DD and Personal Responsibility

When my partner and I first started Domestic Discipline (DD), we decided that we'd confine our disciplinary activities to things that affected the relationship only. That meant I could be disciplined for things like disrespect, failure to communicate/withholding, dishonesty and other behaviors that directly hurt the relationship.

We decided that it would not be appropriate to discipline for things that I, as an adult, could and should take personal responsibility for. For example, I tend to eat too much junk food (someday I'll start a blog just for people addicted to Dr. Pepper...), stay up too late and put off unpleasant tasks until the last minute.

Using DD to enforce issues of personal responsibility seemed to cross a line into a place that would make me less of an adult, less empowered and less independent -- all things that, as a progressive DD couple, we very much did not intend to do. DD was intended as a way to defuse conflicts in our relationship, not to relieve me of adult responsibilities and make my partner responsible for things I ought to be able to do on my own.

We were also concerned that using DD to enforce individual responsibility would be too much of a logistical and time burden for my partner. He leads an extremely busy life and figuring out how to incorporate consistent DD into our lives for relationship issues was already challenging enough without giving him the burden of micromanaging my personal life for me. Not only would that level of expectation likely cause the whole system cave in on itself, but I was also afraid it would lead to resentment on his part for being expected to supervise and police my actions on a constant basis.

Finally, we were concerned that using DD over to deal with issues like eating, sleeping and work habits would move our relationship from an adult partnership into a parent/child dynamic. Asking my partner to take responsibility for my personal habits would force him into the role of a father, which seemed like a big mistake. (and was likely to cause resentment and other complications that would negate the benefits of DD)

The problem, however, is that the line between a "relationship" issue and a "personal" issue isn't quite as black and white as we'd originally thought.

For example, if I'm grouchy and disrespectful with him in the morning because I stayed up too late the night before, does he discipline me for being disrespectful or for staying up late? And what if the reason I stayed up too late was because I drank too much Dr. Pepper (did I mention how yummy it is over vanilla bean ice cream?) and couldn't get to sleep. Does he discipline me for the misbehavior or the cause of the misbehavior? If it's for the cause of the misbehavior, how far back should he go to determine the cause?

My instinct is to say that he should discipline me for the misbehavior, and discuss with me the possible causes of it and how I might fix them (or require me to think about the causes during corner time). But this quickly strays pretty far out of "partner" land and into "parent" land. Once he's started making issues of personal responsibility part of my discipline in any way, we're already halfway to his disciplining me for those habits.

And there are those who have made the convincing argument that destructive personal habits
are relationship issues because they are inherently damaging to the relationship, not just the individual with the habit.

A partner with unhealthy eating habits risks developing health problems, which could significantly affect the relationship. She likely has less energy to devote to her every day life, which means less energy to devote to the relationship. One could therefore argue that it's disrespectful to the relationship not to eat healthy foods.

Or to take the bedtime example, a partner who stays up so late that she's a wreck at work the next morning risks getting fired, which would certainly hurt the relationship in all kinds of ways.

Another reasonable way of approaching whether or not to discipline for personal responsibility issues is to apply the principle that disrespect in any form should be disciplined.

If we're out in socially and I'm disrespectful to our friends, our waitress or anyone else, I know without a doubt that I will earn myself a correction for my misbehavior, even though it doesn't specifically involve disrespecting my partner.

So if disrespecting others is a punishable offense, what about disrespecting myself through bad habits like eating junk food and not getting enough sleep? Surely I'm not less worthy of respect than our waitress at the restaurant, so logically, I should be disciplined for behavior that is disrespectful of myself.

But of course, now we're back to the concerns about disciplining for things I should take personal responsibility for... and the circle begins all over again!

I'd love to report that we've found the solution to this little logic tangle, but, as with the DD relationship as a whole, it's still a work-in-progress.

I suspect, however, ultimately, that it's actually far less important that we resolve this issue than that we continue talking about it. DD, like most relationships, can likely survive anything except lack of good communication.


  1. Anonymous00:42

    Happened upon this blog, thank you for writing as it seems like a useful place for those of us who aren't in DD because the Bible says it's so! My husband disciplines me for things like forgetting to change the oil in the car and stuff, and I never really thought about whether this is a good idea or not. Food for thought, for sure. Thankx.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    Seems like if you're forgetting to change the oil in his car or a car you share, that's one thing, and if it's just your car, that's another. Not to say that having your car break down doesn't affect the relationship. That's the point of the article, of course. Thanks for posting. Viv

  3. Anonymous20:13

    This got me thinking. I like your final comment about communication, but that's the scariest part, isn't it?