Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Club - Meeting 328 - Reporting & Communication Tools

“Nothing quite encourages as does one's first unpunished crime.”- Marquis de Sade

Hello all. Welcome back to The Disciplinary Couple’s Club.  Our weekly on-line gathering of men and women who are in, or would like to be in, a Domestic Discipline relationship.  I hope you all had a great week.

For me, this week was in some ways a testament to the short shelf-life of resolutions. I’ve been fighting some kind of bug that’s left me really drained, and I had a lot of work-related travel.  My workout goals dissipated down to almost nothing.  And, I ended up with one totally discretionary work happy hour that tired me out even more.  Yet, I honestly don’t feel too guilty about any of that.  The plain fact is, I felt really awful for the better part of two weeks, and it’s hard to sustain focus on anything when you feel like that.  I simply didn’t have the energy to exercise, and exercising when you’re sick may just leave you even more depleted.  As for the happy hour, I’m on the road constantly these days, and there are times that a subordinates just need to decompress with the group leader and get some personal attention, which is what I did.  So, this is one of those weeks when my behavior very well may earn me a spanking, but I can’t really bring myself to feel very chastened.  Now, the challenge of course is not to let this become a pattern for the year, which is where Domestic Discipline has something to offer even at times like this when I don’t feel particularly bad about something I did or didn’t do.  It establishes boundaries, hopefully preventing a respite from peak performance becoming “too much of a good thing.”

Last week’s topic went in kind of an interesting direction, didn’t it? The topic was consistency, but by mid-week it had morphed into a discussion about self-reporting. That happens sometimes, with topics going in an unintended direction. But, generally, that’s a good thing.  It is indicative of an actual discussion.  Self-reporting also seems to be a topic that people really latch on to, and it stirs a good deal of actual debate.  I’ve addressed it repeatedly on the blog, including about this time last year, and it almost always draws thoughtful, if sometimes passionate, responses.  ZM provided us with his position on this and bit of an historical retrospective:

I was reminded this week that self-reporting and journaling are real hot button issues which quite frankly is quite surprising to me. As I said earlier this week, I am happy that it works for others, but I don't see why proponents of it are SO adamant that it needs to be part of DD. I was looking back to find one of the strongest statements about it, made by one of our long-lost-but-not-really-missed "flouncers," Elizabeth about a year ago:

‘He has to confess, and he does that by keeping an honest and complete journal. Those of you who are unwilling to come clean and instead are expecting your wife to find out about all your misbehavior are living in a dream world. It's dishonest and disrespectful.’

I am fine with the suggestion that maybe keeping a journal might help with consistency, as well as provide opportunity for self-reflection. Also, if you wife is in charge and she wants self-reporting, then by all means report! But I bristle at any suggestion that those who don't keep a journal and self report are not serious about DD, or even worse dishonest and disrespectful. My wife doesn't want self-reporting. If I did so, then THAT would be disrespectful.

That is close to my own position, though my wife has said that she does like and want more self-reporting.  In fact, late last year as we were talking about how to ramp things up with respect to both Domestic Discipline and FLR, self-reporting was the one thing she identified that really needed to happen if things were going to get more consistent.

Alan, however, offers a bit of “real world” counterpoint regarding the challenges that men faced with the prospect of real discipline contend with when it comes to self-reporting:

“I agree completely that a husband who conceals misbehavior or fails to self-report is setting his wife up to fail on consistency. But, at the same time, you are identifying perhaps the central paradox in adult discipline: those areas of my life where I need her consistent discipline are exactly where I try to avoid it. And like Dan and many other men who have reported it, I cannot bring myself to self-report behavior that is going to get me punished.”

