It all started with a bank deposit. It really should not have escalated into a battle of wills. But sometimes in marriage a small disagreement takes on a life of its own. It always ends the same in Jane and Steve’s house: Steve ends up apologizing and sitting on a tender backside. You’d think he would learn not to show disrespect.
So, it all started with a bank deposit. That was Tuesday. Steve didn’t like being reprimanded, so he reacted with the “silent treatment,” lasting into Wednesday. Big mistake, Steve. Let’s listen in:
“Steve, there were six deposit slips and checks, but I only see five receipts here.”
“I sent you with six and you came back with five. Didn’t you look at the receipts the teller gave you?”
“Jeez, I did exactly what you told me to. Why can’t you ever be satisfied? Maybe you should say ‘Thanks, Steve, for doing my banking.’ Or do it yourself.”
“Uh, I think that it is OUR banking, and if I am not mistaken, my royalty checks are being deposited into the joint account, and are being shared with you. Is it too much trouble for you to put them in the bank account competently?”
“You always are looking to blame me, aren’t you? If the teller made a mistake, it wasn’t my fault. Every little thing that goes wrong in this world is not my fault.”
“I sent you with six and you came back with five. Don’t you think you could just check to see if all the deposit slips were there before you left the bank? Can’t I expect that much help from you?”
“I told you that I don’t like being blamed for someone else’s mistake! You always say things are my fault. Maybe there were only five in the first place; what about that? You think you are so perfect?”
“Please don’t speak to me like that and don’t use that tone of voice with me.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong and you always treat me like you think I am an idiot! And if I took the blame for this mistake I WOULD be an idiot. But I’m not! And I am tired of being told I am!!”
“Well, young man, that rant is out of line. You will be canceling your golf game on Saturday in order to do some chores around here so you can demonstrate that you are more of a team player.”
“I am not your problem! Go talk to the bank teller. It is not fair for me to be grounded for this!”
“I am talking to you at the moment, and you better hear me loud and clear: you are now grounded for Saturday AND Sunday, young man. You’d better cut your losses and start showing me some respect, or it will be two weekends.”
“That is ridiculous. I am not at fault; the bank teller is. I dare you to go down to the bank and ground her!! Or, better yet, see the manager! Tell them they are incompetent!”
“That’s two weekends, Buster. Say another word and your pants are coming down right here and now. I ought to wear you out.”
Wednesday, after work:
Jane: “I tried to get you by phone, texting and email, several times today. I guess you must have been very busy.
“I was trying to find out if you want to go out tonight or if I should make dinner?”
“What would you like?”
“I don’t care.”
“OK, I will make some fish tacos. You like that.”
“If that’s what you want.”
“Like I said, I tried to call and email you at work today, and you didn’t respond. I even sent a text message asking what you wanted for dinner. Why won’t you have a normal conversation with me?”
“I have answered your questions.”
“You have not been speaking to me since last night.”
“I don’t have anything to say.”
“I don’t like the silent treatment. It is rude.”
“How can I be rude when I am being silent?”
“OK, hold on. Let’s get our facts straight, and then, let’s make sure we understand each other’s feelings and emotions about what’s going on here. You came home from the bank and I asked about the receipts. Would you agree with that?”
“I guess so.”
“And you blamed it on the bank teller. Is that correct?
“It was the bank teller’s mistake. I did what you told me to do, didn’t I? You didn’t tell me to count the receipts. You don’t trust me with the checking accounts, or anything really, because you treat me like I am stupid. I did what you said. But I got grounded anyhow.”
“You didn’t get grounded because of the bank receipts. You got grounded for being disrespectful and oppositional. And now, Steve, you have been brooding all day today. You have hardly spoken to me. I think it is called the “silent treatment.” Isn’t that so?
“No; I have just been trying carefully not to say anything to anger you.”
“Really??!! Have I been acting angry with you today?
“No, I guess you were trying to be nice, to make pleasant conversation. But I didn’t like being grounded for those reasons.”
