“We Need to Talk” – or Is It Off the Table?

Once again, Mo has managed to articulate so much of how I feel about yet another topic – the dreaded “We need to talk“.

I’m so right there with you on the urgency of discussing issues as they come up, but sometimes still needing processing time before raising the questions, along with the abject terror and complete panic that any version of “We need to talk”, or “I want to go over X with you” brings up. Once I’m ready to deal with something, though, I really need to handle it right then and there, with no further delay.

The one thing that really is absolutely clear to me is that it is absolute death to a relationship to ever table things when issues do arise, pretty much no matter what else is going on in either person’s life or the relationship. All they do is pile up and fester, and build up a backlog and logjam until they totally drown out everything else, and reach a point where it becomes absolutely impossible to unravel the mess because you end up not even knowing where to start any more, and the resentments have built to an impossible level.

If you take too much time to process before bringing the issue up and working through it together, the moment is past. Life moves on to the next thing. It gets shoved down where it begins building up and festering, and isn’t resolved by the time the next thing comes up.

In her brilliant book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, Mira Kirshenbaum says that she has never in her entire career seen a relationship survive when “off-the-table-itis” is in play. When people refuse to talk about an issue, and keep on not wanting to talk about it (or more than one issue), relationships die. Period. If your partner “consistently blocks your attempts to bring up topics or raise questions, particularly about things you care about”, off-the-table-itis is at play. It doesn’t matter whether the topic is, whether it relates directly to the relationship or not. Blocking discussion of any sort blocks communications altogether.

Off-the-table-itis is dismissive. It’s inherently belittling and minimizing. It is neglectful and uncaring. It is cruel and unkind. It tells your partner that you really don’t give a shit about them or what they have to say, and speaks far more loudly than anything else you might do or say to the contrary.

Off-the-table-itis is in play when your partner expects you to listen endlessly to his litany of repeated woes (especially when he does nothing to change them), yet shuts you up when you bring up issues of your own that he doesn’t want to hear. When it’s OK for him to drone on and on about the same problems day after day for years, but the second or third time you bring up one of your own, somehow you are just adding to his own load intolerably and he shuts you up. When he acts as if his troubles are more important than yours and should take priority.

And as such, off-the-table-itis is a particularly insidious form of abuse that is not well-recognized for what it is, especially since it may well be couched in such drama as the perpetrator painting himself as the victim, often of issues entirely outside the relationship such as at work or with his family, depicting himself as one who needs to be taken care of more than you do. He then turns you into the bad guy if you want to still sort things out, or protest something he does, thereby only adding to his woes.

When I get hit with that “We have to talk” thing, it sometimes sends me into a blind panic, particularly if the relationship is on shaky grounds and he’s been engaging in clear off-the-table-itis. I may start looping and freaking out, may even run away initially, maybe even screaming. That’s rare, but it has happened to me. But given half a chance, I will calm down quickly and come right back to the table, as long as the other party doesn’t end up going off looping away on his own, freaking out at my own freak out.

And I will usually come back within minutes, perhaps an hour or two at most. Given the chance. None of this days to weeks later after the rest of life and endless stresses calm down stuff.

Actually, I’ll come back pretty much immediately anyways, no matter what he does. But his reaction at that point will determine whether or not the conversation actually ends up taking place. If he’s still there, it will. If he’s flipped out and thought I was blocking things, it may not.

But I will be there, and I will discuss it.

I need to be able to come back to the table quickly to ensure that we both keep the conversation open, no matter what, and to not table things. When issues arise, I also really badly need to be able to address them right then, when they are particularly urgent, and not put them off until later.

If life events are such that a complete discussion is not possible at that moment, at minimum I need reassurance that things are OK – and that my concerns are both legitimate and being taken seriously. Attempts to dismiss my concerns will only make my need to talk about it RIGHT NOW escalate.

Because life and its stresses don’t stop just because they’re piling up, God knows, and putting off discussions until even later in the week (never mind indefinitely) can lead to a total logjam and turn weekends and other time together into things to dread when a pile of crap has built up, especially when you’re with someone who is masterfully capable of twisting everything you both say to the point that you can no longer keep your own thoughts straight on one issue, never mind a logjam that have now all collided together and become hopelessly intertwined.

My father taught me to never go to bed angry at my partner. It’s not always completely possible in busy lives, but it’s a goal I have always worked towards. It’s mostly doable if the communications are open enough, but is completely impossible if they are not, and if one person keeps blocking the discussion. Or has had a history of blocking other issues that have ended up festering, even if they are not related. It is the blocking of communication of any sort that stops it all dead in its tracks.

