While inspiration for a new topic has been elusive, it's not for lack of interest in the Domestic Discipline aspects of our relationship. To the contrary, those have been on my mind a lot lately. I think it is because I've been even more frustrated than usual with my own behavior. Now, objectively, I haven't been doing all that badly. I haven't had any major blow-ups at work, though I did have a minor one on Friday in which I got very frustrated with an unhelpful response to a technology issue and went off on the unhelpful person. The person really was deliberately obtuse and unhelpful, but I could have toned my reaction down a bit, and the way I handled it probably did run afoul of my own personal aspiration not to "punch down." I did a really good job with my diet and exercise program for most of the week, then slipped again on Friday and again at a family event yesterday. Same with my most prevalent problem behavior -- too much alcohol. I had none until Friday, then had a few beers when one of my employees asked me to do some mentoring over a drink, then a few more watching a movie at home. Again, it wasn't any major behavioral slip, but I had very recently set a goal for myself of going completely dry for a couple of weeks as part of a pretty rigorous diet plan, in order to break through a diet and fitness sticking point. So, while none of my slip-ups were major, I was also just never quite living up to goals I had set for myself. In each case, I had some excuse for doing the opposite of what I told myself I was going to do, or I just forgot about that rule or goal in the moment.
These thoughts about my multiple failures to live up to my own rules and goals tie in nicely with, and to a large extent result from, the discussions we've been having over the last couple of weeks. ZM's discussion of his wife's efforts to use DD to help him live a more disciplined and productive life, and thereby achieve greater success in his business, have really stuck with me. Similarly, Jr's trip to the woodshed for an ongoing grammar problem that his wife was determined to deal with. And, Alan's recommendation of adopting a goal of complete obedience. Whether the focus is on total obedience, or zero tolerance, or "unmade beds," from all these different angles I have been mulling the extent to which it is helpful in these DD relationships to take small things seriously, and how consistency in both detection (getting caught or self-reporting) and enforcement (not accepting excuses, not allowing loopholes and punishing near the time of the crime) play a role in real behavioral change.
I recognize that not all of us are using Domestic Discipline to address things like work performance, staying healthy, being more orderly and disciplined, etc. But, many of us are, and looking back, that focus on personal growth and improvement was a major part of what attracted me to DD in the first place. For me, it was about bad behavior and poor performance having actual consequences. I thought about this a little more this week in relation to my parents. While they cared and did many things right, looking back there really were a shortage of consequences for bad choices. To some extent, that was because I put a lot of pressure on myself, but that becomes very circular, because I think one reason I crave DD is because I get tired of the burden of being 100% accountable to myself and myself alone, and I've been doing it since well before high school. I might not have had to put so much pressure on myself had there been more certainty of external enforcement. This same pattern holds true for my career today. I think it was Darren who said a few weeks ago that he had reached a point in his career where there really isn't anyone "above" him to hold him accountable, hence the craving for a Strict Wife to play that role in some respect. It's that accountability and performance management aspect of DD that has really been on my mind lately and that I feel just never quite gels for us.
Why doesn't it? Well, it's all sorts of things. We have really let formalized check-ins slip over the years even though, as ZM and I riffed about in the comments to the last post, consistent detection and quick enforcement are essential in focusing attention and driving change. Certainty of enforcement also is a problem for us There are just way too many times that bad behavior goes unaddressed or I get away with subtly undermining a rule with some one-off justification or loophole. Severity actually is not a problem for us, and I'm starting to think that spankings may actually have become so severe that it has created in me a desire to avoid them at all costs, which sounds good except that "at all costs" sometimes includes less than full cooperation in the process, looking for loopholes, etc. It's made me think that ZM is dead right that the focus for us needs to shift from the intensity of the spanking--the severity of the implement and hardness of the delivery--to the duration of the spanking, coupled with a mechanism for tamping down avoidance and rule-skirting.
The discussions last week included Glen conveying a system he and his wife used to have in place for formally "grading" his behavior over dinner or lunch, then her "taking care of business" based on the kind of grades he had earned that week or month. This idea of using spanking to fix bad grades used to be a pretty prevalent part of our culture. In fact, it was just part of the family-cultural background where I grew up that if you brought home a bad report card, you could anticipate a hard spanking.
The other thing I've been thinking about a lot in connection with this is a question from Anna, which I did ask but that didn't get a lot of response, namely how openly are we communicating what we need--and what we deserve--to our disciplinary spouses? The commenters with positive stories about DD really changing behavior--Anna and Peter, ZM, and Glen, among others--seem to have some formalized communication system in place that began with him being very open about the kind of behavior he wanted to correct or what she wanted to see corrected, coupled with formalized "meetings" to discuss the progress or lack thereof. It is hard for me to admit given how much I've stressed the value and necessity of communication in these relationships, but I think my wife and I have kind of fallen down on this facet of our relationship. I have been forthcoming about what I think I need or want to accomplish, but it's rarely in person. We do communicate, or rather I do, in journals, texts, etc., but the face-to-face communications that would help reinforce our roles--empowering her and humbling me--and that would put some formality into the reporting process, have been few and far between over the last few years. The volume of communication actually has increased thanks to the required journaling by me, but the in-person feedback loop has been missing.
As I said, I don't have a real "topic" for this week, or even a firm view on where all this is headed. But, I think it is in the direction of suggesting to my wife that we go back to where we started, putting the DD part of our relationship on a firmer footing by building in some formality, including more regular reporting. With that in mind, Glen was kind enough to pass along the "report card" he and his wife used. I will probably suggest something like it that she can use as part of some kind of formal monthly meeting to "grade" me, possibly over dinner or lunch. But, I also wanted something to build some formality into the day-to-day reporting process that will keep me on track in the moment. So, I put together this slimmed down "report card," based on something I found a long time ago on the internet, combined with some of the content from Glen's report card.
My thought is I may propose to her that I have to give her this daily for a month, then scale down to weekly, followed by a monthly check-in in which she formally grades my efforts and behavior from her perspective, giving me that feedback in person and laying out her expectations.
Well, my inability to come up with a topic somehow still resulted in a long-winded post!
One last thing, and maybe this one will end up meriting its own post, but despite my efforts to open up the blog to more female participation, if anything we seem to have less than ever. A couple of week ago I reviewed some old posts, and I was struck by the quality of participation from wives like Marisa and Holly who have stopped participating entirely, and I really do miss hearing from them. And, unfortunately, while they have stopped commenting, others have not stepped in to take their place. Recently, some of you have stated that you read this blog with your wives. If any of them have the slightest interest in participating, I hope they will do so from time to time. And, I hope that other female readers will chime in as well. (Though, this most definitely does not include "Sean" in all his manifestations, pretending to be a woman, which he has done several times.)
I hope you have a great week!