A Quick and Dirty Guide to Rope Relationships - bondage basics

articles and tutorials Bondage tutorial for beginners Hair bondage and crotch rope techniques Basics for better bondage Bondage theory

Relationships, as you probably already know, are complicated. As an International Communications and Connection Coach, I work with people around the globe to help them navigate their relationships and explore new ways of creating meaningful intimacy. People come to me because they are tired of trying to fit the mold of “find your Disney prince/princess and ride off into the sunset for happily ever after.” Whether you are single, partnered, monogamous, polvamorous, confused, or curious, there is so much to explore. One of the greatest tools I have found for building intimacy and opening space for vulnerability is rope play. Yet a relationship that involves rope can be just as complicated and complex as any other meaningful relationship.

It is easy to apply your own life perspective and judgment when you are brand new to the rope world. A common theme involves projecting mainstream romantic and play partner relationship “rules” onto rape relationships. It’s easy to fall prey to the idea that a rape relationship has the same structure and involves the same assumptions as one that began on a vanilla matchmaking site. But the truth is so much juicier…

Rope itself can be a form of sex—incredibly intimate, raw, powerful—even without any sexual touching. I his can be a hard concept to grasp when you’re first starting out, but many soon discover that rope play-can be transformative and empowering for everyone involved. I’ve also watched many new people come out of this deep experience feeling lost, confused, and hurt. Most of these latter experiences could have been better navigated had those involved had an understanding of the power of rope and the many different paths it can take, whether mentally, emotionally, or experientially. If the experience also involves additional complexity, such as multiple partners, alternative dating structures, or poor communicators, the risk for suffering is even greater.

There are some common themes throughout all the possible structures, including navigating jealousy and practicing good communication, as you'll see in the 9 Tips for Fulfilling Ropemances at the end of this chapter. But the particular flavors of rope relationships can vary. Lets break it down.

Types of Rope Relationships

  • Just Me and My Rope Pickup Play
  • Monogamous Rope and Sexual Partner (Same Person)
  • Monogamous Rope Partner + Monogamous Sexual Partner (Different People) Monogamous Rope Partner + Polysexual (Sex With Multiple Partners)
  • Monogamous Rope Partner + Monogamous D/s (Dominant/submissive) Partner Triads
  • Monogamous Sexual Partner + Multiple Rope Partners
  • Monogamous D/s Partner + Multiple Rope Partners
  • Polyamorous With Rope Swingers With Rope Relationship Anarchy and Rope Professional Rope Bottoms + Partner, Artist, Client, and/or Employer

Just Me and My Rope

As a bottom, the more time I spent around rope, the more I felt drawn to it. I loved its smell, its texture, and the way it moved across my body. I didn’t need to have someone else put it on me to get lost in the sensation. So I bought my own rope and found| ways to engage with it alone. Sometimes it rested heavily across my eyelids while I masturbated. Other times I would wrap it around my shoulders like a scarf and wear nothing but the rope as I danced around the house, feeling sexy and empowered. Later I learned how to tie knots and rig so that I could do self-suspensions and get lost in the power of just me and my rope.

Just as being partnered with someone is not the path for everyone, so too may be your love relationship with rope. Keep your love affair private or flaunt it in the company of others through your own one-person rope scenes! I here’s no need to feel incomplete because you choose to have a solo relationship with rope; its as valid as any other relationship choice. And see Chapter 11 for more on self-bondage.

Pickup Play

You’ve probably felt this: when you meet a stranger and discover a yummy spark between you, one that maybe then ignites into a night of passion. This same concept can be true in the rope scene. Perhaps you are out at a local party or bondage club and you feel a pull to connect with a rope top. Maybe it's the way the rope seems to dance through their hands, or the way they take command of the room. Whatever it is, you both make space for the spark to turn into a flame. This may involve getting tied up right at the event. Or it may-mean finding a more private place to play. Whatever the situation, be safe and do your homework.

One way to do this is to find out how this person is connected to the community and what their experience level is before engaging—especially if you are playing somewhere without a dungeon monitor. Pickup play with rope, especially for suspensions, seems to be less common than for other kinds of kinky play. This may be due to the complexity involved in having a good connection, a safe space, the right equipment, and both people choosing to arrive at a plavspace or an event without a play partner or previous plans.

Doing rope play on the fly can make you more cavalier about negotiating, especially when it comes to aftercare that may be needed in the days following. (Are you with me, con attendees?) I recommend that even as the spark swirling between you is threatening to drag you off to the bondage area this instant, try to slow down, take a deep breath, and negotiate your scene just as you would with someone you’ve been getting to know over weeks. This includes discussing sexual touch (or not), injuries, and aftercare, including in the days following. Its also a good idea to get your potential partner’s contact info in addition to asking about training and experience.

