Thursday, October 8, 2009

His help

I feel like I need to put a caveat for this post. I don't fully understand the nuances of various titles, or philosophies, or lifestyles at this point. I am not looking to offend anyone, but I am trying to work through some thinking for myself, so please bear with me. I am certainly open to explanations or even constructive criticism. The issue has to do with rules, or discipline, or - it's actually larger than that, having someone else be in any way responsible for my actions or decisions. I will try to be coherent here, but this one really swirls around in my head in a lot of directions.

We have been married some time, so of course there are, not really rules, but preferences, ways of doing things, habits we have worked out because that makes things run more smoothly. Some evolved after a lot of argument, some more easily. But all of these have to do with making the household run better, or with raising our children in an intentional, thought out way. We really don't interfere in things that have to do with our individual lives. We support and encourage each other, and we care about each other's success or failure, but we don't suggest or offer advice.

Recently, I have been working on a very large project for work. It is a bit daunting, and I have been much too easily distracted, ironically, often by pursuits like this. (This is much more interesting.) But, maybe its just a bad case of burning out a little too early. In any case, my husband did step in and come up with a plan, and a timeline, and goals, and all those management sorts of tools. He even checks up to make sure i'm hitting them. And I am extremely grateful.

But I am conflicted about it as well. I have always, from probably the age of 5, been self motivated, self driven. My parents had a fairly lassaiz-faire attitude, college was a fun challenge - so I rose to it, and the nature of my job was such that feedback on performance was never a huge component. I never did organized sports that had coaching, and for the athletics in which I participate now, I compete only with myself. So, overall, it does feel unnatural, a bit incompetent, even lazy to have someone else prodding and pushing. So, when my husband told me he was stepping in as it were, I felt ashamed and guilty. I had disappointed him, and made him need to take the time and effort to help me with my responsibilities.

I have to admit though that I also felt something new, which I'm not sure I can describe. Instead of lashing out and telling him to butt out, I felt quiet. I felt his care and his interest and even pride in what I had done and was trying to do. I was very anxious (still am) about being accountable to someone else, but I felt a lot closer to him as well. I also had more than a twitch of excitment elsewhere, which seems completely backwards to me.

I don't know what to do with any of this. I still can't reconcile the idea of asking him to take on more responsibility, why should he? And shouldn't I be able to manage myself? Is it possible that both of us would be better off, be enhanced by changing other aspects of our interactions this way? Or would I be the only beneficiary? And that doesn't seem fair. Yea - i know fair is a 4 letter word, that's the problem, I really don't know how to decide if it's right or wrong.


  1. greengirl, I think you're terrific, first of all. You're taking a cautious, realistic approach to everything and looking at all angles.

    Second, whatever the dynamic, at an organic level you and you husband are partners - you are teammates and friends. I don't see what he did as negative - what I'm impressed with was your ability to recognize it for what it was and be appreciate rather than as you say "lashing out".

    I related very much to what you have revealed as your personality, as I am and always have been the "go-getter", the organizer, the "do-er" and have taken pride in it.

    But it also doesn't mean that you're going to rely on your husband for every single decision in your future!

    Perhaps, in light of your evolving dynamic, he saw that you needed some guidance and help and simply stepped in - which a good dominant would do! But conversely, as someone - husband, partner, dominant - who loves and cares about you - that is NOT a bad thing on any level.

    It neither makes you incompetent nor incapable of making future independent decisions.

    It merely meant that someone who loves for you, cares for you, wishes to take care of you, stepped in when the need was there.

  2. Selkie,
    Thank you. In this case it does feel really nice, and helpful, to have this kind of attention. It's just such a paradigm shift for my way of thinking...

  3. This exact situation is something that is and will probably cause problems in my own relationship. Even when we were strongly D/s, I had to fight my natural propensity to "do things myself" and NEVER ask for help...

  4. Selkie,
    Yup - that's a big one for me, in almost all contexts actually. I know why it is, but have a terrible time supressing it, to say nothing of giving it up. I do hope things move in the direction you want them to for you.

  5. I think along with the notion of fair you need to let of the idea of right and wrong. There is no right and wrong, only what works for you and your husband, you make it up as you go along and if it looks different than my relationship or Selkie's or Vesta's or even what society says so be it. The goal is happiness not conformity

  6. Sir J,
    I need a different word then. I didn't mean correct or incorrect by some standard, I mean - is it what is best for each of us, true to each of us. This is for me the important question.

