Sunday, May 27, 2012

Discipline vs Punishment

As I was leaning over the bathroom counter today, receiving a harsh spanking for another lapse in judgement, I had an epiphany. It had to do with the way Husband and I approach discipline and punishment, and how we view the difference between the two.
I'm going to try to articulate it, because I think there might be others out there who subscribe to the same way of thinking, or maybe realize they do after reading this, even if they've never given it much thought before.
(I certainly didn't for a long time. After you've been in a relationship for a long enough, behaviors evolve, and it's hard to pick apart and reason out all the subtle nuances of why you do what you do.)
I make no claim to being an expert on this subject. But this is how it works for us.

Discipline is what Husband treats me to when he's either
1. Trying to change my natural behavior
2. Trying to teach me to do an otherwise unnatural behavior until it becomes natural.

Let's use what happened this morning as an example. I left our bathroom a mess. Now, he has laid down a strict rule that I am NOT allowed to "take over" our bathroom.  I cannot hang up my hosiery all over the shower and door hook, I cannot leave my makeup, hair supplies, and eye-care supplies all over the counter, etc. etc. You get the idea. The bathroom is shared, and I must share it.
However, this goes AGAINST my natural behavior. My natural inclination is to spread out my shit. I can't help it. I don't know if it's because I'm a woman, or what. It's just the way I am.
So every once in a while, Husband will come into the bathroom and realize every inch of counter space is again taken up with my makeup, hair dryer, perfume, lotions, etc. And he will have to discipline me as a reminder that I am supposed to control that.

Another example: I have impulse control issues. This is something I am constantly working on. Sometimes I say or do something without thinking, not because I'm trying to be bad, but because I can't help it. It's just my nature.
Husband disciplines me to help me learn how to control myself. But again, it's an ongoing lesson. I'm not "misbehaving," I'm just giving into my natural tendencies.

Punishment, on the other hand, is reserved for times when I've strayed from my natural behavior and purposely gone out of my way to do something I know will make him angry. Punishment is for the times I've actively ( and perhaps maliciously) disobeyed.
There are probably dozens of examples for this. Refusing to do a task out of spite, yelling at him in front of the kids, "forgetting" to do his laundry when I've done everyone else's, or just basically doing anything that shows a lack of courtesy and respect, would earn a punishment. My natural inclination is to avoid hurting him. If I insult or offend him, most likely it's because I wanted to, which is bad. (Very very bad.)

Of course, sometimes it's hard for us to tell the difference between discipline and punishment, and after all these years, we don't even bother giving it thought. But I think, deep down, there's a difference in both approach, and closure.
 Husband approaches discipline with more forgiveness and understanding. He knows it's hard for me to go against my character. It's a constant struggle.
With that in mind, there's no real closure, either. We both know, eventually, I'm going to screw up again. It might be a while, but it's only a matter of time.

Punishment, on the other hand, is brought forth with very little, if any, forgiveness and understanding. It's usually served with heavy doses of disappointment, frustration, and dismay.
But once the punishment is over, there is total closure, because there is no expectation I'll do the same thing again. There shouldn't have to be, if the punishment was effective.

Overlap between discipline and punishment happens when I've done something that would normally be indicative of my nature (being the smart-assed masochist that I am), but Husband thinks I should've learned better by now. Like, oh, sewing flowers on his pants, or turning the sprinkler system on when he's outside, or painting his nails while he's sleeping. After all these years, he thinks I should know better.
I'm a work in progress.
(The word he uses is "entertaining.")
(Also "crazy," but I prefer entertaining.)
I hope you've found this useful.

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