It seems that one of our big hurdles in our disciplinary relationship is fairness. It isn’t that Mrs. Lion is unfair when it comes to punishing me; she’s too fair. I get it. When we raised our kids we worked hard to be consistent and fair disciplinarians. We never punished when angry. We always erred on the side of being too lenient. After all, we have good kids.
When we began our domestic discipline, Mrs. Lion continued following the same disciplinary path as she did with her kids. The result is that she is absolutely consistent at enforcing our explicit behavioral rules and doesn’t punish when she gets annoyed at me. She’s said that it feels wrong to punish me if she is angry. She wants to wait until she is calm before spanking me.
She has also said that she doesn’t punish me when she gets upset when I say something she doesn’t like. Her reasoning is that her anger isn’t really my fault. For example, if she has had a hard day at work and comes home just wanting to unwind and I let her know I am hungry, she gets annoyed. She’s said it is unfair to punish me. I had no way of knowing that she wanted to relax. It would be unfair to spank me.
Of course, she is right. The problem is that this is a slippery slope. I would have to do something pretty egregious for her to feel it was fair to punish me. The net result is that I never get punished for things that annoy her. I’m only spanked for breaking one of my explicit rules. Mrs. Lion agrees that she would like to extend this to things I do that might upset her. Her very refined sense of fairness gets in her way.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I’m not the only blogger who is writing about this. In a recent post, “Male Domestic Discipline In Our Marriage“, I quoted Julie, who also wrote about this very subject. She wrote from the perspective of the disciplining wife. She came to the conclusion that it is better to spank her husband if he is annoying her, even though he isn’t the real cause.
She recognized that it was unfair, but felt the opportunity to express her frustration was useful to her and instructive to her husband. I agree. If Mrs. Lion punishes me because I trigger some anger that isn’t purely my fault, she gets to deal with her frustration and I learn to be much more sensitive to how she feels. In this context, the spanking is part of a dialogue. True, it’s a painful dialogue for me, but it serves a very important purpose. Mrs. Lion is learning to let me know how she is feeling, even though those feelings can’t be attributed only to me. If something I say brings those feelings to the surface, or make some worse, she has an absolute right to let me know.
I’m not claiming that any of this is particularly fair to me. That really isn’t the point. Unlike enforcing explicit rules, she is holding me responsible for triggering negative feelings. I understand that I’m not the absolute cause of these feelings, but I contributed to them. I had ways to check out how she was feeling before, for example, I told her I was hungry. I could have done things to make her feel better if I had only bothered to find out she was upset.
One of the important aspects of a successful marriage is that both partners clearly understand their roles in causing each other difficulty. The key is communication. I completely subscribe to this. There is a side effect that gets in the way of domestic discipline. Before resorting to her paddle, Mrs. Lion goes through an analytical process to determine if I am to blame for how she is feeling. Clearly, I can’t have anything to do with the bad day at work. Chances are very good that if she didn’t have a bad day, my informing her that I’m hungry would be treated as information. She most likely would tell me that she could start dinner in a little while.
That’s fair and reasonable. It represents a logical process that attributes emotional responses accurately. The thing is that the next day, Mrs. Lion still felt some of that annoyance. She wrote about it in her post, “Spanking Harder Than Ever“. She clearly remembered how upset she got when I told her I was hungry. It was an unresolved feeling; a negative feeling. She felt it wouldn’t be fair to punish me for annoying her since I had no way to know that she was on edge. That’s when I realized her fairness sensitivity represents the roadblock to expanding her discipline.
This isn’t very different from when we began domestic discipline. Mrs. Lion created rules that had no particular emotional value that I would almost certainly break frequently. They were: getting food on my shirt, eating before she does, and forgetting to remind her of punishment days. They were easy for her to observe and offered her plenty of opportunities to perfect her spanking style.
Here we are several years later. Those three rules are the only ones that she consistently enforces. I think I’ve been spanked twice for interrupting her. One of those times she just added the offense into a spanking I was getting for forgetting a punishment day. It’s perfectly reasonable for me to say that she has had problems getting past those training wheel rules. I haven’t really understood why until now. I’ve been saying unhelpful things like, “Just punish me when I annoy you.” I probably should have been spanked for saying that.
I never considered that her fairness filter would prevent that. I’m proposing that she turn off that filter entirely. I think at this point it would be better if she spanked me because she had a bad day at work without me contributing to her annoyance than it would for her to recognize my contribution was too small to earn me a spanking.
It also makes sense for her to spank me as close to her feeling annoyed as possible. The idea here may be less to train me to be more sensitive then to train her to be more aware of her feelings and expressing them to me. Our experience to date shows that punishing me for breaking a rule does a very good job of eliminating any bad feelings surrounding the act. I’m not going to claim that spanking me will end Mrs. Lion’s annoyance. I think it will be very helpful because she will be clearly communicating it to me. It’s also is a good way to give her permission to let me know when she’s feeling upset.
This is a big deal. Mrs. Lion tends to keep her feelings to herself. Because she does this, I find myself guessing whether or not she’s feeling okay. The feelings she doesn’t express include good ones as well as bad ones. Positive feedback is just as important as negative. I don’t think she’s giving herself permission to freely express her feelings.
To be absolutely clear, I’m asking Mrs. Lion to punish me when she gets those feelings of annoyance. I’m asking her to punish me as soon as she gets them if she can. I’m giving her permission to punish me when she is angry. I’m not a child who needs an exaggerated sense of fairness to help form my personality. I am an adult asking her to express her negative feelings with the paddle and positive ones with a hug and a kiss. I am not asking her to decide whether or not I am the cause of her annoyance. I know that if she does try to analyze it, the paddle will stay in the drawer.