A couple of days ago I wrote a post (“of geishas and dogs, and being lost in the woods“) about a long conversation Joscelin and I had about his need to feel like I have a long-term plan or goal for him. I got really sad writing about it, because I essentially stated that my only known solution to the problem was to basically trick my lovely boyfriend into staying around despite my complete inability to meet this need. And that’s never great.
Of course, he was having a kind of insecure day, and partly that just passed. But another part of what happened was that I was able to find things in my own head that could help him.
He didn’t know, for instance, that amidst all of my crazy irritability about his style of eating (which is a really strong peeve of mine – way beyond a “peeve” really – in general), I have been thinking about how to codify my preferences so that I can start teaching him to eat in a way that’ll be more pleasing to me.
He also didn’t know (because I hadn’t told him) that I’ve been percolating around some new rules I wanted to introduce to him. I went ahead and introduced them.
Another thing that turned out to be helpful was the realization that he often interprets my instructions as mere requests for favors. So even though I would never ask my vanilla boyfriend to get up from another room and come adjust the dimmer switch in the bathroom while I’m on the pot, when I demand this of Jos he’s quite liable to interpret it as a favor. And he’s really willing to do favors, so on my end it looks the same, but on his end, he doesn’t get that sweet feeling of being controlled (hence his occasional, somewhat befuzzling complaint that I “never ask him to do anything”).
To deal with this last thing, we have introduced a new protocol, which is that he is to respond with “Yes, Mistress” in response to an instruction and never in response to a request for a favor. If he guesses wrong I’ll correct him (not to be mean, but to help make sure he knows what’s going on). The truth is that almost everything I ask of him is either explicitly an order, or something I’m happy to have intrepreted that way. (An exception would be something like “Would you please hold me? I feel like I’m going to cry.” I would feel really bad if I could only get comforted by issuing commands about it. Jesus Christ.)
The new rules I mentioned are these. First, he’s not allowed to bite off his fingernails anymore. (This is a really ingrained habit that we’ve discussed as a possible rule before. He’s had a lot of trepidation about it.) And second, he’s not allowed to curse when he’s with me and other people. (He can’t use any language not allowed on American network TV in these situations. He can curse as much as he wants around just me – I like it – and he can curse if I’m not around.)
I gave him the no cursing rule, and later decided to tell him the motivation behind it, which is just to make sure he’s pleasing if I take him around coworkers or family or whatever. I wasn’t intrinsically inclined to discuss the motivation, but I need to get inclined to do that, because (a) it always helps to know why things are done, and (b) he likes this stuff anyway! Duh!
So, I’m learning. I’m really a very honest, open, confessional person, but it’s surprising how many little instincts I have to counterproductively play things close to the vest.