Of Grace & Gratitude
So much can be created or destroyed in just one conversation. And if both people aren’t committed and invested in the relationship, a few misunderstandings and selfish/egocentric communication choices can end, or seriously damage, a relationship.
People in healthy relationships practice effective, nonviolent communication. They practice understanding and compassion and patience. They take responsibility for their own actions, as well as taking at least partial responsibility for their partner’s heart. They practice grace and gratitude.
I took an amazing class this past spring called “How to be Assertive and Loving, Too.” I learned so much in that class. I learned that I was actually more assertive than I thought! I had feared I was too passive in a recent failed relationship, but it turns out I was quite assertive, but that assertiveness is only so effective if your partner is aggressive. The most important thing that I learned is that a person can be aggressive, and their words can still sound loving or even spiritual.
The intention behind the words are often as important, if not more important, than the words themselves.
An aggressive person has the intention: “Fuck you. This is about me and what I want. Period.”
An assertive person has the intention: “I am taking care of myself and my own needs while taking care of you and your needs.” This comes from a place of love and compromise, establishing a win – win situation through love, communication, and compassion.
A passive person comes from the intention: “Whatever you want is what we’ll do. You are more important than I am.”
In healthy relationships, always strive to come from an assertive and loving place. Use “I” statements to express yourself. For example, instead of “You neglected me all night,” say “I felt neglected.” The second one takes responsibility for your feelings; the first one blames the other.
So remember, aggressive behavior and selfish intentions can sound extremely loving and even spiritual.
Below are examples of a couple of conversations. These conversations are more overtly abusive and aggressive then aggression can sound by a skilled manipulator, but aggression that sounds loving and spiritual is very difficult to portray on the page, as it’s really about situation, intonation, and intent. Intent under the best circumstances it’s very difficult to prove, and even more difficult to show in writing
Just look at the difference in the examples. I normally don’t like to use the words “wrong” and “right,” as they suggest judgment. And what is “right” for one person may not be “right” for another person. But in the examples below, I’m using the word “right” to mean a way to support the relationship and behave lovingly to your significant other; “wrong” to mean ways to certainly fuck up a relationship, to be disrespectful, abusive, and cruel.
Set up: Four polyamorous people just spent a non-sexual evening together.
A: the boyfriend. B: his ex-girlfriend(GF). C: his current GF. D: her husband.
A held C’s hand for ten minutes. The rest of the time he gave huge amounts of inappropriate loving and borderline sexual affection to B, his ex who is not yet over him. C felt neglected and unseen. D was quite appalled. B was confused and hopeful. A saw no problem with his behavior. C & D left, and A said he’d come, too. Instead, he lingers with B and tenderly kissed her in front of C. He hadn’t done that since they split 4 months prior, nor had he shown her that kind of affection or attention since the split. It hurt and confused B. C & D went outside to let A & B say their goodbyes, but after staying around waiting for 5 minutes, not knowing what A & B were doing inside, left.
C: I felt completely neglected.
A: Really? Because I thought that was perfect.
C: I felt really ignored all night.
A. I held your hand!
C: Yes, for like 10 minutes, and that was great! Then you hardly even looked at me while you caressed B’s legs and tummy for the next hour. Look, I can understand that we haven’t been all together before and maybe you just didn’t know what to do in that situation. D was taking good care of B and cuddling with her before you got there. I stayed back just keeping a solid connection with my husband by touching his legs while they cuddled. Everything has been so blissful between you and me, I wanted to help them feel loved and cared for, so they cuddled close. D hoped his caring for B would’ve left you free and comfortable to cuddle with me. It’s great you give B affection, really! I really am impressed with how hard you’re both working to find a way to love in a new, nonromantic way, as I’ve said so many times before. Just give me affection, too. Please just don’t ignore me.
A: I just can’t win! I’m sure B feels the same way. I’m sure she’d say I paid too much attention to you. You had your husband and your boyfriend there. B had no one.
C: I know, and I understand that. You know I’ve been putting a lot of effort towards embracing her and helping her feel loved. Whenever she’s around, I always back off. But she’s your EX-girlfriend. I’m your current GF.
A: You’re being so negative. I thought it was a perfect night with the two women I love most in the world, and you’re bursting my bubble.
C: I don’t mean to, my love. But it’s okay to show me affection in front of my husband, and B needs to see us together, too. She’s very confused now and thinks you might be getting back together. I think it’s great you two are trying to find a way to still be in each other’s lives lovingly, but all that affection tonight hurt her. It hurt me, too.
A: Well, I’m not responsible for your emotions.
C: I know you’re not. I’m just expressing myself to you. I’m not saying you did anything wrong, sweetheart. This is new for all of us. We’re just learning how to be a family, so it’s okay.
