Friday, July 8, 2016
Title: The Seminar
Written by: Dizzy
Greg leaned against Clayton as they walked toward the main building of Teardrop Lake Resort. The last three days had been full of rest, love making and reconnecting. This would be the first and only seminar they would take this trip.
The wind seemed colder when Clayton lifted his arm from around Greg's shoulder to open the door. Greg shivered and hurried inside. They stomped their feet on the rug in front of the door, knocking off the snow, and walked across the hallway to the conference room. As he took off his coat, Greg looked around the room. Just a handful of couples were there, but Greg suspected this would be everyone attending. The middle of winter wasn't a good time for a lot of people to take a vacation, but the resort stayed open year round.
"Looks like there are plenty of seats," he whispered to Clayton.
Clayton's chuckle was soft and full of happiness. "Come on, let's go sit there."
Greg followed his top to the chairs that had been arranged in a half circle. Another look around, and he smiled at the few men who met his look. A small group, but diverse. Love and discipline knew no bounds, he thought to himself.
As soon as he and Clayton sat down, an older man stood up. Greg smiled at Saul. Saul had been the one who had first talked to him and Clayton about discipline. He was the reason they knew about Teardrop Lake Resort.
"Good afternoon, everyone. This is the Discipline and the Long Term Relationship seminar. If this isn't the seminar you signed up for, you are really lost, because this is the only one offered this month," Saul greeted with a smile.
The small group of men chuckled at his joke and then quieted down to listen.
"My name is Saul Cohen and I'll be directing this seminar. Even though I'm a professor and use to lecturing, this will be different. I think we best learn from each other and would like this to be a discussion between all of us rather than me standing up here just talking," Saul explained. "Everyone here is in a discipline relationship and there will be no judgement passed on anyone."
Greg felt a small shiver run down his spine when Saul said the last part. He knew that Saul was a brat, but he wasn't one to be messed with. Greg and Clayton had both taken one of Saul's history courses in college. He commanded a respect that came from deep within.
"Most of you have been together over five years, but there are a few couples who are new. I admire your willingness to learn from those who have been through things you are yet to experience," Saul said.
Greg glanced around trying to figure out which couples were the "long term" and which were new. But there was no discernible difference between all the couples. Almost of all of them looked a little nervous. Talking about relationships was hard, no matter how long you've been together.
"The first thing I'd like us to discuss is how does discipline change? Or does it? Is discipline constant or does it evolve?" The older brat asked.
Greg shifted in his seat as silence descended. He hated that uncomfortable silence when people were afraid to speak out. The silence always felt oppressing to him. When he could stand it no longer, Greg glanced at Clayton. At Clayton's encouraging smile, he started to talk. "I think discipline in the relationship stays constant but the details of the discipline changes."
Saul smiled widely. "Good. Very good, Greg. By the way, Greg and his partner Clayton and I go way back. Back to when they were freshmen in my world history 101 class. I'm confident by the end of this hour, all of you will be joining in the conversation and we'll all be old friends. Now, Greg, could you expand on that? You said that discipline stays the same but the details change. Could you give us an example?"
Greg looked sideways at Clayton. This is exactly why they were at the resort. Clayton and Greg's lives had gotten busy. They'd let discipline slide and they wanted to bring it back to the forefront.
When Clayton took his hand, Greg felt the strength and support. "For us, sometimes life gets busy. Our jobs take up our time. And, I guess our energy. So discipline kind of becomes....well, I guess it's put aside."
Greg groaned silently to himself. He wanted to sound sure and confident but instead he sounded wishy washy.
"So when life gets busy, discipline isn't as needed for you?" Saul asked. "I think that makes sense. You become more focused on outside influences. Do any of you see that happening to in your relationship as well?"
"Well, it's a little different for us," an older man sitting next to Greg said. "When work becomes overwhelming and I'm stressed out, I need more discipline. I can't have wiggle room."
"We learned that the hard way," the man next to him spoke. "I'm Frank, and this is Carl. When we first got together, I saw how stress was affecting him, but I thought tightening the discipline reins would be more of a stress factor." Frank paused and laughed. "Boy, was I wrong."