I’m with Alan on this. We both acknowledge that not self-reporting does make consistency really difficult, and we both acknowledge we want and need consistency.  So, when we don't report, we are necessarily dooming the DD relationship as a whole, but we are making consistency pretty impossible. ZM’s quote by Elizabeth is right in that respect; there is simply no way a wife is going to detect all bad behavior on her own.  But, on the other hand, how realistic is it to think that someone who has asked someone to impose discipline on them because they have trouble doing it themselves will  magically develop such self-discipline when it comes to reporting that same conduct?  That is Alan's point.  In the real world, aren't most offenses reported when the offender knows he's going to get caught anyway?

That prospect of getting caught was very real when we were kids.  That's why the threat of "get a spanking at school, get a harder one at home" had real teeth.  Most schools didn't rely on self-reporting.  Notes went home to the parents after a spanking was imposed at school.  Report cards were generally mailed, not sent home with the student whose card was slathered in Fs.  Unfortunately, as adults when we screw up at work or commit an offense outside our disciplinarian's view there seldom is a mechanism by which our wives will hear about it anyway.

I'm trying to be honest about the problems some men have with self-reporting, but that doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't do better.  That's certainly true in my case.  Unlike ZM, my wife has indicated that she wants self-reporting, so I recognize I do need to try to do a better job on that.  That's why Liz's interest and suggestions last week were timely and appreciated.  Her husband does self-report, yet Liz still had some thoughts on what a good self-reporting process might look like.  Combining a couple of her comments, Liz suggested:

“Dan, here's an idea for next week: Challenge your followers (and yourself) to keep a log for 3-4 weeks and then report back here how it worked as a DD tool. I asked Art and he is willing to do it rather than tell me about his work (mis)behavior each evening. You could even set time limits for the self-report and the review: Husband must report his misbehavior within 48 hours or an additional penalty is added. Wife must apply discipline within 5 days of the report or it is waived.”

I like Liz’s suggestion in three respects.  First, it is concrete, including specific expectations regarding deadlines.  Second, it proposes some additional penalty for failing to report (though that part was not concrete).  Third, it is bilateral and mutual with respect to consequences.  Yes, the husband must self-report and faces consequences if he doesn’t act diligently and in a timely manner.  But, the wife also has to be diligent and risks losing the authority to punish for that offense if she doesn’t take care of business in a timely manner.

I suspect that last part—waiving a punishment if it goes unpunished for a certain period of time—is going to be controversial.  Yet, I think the underlying premise—that it takes two to tango and both sides have to respect their roles—is part and parcel of the way a genuine DD relationship has to work and even more so any relationship that purports to be involve a real power exchange such as a Female Led Relationship.  There is a lot of lazy leadership that gets forgiven in these relationships under the rubric of the wife having authority not to discipline and all the concerns about “topping from the bottom.”  Any genuine form of leadership takes active engagement. It’s like saying I’m a good master to a new puppy if I allow him to pee on the floor nine times but on the tenth I rap him on the nose with a newspaper.  Yeah, maybe I’m still his master, but am I a good one?  Am I actually being effective and fair in that role?

The theoretical point that it takes two to make any aspect of DD work has a real-world component in my own DD relationship.  Anne and I have talked about this self-reporting issue time and time again.  I’ve proposed any number of procedures and processes.  I’ve spent hours drafting forms and “report cards” and given them to her for approval.  Here are just a few examples:

Yet, it never seems to become a solid thing for us.  You can and should blame it on me for dropping the ball.  I suggest a certain process for filling out the forms, but then it doesn't happen.  Still, that is only half the equation.  I have given her the authority to impose rules she wants followed and to impose consequences for failure to follow those rules.  So, if she really does care about me reporting, versus just telling me she cares about it, then why hasn’t she suggested a better process or enforced one that I've suggested.  Why hasn't she just picked up a paddle on a Saturday afternoon and given me a good hard session simply for not giving her a weekly report that morning as we had discussed the week before?  Instead, we talk, and talk, and talk about it, and we both are serious in the moment about wanting to happen.  Yet, it doesn't, and in a real relationship where there has been a real power exchange, do I really bear all the responsibility for not implementing a better self-reporting program?