I’d give my eye teeth and maybe even my right arm to find someone who could handle this the way Mo’s The Dominant Guy does. Who is secure enough to contain my fears and hold me until they abate, and can carry on with the conversation when either of us needs to. Who is both willing and able to meet me at the table like an adult instead of a petulant two year old.
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April 30, 2011

Controlling Men Could Face Criminal Charges

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the UK wants to “…make abusive behaviour by men a criminal offence, even if it does not involve physical violence), according to the Sunday Mirror. He also wants to extend the law to include men who discipline children under the age of 18 “too strict[ly” also a criminal offense.

I don’t know what the domestic violence laws currently are in the UK, if any, but this is clearly a step in the right direction of helping ensure that men who don’t understand and respect personal boundaries and who often end up ruining the lives of partners and/or children are held responsible for their behavior. It’s a formal acknowledgement, in a country in which domestic violence accounts for 18% of all violent incidents, that domestic violence is a serious crime that should not go unpunished, that partner abuse is something that shouldn’t be tolerated in a civilized society.

The problem, of course, is determining a reasonable definition of “spousal abuse” (which I hope they will expand to the more general “domestic partner abuse), which is something they are looking at now.

It’s one thing to realize that some legal support for such victims is necessary, but quite another to pass laws which don’t unfairly target those whom they shouldn’t, and punish too many people, thereby ruining lives unnecessarily as well as contributing to prison overcrowding, and clogging the courts with both criminal and civil cases.

Another problem, as it is in this country, is actual enforcement of whatever laws do exist, and getting police to take the reports seriously enough.

Let us hope that they come up with a definition that will protect a woman’s right to say no and have her wishes respected – and ensure that violations have some real consequences – without causing an ipso facto across the board condemnation of consensual BDSM. If they follow a model similar to California law, which requires affirmative assent, rather than just implied consent, and prohibits the use of the classic “She didn’t say no or safeword” as a defense, it seems to me that this could be a very positive thing.

Did you know that in California, domestic violence is treated as even more serious than violence against those with whom one is not currently or in the past in an intimate relationship? And that the definition includes even those who have had as little contact with someone as a single date?

It is – and is something people who suffer abuse, particularly violence, should keep in mind, particularly bottoms or submissives, who seem to be disproportionately affected by abuse for by partners in the name of D/s. Report it *when it happens*, not later, for maximum police response, and to preserve your legal rights later, and leave a documentable paper trail. And keep a lot of everything that happens, with dates and details in order to keep a documented paper trail. And also don’t be afraid to seek medical help if you are injured in any way, for the same reason as well, of course, for treating any injuries when they occur. Don’t forget that emotional distress caused by abuse can also have lifelong damaging consequences, oftentimes much more so than any physical harm.

WomensLaw.org

I just discovered an absolutely fantastic legal resource targeted at women who are victims of domestic violence.  A project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, WomensLaw.org, is probably the most comprehensive website I’ve come across dedicated to this purpose.  Need a form, or need to know the procedure for getting a restraining order in your state, or what the child custody laws are?  Want to know what the relevant statutes are where you live, as well as the federal ones?  Find someone to help you?  Sue your abuser in civil court as well as put his ass in jail, or instead of?  This is just a start to the kinds of information on this site.  You will find more at this site than anywhere else I’ve come across.  I’ve also posted links to it in several of the link sections so that it’s easy to find in the future.

 

The 15 Characteristics of Verbal Abuse

via married2mrmean

“As defined by Patricia Evans, in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship – How to recognise it and how to respond.

“I make reference to Patricia Evans often and decided I would write this entry, in case anyone needs it :) None of these words are my own, they are all taken from the book.”

===============

1. WITHHOLDING
Withholding is a choice to keep virtually all one’s thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams to oneself and to remain silent and aloof towards one’s partner, to reveal as little as possible and to maintain an attitude of cool indifference.

The verbal abuser who chooses to withhold can add a variety of flourishes and camouflages to his withholding, such as pretending not to hear, picking up something to look at while his partner is sharing or watching television while saying “Go ahead, I am listening” when it is clear that he is not.

2. COUNTERING
As a category of verbal abuse, countering is one of the most destructive in a relationship because it prevents all possibility of discussion, it consistently denies the victim’s reality and it prevents the partner from knowing what her mate things about anything.