Monogamous Rope and Sexual Partner (Same Person)

When the person you are partnered with is both your lover and your rope top, it can be surprisingly simple and complex all at once! Having one person for both roles certainly makes it easy to figure out who you will play with. However, it can also add complexity depending on how you both connect in these potentially different ways.

Key questions to ponder in this structure include:

How might our usual communication style need to change for rope play?

Do we both enjoy the same style of rope connection? For example, some people have a very strong D/s (Dominant/submissive) component to their rope play, while others don’t. How will your rope connection work to satisfy both of you?

What is my own experience level with rope? My partner’s experience level? As with any activity, becoming a skilled rope bottom or rope top takes time, patience, and practice. If one of you is more experienced than the other, it is important to clearly communicate about it and discuss how any imbalance might affect your love relationship. You could also arrange “lab time” for practicing in a purely cognitive and not sexual way. This creates a safe space for the less experienced person to get lost in the puzzle solving, self-knowledge building, and skill mastering required with little pressure from the other person to turn them on or be “perfect.”

Be aware too that just as jealousy may surface in a monogamous love relationship, so too can it rear its head in the context of rope. Even if you’ve been with your partner for years, you may feel hurt if you see them practicing rope on someone else, even if there’s no sexual or romantic intent whatsoever, or if you see someone else in the rope world flirting with your partner or trying to tie with them. So it’s important to practice open and honest communication regarding your feelings and expectations around rope, just as you would around romance and sex.

Monogamous Rope Partner + Monogamous Sexual Partner (Different People)

In this relationship structure, you engage in rope play with just one person and are sexually monogamous with a diferent person. This can be a wonderful, powerful dynamic for all three people. As rape can also be a form of sex without actual sexual touching, each person in this dynamic needs to feel confident in their choice of boundaries and connection styles. What are everyone’s physical and emotional boundaries? How is time allocated so that everyone involved feels cared for? How will you handle conflict if/when it arises? Is the bottom responsible for navigating all dialogue between partners? How often will you all check in with one another?

Also, in this type of structure, either your sexual partner or your rope partner may already be in place when the other person comes into your life (for example, you've been in a monogamous marriage for a few years and are just beginning to explore rope, which your life partner isn’t interested in). Its good to be aware that the newer partner may need extra support and encouragement to relax into the idea of coming into an established relationship. And the established partner may need extra reassurance that they aren’t lower in your estimation for not being able to fulfill all of your needs or join you on all aspects of this phase of your journey.

Monogamous Rope Partner + Polysexual (Sex With Multiple Partners)

Here the rope partnership is reserved for only one person, whereas other forms of connection through play and sexuality can be shared with multiple people. Want this to have a greater chance of success? Be really clear about your dynamic with rape and how you keep it sacred with one person before you engage with anyone else (especially other kinksters). How will you make your partner feel special when you are drawing a line that excludes certain possibilities? How will you feel fulfilled in your rope relationship without sex, and how will you feel fulfilled in your sexual encounters without rope?

A monogamous rope relationship when there are multiple sexual partners is rare, in my experience-people open to multiple sexual play partners are often open to multiple rope play partners. More common would be multiple rope partners but only one sexual partner, due to the perception that rope is a lower-risk activity in terms of being exposed to infections and developing long-term emotional attachments. But if you’re in a monogamous rope relationship, remember that rope actually can create a deep emotional attachment, and that you are trusting your partner to keep your physical and emotional well-being in mind. So treat this relationship structure with the same care as you would one based on a monogamous sexual relationship with multiple rope partners.

Monogamous Rope Partner + Monogamous D/s (Dominant/submissive) Partner

Having only one rope partner and a completely separate D/s relationship tends to work best when the D/s partner is not passionate about rope play. Te beauty of having multiple relationships like this is that everyone can have their needs met and passions fulfilled. However, it involves additional considerations, such as:

  • A ropester wanting to tie with someone who’s a submissive in a D/s relationship may have to negotiate through the dominant. The dominant may even want to be present during the scene.
  • If you’re the submissive, does your dominant’s power extend to your rope relationship, or is it completely separate?
  • If you’re dominant, does your submissive have any say in who you tie with? What will you do if your submissive is jealous or otherwise doesn’t want you to tie with a particular person?

Things can become tricky if either partner decides they want to explore the “other” world of rope or D/s and add it to the relationship. Having agreements (especially written) in place before such a curveball is thrown can be helpful.


