems.

Some years ago, Lee Harrington wrote a beautiful post on the power of pet names and protocols. He writes:

Names hold power. What we choose as pet names for our lovers, partner, and friends reflects our inner energetic feelings and manifestations of connection towards that person. Sometimes it is about the term/name chosen itself- Slave, Dearheart, Bunny, Loverbuns, Sugar, Kitten, Hotstuff… a thousand other names each have their own meaning to the outside hearer and also within the relationship itself. But the uniqueness of a term, or its specific use and power within a relationship, matter as well.

In BDSM/Kink, pet names have an extra layer in the form of Protocols. Pet names such as Master, Daddy, pet, property, Whore, slut, thing, Mistress, Goddess, Queen, Lord- they reinforce the dynamic established within a relationship. These can also be titles, yes, but if they become a pet name, a thing that replaces the name of a person, they take on extra power… it is not just *what* they are but *who* they are in your eyes (as received by them in a verbal form).

This is a perfect illustration of how fondness and admiration systems can be successfully built. Those titles and pet names, as Lee calls them, can be invoked as powerful reminders of intimacy and connection.

External symbols of connection, collars, rings, piercings, and similar accoutrements associated with kink in popular culture, can be equally, if not more powerful. For many communities within the greater BDSM/Kink umbrella, a collar is not to be worn lightly. In fact, many partners will have collaring ceremonies, which are profound statements of mutual commitment.

Do all kink symbols carry such heavy weight for all kink identified folk? Of course not. That said, even if a collar or symbol is not representative of such intense connection, they can still kickstart fondness and admiration systems. If a symbol is discreet enough to be worn in the default world, that symbol becomes a talisman that’s carried from one world or the next, a special secret, an inside joke shared by partners. If not, it can be used to create a sacred space for intimacy.

These symbols also come into play as we move up the Relationship Dungeon to bids/turning towards, which I’ll address in my next installment.

For those of you who identify as kinky or are in Kinky relationships, what do your fondness and admiration systems look like? Have they changed over time? Are there any differences between those systems in different relationships or dynamics?

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