“So you have resentment toward me and you displayed it by giving me the silent treatment?”
“I wouldn’t say that. If you phrased it that you hurt my feelings yesterday by treating me like an incompetent, and then you grounded me unfairly, I would agree with that statement.”
“And have you ever hurt my feelings?”
“I guess so, sometimes.”
“I am glad you can be honest about that. Do you try to hurt my feelings on purpose?”
“But you know that the silent treatment is a manifestation of hostility, and that it is hurtful, don’t you?”
“Well, uh . . . I guess someone could take it that way.”
“OK, since you are admitting trying to hurt my feelings with the silent treatment, don’t you think there is a better, more appropriate answer to that question?
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t you think it might be better at this point to answer ‘Yes, Ma’am,’?”
[Silence, followed by Long Pause] followed by “Yes, Ma’am. . . I . . . I am sorry, Ma’am.”
“When I get the silent treatment I don’t think you love me. Can you understand that?
DO you love me?”
“Do you respect me?”
“And is it respectful to pout and give me the silent treatment like I am some kind of criminal?
“Is it respectful to sit here and keep denying what you are doing, arguing with me, when you know I am right?
“And what would have been respectful, after the argument and the grounding?”
“For me to . . . be . . . nice . . . Ma’am.”
“And, in specific, what would being nice mean, in that situation?”
“For me to accept your authority and not show resentment when you ground me . . . Ma’am.”
“So . . . what now?”
“Well, I said I’m sorry. And I am, really. Please believe that.”
“Isn’t there a better way for us to work out our problems?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I was wrong. I was wrong to have argued with you about the deposit receipts, or about being grounded. And I should not have acted resentful today by being unfriendly to you all day.”
“And was there more? Didn’t you lie and say you had not been deliberately giving me the silent treatment?”
“And denying my motives . . . Ma’am. Yes, Ma’am, I confess that I did that, too. And I am truly sorry, for all of it.”
“Well, it is certainly true that you could do a lot better with treating me respectfully, and I hope you will, in the future. But I am talking about now, right this minute, after all this pouting and moping around and acting like a martyr, and acting like I am some kind of tyrant. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Yes, Ma’am, I understand you.”
“Steve, I am asking you what you think should happen now, after this silent treatment.”
“Well, I apologized. And I really meant it. Please forgive me. I won’t do it again.”
“Well, I appreciate your apology. But maybe you can suggest something else that will make me feel better about how you have treated me. Something that might help put us on the path back to loving harmony. What do you think would be a good thing to happen now?”
“Well, it’s up to you, Ma’am.”
“Steve, you know what I am getting at. Don’t you deserve to be spanked?
“I guess that you would probably feel better. . . Ma’am.”
“And wouldn’t you feel better, too?”
“Uh, well . . . uh, maybe, uh . . . I guess it would clean the slate. Uh, . . Well, . . Ma’am. Yes Ma’am, we would both feel better then . that is, uh, after it’s over. I guess.”
“So, are you telling me that is what you deserve? Are you saying that I should spank you for giving me the silent treatment all day, and trying to deny your hurtful intent? Tell me what you really feel, Steve. We both know I am not talking about a sexy little play-spanking, Steve. This is the real thing, punishment to change your behavior. Are you asking me to blister you with a hard paddling?”
“Please, Jane, I feel bad enough already. I was wrong. If spanking me is what you insist upon, I know our rules. I have to accept a spanking if you say so. I am really sorry and hope you can forgive me. I am humiliated already.”
“OK, Steve, I won’t make you beg to be spanked. But you will be getting it, and getting it hard. And I expect you to submit without any resistance when I restrain your hands, do you understand?”
“But first, I want to finish this conversation, and to be very open and honest with you. Yes, we had some unpleasant words last night. And, yes, I understand that you have hurt feelings at the way I treated you. And clearly you didn’t like being grounded. It is legitimate to have hurt feelings. I understand how you might. Believe me, from being married to you I know what it feels like to have hurt feelings. I can remember lots of times when your treatment of me was way over the line, and it made me feel horrible. So let’s both be honest about that.