  7. I agree totally with the points made by selkie and Sir J so I'll try not to re-hash those.

    I've got one other thing to toss out for consideration. - Your husband probably likes the fact that you let him in enough to help. You could have managed the project yourself, he's just helping you manage it better.

    That's simply part of a good relationship. We want, even need, to help our loved ones. If you could do something concrete to help him, how would you feel if he didn't let you?

    I've done that myself and caused a great deal of hurt by my refusals. We get so wrapped up in needing our independence that we forget it can feel like a brick wall or even rejection to the person trying to help us.

  8. You are a wise woman JZ. In this case, it is working out well and I am appreciating his help. We need to figure out how much that should expand, and I need to figure out how to let that be alright.

  9. I dunno I wish I had some really great advice to give you, but everyone's already said it all.

    I really need to get here sooner.


  10. Mouse I really appreciate you stopping and reading. Where else would i ever hear actual sane discussions of these things. Your willingness to share your thoughts is a big component. Thank you.

  11. ROFL, I agree with Mouse! I need to get here sooner or I can’t sound all wise and sage! I do want to suggest a couple of things. This will come in two parts. How can one pontificate with adequate verbosity in less than 5000 characters?

    I don’t know Sir J and mean no offense, but that whole notion that there is no right or wrong? I will put this as politely as I know how and say that idea really irritates me and I cannot disagree more. There is a right and wrong way to do things, including power exchange relationships. You’re on the right track with the definition you offered, asking “what is best for us?”. That is pretty close to what we do, which is to ask what is most effective for the team to reach its mutual goals. Please note though that there is a subtle difference between those questions. The thing is, you have to have clearly defined shared goals to do that. If you are just assuming you and he have the same goals because you seem to be moving in the same direction, you need to talk it out in detail and make sure you are both actually in accord. Then you can move forward in harmony. I do agree with Sir J that you need to let go of “fair” in the relationship. There is an excellent post on the blog A Dominant Character about this topic here In my opinion “fair” is not an attainable goal in any situation past dividing an even number of cookies between two little children, and you are wasting your time and setting yourself up to fail if you try to achieve it. Ask what makes you both happy, and just do that. Which leads me to JZs’ comment, which I agree with.

    If your husband likes to be the lead in the relationship, anywhere that is “off limits” is probably at least a little irritating even if it wouldn’t normally involve him, and even if he agrees it’s your responsibility. See, the thing is, by moving into a power exchange relationship (D/s or whatever) in which he is the leader, YOU become his responsibility. That makes you succeeding with your responsibilities his responsibility. Does that make sense?

    In my relationship, we all agree that I have a right to oversee the Ladies work life. That doesn’t mean I should micromanage, and I rarely do get involved unless it’s affecting home life or they ask me to. But I have been asked to help on occasion. For instance one of my ladies works in a place where they build next generation technology. At any time anyone there might need to step past the boundaries of their job description. On several occasions she’s been asked if she is capable of performing a task outside her acknowledged skill set, and sometimes she isn’t sure she can. That’s when she calls me, asks if I can help, and in the instance that I can she returns an answer of “Sure, I can do that”. I then teach her how to do whatever it is, she does the job for work or we do it together, and she not only gets the benefit of being the shining star to her supervisors, she actually has the skill now for future use. One of my Ladies is management for a large corporation. Occasionally there’s the stupidity of politics involved that really none of us can tolerate well, but that’s how life works. Sometimes she will tell me how two stubborn people are holding up a project because neither will compromise just because they each dislike the other. Sometimes I can offer a way to present the same information in a different way to each individual that allows each to feel they ended up with the upper hand, and then the project moves forward. She gets to be the one that got the ball rolling again and gains a reputation for being a team leader which has resulted in promotion within the company, and the next time she knows how to control the children from the start, so her projects always run smoothly.

    Here’s the thing, I get something too. What do I get? I get to brag and I get to see the results. My Ladies are bad-ass, and I got to help make them that way. But they had to let me help. I can’t force them.

  12. The last thing I wanted to address is your statement…

    “So, when my husband told me he was stepping in as it were, I felt ashamed and guilty. I had disappointed him, and made him need to take the time and effort to help me with my responsibilities.”

