December 10th, 2011
Finally move to my new webhosting company so I can post this week’s post.
I read Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward this week, and while there is a lot to it, and a lot that does not apply to my own situation. I found myself realizing that while I don’t let others blackmail me, I may be doing it for them. I have hot buttons from my past, that I use against myself to control my current behavior. I scare myself into behaving certain ways, even though I don’t want to. So here they are, and my attempts to disarm them.
Fear of anger or raised voices. There was hardly ever any yelling in my house as a child. Occasionally, my brother or I got yelled at, but mostly when we were too young to remember or doing something dangerous. But there was a single instance where my father yelled at my mother, called her a bad name, and she left the house. I heard the yelling, I still don’t know what it was about, and I saw her drive away. She came back, I don’t remember how long it took, but that set a hot button in my developing mind. Yelling and anger equals a loved one leaving. I struggle with that one, I fear raising anger, I fear conflict. I have become a peacemaker, which is not bad, unless it is at the expense of my own needs or wants. I blackmail myself – don’t do that, it’ll make them angry. You don’t want to see them angry. What if you make them so angry they just leave? Which is unfair to the other person, I’m not giving them a chance – to react to what I want, or to show that it doesn’t make them angry. And unfair to myself – I am not being true to who I am.
Emotional responsibility. I know I’ve talked about this before. Especially in the Ethical Slut posts. But I find it hard to not feel responsible when my partners are sad/upset/depressed. Or at least responsible for making them feel better, or to avoid causing those feelings. Obviously, none of us wants to upset our partners, but I can also take this too far, into blackmail. Don’t say that, you’ll only upset him. It’s not really that important, you don’t want to make him feel bad. Look at how miserable he is, how could you do that? But I am not the gauge of what will make a person sad. I am not responsible for how they react and deal with things. I should not avoid things because they’re uncomfortable to talk about. It only leads to deception and bottling, which is way worse than a few tears before things get worked out. I can offer to help, and keep talking through things. But I should not try to stop someone else feeling their own emotions and reactions.
Self worth. I’ve often struggled with replacement fears since becoming poly. I’ve always struggled with my self image and self esteem. Those things have been growing by leaps and bounds since I found a community here that loves and supports me for who I am. But there’s a hot button left over from college and my second boyfriend. I tried to date him a second time(or was it a third, I had an odd dating record), late in my sophomore year. He told me, he didn’t need the ego boost that dating me gave him anymore. He was popular now. What a strange thing to say, and even odder still to internalize. What it wrote in my head was, I’m only needed by guys who aren’t confident or popular, I’m just an ego boost until someone better comes along. This has played a major role in my replacement fears – worrying the new girl is better than me, so I won’t be needed anymore. It took a much stronger sense of self, this last time, to not go there. I am finally fully confident in my worth, and did not feel that I even Could be replaced.
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.
May 20th, 2010
These last few weeks, I have not done justice to myself, my partners, or to you, my readers. Last week’s post was the best of the bunch, a description of a wonderful scene. But what has been going on? What’s been happening along my journey? What were those cryptic and scattered posts about? And what ever happened to those needles? Let me begin by acknowledging my failures and then discussing them.
Firstly, when I brought him the needles, I did not beg for him to put them in me. I had been told to do this, and I had agreed to do this, but I did not. Since realizing that failure, I have only begged for the needles twice in person and once on IM. Other failures and issues have come up, and I do want the needles and we have talked about them here and there, but I find myself putting aside this want while I work on other things. It is important to me, but I continue to give other issues priority.
My second failure was letting fear and uncertainty keep me from going into object space. I was not initiating it and when he tried, I was putting him off with some form of ‘not yet’ and then not going back to it myself. Since acknowledging this failure, I had two evenings when I began initiating but did not follow through, one evening when I followed through and only slipped up once, and one evening when I followed through for a majority of the evening, but then let outside influences disrupt my focus.
I also had last week’s scene where he put me into object space for the majority of the scene. I felt very grateful that he was willing to take me there again. Within the scene, it was also a very helpful anchor for processing as he had taken away my anchors of sight and touch. The focus that it created put me in a mindset of being an object for his pleasure and his use and allowed me to not just endure, but enjoy the pain, the fear, the tears and the relinquishing of control.
