August 11th, 2011
One more time. Here is the final selection of my thoughts on The Ethical Slut, part two. Soon, I’ll get to Part Three. And maybe even a post about the 2nd edition of this wonderful book. This post is on conflict and communication.
“Good communication is based on identifying our feelings, communicating them to our partners, and getting validation from our partners that they hear and understand what we are saying.” (177) I wanted to start with this quote. It holds a lot of important things. First, identifying our feelings, being able to truthfully communicate with ourselves. This can be hard, we know How we feel, but not always why we feel that way, it can take some digging to figure this out, and sometimes we cannot see it by ourselves. Second, communicating to our partners how we are feeling. He cannot read your mind, now matter how often if seems that way. You have to tell him what’s going on inside. Then, the response, that the hear you, and then that they understand you. These are two different things, and both take a bit of work, on both parts. To hear someone else, above your own inner voice, and then to really understand what they are saying, not just what you think they are saying. All this goes into good communication.
“It is always tempting to respond to major relationship conflict by assigning blame. … Relationships tend to end due to their own internal stresses. … If you start looking at conflicts, problems and so on, as problems of the relationship, instead of trying to decide whose fault they are, you have taken an important step in solving them.” (165) A relationship takes two (or more) people. Conflict also takes two (or more people). Throwing around blame does not help achieve resolution to conflict, and can, in fact, prolong and heighten it. Yes, often, someone has done something “wrong” that caused the conflict, but there is usually more to it than that, a bigger picture, a bigger problem, that needs solving, rather than the minute details of that specific action.
“It is critical that everyone involved accept responsibility for knowing their own feelings and communicating them.” (192) “The I-message is a pure statement of feeling and there is no accusation in it.” (178) This first quote goes back to Tuesday’s post. Owning your own feelings, your partner did not make you feel a certain way, and is not responsible for your feelings. You are. And you should certainly communicate your feelings, but try to use I-messages. I feel this, instead of you made me feel this.
“We need to schedule discussions at a time when we can give them our full attention.” (175)
“Take TIME OUT to ventilate anger. Select ONE issue to work on. Make an APPOINTMENT to talk.” (177) On the way out the door to work, or to a date is not the time to discuss a problem. Nothing will get solved if one person is in a hurry or if both have other things on their minds. It is also important to cool down before trying to solve a problem. Yes, emotions run high, yes anger happens. But yelling and escalating emotions are likely only to make the situation worse. Picking a topic and a time to discuss it is helpful in several ways. It gives you time to ride out your emotions, to think about the problem, and to know that there is a space where it will be discussed and (hopefully) resolved.
“Once you’ve defined your problem and your goal, it’s time to start figuring out a good agreement.” (200) This is an important step. Really figuring out what the problem is, not just on the surface, but looking for rocks and holes beneath as well. Think about what you want to accomplish. What is your goal in this discussion/argument/negotiation? Having that in mind first, will make the discussion go a lot smoother.
“In order for a fight to be successful, both people have to win.” (175) “Agreements… mutually agreed upon, conscious decisions, designed to be flexible enough to accommodate individuality, growth and change.” (190) “Be clear, be specific and above all negotiate in good faith.” (193) “The purpose of an agreement is to find a way in which everybody can win.” (195) Once you know what you (both) want, it’s time to talk. Time to find a way for all involved parties to come to agreement, where everyone can be satisfied. It’s no good ‘winning’ the argument if the person you love is left miserable or hurting. Specificity, clarity and flexibility are all good things. Make sure everyone fully understands the agreement, that no part is unclear or vague so as to lead to another conflict. Don’t look for semantic loopholes, patch them. But also try not to create an agreement so rigid that it chafes. It should be something that benefits everyone involved and gets everyone’s needs met, and as many wants as possible. Relationships are not a competition, the only way to win is for everyone to win.
September 16th, 2010
I am a geek. He looked at me and asked if I get upset when my D&D character does something wrong or bad. I said of course not. He asked what is the difference? I said that was a character, a game. He pointed out that being object is just a role I choose to play, and a lightning bolt hit me in the head.