"So what I'm hearing is that discipline changes within the relationship," Saul stated. "Sometimes the reins need to be tightened and sometimes they need to be loosened. Is that what you all are saying?"
The men all nodded and murmurs of agreement rippled through the room.
"But how do you know?" One man asked. "I'm Brent and me and Justin have been together almost two years. How do you know if in times of high stress you need more or less discipline?" Brent swallowed nervously and then continued, "I'm the brat in the relationship, but sometimes I don't know what I want. More discipline or less."
"It's not always what you want, but what you need," a silver haired, African-American man said in a deep voice. "I seldom want a spanking, but sometimes I need one."
"How do you know the difference?" Brent asked.
"Communication," another man said. "And that means real talking, not throwing out some vague hints and hoping your top catches on. We've been together twenty-five years, and as great of a top I am, I've not yet mastered the art of mind-reading."
"I agree, Shannen," Clayton said to the dark-skinned man. "Want and need are two separate things. And sometimes the hints we throw out are confusing. And that goes for tops as well as brats."
"Great! Great stuff, everyone," Saul complimented. "Before we get deeper into that, let's summarize what's been said so far. So the details of discipline change, but not the relationship itself. Determining how it changes takes verbal communication."
"It doesn't have to be verbal," someone called out. "My brat cannot talk out what he needs. We've been together fifteen years, and I've learned the more I push him to talk about what he needs the further he withdraws."
"You rely on the hints he throws out?" Shannen asked incredulously.
"Oh hell, no! After a lot of tears, stomping and screaming, and that was on my part," the man paused as everyone laughed. "Jordan and I figured out a way that he could tell me what he needs. He's able to fully explain himself through print. He'll write out what he's feeling or what he thinks he needs. I respond back in print telling him what I think he needs and what I need myself. After a bit of back and forth, we are then able to talk to each other. But by then we've simplified it to the basics."
"I like that idea," Brent said. Then he turned to his top. "What do you think, Justin?"
Greg smiled as he watched Brent's partner kiss him gently.
"I think that's a wonderful idea." Justin turned toward the man who had spoken out. "Would you and your husband be willing to talk to us about that? We are here a few more days."
"What do you think, Kerry? We could explain our system to them," the man asked his partner. Turning back to Justin when the brat nodded, the man said, "I'm Marty and this is Kerry."
As the four men shook hands and made plans to meet later, Greg looked up at Saul. When Saul winked at him, Greg smiled. This was exactly what Saul wanted. He wanted the men to come together in this seminar and make lasting friendships. That way they could mentor each other.
"So what you all are saying is that discipline doesn't change, but the details do. And from what I'm hearing, each relationship is a bit different. Yes?" Saul asked the group. The men all nodded their agreement with his statement. "And your relationship will change as time goes on. Is that what you are saying?"
"I think discipline goes through phases just like your life does," Clayton said. "Greg certainly doesn't need my help with getting up to go to work. When we first were married he was working in restaurant."
Greg shook his head. "I hated that job."
"Oh yeah you did and you let everyone know it." Clayton smiled at him. "So we had a rule about being late to work or leaving early. But now he loves his job so we don't need those kind of rules anymore."
"Rules change. Needs change," Saul confirmed. "Communication is the key to learning about these changes. So are we in agreement that discipline is an evolving part of a relationship?"
While the men around him talked, Greg felt the last of the stress melt away. He and Clayton were alright. They'd gone through tough times in the last few years. Careers, friends and families had pulled them in several directions. The discipline of their relationship had changed, but that was alright too. Greg leaned against Clayton, happy to be here with him. Their vacation ended in two days, but the effects of their time spent together would be lasting.
As the seminar ended, all the men seemed more relaxed. Like friends gathering together instead of strangers talking about their relationships. Saul bid everyone a good afternoon and then walked toward Greg.
"Would you two like to meet for dinner? I know Jerome would love to see the both of you."
"I think that would be great," Clayton said after Greg had nodded his consent. "We could meet in the restaurant about six."
With dinner plans firmly set, Greg put his coat back on. The cold, winter air of Maine hit him hard, but with Clayton's arm wrapped around him, he was content. Life changed and so did their relationship, but the love they had for each other remained constant.