How many times have you been in a situation where you plan a difficult conversation over the course of hours, days, even months, to eventually have the conversation go a complete opposite direction from what you imagined? Whether the result was positive, or negative, it happens to everyone. On the topic of AB/DL, conversations (especially with non-participating partners/friends), breakdowns are part of the growing pains in growing acceptance. So, accept that communication hurdles are a likely result of having these conversations. Breakdowns can happen in a few different ways: Assumption, Inactive Listening, Poor Communication Modality, and Projection. I will attempt to explore these in future posts through a conversation sample.
1) Assumption: When a partner misunderstands what you have said and rather assumes another reality that may not be true. In these cases, clarifications and closed-loop communication can be helpful. These communication skills can be seen in the following exchange:
Bobby: Honey, I've been meaning to explain more about why I enjoy diapers so much. It's something that makes me happy. *Eye contact, seated close* (Active Listening)
Jane: I really can't imagine having a sexual interest in diapers, it seems like a terrible idea, we can't ever tell the kids.
Bobby: What I heard you say was (closed-loop communication), that you don't share an interest in diapers the way I do, and that you would prefer this to remain private? *Makes sure cell phone is off* (Active-Listening)
Jane: Yes, that's right.
Bobby: What I was trying to convey was not about my sexual interest, nor my interest in sharing with anyone (especially our kids), but instead in how it makes me feel, happy, joyful, excited, safe, and loved.
Jane: I just get so caught up on the "fetish" aspect of AB/DL that I have trouble seeing the bigger picture.
Bobby: It's really okay, that's why I want to have more conversations to try to share what all this actually means for me. It's so much bigger than sexual gratification.
In many ways, conversations that don't go as planned allow for more organic exchange between people, but only if you're prepared to respond to these breakdowns meaningfully. Instead of focusing on all the potential contingencies during a possible conversation that probably won't go as planned, think more about how to use conversation/communication skills to better improve your connection to a partner. Skills like active-listening and closed-loop communication go a long way in having a meaningful and organized result at the end of a conversational exchange.
This takes practice. Consider reaching out to a mentor or fellow AB/DL for role-play in these tough conversations. Instead of internally dwelling, take action, you'll be surprised at the result.