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Friday, October 31, 2003

Jugs are awesome 

Yeah, yeah. I'm not really going to talk about my jugs, which I do happen to be fond of, but rather a simple plastic container that has the potential to completely revamp my relationship with Steve.

Sounds insane, right? Actually, it's not.

I still don't really understand how it works, but it does, and that's all that's really important.

I mentioned earlier I bought a book when we went to the mall a few days ago. I've been reading various relationship books and online articles for quite a while now... since Steve and I got involved. I'd had so many failed relationships in the past, I figured I must be doing a lot of things wrong, and this seemed like a good way to find out what and how to correct it.

Well, many of those books and articles had good and useful points, but few really get into the nitty-gritty of how to fix major rifts. Dr. Phil, for example, has a popular book called "Relationship Rescue" -- it's a good book, in its own way, but it's also very broad. Basically, it gives a good idea of things that get in the way of having a successful relationship and things that make relationships better. But it never really tells you HOW to implement all this.

This is very important, especially for Steve. Very specific instructions make things easier for both of us, and for him I think they're basically necessary. I can bitch that I want more romance, but unless I sit down with him and throw out many examples of behavior I'd consider romantic, he's clueless on what to do.

Dr. Harley, author of "His Needs, Her Needs", gets a bit more specific (and I believe has a lot of valuable information) but still didn't give us what we needed -- specific instructions on how we could talk about sensitive subjects without drama and fighting.

And then I bought yet another book. I grabbed it off the shelf without really thinking too much about the purchase -- it just kind of grabbed my eye. I'm not sure why -- even though I'd been reading a lot of Dr. Harley's site lately, and considering his books as possibilities, I passed his up and got this one.

The book, by the way, is "Fighting for Your Marriage" by Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg.

And now that I think about it, the reason I didn't give much consideration to Dr. Harley's books is because he strikes me as a shady character. The guy just reminds me a bit too much of a used car salesman, or one of those people who do late night infomercials. Lots of gimmicks, little substance -- and everything is an absolute. He doesn't take into account the differences between individual couples.

Anyway, once I finally got around to (somewhat unenthusiastically) cracking open this new book, I realized I was onto something. You see, I'm really not a big fan of anecdotal evidence, and your average self-help book is full of just that. This is something else entirely -- "Fighting for Your Marriage" is based on a fuckton of actual studies involving thousands of couples. Yay.

Furthermore, it's nice and specific, with clear-cut rulesets. And I knew as soon as I got to their "Speaker-Listener" technique that this would make a big difference. The only question was what Steve would think of all this.

So, last night after work, I proposed that we try it. He was willing, although at first I got the impression he might just be going along with this to humor me. God knows I've suggested all kinds of shit before, and most of it hasn't panned out. But hey, he reassured me he really did think it was a good idea.

Today we tried it out, and the results have been astounding. The Speaker-Listener technique is something I'm familiar with, as I used to facilitate a support group (AODA, which is very similar to Narcotics Anonymous). I just never thought of applying it to a relationship.

It works something like this: Whenever a sensitive (ie, likely to induce drama) subject comes up, S-L is engaged. Or, if we start to get into a fight, we can take a time-out, go smoke a cigarette and gather our thoughts, then use S-L.

S-L itself is rather simple. An object is used to symbolize when a certain person has the floor -- that person is the speaker. The speaker says what s/he has to say, and the listener is only allowed to respond in ways to help understand what the speaker is saying (IOW, no reactions except that of support and understanding). This is rather like active listening, but less constrained. Once the speaker has said what s/he wants to say, s/he passes the floor to the other person and the roles are reversed.

During this process, trying to find a solution isn't allowed, only discussion of our viewpoints on the issue at hand. Afterwards, once the issue has been discussed to both parties' satisfaction, working on a solution is handled by another technique, if necessary. Most of the time, this doesn't even need to happen. Mutual understanding (not necessarily agreement) counts for a hell of a lot.

I explained all this to Steve last night, and then today when we got home, we were sitting out on the balcony, smoking, when something came up. He'd asked me if I'd written any blog entries last night, and I said I had... then he jumped up and started to literally RUN for the computer to go read them. I wanted to prep him first, because it seemed likely I'd written something that might be upsetting.

So I shouted, "Wait! Stop!"

He came back, but reminded me of the trash can drama, and wanted to know why it was okay for me to yell orders at him when I got upset if he did that to me. I argued it wasn't the same, and we were on the verge of yet another fight.