“Steve, I admit partial responsibility for our fight. It wasn’t fair to hold you accountable if the bank teller messed up. I was pretty harsh in suggesting you were incompetent, and clearly it did make you feel bad. I can be honest about all of that. But that doesn’t justify your behavior. Your disrespect for me yesterday was plenty of reason for me to ground you, and my decision stands. For the next two weekends, you will be at home, with lots of chores. You know the drill: I am going to put you in an apron, with your bottom exposed, and you will clean this entire house, from the basement to the attic and everything in between under strict supervision. That means I won’t hesitate to write the stars and stripes on your rear with the riding crop. Do you understand?”
“ Most importantly, from now on, when I exercise my authority in this household, you must accept it, and be nice about it. You will take criticism and not retaliate or attack me verbally. Your behavior last night and today is why you are being punished today in addition to the grounding and chores for the next two weekends.”
“So, right now I am going to fetch the wooden paddle and, again—this will be no surprise to you, I’m quite sure–I’ll also be applying the cane to your backside after the paddling. You gave me the ‘silent treatment’ and with the cane I intend to administer what I call ‘the hollering and howling treatment.’ I guess I should bring the band-aids, too. This dialog is over; go stand in the corner with your pants down until I am ready to deal with you.”
He did as she instructed, and put himself in the corner, with his trousers and undershorts in a pool at his feet. In this situation five or ten years ago, he might have been seething with injustice—the bank teller made a mistake, and then he got grounded, and now here he was about to get paddled and then – horribly, to receive a caning, too. But, now, he put aside his ego, and focused on humility. His ranting was childish and the silent treatment was suicidal. What had he been thinking? And now he was going to get what he deserved. He felt foolish, guilty, and ashamed. A few tears came to his eyes and then rolled down his cheeks.
His reflections were interrupted by a familiar and dreadful sound — her wobbly rattan cane rattling against her Holy Terror oak paddle. His backside was unfortunately too well acquainted with them both. He looked around and saw that she held the implements together in one hand, and the restraints in her other. He prepared himself to feel the fires of hell on his poor rear, and then having to sit with regret for the next several days.
She affixed his arms and hands behind his back, and bent him over the back of the couch. Once he was positioned to her satisfaction, she paused to savor the intimacy of this ritual. In spite of the impending drama, the next thirty seconds seemed almost spiritual. The room was peacefully quiet, except for her patting the hardwood paddle against her palm and the sound of his breathing as he tried to mentally prepare himself.
He softly uttered “I promise to be more respectful . . I . . . I really love, you . . ., and I am really sorry . . . Ma’am.”
She felt calm, no longer angry. She stopped patting her palm and ran her fingers through his hair, lovingly. But she was resolute, definitely resolute. She thought to herself, “Sometimes spanking his bottom is very arousing, and gives me pure joy; other times, not so much. I’m sure it’s difficult for him, but my part isn’t easy either. Spanking with purpose requires strength of character, because I am always tempted to be lenient. And, really, he is a pitiful specimen of a recipient. He’s not the least bit brave in the first place; any decent paddling has him blubbering and begging before I’m half-way done. And he can hardly take a caning at all: his bottom is adorable and inviting, but it invariably cuts easily, so he usually gets at most about a half-dozen medium-strength strokes. The bottom line is that even when he is being punished he is a self-centered brat who has no appreciation of my efforts.”
She came back to the present reality, and moved forward to take care of business. The gentle, rhythmic tapping of the hardwood shifted from her left palm to the crown of his right cheek. First, she increased the tempo, and then the force, rapidly snapping it in the same spot, building something of a sting. It was not quite a warm-up, but it signaled she was getting a running start. She took a deep breath and set her teeth. She inhaled deeply again, twisting her torso to the right as she drew the paddle far back behind her right shoulder. Leaning into the stroke and using plenty of wrist, she delivered a shockingly hard smack, almost but not quite as hard as she could. Of course, he howled like it was the end of the world.