Monday, May 12, 2008

Everything has changed, and nothing has changed

She said, "How would we have such a discussion?"

I thought for a minute and said, "I really don't want you to be anyone other than who you are. But I think there area ideas about communications in this book that we should talk about."

I reviewed the salient points of the book and we talked for an hour. It was great.

The following is really an aide-de-memoir for me, so you might not find it interesting. You might want to skip to the bottom with the impassioned exchange of vows (sort of).

Key points I'm trying to remember:

My beloved's comment about outside organizations was far more practical than I had realized. It wasn't about "What if I wanted you to get rid of your outside commitments," it was "How can you claim to be at my disposal when you have outside commitments. It's all very good for you to work on the garden all afternoon, but if you had phone calls to make, how would that have worked?"

That kind of stumped me. We talked around it but didn't come to a conclusion. I suggested two possibilities, one much better than the other: She's a list person, so I could add my outside commitments to her "to do list" and she could prioritize - not preferable since it's more work for her. Or I coudl tell her what I need to do, ask her for time to do them, with enough time ahead that she could say "No" now, and still have there be time to ask another time.

She asked, "So am I not supposed to say 'Thank you' any more? Hows that going to look to the kids? It doesn't seem like 'the woman in the book' says thank you to her husband." I said that while *I* love that kind of verbal discipline for myself, and view it as a kind of a mindfulness practice, I didn't think it made any sense for her because it's not who she is. Sure, I love it when the dynamic is, "The work you did on the garden makes me happy" and I reply, "Thank you for the opportunity to do it." But given who she is, I'm just as happy with "Thanks for working on the garden," "My pleasure."

Similarly, telling me to do stuff versus asking, partly for how it looks in front of others, and partly because of who she is. I don't think it's ever going to be natural for her to say "Get me a glass of water" - shes much more a "Could you get me a glass of water please" type person. I did tell her that my fantasy was to be able to respond with "As you wish" - a movie quote that says to us, "I love you."

Which led her to ask about what happens in public? Her question: suppose I want you to do something and there's some reason it's not a good idea or you can't. HOw do we have that conversation in public. She was thinking (she said), that we need to turn this on and off depending on the circumstances. Even as she was saying it, she realized that this wasn't necessarily so.

I introduced the idea (not explicitly) of the "vote and a half" - that it's my responsibility to give her the best counsel and judgment on a situation, and then it's her choice as to what happens. It's not like I turn into a brainless twit, just that once she has the information, she gets to decide. Concrete example: the car needs work. I take it to the shop, get the estimate, come up with a fix/don't fix decision, and make a recommendation. Her choices (after as much back-and-forth as she needs to feel comfortable, is to say "OK, go with your plan", or "I don't care, I hate the damn car, we're getting a new one." End of discussion.

I did say that I could think of a phrase we could use in pubic to say, "I'll do this, but there's a reason why I don't think it's what I think I should do" rather than disagree with her in public (we disagree, we seldom - though not never - argue), which is "Would this make you happy?" Indicating that I'm doing it just because she says so, not because I think it's a good idea. I really told her that I didn't explect to need to use it, though.

We talked over the idea of "routines" and decided that they probably would work for us. But, she noted, "stupid things like laying our my nightgown do nothing for me." "Dang," I said. "I saw you struggling with your nightgown and figured it would be convenient." "Nope," she said, "If it has kink value for you, then I don't care", to which I responded, "The only value it has for me is if it's convenient for you." Which just goes to show how important communication really is.

She said, "Sheesh, the only routine things I can think of for you to do are boring, like sorting the credit card receipts." I went "Perfect! It's not the thing, it's knowing that you need the thing done." I'm not sure she believed me but it sounds like she's willing see if I mean it.

We talked a lot about my making a list and her sorting it in to the "A" (That would be helpful), "B" (Doesn't do anything for her but possible gift for me) and "C" (Wouldn't be caught dead doing that) categories. I realize that we need another cateogry, "D", which is "Doesn't do anything for me *AND* doesn't make her life easier, so forget it." The nightgown goes in that category.) So that's my job today over lunch.

I commented that Ms. Rika's suggestion for what to do when this isn't working is key: "Don't touch my stuff, don't do any of this, it's not working and you made a commitment you're not fulfilling" is far more effective than any "rewards" system or punishment system. It means that this is about us and our relationship, not my trying to get rewards. The punishment piece I think stems from subs wanting to say "Are we still doing this, do you still care?" In the spirit of communications, I suggested that I just ask, "Are we still doing this, do you still care?" but that in the context of all the other communications - "Thank you for letting me serve you" and most important, a check in that says "Is this working? Have I been disappointing? Is this really making your life easier?" would be what I would need. In this regard, I think I/we differ a little from the approach Ms. Rika advocates, since if it's about communications, I need to be able communicate and ask. As I've mentioned other places, asking is really important to me. It's what's led me to be able to ask for this.

This is probably the most important yet most subtle and difficult part. Many years ago, when we were taking another run at this, after a long conversation not entirely different from this one, but far less informed by experience, and not informed by Ms. Rika's excelent advice, she asked, "How would today have been different if we had been doing this?" It's a question I've thought about a lot since then. And the answer is encapsulated in Ms. Rika's "Accepted from a position of dominance" suggestion. But she asked, "What does that mean for me (herself)?" I said I thought for us it was my ability to ask, "Are we doing this, is this working." OBviously not every five minutes to pester, but to get the sense of psychic satisfaction - to get that itch scratched - that is the point of the whole thing.

[As an aside to all this, I mentioned that I realized that that's what asking to take off the necklace for sexual satisfaction is all about. It's not like I want her to say "Yes" or "No", but that I want to have the conversation. Obviously, there have to be some "No"s, or asking is pointless. But it's more about the conversation than the specific answer.]

She pointed out that we need a way to ratchet this up and down if my previous history of being more or less interested in this over time proves to be consistent. I meant to say (but the converastion wandered) that I didn't think this would be so, just as how doing the necklace/sexual satisfacton thing has been very consistent. Doing something at a sustainable level eliminates these huge swings in interest.

So how did we leave it?

I'm going to make up the list.
She's going to sort it in to A's, B's, C's, (and D's)
Until we end up with a list of routines, her "requests" are what I do.

The impassioned vows part:

I am doing this not because all women are superior or because you're superior to me, but because I want to. I want to serve you, to make your life easier. I will work as hard as I can to get this right. I love you for who you are, and don't want you to change.

She said, "I'm doing this because I love you and I want you to be happy."

At least that's all I remember....

So this morning, I mentioned that I have a committee meeting this evening and she was a little exasperated. I'm really going to have to figure out how to get that right.

1 comment:

Susan's Pet said...

I think that at this stage she had problems with formalities. Inexperience will do that. What she needed to realize was that she did not need to conform to rules other than hers. Those she could figure out in private, and use them on you. This may change in time.