In that vein, Alan offered the following observations on Liz’s suggestion:

This actually can work maybe with some modification such as shortening both the reporting interval and the time a wife has to administer. However, my experience is that it impacts the disciplinarian as much as the naughty boy. My former girlfriend used a version of it we called the "24 hour rule" (don’t remember which of us came up with the idea but remember she liked it). It didn't require any self-reporting from me, but it did require that she administer any punishment she ordered within 24 hours or it was waived. In practice, it produced more spanking on the spot or as soon as we returned home. She did use a log but only to record formal punishments including the date, instruments used, offense punished and a 1-10 evaluation of how well I accepted it. I also had to sign it before I was allowed to pull my pants back up. Very humbling as I remember but also very effective.”

Liz had also focused on the concept of using logging or journaling, though she was looking at it as a reporting tool: “I would envision a simple log that lists the date of the entry followed by a few words about the misbehavior- what happened and when. Example: ‘Sarcastic to co-worker yesterday.’ It would be at the discretion of the disciplinary wife to punish for the entry, seek more information, do nothing, etc. Personally, Art and I do not need such a journal because he self-reports. But the idea obviously interests me. I like the concept of having all of the misbehavior listed in one place in clear black and white.” Of course, one log could fulfill both purposes, i.e. self-reporting offenses and then logging the punishment once it occurs.

As I said, unlike ZM’s wife, mine does want me to self-report.  I do so, but it’s not reliable or systematic. That’s my failure. She doesn’t really enforce the self-reporting requirement, and many offenses that I do report or that she personally observed or otherwise knows about often don’t happen or are delivered many days after the offense occurred. Those are her areas for improvement.  While I’ve proposed many systems for reporting, drafted forms, provided them to her with suggestions about putting a real system in place, neither of us really follows up. 

Yet, we both see a lot of value in reporting offenses, talking about my behavior, and making sure she is informed about what’s going on in my head.  And, it’s not just in service of the goal of enabling her to more effectively detect and deter bad conduct.  She likes knowing what is going on in my life, and like many men I’m not always real verbose about my internal state of mind and about things that are bothering me. That’s why we instituted a journal that I am to give to her periodically. That one has worked reasonably well, though not perfect by any means.  I do send her journal entries fairly regularly, though I need to increase the frequency to at least weekly. I could use it as a reporting tool, and to some extent I do, but it’s much more ambitious than a log and it takes a lot of time on my end.

Summing all this up, given that my wife, unlike ZM’s, does want me to self-report, I would like to have something separate and apart from the journal that really focuses on reporting and documenting offenses and their consequences.  I’d like us to have a real system in place that we actually observed more in the practice than the breach.  An ideal system would have the following features:
  • Simple – Wouldn’t try to do too much.  It would serve as a simple means of reporting and documenting offenses and consequences.
  • Useful forward and backwards – clear as to dates for the offenses, reporting and the punishment, both to aid in making sure discipline is reported and addressed consistently and to serve as a historical log in order to assess progress or just reminisce about how our DD relationship has developed over time.
  • Light weight – easy to access and simple to use
  • Mutual reporting – both parties would have the opportunity and the obligation to report offenses or, in her case, convey dissatisfaction with any aspect of my behavior
  • Secure – not easily accessed by anyone but the two of us
The problem with the journal is it really meets only one or two of those requirements.  In theory, it could be lightweight, but in practice many of the entries are quite long, and they kind of have to be the fulfill the purpose of letting her know what I have going on.  It took me a while, but I did figure out a way to make it relatively secure.  I write it in Pages (Apple’s word processing program), save it with a password that only she and I know, and send it by email or text.  She can open and review it at her convenience, but to gain access to it someone would have to know the passwords to both the file and to whatever device she has it on.  The journal does help serve as a historical compilation of my thoughts and observations about our DD and FLR relationship, but you would have to dig through hundreds of pages to get to simple information about what offenses happened and when, and it would be very spotty in identifying whether they were ever addressed.