Are you submissive? Yes. Are you an object? No.
The second should not have been a hard question, nor should it have had so many wide ranging implications, but it was and therefore it did. No, I did not think I was an object, but yes, I was trying to be one. Trying really damn hard to be one, and be a perfect one, without the error and failure that is inherent to being human. We knew I have a perfectionist streak. What we did not know, is that I had gotten lost in the intoxication of the fantasy, and had forgotten that object was a role, not a goal. I enjoy thinking for myself, making my own decisions, being a smart ass, loving, living, playing and serving. Object is one way to play and serve, but it is far too limited a role to wear all the time. I am so much more than that.
What problems was this causing?
Because I was not keeping the line drawn between fantasy and reality, I was not divorcing object’s actions from self. I was carrying baggage from our scenes back into my day to day life. I was carrying guilt and blame from play into reality. Instead of using our transition ritual in the way it was intended, to shed the trappings of object, I was gathering it all up to pile on self. Self gave way under the pressure a few weeks ago, and we had been scrambling to figure out what had caused it ever since.
Viewing object as a part of self instead of as a role to put on also led to problems with the transition into object space, as well. I had trouble identifying the boundaries between submissive and object. I had trouble communicating when I was going from one to the other. I thought of object as a deeper part of my submission, so one night, even though I felt objectified, I did not identify that as a need to begin object space.
Another problem was keeping my focus in object space. If we were in public, I would give him priority, but I was also still interacting with other people fairly normally. When I would turn to address him, I would not always have my object role firmly in mind, nor his as owner. I would drop Sir, or be thinking of him as boyfriend. This loss of focus and loss of role had the potential to cause hurt to us both.
What are solutions to these problems?
One solution to the problem of leaving object’s baggage with object, is in properly using the transitional ritual he had me create. Looking back at my post about the creation of the ritual, I was more focused on limiting drop from our scene. Limiting its effects on my other partners. He spoke of relieving girlfriend of any lingering guilt for object’s actions, but I don’t think I really understood that as well as I do now. The ritual I created worked for my needs then and it covers current needs as well. The gratitude not only serves to simply be grateful for what he gave to me in the scene, but can also serve to acknowledge it as just that, a scene. Service, which often was discussing the scene to help us both process, was intended to give me time to deal with the emotions and reactions to the scene in the immediate, so I did not carry them with me back out into the world. Connection, to reconnect with him as girlfriend and finish the transition out of the role of object, back to the reality of self.
The solution to the second problem is self awareness. Staying aware of my self even while transitioning. Being very aware of what it feels like and being able to communicate that clearly. I need to keep in mind that not only do I need to take on the role of object, but at the very same time, he needs to take on the role of owner. He can only do that if I clearly communicate with him. Owner/object does not work if both roles are not fully taken at the same time. We created verbal tools to do this, my saying Sir, and his confirming with me, or his asking the trigger question of Aren’t you under dressed? and my confirming with a Yes, Sir. If he is pushing me mentally or physically towards object space, it is up to me to let him know when I arrive. He cannot know my mind, and so I must. I must be aware and clear and able to communicate with him, before, during and after a scene.
Solving the third problem is something I have had a constant struggle with over the last seven months. I had it tackled for a while, having problems only with volume and clear speaking as opposed to staying in state. I think this is part of the same need for awareness, but in this case, not just awareness for myself, but for him as well. I have a responsibility to maintain my role as well as keeping his in mind. This is not a part I can equate to gaming, we rarely stay in character at the table, and I’ve had very little experience with LARP, but theater on the other hand works. I was in a lot of plays as a teenager, and while I never had a big part, it was always important to stay in character on stage, no matter what you were doing. You don’t address your fellow actors as your friends, but only as the character they are currently playing. Sir is the verbal tool here as well, a reminder of role in every sentence I speak. A requirement of the character I have chosen to play.
These are not the only problems, nor the only solutions, but they are a place to start.