I mentioned in a previous post that communication doesn't have to be literal or direct. For Elle and me, that has been particularly true.
Over the past few years, we've moved to a Taken in Hand relationship with very little direct discussion. That's the way Elle wants it.
If you read my posts from several years ago (click here) you will see a man frustrated by a woman who wanted to be taken without giving consent. I was sorely tempted to force her to talk about it—but I resisted the temptation.
We have spoken directly about it on a very few occasions. Here is one of the most important exchanges, almost verbatim:
Her: “Why are you getting angry at Kara [a coworker]? Why are you yelling at her but you won't yell at me? You haven't yelled at me in months!”
Me: “What? Are you actually jealous that I'm angry at another woman?”
Her: (Screaming) “Yes! God damn it! I want you to get mad at me! I want you to yell at me! You never get mad at me anymore!” (Bursts into tears).
Of course, she didn't want to talk about it any more than that, so I was left to figure it out. Why would she want me to yell at her instead of calming down and discussing things?
Somehow, I knew that she didn't really mean “yell”. Eventually, I realized that she wanted my anger voiced directly at her instead of being vented elsewhere.
So, the next time I was upset about something, instead of calming myself down, I got “in her face”.
I didn't actually raise my voice, but I let my feelings show in the intensity of my voice, and I let the anger show on my face.
I told her exactly how I felt. My words were harsh, hurting her in a way that only a husband can, by pushing those hidden hot-buttons.
But there was no swearing, no belittling and no demeaning—no “dirty fighting”. In my mind, it was cruel to the point of being abusive. Yet somehow I knew that it was what she wanted.
As I “yelled” at her without yelling, she looked frightened—scared half to death—but she didn't run away and didn't argue.
She listened intently, and when I was done, she threw her arms around me and held me tighter than she had in years—thanking me for what I had done and said.
... and she still didn't want to talk about it.
I did it two more times, several months apart, both with good results—and I had a much more loving and passionate wife in between “episodes”.
The next time, instead of “yelling” at her—or whatever we want to call it—I asked her why she wanted me to yell at her. Why couldn't I calm down first and then talk to her.
She laughed, finally understanding and finally able to voice her own feelings.
Her: “It's not that I want you to yell at me,” she said, “but I want to know where I stand. It makes me feel safe. It's better if you yell at me than if you go off and fume.”
Me: “Is it that you want to know that I can control my anger? Or is it that it turns you on?”
She didn't answer me with words, but her body was eloquent.
Much of that exchange was shaped by the things I've read here. I've said little things to her at times based on what I've learned from this site. They seem to soak in.
She has picked up some of the vocabulary along the way—and uses it from time to time in her indirect way of saying things.
That's how it's been for us. A sentence or two twice a year or so is all I get. But she tells me things in a host of other ways. When I get it right, she throws herself at me—something she rarely does otherwise.
Indirect communication can be blatant at times.
Why doesn't she simply talk about it? Mostly because it's more romantic this way—and she has always been a romantic at heart. She read romance novels growing up and still reads lots of books with strong male characters.
She wants me to “just know” what to do—how to be strong for her—because of the romance.
... but there's more to it than that.
Her mother was very repressive. She can't bring herself to admit that she finds the whole “Taken in Hand thing” erotic. There's too much deeply-embedded shame that she can't get past.
I have to do it for her, so that it “isn't her fault”.
Sometimes, the only way I know that she likes something is because she is happier afterward—despite saying “no” or resisting or crying or even flat out telling me that she “hates” it.
When I really need to know, I ask her. Usually, the answer is in the form of a kiss (or something more intensely physical).
And once or twice a year or so—she might actually talk about it.