So, all in all, I think we need something different from the journal.  Something that is more like a log and less like a diary. Ideally, it would be something we both can, and must, access regularly but that is secure from prying eyes. It would be something I must use to report behaviors that have been identified as punishable or that I believe should be punished, and it should be something where she enters things I’ve done that she thinks need to be dealt with, like disrespect or inattention that I might not have thought of as an offense at the time or that I failed to report.  It also should allow her to note whether punishment will be given and of what type (spanking, grounding, etc.). And, it should allow us to document whether the punishment actually did happen.

In today’s wired and networked world, wouldn’t you think there would be some kind of shared app or electronic tool that would allow two parties to enter information securely and be notified when changes or additions were made?  For all I know, there is.  Maybe something like Google Docs or a document shared in iCloud?  I haven't worked much with shared docs, but surely something like that could be made to work?  Maybe some of you have personal experience with such tools and have ideas about how they could be used for DD logging and reporting?  Or, maybe you’ve arrived at some non-electronic system that really works for you for reporting bad behavior, discussing whether it will be punished and when, and then documenting whether the consequences ever actually happened?

So, first, for those of you who are interested, I will take up Liz’s challenge and encourage others to do the same. I will pledge that over the next week I will talk to my wife (again) about putting an actual system in place and about how we can build in some regular processes to support it.  Unlike our earlier efforts that focused only on my duty to self-report, I’m going to suggest that we adopt something like Liz’s suggestion as to deadlines: I have to report within 48 hours, and punishment must happen within a small number of days or its waived.   

But, that leaves several questions unanswered, like what is the “extra” punishment if an offense is not reported?  Moreover, what do we do to ensure that we actually implement it this time after so many other efforts?  For those who are interested, let’s take up Liz’s challenge with whatever tweaks and modifications you think might be beneficial, then I’ll ask for updates in a month or so.

I do realize this topic is really just an extension of last week’s comments, and I know that some wives aren’t interested in the whole reporting thing.  But, the whole “reporting” string of comments started mid-way through the week, and it could merit some further discussion and fleshing out.  And, even those who aren’t interested in self-reporting might have ideas to share with those who are.  So, here are a few questions people might be able to help address:

  • Is the Disciplined Husband in your relationship required to self-report offenses?  If so: 
    • How reliably does he do that? 
    • Is there any formal procedure for it or deadlines associated with it? 
    • What happens after he reports?  Is there some obligation on the Disciplinary Wife’s part to punish it within a certain time, or at least communicate a decision about whether he will be punished?
    • What are the consequences for not reporting or for not doing it promptly?  An extra spanking?  A harder spanking?  Some non-spanking punishment? 
  • Do you keep a log or journal that tracks offenses and/or punishments?  What form does it take?
  • Are there any apps or other electronic tools that you use to track or communicate about offenses and punishments?  If not, can you think of anything a couple might use that would allow for: 
    • Mutual logging of offenses 
    • Notices to update the log or notices that a log has been updated 
    • Security and privacy
  • Or, maybe you prefer a paper journal or log.  If so, how do you keep it secure from prying eyes?  Or, is that something you even care about?  
  • Finally, given that even the best system depends on human beings implementing it and sticking to it, what are your ideas on how to make the reporting and the punishment actually happen?
 Thanks in advance for all your input.  Have a great week. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Club - Meeting 327 - Consistency & Slippage

“It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It's what we do consistently.” – Tony Robbins

Hello all. Welcome back to The Disciplinary Couple’s Club.  Our weekly on-line gathering of men and women who are in, or would like to be in, a Domestic Discipline relationship.  I hope you all had a great week.

