Friday, April 3, 2009

Giving what you want to receive, or asking for it?

There was a debate going on in a forum I read concerning the ideas of giving what you want to receive, or asking for what you want. This could be the shortest blog post ever, with me saying that doing both is really the way to go, but brevity is apparently not my strongest suit, so let's delve into those ideas a bit more!

"Ask for what you want." It's just about front page on any poly manual out there. Your partners aren't psychic. You want something? Just wo(man) up and say so! Hmmmm... yet, why would we need to cover this over and over again if it weren't quite so simple for most of us? Societal training, particularly for women, says that you should wait for things to be offered to you, hint around it, make suggestions, or otherwise obfuscate what you _really_ want.

Apparently, it isn't lady-like to say: "I really want you to bury your face in my womanly-bits until I pull you up for air." Go figure. Instead, we are trained to be subtle, or just do without needs being met until such time as your partner spontaneously finds themselves interested in the same idea. Of course, by that point, it's likely that toys have been employed and the need no longer exists, but there's still a bit of resentment at being "denied" what was desired by one's own silence. Passive-aggressive much?

"Give what you want to receive." This sounds great in theory, but there are times where it just doesn't fit. Let's say that I'm kinky (just theoretically, you understand...), and that I want to enjoy public play as the Dominant. I offer that up to my partner, waiting for them to appreciate that gift. Hmmmm... they are vanilla, and not into public play. Well shoot, what do I do now?

This idea works better in intention than in specifics. Let's use the above example and instead of that specific scenario, I offer up an evening out, handling all of the childcare arrangements, so that there is a slot of totally free time available for use by my partner. This is getting closer, but let's face it, giving a gift and expecting reciprocation isn't much of a gift. Until I open up my mouth and say: "I'd really like to schedule an evening out, totally free of kids, to run a scene at a party. Here are a few times that events are running in the next month. Can we get that on the schedule, as well as a similar time slot for you to enjoy?" there is just an amorphous blob of vague wants and expectations that aren't likely to find the desired path on their own. It's the difference between going north, hoping to hit Canada, and plotting out a course with a specific route in mind. One is going to be MUCH more direct than the other.

On the flip side, let's suppose you want something. You best be prepared to set that up for your partners in return! Let's say you're the first one to have an outside partner. When the time comes that the shoe is on the other foot, work on wrestling any "But it's _different_ when it's you!" sorts of thoughts to the ground. They don't belong. You asked for it from them, you want it from them, pony up on your side of things!

Being upfront in negotiation with partners is really the fastest and easiest way to get what you want without jumping through a lot of extraneous hoops. Even if you get a no, at least you are aware of what you're working with, instead of waiting for the Relationship Parity Fairy to swoop down and bestow the perfect resolution.

Men, in contrast, have the idea that expressing a need is, well, needy and perhaps emasculating. They might do some of the same things, as far as indirectly asking, as a woman would do, but not usually for the same reasons. For example, I know a proud male Massage Slut. I am open to giving him massage, but find the approach of pathetic whimpering and whining with lots of hints to be less than appealing. ;) I'd rather just have a direct request, say yes (or no), and put a time frame around it. It's not needy to make a request, it's needy to expect someone to _notice_ that you _want_ to make a request.

Continuing to be aware of what your needs are, and how you generally go about trying to bring those needs to the attention of others in your life is an area of growth for most of us. Often, I find that if I'm feeling frustrated with my partners, it's because I didn't ask for something, or they didn't. Back-tracking and picking up that missed connection is usually a big step in the direction of resolution and getting everyone on the same page. Give what you want to receive, but also make sure you are communicating that clearly. The Relationship Parity Fairy will be pleased with you...


Dave said...

A while back, I noticed that one of my problems was that often I will be focused on "possibilities" rather than "preferences".

I would often think, "Oh, well this would be nice, or this, or I would be find with this as well..." within the context of what I think that my partner might want.

When the spotlight does shine on me, I had a hard time identifying what it is that I wanted out of the deal.

The fact that I have traditionally identified as being "submissive" helped with that. If I was able to find a relationship with someone who doesn't mind doing the work of finding out what I want, and then finding ways to mix and match that with their own desires... it can work really well.

However, for a more balanced relationship, God... that just sounds like a lot of work. I can imagine a potential partner saying, "Dude, seriously, figure it out and get back to me. I'm tired of doing the heavy lifting for both of us."

So, I have been really working on getting in touch with my wants and needs over the past 4 years or so. I've been thinking, "First, what do I want." Then "Second, okay, where is there a match here?"

That's been very helpful. Even in relationships where there is some power exchange happening, I am not the type to look for that 24/7. I want plenty of more vanilla, "we are equals and both responsible for our own thing" time. That's very important to me.

I'm happy to say that I'm getting pretty fluent with identifying what I want. When I have a deep relationship with someone, I can even ask for it, effectively.

I do have a clear limitation, however, in asking for what I want in relationships that are not as deep, without that sort of history. That is still a challenge for me. In part, that's fine. You should probably go a bit slower and build the relationship before you start trying to make withdrawals from the bank.

On the other hand, I still think I could use some strengthening of that muscle. I'm sure that there are ways to make gentle bids for what you want... without "breaking the bank"... which would help focus the relationship as it grows, and to make sure/help it grow in a direction that will be good for you in the long term.

It's not all or nothing. There are levels, and layers, and nuance. I'm not too good at that yet.

Food for me to think about.

Darcy said...

I am really trying at asking for what I'd like/need. Sometimes I end up doing more of an update - as in - when that happened the other week I noticed I ended up feeling X and I think if Y had happened I would have felt a lot better with the situation.

My issue is how do I know if I'm asking too much? Am I being too needy/overly taxing? Sometimes I feel like I'm asking for more than the other person wants to give, and they are trying to be polite but, end up skirting the issue. Which, in the end leaves me still feeling unfulfilled. Wondering if I'm asking in the wrong way or if there was something I need to do better?...


polyfulcrum said...

Hi Dave! It sounds like you've been doing to great work on balancing out some of the responsibilities of partnership, as well as getting more comfortable being ok with having your own wants. Keep up the great work!

Wednesdey- There are going to be times where you go back and revisit something after the fact. The trick there is not to punish your partners for not doing/doing something that YOU didn't even recognize as a need!

How do you know when you are asking too much? When you get a no. It might be something that is a no for right now, or "I don't have that to give.", or "That isn't a level of effort that I want to invest in this relationship." but when you get a no to a request, it's good to know why, and shift your trajectory around from that point.

Of course, if someone doesn't give you a no when they should have, that's their issue. You can help out by making it clear that "no" is an answer you'll take without drama or punishment.