What does a healthy CGL relationship look like?

Content notes and warnings: this post deals with DDlg (Daddy Dom/little girl) or CGL (caregiver/little) kink dynamics, which can include ageplay, “daddy” or “mommy” as an honorific, and other aspects that make some people uncomfortable. There are several mentions of spanking. Additionally, there is some frank discussions about unhealthy relationships. I’m also not taking a lot of time to define CGL or other kinks; feel free to browse the relevant tags for more information.

I have a confession to make.

I spent an alarming amount of time on Reddit’s ddlg/cgl/littlespace forums (not the age-regression ones, which are not kink, just the kinky ones) for a while, until I got really sick of them. There was a lot of the stuff I was there for (“Look at this cute coloring page I did!” “Anyone know a link to plus-sized onesies?”) But there was a lot of stressful posting as well, mostly about relationships. Eventually I started to wonder if people in the CGL community straight up have no idea what a healthy CGL relationship looks like. I feel like many don’t believe that a “healthy” relationship is compatible with CGL. How can they be childlike and submissive and have Daddy in charge while also being in a relationship built on mutual respect and kindness? How can a little be responsible for their part of the relationship if they’re supposed to be a helpless dumpling?

There are plenty of resources about having healthy BDSM relationships, but it doesn’t help that a lot of BDSM groups don’t care for CGL, and some people in CGL are sort of unwilling to acknowledge that it’s BDSM. So, there ends up being a bit of a separation between the two, so BDSM resources get overlooked; additionally, I want to say a lot of younger adults are drawn to CGL (because of social media and Aesthetic, I guess?) and therefore have less life experience before diving in headfirst into finding The Perfect Daddy.

I’m the first to admit that I got very lucky in my CGL life. My spouse and I found out we were personally compatible first; the kink stuff developed a few years into our relationship. I think it’s a lot easier to make a good daddy out of a respectful partner than it is to make a good partner with a shitty daddy.

And it’s not just bad doms, either. There are a lot of doms on those forums talking about how their subs mistreat them, take advantage of them, or aren’t supportive. Submissives can be abusive, too, or just shitty. While CGL has a way of eroticizing helplessness, submissives are fully actualized adults who are perfectly capable of making decisions and treating—or mistreating—a partner.

So, what does a healthy CGL relationship look like? Let’s take a look through a CGL lens, but I think most of this applies to any other relationship, so if you don’t mind the colorful sprinkles, perhaps this is good advice for vanillas and other kinksters, too. Just maybe with fewer coloring books and pink spanking paddles. Also, while this leans a lot into romantic, long-term relationships, a lot of this can apply to FWB arrangements and other less amatonormative dynamics.

A pile of plushies on a bed, with a window in the background. The bedspread has candy and strawberries and other cute images on it.

Kindness, Consideration, and Respect

A relationship cannot be functional if one person has contempt for the other. If you look at your partner (or they look at you) and think, “God, why are they like this?” all the time, you might need to step back and think about whether you’re actually enjoying being in the relationship. Frankly—and I know this is basically all of Reddit and, possibly, everywhere—there are a lot of times where I’m reading something and think, “Do these people actually like each other? Why are they dating if they don’t actually like each other?” (More on this later.)

A healthy relationship is supportive of one another’s needs and desires, and considers the other person’s feelings when acting, speaking, or making decisions. This is just as true in a CGL relationship! Selfishness does happen—people are people and can’t help being people—but it is important to consider what the other person wants and needs, both in a kink context and just in a relationship context.

Just simple thoughtfulness can go a long way. Considering what your partner(s) have been up to today and ask what they need. Remembering their favorite candy bar. Doing the the dishes without being asked because they’re tired. Basically, treating them like they’re a person you care about.

Also, because apparently this is an issue: that extends to kink roles. I’ve seen a surprising amount of people on Reddit saying, “My daddy says my littlespace is annoying.” Uhhh…why…did he get into a CGL relationship…if he finds it annoying? That’s definitely something to hash out or possibly dissolve the relationship, because your partner clearly doesn’t like or respect something that’s very important to you.


