Tag Archives: happiness

11. Basic Structure of the Contract

Our contract had these sections:
1. Purpose.
2. Definitions.
3. Term and Renegotiation.
4. Duties and Obligations.
5. Rewards.
6. Maintenance Sessions.
7. Journal Requirements.

Purpose
We started the agreement with a preamble that clearly stated what we both were looking to get out of this.   Basically stated our intent to create a caring, consensual, fair structure of rules and responsibilities that would positively impact our life and relationship by reinforcing our commitments to one another, thereby deepening our intimacy, respect, and love.

Definitions
We took time to define a few terms so that it was clear those terms would have the same meaning and impact to both of us.

Term and Renegotiation
This addressed how long the contract was good for and how we would renegotiate the contract at a specified time.

Duties and Obligations
This is where we state the behaviors I was agreeing to.  We then created rules around the 3D’s:  Dishonesty, Disrespect, and Danger, but reworded them in the positive of Honesty, Respect, and Safety.

We wanted to keep the rules simple. We knew we couldn’t be referring back to the contract every time something happened to see if I broke a rule or what the punishment should be.  But we also needed to be on the same page regarding what actions had consequences and what those consequences would be.  I believe we found a balance but we probably ended up with a little longer contract than we intended.  What we found was that as we “lived” the contract, it became easier to identify actions and consequences without having to refer to the contract.  Also, regardless how short or long the contract is, it should not be used as an arbiter.  My husband is the only arbiter.  He is the judge and the jury.  The contract only helps provide him guidance on the appropriate sentence but he is still free to deliver any punishment he deems necessary and I must accept it.  You’ll see that we did provide some checks and balances through the Maintenance Sessions that would give me an opportunity to seek clarification if I felt a prior punishment exceeded the contractual terms.

So here is how we tackled each of the Duties and Obligations:

  • Honesty.   This one was interesting for us, as I feel I have always been honest with my husband.  I don’t know that I ever lied to him.  So I felt this was sort of a give-away.   He was ready to just accept the rule as being I could not lie and leave it at that, but this did not feel challenging to me and I felt I needed to be challenged if I were to be the person I wanted to be.  He agreed on this definition:  Dishonesty included not only telling a lie, but also withholding the truth or embellishing the truth.  It was my duty to keep him informed of anything that should be important to him, but also not bother him with petty details.  This included self-reporting of Transgressions.  Turns out that Honesty would become the first transgression I committed, but that is for sharing at another time
  • Obedience.  This one was tough for us, because it is the broadest.  Is it simply, “not listening to Mike?” While we knew that was an element of it, it seemed incomplete. What ultimately helped us define this one is when Mike suggested it was about my obedience to achieving the goals I set out for myself.  From there, the terms became crystal clear and would address any actions that moved me away from my goals.
  • Safety.    This one was pretty simple for us.  It included my activities that may pose a danger for me or others.   Things like speeding, texting while driving, leaving trip hazards on the floor.  Funny, but of all the duties and obligations, I thought this one would be the toughest for me to accept a punishment.  Really? I would be spanked for leaving my shoes in the middle of the floor?  So be it.

Rewards.
We ended up calling the punishments “Rewards” and the act of receiving the punishments was the “Reward Ceremony.”  Also, my infractions would be called “Transgressions.”  We established a procedure for receiving a reward and agreed upon the overall framework of tying certain transgressions to certain rewards.   Again, it was important to state that ultimately Mike had full discretion in giving a reward.  We would go back to the contract when a reward was needed as it may not always be timely or possible, but the contract would serve as a reference and we would use our Maintenance Sessions to help ensure consistency.

Maintenance Sessions.
I explained our approach to Maintenance Sessions in the prior post, so won’t repeat it here.  Suffice to say I set up a fairly detailed process that took us some time to learn as I used this as one of the “controls” in the contract.  As I explained in a prior post, it allowed for the opportunity for me to clarify certain things that occurred during the week.

Journal Requirements.
I am required to journal daily and I have to hand write the journal. We agreed on the things I would write about and that I would share the journal with Mike.  Journaling is great for self-reflection and hand-writing it causes you to write more in the moment, no editing.

So that’s it. The only thing left to show you is our contract. That’s coming next.

NEXT – 12. The Contract

2. The Backstory: Love life…every moment, every day.

I believe sharing the details of my story can enable you to find a path toward greater fulfillment and satisfaction in life, so you too can “love life, every moment, every day.” 

This “creed’ was instilled in me by my mother.  I’d like to say this came about because my mother was a strong, independent woman, but that would be a lie.  She grew up in a very misogynistic environment and my dad did not provide respite from the misogyny she knew as a girl.  Perhaps that is why it was so important to her that I would love life, every moment, every day.

She never told me exactly what the term meant.  She knew I needed to discover that for myself.  What it came to mean was that if there was an aspect about my life that I did not love, I, and I alone, was responsible for changing it.  No man, no drug, no other person.  Just me.   Thus, I, Jennifer, grew up a very self-empowered woman.

Yes, my name is Jennifer, Jenny to most, although my family calls me Sadie.  I can thank a cousin for that nickname.  That story isn’t important to my journey, but I mention it just in case I refer to myself as Sadie later on.  I often think of myself as Sadie in the context of recalling stories from my youth.