An abuser who constantly counters seems only to think the opposite of his partner. If she (or he) says anything directly or expresses thoughts on something, the abuser will say it is the opposite. What he is really saying is “No, that’s not the way it is” even about her most personal experience of something.

3. DISCOUNTING
Discounting denies the reality and experience of the partner and is extremely destructive. The verbal abuser discounts his (or her) partner’s experience and feelings as if they were worth nothing. He will say something that gives her the message “Your feeling and experiences are wrong, they are worth nothing.” Such as – “You’re making a big deal out of nothing, you always jump to conclusions, you can’t take a joke, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you take everything the wrong way.”

4. VERBAL ABUSE DISGUISED AS JOKES
This kind of abuse is not done in jest. It cuts to the quick, touches the most sensitive areas and leaves the abuser with a look of triumph. The abuse never seems funny because it isn’t funny.

Disparaging comments disguised as jokes often refer to the nature of the partner, their intellectual abilities or competency. If the partner says “I didn’t think that was funny” the abuser will discount her experience by angrily saying “You don’t have a sense of humour!” or “You just can’t take a joke!”

5. BLOCKING AND DIVERTING
This category of verbal abuse specifically controls interpersonal communication. The verbal abuser refuses to communicate, establishes what can be discussed or withholds information. He or she can prevent all possibility of resolving conflicts by blocking and diverting. This may be by direct demand or by switching the topic.

Examples of blocking are:

*You’re just trying to have the last word!
*You think you know it all!
*This conversation is over!
*Just drop it!

Through diversion the topic is changed. None of the abuser’s diversions answer the partner’s question in a thoughtful or considerate way. Continue reading

The 15 Characteristics of Verbal Abuse

via married2mrmean

“As defined by Patricia Evans, in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship – How to recognise it and how to respond.

“I make reference to Patricia Evans often and decided I would write this entry, in case anyone needs it :) None of these words are my own, they are all taken from the book.”

===============

1. WITHHOLDING
Withholding is a choice to keep virtually all one’s thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams to oneself and to remain silent and aloof towards one’s partner, to reveal as little as possible and to maintain an attitude of cool indifference.

The verbal abuser who chooses to withhold can add a variety of flourishes and camouflages to his withholding, such as pretending not to hear, picking up something to look at while his partner is sharing or watching television while saying “Go ahead, I am listening” when it is clear that he is not.

2. COUNTERING
As a category of verbal abuse, countering is one of the most destructive in a relationship because it prevents all possibility of discussion, it consistently denies the victim’s reality and it prevents the partner from knowing what her mate things about anything.

An abuser who constantly counters seems only to think the opposite of his partner. If she (or he) says anything directly or expresses thoughts on something, the abuser will say it is the opposite. What he is really saying is “No, that’s not the way it is” even about her most personal experience of something.

3. DISCOUNTING
Discounting denies the reality and experience of the partner and is extremely destructive. The verbal abuser discounts his (or her) partner’s experience and feelings as if they were worth nothing. He will say something that gives her the message “Your feeling and experiences are wrong, they are worth nothing.” Such as – “You’re making a big deal out of nothing, you always jump to conclusions, you can’t take a joke, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you take everything the wrong way.”

4. VERBAL ABUSE DISGUISED AS JOKES
This kind of abuse is not done in jest. It cuts to the quick, touches the most sensitive areas and leaves the abuser with a look of triumph. The abuse never seems funny because it isn’t funny.

Disparaging comments disguised as jokes often refer to the nature of the partner, their intellectual abilities or competency. If the partner says “I didn’t think that was funny” the abuser will discount her experience by angrily saying “You don’t have a sense of humour!” or “You just can’t take a joke!”

5. BLOCKING AND DIVERTING
This category of verbal abuse specifically controls interpersonal communication. The verbal abuser refuses to communicate, establishes what can be discussed or withholds information. He or she can prevent all possibility of resolving conflicts by blocking and diverting. This may be by direct demand or by switching the topic.

Examples of blocking are:

*You’re just trying to have the last word!
*You think you know it all!
*This conversation is over!
*Just drop it!

Through diversion the topic is changed. None of the abuser’s diversions answer the partner’s question in a thoughtful or considerate way. Continue reading

I Miss… I Don’t Miss

12/22/09

Every morning I still awaken with the thought of how much I miss you, how much I want to be with you again, how much I miss being in your arms.

And then my mind changes course, and I correct it with the new thought what I miss is the good parts, not the bad. And I try to remember what they all were… Continue reading