It’s a depressing pattern that I often can measure the length of my adherence to New Years resolutions around health and balance in days countable on one hand. I did a little better than that this year.  If you count the pre-New Years, post-Christmas period when I was uncharacteristically well behaved, I had a window of 23 days in which I really did get my act together.  It didn’t come to a screeching halt exactly, but the very high resolve I was feeling, and executing on, around health issues definitely started to dissipate this week in the face of the usual challenges – travel, exhaustion, and doing that “just one” think that leads to a chain of lower standards and increased slacking. 

An exchange with ZM highlights the issue and this week’s topic.  He observed,
"The longer I am actively involved in this lifestyle (rather than just thinking about it like I did for 40 some years before), the more convinced I am that consistency is the real key to effective discipline and to building a more disciplined life."

I responded that I couldn't agree more and discussed how this week’s events illustrate the challenge. I noted (in slightly edited form):

“Where personal behavior and achieving goals are concerned, small slippages can be deadly. It was that kind of week for me. I had been really good on several fronts since around Christmas Eve. Very little alcohol, working out every single day, maintaining the diet I had started before Christmas, etc. Then, this week it started to slip. I got very little sleep on Sunday night, which left me really exhausted on Monday. For some reason, I had a really hard time getting back on my feet, and it may be that I was fighting some illness, because I did try to catch up on sleep on Monday and Tuesday but it didn't seem to help. When I get tired, I get really hungry, so the diet started to slip and I started doing a lot of snacking and So, there went the track record on fasting. Then, yesterday I had a long flight delay, and I was still feeling lousy, so I decided to treat myself to an afternoon beer while sitting at the airport. One became two, then those became two drinks on the plane. I woke up very tired today and had some early morning calls, which led to blowing off my workout today. My point is, I went from being really self-disciplined to one or two small slips, and everything went downhill fast from there.

I sometimes come down on myself pretty hard where such slippages are concerned.  This time, I’m cutting myself a little slack.  I do think something was going on this week with a bug or something.  I just felt really, really off and tired all week.  And, I have been exercising so diligently with pretty hard workouts, I may have let myself drift into a state of pretty severe overtraining, and my body simply pushed back and refused to keep going at that pace.  But, it does still illustrate how one slip leads to another leads to another. . . .

Now, in an ideal world, Domestic Discipline would be there as an extra little incentive when our efforts at self-discipline waver.  And, theoretically it is.  Yet, consistency seems to be a very consistent challenge even for well-established DD relationships.  Why?

Well, there are all sorts of impediments.  ZM’s comment explored a particularly interesting angle – the complicated relationship between consistency, severity, and perceived “fairness.”  He noted: "In order for it to be a real punishment for an adult, a spanking must be quite hard and long. This is especially true if the recipient is an adult who may fantasize about spanking. So pretty much EVERY punishment is going to be relatively big, and this doesn't seem quite as fair for seemingly "small" things.”  

I’m not sure I agree with that, though I also don’t have a lot of personal experience to counter it.  My wife is pretty binary in her approach to spanking.  Each one is hard and long.  Every time. That may not seem fair in the context of “small” things like chores, but that’s largely an academic concern since the plain fact is she is not at all consistent with punishing for such small things.  In fact, spanking for things like poorly done chores and other small offenses is the exception, not the rule. It’s not really a matter of fairness.  Rather, she just doesn’t think about going right to spanking for “small” things. 

I think there also is a very practical timing and effort issue at play; we can’t expect busy wives to take 30 minutes out of their day to deliver a long, hard punishment spanking on a frequent basis.  But, I’m not sure that is what is required. I do agree with ZM that severity is a big part of the equation when it comes to effectiveness, but I wonder whether it may come unnecessarily at the expense of consistency.  I recounted the example of getting a hard spanking for repeated failures to clean a rice cooker.  What if instead of giving one really long, hard spanking after repeated failures, she had given a short but intense paddling each time after one warning?  What if, upon discovering the latest failure, she just took out a paddle and delivered ten or fifteen really hard swats?  The whole thing could be done in under a couple of minutes.  If done consistently, I think that approach might be even more effective than one longer but overdue session with her paddle.

