This post is (partially) in response to Sylvanus's Post, How D/s Relationships Work, and Sub Girl's post on the subject.
While I've been married for a long time, I still have single girlfriends, and a single sister, who sometime enjoy telling me their "matchmaker date" horror stories. They'll be set up with a guy through a mutual friend, and go on a blind date with him, only to find that not only did the two of them not have anything in common, but the mutual friend should have been able to realize immediately the match would never have worked.
And then they go back to the friend who set them up in the first place, and ask what the hell made them think it would be a good match. Inevitably, they get a stupid answer like this one:
"He's short, and you're short, so I thought it would be a good match."
"You're both a bit...plump? So I thought you'd go well together."
"You're both red heads, I thought you'd make such cute kids."
"You both seem so smart to me. I thought two smart people would have a lot in common."
"You're both vegetarian."
Hopefully, you're reading these answers and also rolling your eyes. After all, it's silly to think two people would be a good match simply because they have the same dietary restrictions, or look relatively the same, or have the same IQ.
But too many times, people don't recognize they're using the same over-simplistic approach when it comes to BDSM and kink. They assume if two people share the most general of fetishes (anal sex, foot fetish, etc), or have a couple basic needs that complement each other (Dom/sub, masochist/sadist), then a relationship will automatically fall into place.
This is bullshit.
BDSM is only one aspect of a relationship. Granted, how big an aspect it is depends on the couple. When Husband and I first started "getting serious," we had some pretty honest discussions about our views on religion, politics, family life, and the like. With some of those things, there was no room for negotiation: we either agreed, or we did not. Had we not, the relationship would have ended.
Even so, through time, our views have changed and adapted. That's life. But there are some things that a couple must stand united on, or the foundation of the relationship is built on sand. In the end, it will crumble.
For some people, aspects of their kinks are "non-negotiable." They are looking for someone who can fill their kinky needs. Which is fine, if they are being honest and forthcoming about what their needs are.
But that doesn't mean anyone who can fill those desires, complement their kinks, is automatically the person who can have a long-term, meaningful relationship with them. It just means there's a possibility there for a good, strong, foundation. Building a relationship takes time, and effort, and not just in the bedroom (or whatever room you use for play).
On the other hand...
Thinking that D/s relationships are somehow more doomed to fail because they are D/s relationships is silly and narrow-sighted.
BDSM is about power exchange, granted. Many D/s relationships are TPE, total power exchanges, although I don't know how anyone could fathom a guess how many BDSM relationships are also TPEs; it's not like there have been studies or statistics done on the matter.
What I can tell you is that many, MANY people out there have D/s TPE relationships and don't belong to any "scene," have never even heard of "BDSM," and frankly, don't give a righteous fuck. How do I know? Because I associate with these people every day.
Wives who give complete control to their husbands. Husbands who expect their wives to obey and submit, naturally, no questions asked. Women who are punished, one way or the other, when they refuse, argue, or talk back to their Dominant males. These are D/s relationships, whether they know it or not.
But they don't think of this as TPE, and they certainly don't define their relationships in terms of Domination, submission, power exchange, or any other words those in the BDSM world use on a regular basis. To them, this kind of relationship is completely natural, as it should be between man and wife. They don't put it in terms of kink; it just is the way it is. And if you suggested to them that maybe what they have can be put into kinky BDSM terms, they would not just be surprised, they would be affronted.
I get the feeling many people in the BDSM world think kinky people have some kind of monopoly on TPE relationships. That's hogwash. Just because others don't show themselves and advertise their lifestyles in clubs, on Fetlife, or what have you, that doesn't mean they're not out there.
And guess what? Their relationships are doing fine. Better than fine, I would argue. These are people who get married young and stay married forever. I guess one could argue that being married and staying married does not signify a healthy relationship. But then, I could argue that a divorce does not signify a failed one, either.
For instance, my grandparents got legally divorced when my grandfather had to go into a nursing home, so my grandmother wouldn't be left destitute. But they remained religiously married, and she visited him every single day in his nursing home. I would not call that a failed relationship. How many other marriages end on paper for one reason or another, while the relationship itself continues? Does anyone know for sure? Has anyone done any research? I think not.
D/s relationships are difficult, yes, but I would argue, no more or less difficult than any other type of relationship. It takes trust, and honesty, and open communication. It takes time, and work, and let's face it, it takes luck. There needs to be that certain chemistry there that no one can define, even though we all know what it is, because we've all felt it at one point or another.
For those who know that BDSM and kink will need to be an integral part of any relationship they have, looking for someone who shares their beliefs from the get-go is a good idea. But it will not automatically save a relationship doomed to fail, nor will it doom an otherwise healthy relationship. It will just be another aspect of day-to-day living the couple will have negotiate and decide for themselves.