How do I even bring up this subject? What will he think? What if he refused? What’s my plan B?
At this point about two weeks have gone by and I had become completely invested in seeing this through. I already wrote down my initial list of Duties and Obligations to myself. I was convinced my version of DD was the right thing for us to try. How do I bring it up in a way that he understands it isn’t because he has been inadequate in any way? I also recognized that level of selfishness in this. It was really all about me and what I wanted. Sure I needed his buy in, but I really needed his buy in. It became very important to me that we try this and remember, I am used to getting my way. But I also realized that if it works it can’t be forced on Mike. He has to really feel and understand it from my perspective. It was hard enough to convince myself, how would I convince him?
It was unfair for me to think that he had the easy part thus should be easy to convince. The reality is, he isn’t dominant by nature, and I effectively conditioned him to defer to me. So I needed a strategy to help him conclude it was right for him and for us, and not that it was all about me. I did that the way I often tackled problems – focus on the outcome.
Getting Mike to agree and accept that the outcome is what we both want…for each other and for our family. Then work backwards from that outcome to come up with what DD would mean for us….and I wouldn’t use the term DD. I didn’t want to give any preconceived definition of what I was talking about and as it turns out, he hadn’t heard the term before. What I would be suggesting is a change in lifestyle that was our own, without label. It just so happened to conform to many DD principles. Okay, I was convinced I had the approach that would work in theory, but how do I start the conversation?
I don’t recall exactly how I started it, but it was something like this. “Mike, I want us to make some changes in how things work around the house.”
I shared with him that I have been concerned about my turning into a slob and leaving him my own big messes to clean up. I was concerned about my forgetfulness, my clumsiness, my short temper with him and the kids, etc. My inability to give everyone the time I wanted to give them because I just couldn’t stop myself from trying to solve everyone’s problems and meet everyone’s needs. I told him I needed his help. With his help we can have less stress, more together time, an overall better managed household from cleanliness to finances and we could become closer as a couple.
I asked a couple of questions that I knew the answer had to be “yes”, such as “Have you noticed those things of me?” That’s kind of a Jedi-mind trick I learned. Get the person saying “yes.” It creates momentum that makes it hard for them to say no later, and it helps build confidence in yourself to keep asking increasingly tougher questions. Then came the golden “what would it mean to you…” question that I love to ask everyone. I asked him, “What would it mean to you if we could accomplish those things together?” He responded with all the personal gratification he would get from having those things and seeing me happy, etc. So, at that point, I knew he was going to be open to considering any suggestion I had that could potentially give him that satisfaction.
At this point Mike’s on board that some things need to change about me and that he is all ears on how he can help me with that. I then said something like, “I believe the best way to accomplish these changes would be for me to give up certain responsibilities. Not that I would be doing less, in fact, I want to do more, but, I feel that I haven’t been able to be responsible to myself for the things I want to do, and that is where I need your help. I want to take the responsibility for myself and give it to you as a gift, with love.” I remember that phrase as I had practiced it over and over in my head.
Mike was puzzled and I stated it again, and then a third time, all with the same puzzled reaction from Mike. I then had this panic like, “oh god, he doesn’t understand, quick Jennifer, think of more to say. How could I have thought that this was all I was going to have to say. Say something, say something!” There was quite the awkward pause. In hindsight, I am glad I didn’t rehearse beyond the initial phrase as now it was time to speak directly from the heart with the raw and true emotions that can only come from speaking what I was feeling at that very moment. These weren’t my exact words, as I am sure it was more babble and less eloquent, but I recall it sounded something like this:
“Mike, I haven’t been myself, and need your help in being the person I want to be. The person I want to be for myself, for you, and for the kids. I believe the best way I can get to being that person is with you taking responsibility for my actions. Where I agree to do certain things and behave a certain way, and you hold me responsible. For some reason I just can’t be that person on my own anymore but I know I can be that person if I know I have clearly committed to being that person and that you will be there to hold me accountable.”
I think adding in the terms “responsibility” and “accountability” really helped him to begin realizing what I was suggesting. Now, instead of puzzlement, I got a response that went to the heart of the matter.
Responsible for what actions and accountable in what ways?” Wow, he said it. There it was. That is the question that everyone considering DD has to address. And the answers are as varied as there are people – there is no right or wrong answer – only the one that works for your relationship. Here was the very question whose answer would determine our path forward.
My answer went something like this. “I haven’t thought all of this through and will need your help in doing that, but right now when I think of you being responsible for my actions it means that you could help inforce the behaviors I want from myself. You can remind me of my promises that I made regarding what I will do and how I will behave. For instance, you wouldn’t be responsible for doing all the cleaning, but would be responsible for reminding me to get certain chores completed. Those reminders will help me. That is what I mean by being responsible for me. Does that make sense?”
He said he thought he understood, but okay, so he would take on some responsibility in helping me, but what did I mean about accountability? Yikes, there it is. The punishment conversation. While I had reconciled this in my mind, I was still very uncomfortable talking about this with him and I didn’t want to be the first to say spanking or punishment or anything like that.
My answer was that it meant he would hold me accountable beyond just the reminder. I told him if all he could do is constantly remind me, he would just be a nag and neither of us want that. Instead, we would agree on certain consequences if I failed to do something. I remember asking him if that made sense. His answer was spot on. “Do you mean a consequence like a punishment?”
I can still see his face the moment he said those words. It was the “moment of truth” in this discussion. It would now be about Domestic Discipline no matter if we called it that or not. The word “punishment” had been spoken for the first time.
My mind raced. I started thinking about way too many details dealing with punishment and visualizing the actual act of spanking. I didn’t know what to say so after another long awkward pause I uttered fairly softly, “Yeah, a consequence like a punishment.”
Mike’s reaction was a half-smile, like his imagination was at work, but I could tell he wasn’t sure what I was saying. His half-laughing response was, “Are you serious? What type of punishments are you talking about?” I was nervous to say specific things, and in hindsight, am glad I did not. I feel my answer put us on the path towards success, as this punishment thing could have gone horribly wrong if we went in with misconceptions about what it was. So, how would I explain the type of punishments I was talking about?