When you picture Dominance and submission, what do you imagine? Collars and naked submissives crawling and kneeling? Probably lots of kinky stuff like floggers and bondage. A bit of rough sex? Let me put another picture in your mind. This is one of laughter and tears, arguments, misunderstandings and lots of coffee. You know, real people in real relationships. While D/s relationships are best known for power dynamics and kink, they're area also really, well, normal. Here are 11 things that happen all the time.

Someone Farts

I hate to break it to you, but everyone farts. Even the submissive or Dominant of your kinkiest fantasies. Once you’re together in a long-term relationship, one of you is going let one loose when you least expect it. In my relationship, we might joke about it, raise an eyebrow in silent judgement, or say something like, “Whoa...that one sounded painful.” At some point in your D/s relationship, you'll also poop, vomit, clean your ears, clip your toenails and scratch your butt. Yep, just like in every other relationship you’ve ever had.

You Get the Flu

Maybe it’s not the flu. Around here, we come down with sinus infections, strep throat and bronchitis - not to mention mental health issues and back problems. Whatever it is, the kink goes on the back burner until you recover. In some cases, it’s a long-term chronic illness and your life adjusts to fit your new reality. As a submissive, it’s OK to let your Dominant take care of you when you’re ill. It's also important that Dominants respect the fact that while their submissives want to take care of them, they will have other things to manage as well.

You Don’t Like Their Family

Your kinky partner may be a dream, but their family is a nightmare. This is no different than any other vanilla interaction. Try not to let it become a wedge between you. Remember, it’s hard for your partner to feel pulled between family and you. Assuming it’s just a personality conflict and not something dangerous or abusive, find a way to handle it in your relationship. We use a lot of sarcastic humor before they arrive, and then blow off steam with rough sex when they go home.

The Kids Catch You

I was bent over the bed, ass out, on the receiving end of a few well-placed, delicious smacks. After a hard day, I needed it. We’d also just moved into a new home. Neither of us understood how thin the walls were until we heard, “What’s that sound?” coming from the kids’ room. Yes, they’ll catch you. You can freak out or you can breathe (I vote for breathing). Normally we talk to our kids about sex in age-appropriate terms. That day, we lied through our teeth. “We’re just clapping!”

The Kids Ask Awkward Questions

“Why do you call him ‘Sir’?” or “How come you wear that weird necklace all the time?” Some kids won’t notice, while others notice everything. Answer your kids with age-appropriate responses or lie through your teeth - depending on their age and the question. Most kids will accept whatever answer you give. Just remember that if you treat it like a big deal or something to worry about, they will, too.

You Disagree About Money

My partner and I don’t disagree about much. We’re sickeningly cute like that. Our one chronic annoyance with each other is money, which makes sense: it's the No.1 point of contention in most relationships. He worries we won’t have enough. I worry he’ll be too cheap to buy the things we actually need. Sounds like a “normal” or “vanilla” issue doesn’t it? That’s because, regardless of your kinks, at the end of the day, you’re still people navigating a relationship together. Oh, and no he doesn’t always “win” the argument by saying, “I’m the Dominant!” We make ourselves work through it and find a solution we can both accept.

You Come Up with Silly Jokes That Don’t Make Sense to Anyone but You

One time, while packing for a trip, I ran out of quart size bags and had to use sandwich bags. When I tried to explain what I did, it came out, “I’ve packed my sandwiches” instead of “my toiletries in sandwich bags.” In my defense, I was tired. From that day forward, we always ask if the other one has their sandwiches ready when we pack. It’s silly and stupid, but it’s personal and a reminder of a shared silly moment. The longer you’re together, the more of those moments you’ll collect.

You Find Ways to Express Your Kink in Public

When we go out for breakfast, I take care of my partner’s cup of coffee. The server pours, and I add cream and sugar. That’s my job as his submissive. Whether the server or other patrons think I’m really nice or really weird doesn’t matter. In that moment, our D/s dynamic is on full display and no one has a clue except us. These small moments get us through when life intervenes in our bigger moments of kink.

Read: Wanna Act Kinky In Public? Here's How to Do It Incognito

You Grieve Together

In 2015, my partner’s younger sister died. In 2017, a woman who was both my best friend and second mom unexpectedly died. Death happens, and it can’t be ignored. In those moments of grief, sometimes our D/s was put to the side - and sometimes it's what got us through. Each time we were there for each other and a support for the other to lean on. Much of what you can offer your partner in a relationship has little to do with kink - this is one of those times.

You Hate Some Weird Quirk

It doesn’t matter how much you adore your partner, we all have little quirks and traits that get on our partner’s nerves. He hates the way I say, “You do this differently than I do” which is code for, “You’re not doing it the way I do it.” I work at our kitchen table. If he sits down while I’m working to eat, the sound of his chewing makes me crazy. I’m not a bad submissive, and he’s still just as Dominant regardless of how these little quirks make us feel. Acknowledge those moments as normal. Being annoyed doesn’t make you any less Dominant or submissive, and your relationship isn’t doomed, either.

Vanilla Sex is (Sometimes) Fun

Your results may vary on this, but sometimes (for some people, in some situations), vanilla sex will feel pretty good. There’s this false truth that once you’re kinky all you ever want is rough or kinky sex. That may be true for some people, but not for everyone. Your D/s dynamic is still valid when you choose vanilla as a flavor from time to time.

The fantasy of D/s relationships is sexy and exciting. Most of the time we can make our fantasies come true, at least a little. At our core, we’re all people like anyone else. D/s doesn’t shield you from the rest of your life, but it can help you navigate it in new ways and with a better sense of who you are as a person and in your relationship.