There is, within the lifestyle community, an ongoing, rumbling, background sort of conversation about whether or not love can be incorporated well into an intimate dynamic that styles itself as BDSM power exchange. Some say, "yes." Others insist that there is no way to do this. In between there is the deep and abiding suspicion that, however we describe it and structure it, these two relational pattens cannot co-exist without seriously diluting one another. Everyone who knows the terms of the debate has a theory and and opinion on the subject.
I know of lots of people who live within power based relationships AND most of them express some degree of love or affection for their partners. It is not, however, universal. Surely in the vanilla world, there are lots of people who make the claim that they love without engaging in any sort of power dynamic, and it is simple to contemplate that as long as we equate power exchange with sadomasochistic eroticism. They aren't the same thing, of course, but it is common for most people to miss the fact that power exchange might be going on around the family dinner table, or in the living room with the television remote, or each month as the credit card bill arrives in the mail. On the other end of the continuum, there are a few partnerships that are based deliberately and intentionally around power exchange absent the apparent presence of love or affection -- and often these relationships are asexual as well. Mutual respect, honor, loyalty, and dedication are all good and powerful connective models but they are not the same as LOVE. No one would argue otherwise.
I've no interest in joining the wrangle. The way that other people fashion their intimate relationships is entirely up to them, and good for them I say. Honestly, I find the entire discussion a bit baffling. I understand the terms, and I can see the strength of the various arguments, but it doesn't fit in my experience.
For me, love, sex, and power exchange are all mixed up together. I love in the context of power exchange, and that is the model that works best for me in terms of intimate relating. I've had vanilla relationships that were nominally "loving," but without any overt power exchange dynamic. I found that sort of LOVE to be dull, lifeless, frustrating, and ultimately, untenable and unendurable. I ended a very long vanilla marriage that most outside observers judged to be "good," precisely because I could not find anyway, within the confines of that relationship, to meet my need for SM and defined power dynamics.
It is simple for me, actually. I need to feel loved and cared for and protected. For me, SM play is part of creating that sense of being loved and cared for. It is within the defined power exchange dynamics of my M/s relationship that I feel safest and most secure. Constraints, limits, clear boundaries, and some sort of regular encounter with the sensations that feed my masochistic nature -- these are the gifts of M/s for me.
And so we love. And so He is Master and I am His. And so we play sadomasochistically, finding our way to deep and satisfying physical intimacy and connectedness along the avenues of hurting and being hurt with one another.