I didn't know I was submissive when I was in my last vanilla relationship.  I never would have guessed it at all and would have denied it if someone made the suggestion.  I was too independent to be submissive (so I thought).  I did, however, have a lingering fascination with rope and bondage after my then-boyfriend made a casual remark that he didn’t like an experience he had being with a woman who liked to be restrained.  And since he shut that conversation down, I never brought up the subject after that.  As it turns out, it would be several years before I was able to experience bondage, and I loved it.  When I got in touch with my submissive side, I realized how much I was lacking in my previous vanilla relationships, and the closer I looked, the more obvious it became that D/s was everything I could ever want.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’d be as happy with D/s if it weren't for my vanilla past.  We are the sum of our experiences, after all, and if I hadn't learned these lessons I don’t think I’d be where I am today.  The easiest way for me to talk about why I’ll never return to a vanilla relationship is to also discuss why I love D/s and my kinky relationship now.  For me, these areas include Communication, Understanding and Support, Presence, Listening, and Patience.

Communication:

If you’re new to D/s or M/s you've probably noticed that we talk a lot about communication.  It may seem repetitive.  It’s true—we talk about it a lot because it’s hugely important!  For me, the ability to have an honest and open conversation with my Dominant about my wants/needs/desires/expectations is something that really sets D/s and vanilla relationships apart.  We talk about what we expect from each other, and from that point forward each party acts accordingly.  With vanilla relationships, communication is always in a gray area.  In D/s, almost every aspect of the relationship has been negotiated in advance; in some cases, there was a romantic interest before the kink came along, while in other cases the relationship is strictly D/s and either stays that way or transitions into D/s with something more.

While Vanillas might find it odd that Dominants and submissives use checklists to determine likes and dislikes, I’ve realized that having a checklist saves on all the surprises that can come up later in a relationship.  (“Why didn't I know that you were into…?!”)  Better yet, checklists and expectations can—and absolutely should—be reviewed, discussed and updated to make sure that needs are being met.  This level of communication, whether direct or indirect, does not exist in the Vanilla World without tons of room for ambiguity.

Understanding and Support:

While I’d like to say that all relationships include things like understanding and support, we all know that it doesn't always work that way.   In D/s, a proper Dominant is going to do his/her homework when negotiating with a prospective submissive.  The checklist is part of that homework, and getting to know the submissive is another part.  This is when the past comes up in conversation.  The submissive might reveal that she was abused as a child, or that he is coming out of a horrible relationship.  There might be pressing real-life issues like divorce, issues with children, problems at work, or even issues stemming from earlier D/s relationships.  In my mind, it’s just as important for the Dominant to discuss these kinds of things as well, especially anything going on in real life because these things have a tendency to rear their ugly heads at the most importune moment in a relationship.  The big takeaway from these conversations is an understanding of where each person is coming from, and how these things might impact a scene or impact play.

Once that understanding has been achieved, then comes support.  Sir knows me well.  We have been through some interesting real life challenges together and he knows what kind of support I need at the right time.  He knows when to push and he knows when to step back and let me deal with things.  I, too, know how to be appropriately supportive when he needs it.  Support should be a huge part of any relationship, but in D/s it is extremely important because of the psychological bond between a Dominant and submissive.  D/s is about stepping outside of comfort zones and pushing to limits, but these things must be done with great care.   Sub Drop and Dom Drop are very real things; both the Dominant and the submissive must be supportive of the other to help with the effects of the post-play drop in addition to the other areas where Dominants and submissives tend to need support.  The great thing about D/s, though, is that in the ideal relationship, communication is not a barrier, so if one party needs more support or a different kind of support, it shouldn’t be a problem to ask for it. (I know it can be difficult, but this is really important.  And submissives should not feel bad about asking for support.  Obviously, we should never demand anything, but asking for support is ultimately helping you to have a better experience with your Dominant, so it’s not just about your needs as a submissive)

Presence:

Even in our long distance relationship, knowing that Sir is there for me makes a huge difference.  In the Vanilla World, it’s possible for two people to be living together but in reality, they aren't present at all.  Their minds are elsewhere and they take for granted that their partner is there.   D/s  is different in that both parties must be present for each other.

As a submissive, I feel best when I know I am doing something that makes Sir happy, and so I carry the thought of him with me all day, using my training to influence decisions and actions so that I know I’m acting in accordance with his rules.  He may not be with me physically every day, but he is present in everything I do.

Listening/Paying Attention:

How many times have you heard your Vanilla friends complain that their partners aren’t listening to them?  I’ve heard some submissives say the same thing about their Dominants (which leads me to question their communication styles).  It’s important in any relationship to listen, but it’s even more important in D/s.  When I reflect on my Vanilla relationship, sometimes it felt like I was talking and he wasn’t listening.  In D/s, I know that Sir hears everything I say.  He may not respond to it immediately, but he is listening.

Sir and I check in every morning via email.  We don’t talk on the phone as much as we’d like, so these emails are important.  I also keep a daily journal and we have several places in our shared Google Drive where we can list things that we need to talk about.   For me, this is “listening” in our long distance relationship.  I suppose it’s easier, in a way, because everything is written and Sir can refer back to things I’ve written and respond.  Sometimes a week will pass and he’ll bring something up that happened at the beginning of the week.  He reads everything I write.  My words--thoughts, concerns, problems, stories, experiences, reflections—are not falling on deaf ears.  It makes me feel good knowing that he’s paying attention and listening to what I tell him.

Patience:

Lastly, and most importantly, there is patience.  As a support system, you really can’t beat D/s (no pun intended).  Again, I think the checklist and open communication play a huge role in this.  D/s is about pushing limits, but you can’t just dive into it if you’re aiming for a safe and sane relationship.  Diving in probably won’t end up well unless you have a great deal of experience in the lifestyle.  For those submissives starting out, D/s can be a lot to take in.  When I was starting out I didn’t know what most of the items on my checklist were.   Fisting?  Rimming?  No clue.  I was so glad that Sir understood enough to know that we had to take it slow until I learned more.  He was patient and he encouraged me to do research.   When we met for the first time, our play sessions moved at a comfortable speed until he felt I was ready for the next level.  Patience in this case ties into trust.  I trusted that he knew what was best for me, and he used the sum of his knowledge to make informed decisions about what to do next during play.   And that patience paid off because we had a wonderful time together.

Looking Forward After Looking Back:

In conclusion, when I look at this list I see things that are important in all relationships.   From what I’ve seen, though, I think D/s lends itself well to having open and honest relationships.  Communication is expected, not hoped for.  I feel empowered as a submissive to make sure that my needs are being met through my Dominant because we have that line of communication.  Unless you’re Sheldon Cooper and you have a “relationship agreement” with your Vanilla partner, it’s not easy to say “this is what I need you to do for me, and in return, you can expect…from me.”  It doesn’t work that way in the Vanilla World.  It is for all of those reasons that I could never return to a Vanilla relationship.