And then something incredible happened. Enter the jugs referred to in the title of this post... or rather, "The Jug".

Steve picked up an empty orange juice jug that had been sitting out on the balcony for the last couple of days. Yes, we're messy, but that's not the point.

Anyway, he handed me the jug, and indicated that it represented the floor. We talked using the S-L technique. There was no drama, no fighting... just mutual understanding of each other's feelings and perceptions on the subject. It went very well, and I feel like the conversation brought us closer rather than dividing us.

Steve says he's going to clean out the jug so we can continue using it as our S-L object. I think it's a good idea -- after all, people subconsciously associate all sorts of things with particular memories. For example, when my half-step-brothers' mother was killed (and they found out), they were eating liver and onions for dinner. Since that day, none of them can stomach that dish.

Positive associations happen as well -- Steve has mentioned he considers our bed a safe zone, and therefore one of the best places for us to talk things out. This probably has a lot to do with all the good memories we have surrounding that bed (get your mind out of the gutter!).

I count at least four times today that we would have gotten into yet another messy fight, were it not for the jug (and the habits using it has already started to create). The yelling thing, stuff surrounding a blog post from last night, a time management issue, and a comment he made about being alone... hell, maybe more, I'm not sure, but any one of those would have guaranteed drama that would have wrecked our day.

Except we didn't fight at all today. We talked a lot, but it was done in a completely supportive and understanding way. I am pleased.

Looks like The Jug is here to stay.

29% Slut 

Heather recently posted a link to The Spark's Slut Test, along with her score of 68% slutty. I figured, hey, what the hell, I'll take it myself.

At one point it asked the fewest number of hours that had passed between having sex with two different people. I was quite alarmed to discover that it wouldn't accept a four digit answer, so I put in "999". The actual number is somewhere between 2000 and 3000 (or 3-4 months).

End result -- I score at 29% slutty, which is well below the average of 46%.

I find this interesting, probably because it got me thinking. In nearly every relationship I've been in, the biggest source of friction has been my puritanical attitudes toward sex.

Generally speaking, in a situation like this, you've got three choices:

1. Loosen up.

2. Find someone who has similar attitudes.

3. Get a man with more normal desires, and resign yourself to being cheated on.

The first option sounds good in theory, but I sincerely doubt it'll happen. Nor do I want it to. It bothers me -- why should I be expected to do things (or accept behaviors) that make me incredibly uncomfortable at best, or at worst, devastated and betrayed? I'm quite happy about the state of my sexuality, anyway. I don't *want* to change.

The second option is even trickier, because the vast majority of men who have attitudes similar to mine are also heavily religious... and I'm a devout atheist. I did have a relationship once with a man who shared very similar views to mine in this area, and who wasn't particularly religious. Unfortunately, he dumped my sorry ass for another woman after six months.

The third option is just plain ugly, but I think it's what I'm going to wind up dealing with. Steve's certainly a lot "looser" than I am, despite the fact he was extra-virgin when I met him. I have little doubt he'll cheat on me, or worse (again), but I can't bring myself to accept that.

I could just remain single and unlaid for the rest of my days, I suppose. I don't like that option either. I LIKE SEX, DAMMIT. In fact, I'm possibly a nymphomaniac -- ideal for me is somewhere between one and three fucks a day.

It'd be nice to blame Mikey for the attitudes I have, but in truth, while his actions did make them stronger, they've been in place since I was much younger. For example, I have an incredibly strong aversion to porn. I remember the first time I saw pornographic images -- I was eight or so, I guess. I threw up.

I haven't been as honest about this with Steve as I should have been... I tend to insinuate that Mikey is the reason, and it often seems true until I think back far enough and remember things from before I ever met my shithead ex-husband.

I haven't been honest with myself, either. I agree to things, and sometimes do things, that I just am not comfortable with... somehow I manage to convince myself that maybe, with enough "practice", I'll like it. Fat chance, in reality.

I think this was what was lingering in my mind, subconsciously, when I asked Steve today how he'd feel about having an open relationship. It's not that I want one -- I have zero desire to have sex with people who aren't him. But I think, on some level, it's an appealing option... because maybe we could set it up where he could go elsewhere for things I'm going to be uncomfortable with... and make some kind of agreement that he can't tell me about it.

I guess it's just a matter of which option would be more harmful in the long run -- force myself to do things that make me feel bad, or give him the freedom to stick his dick in whatever orifice presents itself. I'm honestly not sure.

Note: Blogger is being weird again. To see the rest of today's posts, click here.

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