Of course, fairness and timing issues are hardly the only impediments we face when it comes to consistency.  Family and guests are chronic issues that get in the way of any kind of consistency, and it’s been a very big issue for us over the last month and isn’t going to get better for another month or two.  While those distractions are always going to be there, the degree to which they prevent discipline from happening is still a series of choices.  We could choose to be more open, such that if visiting adult kids overhear a spanking, then they overhear it.  Or, we could experiment with something more silent like the cane, for short, intense sessions that might not be overheard and would take only a few minutes. 

Or, we could be more diligent and flexible about working in a spanking during those inevitable brief moments when the kids or guests are out of the house for an hour or two.  The point is, distractions are inevitable but allowing them to completely frustrate needed discipline is a personal choice.

Then there are my chronic failures around self-reporting.  She has her entrenched issues around “fairness,” and do I “really” want her to assume such rigorous control, while I have my own entrenched mindset that resists the embarrassment of coming forward on my own to admit that I've done certain things wrong, and in so doing basically initiate my own spanking.  

One big question I have around consistency is directed to the wives: Which is harder, being consistent, or not being.  I really can see this cutting either way. On the one hand, consistency does take effort, and concerns about fairness and equity probably do lead to a lot of self-doubt about just how rigorous to be. But, what if you really did just let those concerns go and step fully into an empowered role?  Wouldn’t that be tremendously freeing, even if it meant some additional work in terms of stepping up and swinging the paddle more often?  A blogging friend of mine had a post a few years ago that really summed this up well.  Here is an excerpt, and you can find the entire post here:

“I often struggle with balance or worrying about my husband feeling something is unfair or that it could be "too much."  The vast majority of contributors all suggest just taking control, owning it and acknowledging that while resistance or "unfairness" may happen, it is kind of what we each signed up for in deciding to walk this path.  In fact, my husband does not want an equal relationship. He wants me to lead. So in spending countless time and energy trying to make it seem or feel equal or worrying too much about the impact something will have, I am really just spinning my wheels and depriving us both of what we actually need/want. It was this realization that got me back on the path of leading.

While I feared increased control or strictness could breed resentment, it has the opposite effect.  He needs the structure and the clarity. He needs the consistency and knowing what is expected. I also think, although probably less so in the moment, that he craves the accountability as well.  Being in this type of relationship really requires some shifts in conventional thinking and finding ways to make sense of concepts that perhaps seem counter intuitive.  It is the difference between viewing follow up as being a nag or as holding him accountable.

It also is not just better for him. It is better for me.  It is easier for me to know that when I make a decision, it will be followed because I am not leaving room for resistance. It is also easier because I have control over my own life and can be responsible for the choices I make, which also means I have no one to blame but myself if it turns out not to be the best choice.  It is just simpler and easier.”

That really makes total sense to me, but I’m not the one who would have primary responsibility for implementing something that all-encompassing.  I’d really like to get the perspectives of the wives on this one.
Let’s explore this topic of consistency in all its angles.  What level of consistency have you achieved in your DD relationship? Is consistency even a goal, or are you content with an on-again-off-again approach? For those for whom consistency is a desired state but remains challenging, what are the big impediments to getting there? What are you and your spouse willing to do, if anything, to overcome those impediments? 
For the wives for whom consistency is a problem, what are the challenges? Is it practical things like lack of available time, or is it more an an attitude issue? Is it concerns about “fairness” or whether he really wants it, or does training a husband like you would a child or a puppy just seem like too much of an investment of energy sometimes?  Does that kind of diligence and "always on" responsibility have a maternal vibe, and is that good or bad?
For the men, do you want your wives to be more consistent in setting boundaries and imposing consequences?  What do you do that makes it more difficult, like not reporting when you’ve been bad, trying to avoid a spanking or punishment, etc.? Have you talked to her frankly about any desire you have for her to keep you on a tighter, more consistent leash?
I hope you all have a great weekend.