Being able to communicate needs and desires is an important skill in any relationship, and it is not always easy. It can feel easier to think, “I’m just going to keep this thing to myself so that my partner won’t be upset/won’t judge me/won’t feel pressured.” But a healthy relationship allows you to communicate without anyone getting angry. (That isn’t to say people don’t get upset! It is okay to get upset in a relationship, and even to say, “Hey, I need a break to process this and calm down.”) In a CGL relationship, it’s important to communicate everything: whether the little has certain needs or preferences they want or need their partner to fulfill, or the daddy/mommy/caregiver has a concern, or for any other reason, it shows respect for the other by bringing it up in a reasonably calm manner and discussing the issue. You also need to be able to define and express what CGL looks like to you, and listen to what it looks like to your partner, and to figure out if those things are compatible. And yes; that means you have to be a grown-up sometimes, even in a full-time CGL relationship. You have to be able to voice your concerns and to understand your partner’s point of view.

You also need to learn how to communicate, as above, with kindness and not just to get a result. If you find yourself poking at your partner just to make them upset or just to control the outcome of a situation, you’re being a shitbag. Yes, you may want some control or even total control in a kinky partnership, but these things, including punishments, must be agreed upon and must be considerate. An agreed-upon spanking? Fine. The silent treatment until your partner comes begging for you to forgive them, regardless of who was in the wrong? Not okay. That’s literally textbook emotional abuse, and it’s not respecting your partner and their needs. (And, again: this applies on both sides of the slash. Littles “punishing” their mommies by not talking to them until they do what they want is still emotional abuse.)

Communication also provides better sex and kink. It’s very hard to know what someone wants if they don’t say something, and guesswork isn’t an exact science. Kink communication goes beyond yes/no forms and safewords. What do you like about your kinks? What most interests you? What annoys you in a scene? How do you like to get fucked, if you do? Being willing to discuss these things is important in any relationship; even vanilla couples should figure out how to discuss sex so that they both enjoy it, and kink just adds more factors.

Equal effort

This is something I’ve seen on both sides of the slash. I recently saw a little saying that their daddy dom hadn’t done anything with them, not even simple stuff like brushing their hair at night which they’d been asking for; meanwhile, they’d been doing everything for their partner around the house and in life. On the other hand, I definitely see a lot of littles expecting to be doted on while their caregiver does all the cooking, cleaning, working, as well as providing all the emotional support and affection the little wants, while the little just sort of…absorbs it.

Look, y’all. This might work for a bit as a scene. But as a long-term, full-time relationship, this is not sustainable. A relationship between any two people (even if there are more people in the equation) is a partnership. Both parties don’t have to give the same thing, but they do have to give equally. Both partners need to be willing to put in some emotional investment (and yes, that’s true of non-romantic relationships as well; romance isn’t the only emotion), some care and thoughtfulness. Both partners need to pay attention to when the other one needs comfort or support or a friendly ear, and both partners need to be willing to help out when needed.

This also applies to kinky and sexy activities, by the way. Not everyone has to be giving or receiving the spankings or the mind-blowing orgasms. But you can’t treat your dom (or your sub) like one of those quarter-rides they used to have outside Walmart, where you dropped in your coin and got on the germ-covered, badly painted horse, rode for two minutes, then left it behind when it was done. Your partner is a whole-ass person with needs of their own, including aftercare and kink stuff. Even if you aren’t capable of providing something (if it’s a limit or just not something you’re interested in), how can you help or encourage them to get their needs met? Can you buy them a toy or read erotica with them that would help them scratch an itch? Send them to a professional without you? Even if you can’t easily figure out a solution, even making an effort goes a long way.