Anyway, back to my story.  Yes, I grew up very self-empowered and “with it.”  That self-empowerment led to me being the informal psychologist, coach, mentor, and confidant to many family and friends.  I was the one that “had it all together.”

Mike and I got married when I was 21, he was 22.  I admit I was the more dominant one and in aspects of our relationship I still feel I am, but as you’ll learn, that no longer applies in many ways.  I had it “all together” and “knew” how things should be so Mike pretty much learned to defer to me.  I know I frustrated him at times.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want his input, but, I was stuck on the fact the loving life meant things had to happen a certain way.  How can I honor my “creed” if I suppressed my hopes and desires?  Okay, so, I became selfish, but justified it because if I can’t be happy, then I can’t make others happy.  Basic psychology, right?

Then came kids.  I was a high school counselor (see, credentials to “prove” I could solve problems) but quickly put my career aside to be a stay at home mom (SAHM) after a short stint back at work after the birth of our second.  It was always my desire to focus on my kids without worrying about a regular job – that was loving life.  Mike accepted me as a SAHM although he would have preferred I return to work.  Being a SAHM was always my plan and I also justified it because my husband made an income that “I” felt we could live on and maintain the lifestyle that “I” wanted for my family.

So, three kids later (all sons).   The eldest is just wrapping up post-grad work and lives on his own.  My middle is out of the house and half-way through college.  My youngest is still at home and has special needs and will never be independent.  With all three kids I threw myself into maintaining my mantra, “Love life…every moment, every day.”

It worked well for many years, but then in the last few years morphed into a terrible thing.  I kept placing greater and greater demands on myself.  Maybe it was because of the needs of our youngest, but I became increasingly focused on controlling everything.  This meant trying to solve everything for everyone – not just my problems, my husbands, or kids, but my siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and friends.  It grew to mean I must not only meet my needs, but meet everyone else’s, and even anticipate them and meet them before they even knew they had them.  Add in the extreme demands of a special needs child, and I was overloaded.

The overload showed.  I would “trick” myself to convince myself of my happiness, but those tricks were wearing off.  I was argumentative with my husband, I became moody and a slob.  My husband said I was like a storm leaving a mess in my wake wherever I went in the house.  Not only did I rarely clean anymore, but I was compounding the cleaning work for my husband.  Up until then I would say we split the chores adequately (I did most but he  did his share).  Household chores had never been a point of argument.  We had a system and it worked, until I started messing it up.

I became forgetful- constantly losing or misplacing things or even just forgetting what I was talking about.  I felt like too many thoughts at once were going on in my head. Maybe all that noise in my head also caused a distraction because I also became a klutz.  I dropped and cracked three cell phones in less than a year, I lost my car keys, my credit card, plus constantly losing things around the house.  I lost interest in keeping within a budget – if I wanted something, I got it on impulse.   I started staying up later and later to binge watch television, often until 2 a.m. Because of all of that, I wasn’t getting good rest.   Add to that the physically and emotionally demanding days of caring for our son (plus caring for everyone else’s needs) and 4-5 hours of sleep just won’t cut it.

Arguments with my husband increased – too many nights of silent treatment, yelling, or one of us storming off to sleep in the spare room.  Most of the arguments were of my own doing but you could not have convinced me of that at that time.  After all, I was “loving life!”   My husband was losing patience and I could feel he was becoming less and less loving, despite efforts to try and express his love.  He would tell me of the amazing job I was doing with our son and that picking up some extra household chores was a simple way to honor and respect what I was doing with our son.  (Did I tell you how wonderful Mike is?)  While I appreciated those words, I knew I was letting him down, and by letting him down, I was letting myself down.  This went on for about a year

I am someone in constant self-reflection and frankly, for a long time my self-reflection was dishonest.  My internal monologue was like this, “yep, I made the right decision, even if the outcome wasn’t what I thought it would be, so there isn’t anything I should change.”

Finally the breakthrough.  I realized I was not loving life, not for any moment, not any day, and I needed to change.   I was probably clinically depressed, but being who I am I felt I created the problem and I can fix it.  Once I had admitted to myself I had a problem, my mind kicked into overdrive on how I was going to correct it because I knew I could solve this problem.

Skipping over the details for a moment, suffice to say it all changed March 17, 2015.  Almost immediately on that date my life changed in wonderful, positive, and previously unimaginable ways.  I am truly loving life, every moment, every day.   And all without aide of anti-depressants!  My drug was Domestic Discipline (DD).

I am certain my specific path is not for you to take.  However, there are elements of my journey that I am convinced can help everyone.   My hope is that you will focus on the basic principles that are providing my love for life and don’t focus on my specific methods.

No two DD lifestyles are the same and some may say what I practice is an odd form of DD. You may not like my methods or ever do anything that remotely could be called DD.  But if you can suspend your judgement while reading my blog, perhaps, just maybe, you can come away with how you might apply some of the principles I use in a way that best suits you and your relationship.

So, how did my search to improve my life lead me to DD?
NEXT – 3. The Search.