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When I was first exploring non- vanilla sex, it was mainly through fiction and I had no way of establishing whether what I read reflected any real life experiences. Even when moving on to blogs, the real versus the imagined left me wondering if people really lived the life I was being allowed to conjure from their words.

An aspect that always really appealed to me was ritual in a D/s relationship, words or actions either at the start of a scene as a centring practice or at certain times of the day in a 24/7 dynamic. I found the idea comforting, but at the time, as a much greener girl, I had no understanding of why.

I am a control freak, which when combined with a distinctly submissive tendency can be really tricky to handle in my own head. I also have a demand avoidant presentation of autism, which includes demands I make of myself. Working out whether adding rules and structure within a sexual relationship is different when they are optional than when they are necessary for function.  I need rules but at the same time the line between structure that supports and that which demands and constrains is paper thin and fragile. And perceived demand causes shut down and panic, even if it is self-generated.

The functionality of my life and that of my family relies on structure. Plans. I need them and I have to provide these things for my children, who are all also autistic. These things bring peace. Certainty. So many rules and plans that over the years have had all ambiguity and overlap carved from them to make them work seamlessly, until sometimes it looks like things are easy. Like that romantic moment in a musical where characters become dancers who flow effortlessly. The hours of rehearsal, of blistered and bloody feet and aching joints forgotten in the sweep of perfection.

Rules and structure give way to ritual when you need them less for function and more for the peace and connection it brings. To me, ritual is safety and security. A self-driven action that follows certain stimulus without endless thought of worry about what it means. In my home, when the music starts in the morning it is time to get up. Different music means different things, and heaven help me if I’ve not made it through breakfast by the end of Paradise City. The same thing at the same time to make sure I don’t have to think.

This summer holidays we’ve turned off the music. For the first few days, the first week maybe it was bliss. Now I’m back having panic attacks at the thought of getting out of bed, unable to work out my next action to even begin the day. A lie in, a late start, isn’t relaxing if it paralyses you with indecision and understanding this is part of my autism condition has taken a long time.

Without rituals to get through parts of the day, everything becomes shapeless and every movement requires decision and every decision causes panic. What others see and society teaches as relaxing are destructive to my feeling of wellbeing.

Without ritual we forget to connect.

I would worry that my head sees my Christian faith and D/s as being close enough to be twins, but to worry would accomplish nothing. Ritual and the rewards of submission run heavy through each and I don’t need a psychology degree to understand the peace I get from both.  There is a poem about prayer that keeps popping into my head as I try to bring this back from ASC and my scrambled brain to the sex positive parts of my life.

I got up early one morning
and rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
that I didn’t have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me,
and heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I wanted to see joy and beauty, 
but the day toiled on, gray and bleak;
I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”

I tried to come into God’s presence;
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“My child, you didn’t knock.”

I woke up early this morning,
and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish
that I had to take time to pray.

Replace God with your choice of dominant, and prayer with whatever connecting ritual you want and that is how I feel. Without my rituals to keep me connected, to remind me of the presence of the significant other in my life, I rush around achieving less and less satisfaction from each action. Without our connecting points, it is just as easy for Mr Hunt to forget the power his touch and words have on me.

The more our life is driven by rules and rituals needed to keep our family operational the more we need to carve time for ourselves. And no, the rituals we have for ourselves are much less outwardly sex and power exchange driven than I imagined they might be in my 20s in the window before we had children.

When Mr Hunt brings me my tea and medication in the morning and we take a few minutes to go through the plan for the day it may not look like anyone else’s ritual, but it is ours. It’s a few moments where we focus entirely on what we need from each other that day. Where he checks that I’m ok in a very explicit manner. Where I can say with no judgement if I can already see difficult points in the day ahead he needs to help me structure a plan for so I can work effectively. Where I give him that honest reply and in it I offer him all my vulnerabilities, all the parts I keep hidden from everyone else. Where he takes on his role as my enabler and protector.

I don’t fall apart when he is away and we don’t have this, which is why it has become a ritual rather than a functional part of most days. But it leaves me feeling safe and cared for. Leaves him feeling like he has the information he needs to be in control however that looks in that moment. Remove this deliberate moment of connection and there would be less nourishment to sustain our relationship.

If I had time and energy, this is what I would change. I wish we had a ritual where all this subtext was on the service. Spelt out clearly with big letters. I wish we had time for him to physically centre me with a daily row of stripes across my backside that I could see and touch whenever I felt alone and lost in the day. I wish I could offer him something he valued in our daily morning exchange that was far more pleasurable than a list of my worries. A gourmet meal that nourished us both rather than the quick snack we manage.

It might not look like anyone else’s version of D/s. It might be weakest set of actions anyone would describe as ritual. It might not look like anyone else’s family life either. Right now, this is what we’ve got. What we’ve carved out. It doesn’t look like the stories I enjoyed or the blogs I’ve explored, but I hope that’s why it’s worth sharing it here. There is no wrong way to do life, and perhaps someone else out there has a life that looks like mine and needs to know that.

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