Listen to my grandma

My grandma once said that for a successful relationship, you can’t just love each other; you have to like each other, because there may be times that you don’t feel love quite as strongly in a long-term relationship here and there. I think this is also true of a relationship built on lust, or, in this case, kink compatibility. Even if you communicate well and are respectful, at the end of the day, you have to like each other.

I think if I’d based my relationship purely on kink compatibility and a crush, without any thought to my partner’s sense of humor, personality, and values, this relationship would not have lasted. My spouse is genuinely my best friend, and I enjoy their company at all times (although we also take time to ourselves). While CGL is very much a part of our personalities, it’s just part of our relationship. To be honest, we aren’t even really into structured D/s anymore. I have no rules, they give no discipline. The D/s got too stressful and in the way of our relationship, so we ditched it. We’re still CGL-ish, and we still set aside time for kinky play, but we don’t consider our relationship to be a structured D/s dynamic anymore, and we’re both a lot happier.

Our actual relationship is found in the inside jokes we have, in helping each other in the kitchen, in ranting to each other about something dumb in a show, and in spending quality time with one another. We support each other’s careers and goals, and we discuss problems when they come up—not always calmly, but as well as we can, and with respect, and we both work to do better constantly. And yes, I do still get the dizzying rush of, “Yes, I love this person so much and I cannot believe I get to spend every day with them!” And yes, we also take time to ourselves; sometimes I need time alone, and so do they. But I come back, because we like each other, a lot.

So, a healthy CGL relationship is built on a desire to actually be together. CGL can be a central part of of your relationship, but if you want a fully-fledged partnership, that cannot be the only thing it’s based on. Even a CGL-heavy friends-with-benefits situation should have some level of like involved.

Two paddles, one bamboo with holes and heart-shaped cut-outs, one pink with studs and a large heart-shaped cut-out, sitting on the cute blanket.

CGL Will Not Fix You

Let me first say that I’m a big fan of kink as a coping mechanism, and I find CGL to be a very comforting dynamic. Being little can help me relieve a lot of stress, and my spouse finds being called “Daddy” and looking after me (now in an unstructured way) to be very comforting when they’re stressed as well. I’m also a big fan of spanking or kink scenes to help push me (or Damien) through a bad mood or a rough time.

But CGL is not therapy, and finding the perfect mommy—or little—does not work in lieu of any actual self-improvement or self-reflection. Having Daddy tell you that you’re pretty won’t fix your low self-esteem. Having a little look up at you with awe and wonder will not actually make you do better in your daily life. Having rules about looking after yourself will not fix the fact that you perhaps don’t want to look after yourself. This isn’t to cast blame; depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses or life circumstances can make it difficult to improve things. But that’s the point: your relationship can’t fix depression.

Don’t get me wrong: these things can help, and you have every right to cope or to find help wherever and however works for you, but they cannot fix anything on their own. Treating your partner like a live-in therapist is not good for you, your partner, or the relationship—and if one person is always trying to fix the other one’s problems, that becomes unbalanced again. Your partner can help, and support you, and having someone to lean on or to help add structure can be very helpful; but at the end of the day, you’re an adult. Even if your partner wants to help, they can’t unless you are willing to accept the help and to help yourself.

Does that mean that a mentally ill person can’t be in a CGL relationship, or a relationship in general? No, of course not. But some level of self-reflection is essential. Seeking validation isn’t a bad thing, but you cannot expect your partner to become your self-worth if you have none of your own. It won’t work; you’ll still feel bad, but then you’ll be making your partner feel bad because no matter how much love they throw at you, you won’t accept it until you believe, at least a little, that you’re lovable.

So, ultimately, what does a healthy CGL relationship look like? It looks like a good relationship, two people who care about each other as people, who are both seeking to improve themselves and their relationship, where they also happen to enjoy the trappings of CGL. They may use CGL as a way to de-stress or to cope with certain feelings, but they also are willing to discuss the relationship or their needs in some way, instead of expecting the other person to magically know. And they respect the other as an adult—as well as respecting their roles, and paying attention to what each person needs and expects within the dynamic.

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