How do YOU communicate?
“We’re getting a lot better at this,” W said recently in chat. And I have to agree, we are. Communications are clearer, as are expectations of those communications. I think we’ve finally figured out what each of us needs in the way of communication while we are apart, and we each try our best to meet those needs. It’s been a learning experience, to be sure, and a challenge at times (still is) but for the most part, yeah, I’d agree that we are getting better at it. I’ll be honest, though, a bulk of it has been me learning his long-distance communications limits, and finding ways to live within them–and be okay with doing so. Much of it is me accepting that there are certain topics, certain discussions, that he simply cannot, and will not, have in chat.
I respect that (and try to adhere to those unwritten guidelines.) It’s much better now that I know what those limits are, though. “I do not want to discuss this in chat,” he said recently. That helped. I need clear boundaries at times. That’s one way that he’s learned to communicate better. Times were, he would simply ignore a conversation/email that he didn’t want to discuss/address. Now he tells me that he needs more time to think about it, or needs to discuss it in person. That’s good. I need to hear it, otherwise I am left guessing (angsting, worrying, filling in the blanks with all kinds of horrific what-ifs) about why he isn’t saying anything. I don’t do well with that sort of silence.
But it doesn’t make it any easier, sometimes, for me to feel happy about it. After all, when he’s gone for weeks at a time, it just feels like there are things that can’t wait for his return. And to me, communicating via chat or text is as good as talking face-to-face. And far better than my stumblings and stutterings on the phone. There are times when holding this in, waiting, just seems like too much.
There are all kinds of articles and books on communication styles (“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” anyone?) He and I obviously have very different ones. The “getting better at this” part is in learning each other’s styles and adapting our own, when we can, in ways to accommodate and facilitate effective communication. Sometimes it feels like most of the adapting is on my side, though. I know that’s not true, and is an emotional reaction, not a logical one, but still the feeling persists.
Which is perhaps key to this discussion, and to understanding how we view communication.
For me, the act of communicating is an emotional act. I share my emotions via chat/email as easily as I do in person (and at times easier, as it is often easier for me to articulate what I am feeling in writing than it is to say them out loud.) It is also emotional in that I get (at least some) of my need for emotional connection met through chat. It’s not just idle, cocktail-party style chit-chat. Or at least I don’t want it to be. It’s connection. It’s sharing. And when we are apart, because we don’t have the luxury of in-person communication, I desperately need that.
Sure, I get some of that via simply sharing our day-to-day stuff. A lot, in fact. I love it when we’re both on chat while we do other stuff, and share little tidbits of our days with each other. “Open phone line time,” as Mollena calls it, in her post When Submission is a Dry Biscuit. “…we’ll be on the phone but not specifically talking about anything. He’ll do whatever he’s doing, I’ll do whatever I’m doing, and just spend some time. It is lovely, actually.” Yeah, that (though with us it’s a chat line, because I don’t do phone.) We have some spent some lovely days while I am working just like that.
But I also need this: “…it had better be connected (…) meaningful, moving, touching, vital…” (also from that post.)
And that’s where his need for, and style of, long distance communication differs from mine.
I’ve only read a short synopsis of each of the “Five Love Languages,” but it’s pretty clear to me that I fall into two categories (any surprise there?): Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch. In general, W is not a very verbally demonstrative man. While he has no qualms saying the things that turn me on, make me hot, make me pant and whimper with lust and heat, speaking love words comes harder for him. He is good at praising my writing, professional or sexual skills, but to hear him say “I love/need/want/miss you” is a (much sought-after) rarity. (But when I do, I hold onto it, savor it, taste it and play it over and over in my head.) When we are together, I don’t miss that so much, though, because a) I do hear his words of praise about those other things, b) we talk, frequently, in other, intimate and deeply connective ways, and c) we touch. A lot. And touch is the other way I both show and perceive love. So my needs are fulfilled.