Three people who are all seeing each other—usually all romantically and sexually involved and often exclusive to one another in those areas, although perhaps not exclusive regarding rope or other nonsexual kinky play—are considered a triad. loss in some rope and you have a yummy and potentially confusing concoction! Now to decide: Who is/are the top(s)? Bottom(s)? Switch(es)? Is the role each person takes sexually the same they play when rope is added? For example, perhaps you like to bottom to rope, but you are a top within the triad. You can tell your relationship bottom(s) exactly how to put rope on you for your pleasure.

Before you engage in this dynamic, I encourage you and your other two partners to talk about how to keep a flow so that no one feels like a third wheel. And of course, if anyone has rope partners outside the triad, discuss your dynamic openly with the rope partner(s) and make sure your triad partners know about your rope partner.

Sexy tip: Create your own secret codes or signals! You can apply them to any great connection, and this works expecially well in threesomes and group sexual activities. Create two code words or signals: one for "I love you!" (or a similar sentiment you share) and one for "Something is not OK—please help". Maybe you have a certain squeeze on a limb or a strange phrase that can be uttered/moaned/shouted. Having these pre-established codes can increase the feeling of connection and safety amongst partners.

Monogamous Sexual Partner + Multiple Rope Partners

Here the central person is in a sexually and/or romantically exclusive relationship with one partner, and has the freedom to connect through roðå or other kinky play with multiple other people. It's important to pre-establish boundaries with everyone involved to keep certain aspects of the heart and body sacred to the monogamous relationship, while still leaving space for fun, exploration, and connection with others. For example, you may reserve PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex for your monogamous partner, and share meaningful rope and oral sex connection with others. Or you may have no sexual contact whatsoever with partners outside of your monogamous romantic partner. This is a fairly common dynamic.

Monogamous D/s Partner + Multiple Rope Partners

In this dynamic there is only one dominant or submissive, but there is the opportunity for kinky and sexual connections with multiple others, even including a topping or bottoming role but sans the D/s power dynamic. For many years I had a Sir while I engaged in kinky, fun, and romantic play with many others in our community. Clear communication about desires and boundaries up front and whenever new connections arose helped make this dynamic easier to navigate. Other tools such as physical symbols of the D/s dynamic (for instance, collars, rings, or branding) and noting relationship statuses on FetLife can also help keep the boundaries clear.

Polyamorous With Rope

In polyamory, people maintain or are open to multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships at the same time. “Ethical” polyamory involves open knowledge and consent from everyone involved, but it's not a given—some partners in open relationships may have a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. So be clear about what level of communication you need and what your own boundaries and practices are.

In a similar vein, a rope connection can be shared within these multiple relationships, and it’s a good idea to talk about this dynamic with all parties involved. Open relationships, and especially polyamory, are still mostly uncharted waters for mainstream society. Make use of the wonderful resources available in the form of books, podcasts, websites, coaches, and therapists to help you choose your own adventure and create meaningful relationships and rope dynamics for everyone involved.

Swingers With Rope

There’s a small contingency of people who swing with the added juiciness of rope. Swingers are people who are often coupled and have multiple sexual partners—often casual ones, like people they just met at a party—in addition to their existing romantic relationship(s). Unlike in polyamory, these relationships tend to focus on sexual connection over romantic or emotional connection. Rope usually appears for these folks during swinging parties when a partner swap happens or a new connection is made and a rope dynamic is established among the players.

If you are playing with a new partner, make sure you are honest with yourself and your partner(s) about your current state (playing with rope under the influence of drugs or alcohol isn’t advised) and are able to negotiate play well. Practice negotiating before you meet someone you want to connect with. This will lead to smoother, faster talks so that you can get to the juicy, sexy stuff faster.

Relationship Anarchy and Rope

Sometimes when multiple play partners and multiple sexual/romantic partners are involved, everyone involved engages in any relationship they see fit—without restriction, duty, or obligation. Talk about freedom and responsibility for self I his dynamic is far from mainstream ideas and education. It relies heavily on every person involved doing a lot of self-work and having exceptional communication skills. If/when something happens that could potentially affect anyone in their relationship network, a person can clearly, quickly, and honestly disseminate the news. How does rope factor in? Any way the individuals choose! It’s all about the connection shared by the people involved in that moment.

Professional Rope Bottoms + Partner, Artist, Client, and/or Employer

Sometimes a rope bottom is paid, and sometimes they bottom for reasons other than pure play enjoyment or fnancial compenstion—the compensation might take the form of attention or a great photo, for instance. Examples in the “professional” category include performers, models, flm and video actors, demo bottoms for classes and private lessons, and hired submissives and sex workers who include getting tied up as a service. It’s important to understand that the motivations behind professional rope bottoming are often different than for regular play, and that the relationships created may be temporary—even if the intensity level is high. Aftercare is included less often in these scenarios, so it's good to prepare for self-care or alternate aftercare in advance. See Chapter 13 for a detailed discussion of bottoming for reasons other than pure play.