My third failure involved acting like a spoiled little child. I did not just question his decisions, I flat out told him no. I whined that I was learning and and that I was doing what he asked, all the while, doing the exact opposite by the very objections and fight I was putting up. I let my initial confusion turn into fear and doubt instead of being clear and accepting and communicative. I was so far into myself that I could not even see what I was doing. He took the time, once again to hold up a mirror and shine a bright light on it until I could see. He gave me back the paragraphs I had copied for him about being looking beyond imperfection, being happy, working hard, doing without question, being intelligent, helpful, serving and not letting fear and doubt get in my way. I had failed to do any of these things, and I was to keep the papers until I could actually live up to them.
The previous day we had a scene which had me kneeling for forty-five minutes, fifteen longer than I had ever previously done. It began with begging for the needles, and ended with the only thought in my head being that I could not get up until he told me I could. I had given over all my wants and needs to that one single thought, that one want – to please him at the expense of all else, by staying on my knees. It was quite a delicious scene, to let go that fully – freeing, and cathartic as I cried for the last ten minutes of it. He ended it by lifting me off the ground and onto the couch, covering me with a blanket and bringing me water. Our time was limited that day, but he made the most of it, for us both.
The next day, he had concerns that I needed time to reflect on that scene. Walls were broken down and I needed time to reflect and heal stronger. He also had concern for the number of people installing programming in my head and the possible dangers in that. Conflicting programming could lead to hesitation and doubt. Two people pushing the same button could take things further than intended if they did not know what the other was doing or thinking. This led to more communication with all my partners about wants and needs. Defining boundaries more clearly for all involved.
My fourth failure was being presumptuous and selfish and in a hurry. I tried to give back the paragraphs. I tried to play the I’m learning card again, forgetting that what he was asking of me was not just learning, but doing – putting the learning into action. And putting it into action consistently, not just for a few days. Giving the papers back was not ‘the next step’ it was four or five steps further along my path. I had only just begun putting my lessons into action, and in fact, just two days before, I let others ruin my focus and keep me from doing what I wanted.
I spent this conversation on my knees, where I had gone to offer the papers. He kept me there until I answered his questions. I stayed there because I had put myself there, offered that submission to him, and it was his until he was done with it. I did ask to get up once and accepted his denial. At the end, he set a timer for five minutes and told me to think about how not to end up there again, not on my knees, but having failed in that way again. He would burn the papers the next time, if we both did not agree I had lived up to them. I do not know how long I was on my knees that time, over thirty minutes I know, but beyond that it did not matter. I focused on what I had done and why, and on putting learning into action. When the timer went off, he asked me if I needed to get up. I said yes, and he told me to stand. I forced myself up onto completely numb feet, using the table for support. Looking into his eyes, and using my drive to do ask he asked as motivation, I was able to stay upright while circulation returned. Determination and motivation are wonderful tools.
My fifth failure was lack of focus and attention. I had some trouble assisting with suspensions last weekend. I had not been keeping up my tying practice. I did not read situations as quickly and as well as I should have been able to. I did not keep my eyes moving between all the participants of the scene. I am grateful that he was able to communicate with me about these situations and explain to me more clearly his expectations. We had five good suspensions each night, and the patrons all enjoyed their flights and are eager for more. I have since practiced my ties, and have a clearer idea of my responsibilities in our scenes. I expect further insight on this topic once we have both had time to reflect and discuss.
So, where does all this put me now? I am learning and growing and doing. I am making mistakes, I am failing, but I am still moving forward, albeit sometimes with tiny steps. I am lucky to have him holding my hand and guiding me – showing me the path when I lose sight of it or get turned around. Our love and trust for each other keeps us together, and enables us to overcome challenges, failures and miscommunications. The image of a feudal system just came to mind: I serve him and he keeps me safe. Sometimes, he asks more of me than I think I can give, but his belief in me moves me to go beyond my own expectations and push harder and reach further than I thought possible. I have a wonderful life, wonderful partners and I am learning and growing and doing more than I ever imagined was possible.