A: I would apologize, but I feel that would be diminishing my effort. I’m very angry with you. Why couldn’t you have talked to your husband about this and left me alone on my high? I was so happy. You’ve ruined my entire night.
C: I felt completely neglected.
A: Oh, sweetheart! I’m so sorry you felt neglected! It wasn’t my intention to neglect you.
C: I know it wasn’t, honey. This is new for all of us. We’re just learning how to be a family, so it’s okay.
A: I wasn’t sure how much affection I could show you in front of your husband.
C: That’s understandable. He knows we’re in love and very affectionate with each other, so in the future know it’s okay to just be like we always are together: loving and affectionate. I’d like him to see you loving on me. It would show him that you care. It was just a new, awkward situation tonight.
A: Can I make it up to you?
C: What have you got in mind?
A: I think you know exactly what’s on my mind.
A canceled plans on C to be with B, but C had to find out about it from B. She asked A about it. (E is A’s other GF, and F is C’s other BF)
C: Are we still on for Wednesday night?
A: Well, I realized I wouldn’t be seeing B this week, so I’m going to hang out with her instead.
C: When were you going to tell me?
A: I haven’t had the chance yet.
C: You were over at my place yesterday and we’ve been talking now for ten minutes.
A: Look. Plans change, C. You know that, right? I mean, you DO know that plans change?
C: Of course, but this isn’t a change of plans because something unexpected came up. This is you canceling on me to be with your ex, and I had to find out from her.
A: I’m not canceling plans with you. I’m opting out of a group activity you’re planning.
C: This was supposed to be for all of us. You know E and her husband will be there as will F and his other GF. My husband, too. This was supposed to be so we could all get to know each other better. Our little poly family.
A: Plans change.
C: I know that. I just wish you had told me.
A: Look. We’re seeing a lot of each other lately, and I wasn’t going to get to see B this week. That’s it.
C: Are we still on for Wednesday night?
A: I actually made plans with B for Wednesday.
C: When were you going to tell me?
A: I was scared to. After what happened at her place last Friday, I didn’t know how to say it.
C: I want you to always feel comfortable talking with me, sweetheart. I don’t want you to edit yourself, but I feel kinda pushed aside, especially after what happened last Friday. This was supposed to be for all of us. You know E and her husband will be there as will F and his other GF. My husband, too. This was supposed to be so we could all get to know each other better. Our little poly family.
A: I know it was, and I’m so sorry I’ll miss it.
C: Maybe it’s best. You and she need to set up some boundaries. Your affection to her last Friday really confused her. She thought you two might be getting back together. She even canceled two dates because she was so upset and confused by it all.
A: I know, and that’s what we’re going to talk about. You’re right, we do have to set some boundaries. I don’t want to inadvertently hurt her or you again. And I sure don’t want you to feel pushed aside. I love you, and you are such a significant part of my life, but this is just all new and I’m having trouble juggling everything. I’m feeling overwhelmed.
C: I can understand that. It’s all new for me, too.
A: I’m really grateful for this gorgeous connection we share.
C: Likewise. I love you.
A: I love you, too. Maybe we can reschedule the poly family get together next week?
C: Deal! Are we still on for this Thursday?
A: You bet! I can’t wait to celebrate three wonderful months with you. Hiking all day, making love all night. Wine-flavored kisses. I might even feed you some chocolate if you’re a good girl.
C: I can be a really really good girl.
A: Indeed you can…
What a difference.
Some kindness, personal responsibility, and compassion makes all the difference in the world.
Be kind. Empathize. Embrace and nurture your SO’s insecurities.
Reassure. Communicate. Love.
Show some grace. Express a lot of gratitude.
P.S. If your SO talks like A in either *wrong* scenario. Get out, and get out fast. This is more than just a problem of communication skills. This behavior shows no compassion or personal responsibility. This is not the behavior of someone who is invested in a loving relationship. This is the behavior of an abuser, a callous, selfish person who is most using you, at best, and at worst, s/he is a psychopath, incapable of empathy or accepting responsibility for their actions. Incapable of love or any real emotion. Run. Very fucking fast.
And, yes, the *wrong* scenarios were taken from actual conversations.
The Scene One before the rape (its what I was punished for), and the second in between the two assaults. I couldn’t bear to relive the conversation on that last day, preceding the second assault, but perhaps one day soon I’ll be able to reproduce that one with tips on how to more effectively and loving talk with your SO.
~ by omgrey on August 23, 2012.
Posted in Romance & Relationships
Tags: austin burn, austin ecstatic dance, austin poly community, austin poly rapist, austin polyamory, austin sex positive, austin yoga studio, author, broken heart, burning flipside, communication, flipizen, healing, heartbroken, honesty, intimacy, love, LTR, misogyny, narcissist, non-monogamy, olivia grey, omgrey, passion, rape, relationship advice, relationships, sexual assault