Please know also that sexual touch is something to negotiate in any kind of BDSM scenario, professional or not, and is neither a given nor a requirement whether you’re getting paid or not.

Now that we've delved into specific types of rope relationships, let's look at some ideas that can be applied more generally to ropemances—and really, to any type of relationship.

9 Tips for Fulflling Ropemances

1. Know yourself. Before you engage in any rope relationship, take some time to reflect on what you want from the experience, both as an individual and as a relationship partner. What is your intention for the connection? What boundaries do you have? What do you need for self-care before and after you engage? Ultimately, you are the only one responsible for your own pleasure, safety, and growth.

2. Communicate clearly. Once you’ve taken inventory of the desires and boundaries of your heart, mind, body, and soul, it is time to share them with your partner. If you are not feeling confident in your ability to voice them, try journaling and sharing via e-mail or in a letter to be opened together.

Discuss the hopes and desires of all parties involved to reduce surprises and set you up for fulfillment. What are each of your hopes and fears for this relationship? Walk through hypothetical situations and allow yourselves to talk about the scary topics; it may prevent harmful experiences from happening in the future. Take inventory of your relationship. Are there any unresolved issues you haven’t brought up with your partner? Is something bothering you that has not been addressed yet? The idea that your partner can read your mind in or out of rope might sound sexy, but this is highly unlikely and can set you up for unmet expectations. In the end it is sexier and easier to navigate when everyone is on exactly the same page through clear communication.

3. Let go of assumptions and expectations. Even as you’re contemplating your desires and intentions for a relationship, having specific expectations for individual rope scenes can lead to feeling unfulfilled. Instead, consider thinking of each scene as a journey that you’re traveling together—you may have a destination in mind, but you may also miss something delightful along the way if you rigidly stick to a predetermined path. Similarly, if you make assumptions about your partner in or out of rope, you may be missing wonderful things they can offer you that you never even considered.

4. Set boundaries and make agreements. Before you head off on a grand new relationship adventure, take some time to talk about language use. How will you describe your relationship and boundaries to others? Do these labels mean the same thing to you both, or are there nuances you might need to clarify before you go? There is power in language—use it carefully. What agreements and boundaries might you need for this event/relationship? Sexual boundaries? Emotional boundaries? Spiritual boundaries? Think through your individual needs and consider making requests of one another. Deciding on a plan ahead of time and staying open to the idea of renegotiation allows for more comfort and ease in the dynamic. I strongly suggest creating a relationship agreement, with the understanding that it may change as you and your relationship evolve. For more in-depth information, I invite you to check out my book on the subject. You can also find many examples online; just search for “relationship agreement examples.”

5. Explore how to deal with jealousy, jealousy can be successfully navigated with a few learned skills. Kathy Labriola, author of The Jealousy Workbook, likens jealousy to a smoke alarm. It can be a helpful tool for alerting you to potential danger, informing you that it's time to check whether your relationship is actually on fire, or whether it is just a false alarm.

It s a tool you can calibrate with practice to make sure that it doesn’t go off every time you metaphorically burn a slice of toast, but does when there is an actual fire. Sadly, most of us don’t use it like a tool. We assume that when the alarm goes off, there is always danger, whereas underlying fears of abandonment or being replaced are usually at play. When your partner has time and space to listen to your emotions, reactions, and fears, be sure to share them. Action is not always needed—just being heard often quiets the frightened inner voices of jealousy.

6. Care for yourself. One of the best ways you can take care of a relationship is by taking care of yourself. Rope relationships are often filled with intense experiences and highs and lows—how will you process them? journaling, drawing, meditating, dancing, and doing yoga may all be helpful, and talking with others in similar situations may help as well. Make sure to create space and support for yourself so you can process and refresh.

7. Care for your partner. Once you have taken care of yourself, turn your attention to your partner. Do they need anything specific to feel secure and fulfilled in the relationship, whether it's words, a massage, or something else? Check in with them regularly about their desires and energy levels. Consider learning about the five love languages so that you can care for partners in a way that will resonate with them.

8. Use your calendar. We've already noted that relationships are complicated, and this can apply to scheduling too. Use your calendar and spend time intentionally making space for everyone involved. Remember that rope is rarely just a matter of bodily sensations—it usually involves the hearts of people who deserve time, compassion, and respect.

9. Educate yourself. With so many wonderful resources out there on rope, kink/BDSM, open relationships, safer sex, conflict resolution, jealousy, and alternative relationship styles, you can easily find information from a variety of sources and in a way that appeals to your specific learning style.


eXTReMe Tracker