Obviously that can’t happen (the touching) when he and I are apart. And the deep, intimate conversations don’t happen. And he doesn’t feel comfortable discussing anything that has the slightest bit of…importance…to it on chat. Please, don’t get me wrong: I understand completely why he doesn’t like to discuss issues on chat. He feels he is at a disadvantage, and that the dangers of misconstruing and misunderstanding are far greater in chat than face-to-face.
I completely concur. I know that when we have to “talk about things” when he is home, the way that we do it is to lie down with each other, touching each other, holding each other, as we say the hard things. It helps. It’s a marvelous strategy for communicating when that communication is difficult. But we don’t have that luxury. And so…all we are left with is this: chit-chat.
I’ve tried to find ways to get that need fulfilled via the few options we have. The Tasks helped. The Wearables help somewhat. But, unless we are in active communication about them, unless I feel like they have some meaning to him, they don’t work all that well. I need more than that. I need interaction. And sexual tension, because that is a deep, ingrained part of who we are together, and, since I don’t hear the words often, that is one way that I perceive his love & desire for me.
So you can see how cut off, how deeply disconnected–and why–I end up feeling during the times he is away. And when it happens during a time when Ad’s capacity for physical intimacy is at an ebb, well, I start feeling like…a shell. Empty; disconnected.
The other night I lay in bed next to Ad. He had fallen asleep on the far side of the bed, and I could have snuggled up against him, but instead I curled over on my side, lonely, but unwilling to reach out. I just felt so tired, so weary of struggling to feel connected. I thought about W, and what his communications with his other partner had been like when he was with her. Brief, sporadic, to-the-point. Dry, I imagined (though all those assumptions could be–and probably are–wrong.) Somehow, though, I can’t imagine they played or teased or flirted in email. He’s not one for sexy email or chat, for flirting online, for teasing. And I wondered…if I should just stop. Stop pouring my heart out to him in email, in my blog. Stop being my emotional self, giving him so much of myself over email and chat and the net.
Part of that was an obvious “cut off my nose to spite my face,” thought. Obviously, when I don’t get the communication I need, I feel rejected, and my initial response is always to reject back. But if I don’t share who I am, what I feel, everything that is me with him, I know something would wither up and die inside of me. My emotional landscape would become small and shriveled and desolate. But another part of me wondered if he wouldn’t be just as happy–or happier–that way. I know I am a lot to deal with. There’s a whole lotta me, yanno? And maybe he just gets…tired…of being forced to feel, of having to deal with my feelings, desires, needs.
Also, maybe it would give him a chance to miss me, you know? Maybe I’m…too easy. I give too much and too willingly. Maybe I needed to play “hard to get.”
The thing is, I’m not “hard to get.” And I don’t want to be. Why would I want to be? I want to get gotten. (Or something like that.) And in all possible ways. I want my lovers to know me, to understand me, to want to “get” me. And–I think W does too. I think, as difficult as it is at times for him, he appreciates this about me. He wants me to share. Maybe even…needs me to. Maybe…this is the way his own boundaries are pushed. His own emotional landscape expanded.
And yet…there is a limit to that. To his willingness to be “expanded,” or his desire to, obviously. And I appreciate him being clear about that. Setting that boundary. In her post, Mollena talks about this being a part of her submission to him: being willing to wait until he is ready to discuss whatever-it-is that she wants to discuss. And perhaps that is part of submission; perhaps it is incumbent upon the submissive to follow his lead in this as well.
Perhaps, if we had a D/s relationship in which that was delineated as part of our interactions, I could live with it better. There would at least be some feeling of accomplishment, of purpose, in that, too, just as there is in submitting to the physical acts of domination. I don’t know.
We are getting better at this. He’s getting better at setting the boundaries, I am getting better at adhering to them. But am I happier this way? I don’t know that, either. All I know is this is what we have to live with. And that, hopefully, we’ll both continue to try to find ways to make it work. For both of us.