    You seem to assume when you say that, that you’ve disappointed him and that he resents having to help you. I really hope you have told him that. If you haven’t I think you should. I imagine his mouth will fall open, and then he’ll tell you what he really thought was more along the lines of…

    “That is a huge and important project. It makes perfect sense to me that they would give it to my Greengirl. After all, with a project like that you have to go with the best! Still, that’s a lot of work. I’m the dom, I can’t just pretend not to notice that along with all she does around here her workload from her job has tripled and it’s obviously taxing to her. I have no doubt what-so-ever that she can do it, but I don’t like to see her struggle so when I could take some of the weight just by helping her set a series of little goals designed to reach the big one. I’ll just help a little, it won’t be much effort.”

    This is what I meant earlier when I said you need to discuss even things that seem obvious so that you can be certain you are in accord. It probably never crossed his mind to think you couldn’t do it yourself, that you shouldn’t need help, or that you “Made” him take the time to help. Instead he’s probably very proud “his girl” was the one the company chose, and sees a chance to show them what she can really do.

  13. I pretty much agree with what everyone has said, but to expand on what Jz said... I think guys especially (this lifestyle or relationship dynamic aside) need to feel needed. They love to help us whether we need it or not. It runs back to the whole chivalry thing too, I think. Like we're capable of opening doors for ourselves, but when someone we love opens the door for us it just makes us feel special. I can't say what it does for them... I'm not a guy, but I imagine it must make them feel good in some way.

    And as far as what you've been feeling... believe me, it's perfectly natural to feel the way you've been feeling. Especially when you're just getting used to the idea of him taking control. It does stir something, doesn't it?


  14. MC: You make good arguments, long, but valid. Especially the second part of your post. My husband read this - and we did talk, and among other things, he said exactly that - that he is not at all dissappointed. He was surprised to find our I felt that he may be. He manages people adn projects, and timelines, etc all day long - and is something he is very good at and I am not. So - it does make sense for him to help me.

    Spirited: That's a good context to use, I need to remind myself of that more often. And as far as the other, it is completely surprising, makes no sense to me, but is quite real. I suppose I have lots of unexpected things to get used to. Thanks.

  15. I have a different wonder, question in my mind. Is it possible that one reason we are reluctant to accept, ask for or even need help from our partners is because we think about how we would feel if the tables were turned. What if he asked for or needed that extra support from us? Would we feel put upon? Overloaded? Taken advantage of?

    Are we therefore attempting to avoid that future obligation by resisting the help and guidance from a partner even when it is something we truly need? Idk, something I ponder why do we resist needing help or actually why do we resist wanting help. Jz notes it is possible that our efforts to resist help can be seen as a rejection by our partner, idk, must ponder more.

    I think I do fall on the there is only one right way for you to do this and that would be the way you choose. I have seen to many different dynamics presented as power-exchange that I do not agree with, the dynamics simply put would never work for me.

  16. CD - i hadn't considered the angle of not wanting help because I wouldn't want to be "in debt" on that count in the future. i know that my reluctance has to do with "indebtedness" from my past, from long before I got married. Either way is probably not a valid reason for me to push someone away in the present.

  17. Being a leader is such a revered role. But, being a follower is just as much of a responsibility. Both roles take humility, patience and follow through.

    I've struggled with this as well, and am also naturally very autonomous. I look at it in this way: I know I can be a good leader and I know that I can accomplish things by myself, but can I be a good follower and work in this team? It's certainly a challenge in its own right. When I try to take the reins I make it impossible for him to lead.

    I've had to fight internally against the idea that being a leader is the role of greater value or due greater respect. He can lead, but it's useless if I don't follow.

    That's how I'm trying to think about it. In practice it becomes much harder. :) But, there is progress.

    And I doubt anyone would fault you for being human. There is a difference between being "incompetent" or "lazy," and expecting yourself to be infallible. You would have gotten the job done, and probably done well whether he'd stepped in or not. He was just trying to make it less of a struggle, I imagine.

  18. JMDee,
    I'm not sure I would call myself a leader in the sense most people think. I am quite autonomous, and I teach well, but I have tried managemnt type things and was an abject failure. But on the other hand, I have not needed to ask for help with anything either.

    "That's how I'm trying to think about it. In practice it becomes much harder"

    You nailed it with this one though - I am starting to get my head around the concept of this - but the practice is going to take a lot of re-working of habits and ways of thinking and doing.

    Thanks for commenting - i think i'm going to find a lot of useful and timely ideas from your blog.