February 2018
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playful complaint, tactless respectful disagreement, and real conflict: my dynamic with Topaz.


icon: "honesty (me, outdoors, gazing straight at the camera with a solemn expression)"

A few months ago I realized, through watching a friend who I see rarely react to my dynamic with Topaz, that Topaz and I argue -- or appear to argue -- a LOT. We use playful complaint to release irritation; this is not conflict but can look like it. We use tactless respectful disagreement to help us learn about each other, increase our knowledge, and broaden our understanding of each other and what we can teach each other. Our other arguments don't happen in front of other people, and are comparatively rare.

playful complaint: not conflictCollapse )

You can't mix play and passive aggressionCollapse )

lack of tact doesn't mean disrespectCollapse )

tactless discussions require COMPLETE trust


One thing you absolutely need in order to have tactless discussions without hurting each other is a MUTUAL, complete and sturdy trust that the other person considers your thoughts to be as important, accurate, and valid as their own. If there is any doubt that the other person truly respects the way you think or communicate, you must both use care and tact in phrasing so that you don't accidentally imply that the other person's ideas are inferior to yours. I have ruined friendships by being tactless when that trust was not there; the trust MUST COME FIRST and there is no forcing it. It is not okay to demand that someone trust you to respect them. You must prove it through repeated example. If the other person doesn't feel completely comfortable with you being tactless and vice versa, that trust is not there.

Other than playful complaint and tactless discussion, we rarely argue. Not to say that there are no difficulties; when we have an emotional clash it hurts a lot, but that happens pretty rarely and we usually learn something important from it. Also, it hurts only out of comparison to the unity and adoration we usually share, not due to any kind of meanness or carelessness with each other's feelings.

behaviors we avoid in conflict


We don't try to hurt each other emotionally -- it is so beyond the realm of what we think of as okay that I forget that some people do that. We don't call names, threaten, or yell. We don't make dismissive, disrespectful, callous, or derisive comments. We don't attack ourselves or engage in self-hate, especially not out loud where it hurts the other person also. We almost never assign motive rather than asking, and if we do we apologize sincerely after we realize. We don't assign blame to the other or ourselves. When we realize we hurt the other person, we do not defend our choices!!!

behaviors we practice in conflict


We trust each other to tell the truth about our own motives, emotions, and desires. We take responsibility for our mistakes by making plans to do better. When we realize we hurt the other person, we empathize first, then explain our motives for what we did (not defensively), then discuss how we will try to avoid hurting them this way again, and ask if there is anything the hurt person needs to help them feel better. Afterward we usually hug, sometimes go have a lay-down cuddle if it was really intense.

accepting their stated motives as true: exampleCollapse )

In that moment I thought to myself how torturous it would be to not be able to have healing re-connection after a painful misunderstanding. I don't know how other people manage to just not talk about their upsets and wait for time to dull the ache and hope that they can accidentally happen into some re-connection along the way. I want to feel 100% back to normal connectedness by the time the clash is over, and the vast majority of the time, that's what happens. The only time that isn't true is when we're both nearly out of energy and then we clash and we both go into the negative. Then we tiptoe around each other for a bit and do passive-connection things like watch a show until we get back to neutral.

arguments based on misunderstandingCollapse )

shelving an unresolved discussion is a necessary skillCollapse )

I have learned that for me to be fully intimate with someone, they must either be able to discuss right away OR be willing and able to reflect on the issue on their own time and then talk with me when they finish. Either works, and I am sure there are other possible solutions as well. The basic need is for my partner to be willing and able to take responsibility for their share of the emotional work and actually do it.

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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.