Each day of your relationship you shall strive to be better, to do more than your duties. Going above and beyond with acts of service is one way to do so. This love language is a handy tool in many D/s relationships – though not everyone is service-oriented.
Service need not only be in the realm of the submissive. Acts of service are not necessarily subservient. Ultimately the goal is to make your partner feel cared for, no matter which side of the slash they may fall on. Though it is often the case that service is established in a relationship as a submissive duty.
Acts of service are also most appreciated when they're abundant, which means they're well suited to small gestures. Making cups of tea, oral at the desk, picking up after one another, and so on. Grandiose gestures and events have their place, but they are far too infrequent to sustain a happy momentum.
When thinking of service in D/s relationships, what likely springs first to mind is service submission. Perhaps you have notions of domestic duty, making a Dominant some coffee every morning, or serving as a secretary. These are all fair examples of routine service.
Though instead of routine service, what I think of is liberation and support. If I am to be a high-functioning executive for our household, my time quickly becomes scarce and my attention limited. An executive needs support to be efficient. My service sub is my crucial support, the means by which I can freed of basic concerns to focus instead on the trickier problems.
Chief Mom Officer has a great quote about relying on support like this:
I get a TON of comments at work and here online from people that can’t believe everything I accomplish. How can one person do so much? The secret here isn’t in what I do, but what I don’t do. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I do without the support of my husband and boys. That ruthless prioritization comes into play here again.
– How I Have More Time Than You
Without my service sub, I would be losing time during the work week fighting trivial concerns such as dirty dishes and feeding myself. My tasks would be subject to schedule slippage, and I'd be more emotionally exhausted in the evening than I already am – likely too drained to write or learn new things or practise rope.
Since service submission is so significant, I see three points worth addressing.
First is that acts of service require above and beyond the usual line of duty. It's a reasonable expectation to think that my dearheart will pick up after himself. So if he does that's not an effective act of service, since I expected as much. If he instead starts picking up after me, that could be seen as a service.
As such, it's important to manage expectations to keep acts of service reasonable. Doing more than expected is only feasible as long as expectations are within reason. If they start inflating as you become accustomed to frequent service, it puts an unwelcome pressure on your service sub to do ever more. In short, don't take your service sub for granted.
Second is that acts of service are for the benefit of the other person, in this case the dominant. If an action does not bring them pleasure, enjoyment, or otherwise benefit them practically, then it's not service. It's just something that you do.
This ties in nicely with the aforementioned support a service sub should provide. Your goal should be to make you dominant's life easier, freeing up resources to focus on better performance in other areas of life.
Thirdly is that you should perform acts of service without being asked, at least most of the time. This lesson was one I learned the hard way, as my dearheart started off frequently begging that I remind him to perform chores and services.
What resulted was not making my life easier by taking a load off me. Instead, I was having to remember and manage two lives worth of chores and activities, which led to dropping tasks and forgetfulness. It was draining instead of liberating. Thankfully my dearheart adjusted, and has been better about acting autonomously.
Service as a Dominant
I know I'm a service-oriented woman, and that I view my leadership as a service I provide to my submissives. You may then wonder what distinguishes dominant and submissive acts of service.
It's not just about the act, but the framing and narrative you supply as a Dominant. For example, cooking a meal for your partner can be an act of service that comes across as submissive by default. Or you can frame it in a way that reinforces your dominance: "I'm making sure you're being given proper nutrition, because you're mine and I want my things to be taken care of."
Building the narrative is a powerful tool at your disposal. As with most things, it's better to take control of it early on. Establish your official narrative quickly, because without one in place your submissive is free to come up with their own ideas about why you act the way you do. Likely they will be halfway to the truth, but they won't feel like they're submitting.
As another example, I might at times take on more than my share of the burden of chores. When I do so, I can say that it's because I noticed how hard my sub has been working, and that I'd prefer to avoid them burning out. Since I'm so strong and capable, I can relieve them of the burden temporarily without affecting my own stress.
Or I could flip it around, and ask that my sub takes over chores for the time being: I can do anything, but not everything. For the time being I need to focus my energies on something more important than mundane house chores, so I'm tasking my sub with chores to free up that bandwidth.
Ultimately acts of service as a dominant come down to two factors for me: taking care of my submissive, and helping them realise their goals (in both senses of the word). Acts of service help me refocus on my duty and allow my dearheart to feel submissive and loved and cared for.
If you are interested in reading more, I invite to your attention this article about how I care for my submissive: