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Old 08-24-2011, 12:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

My marriage is at a crossroads which could lead to things getting much worse or much better. I donít see a middle path.

We are older (around 50) and have been married for ten years. We are both smart, mostly successful people and both employed, but we are experiencing continual stress because the economy has left us with far fewer options than weíre used to having, and thereís a feeling of being trapped where we are both career-wise and geographically. The stress is particularly hard on my wife, who doesnít take naturally to accepting things she canít change or to patience.

I came to T.A.M. a few months ago after a year of self-examination prompted by Robert Gloverís No Mr. Nice Guy book, together with related books by David Deida and Wayne Levine. The things BigBadWolf, MEM11363, AFEH and Conrad try to get across on this forum resonate deeply with me. Iíve started taking responsibility for myself, and managing my communication, my expectations and my reactions in a way that leaves me self-respect. (Of course, Iíve still got a long way to go.) Iíve recognized the ways in which I sabotaged myself and our marriage by avoiding conflict, not stating my expectations, and acting like a victim, and Iíve taken steps to change.

If this were all there were to it, it would be easy. But my wife and I are both paradoxes in our own ways.

I, although gentle by nature and convictionóIím a monk type, not a warrior type, and I believe cruelty is among the greatest of sinsóam sexually very dominant, and want to be dominant in my marriage. Iíve never allowed that side of me much expression, but after years of repression, I know that I canít continue to leave it unacknowledged. I want with all my heart for my wife to be secure, safe, and happy. I want us to be truly and joyfully intimate in a way beyond what we have ever been. But I also dream of a relationship in which, in love and trust, sheís given me full authority within our home, which I use to see that both of our needs are met.

She, on the other hand, has issues of trust and security which are greater than most. Over the years itís become clear that although she wants me to lead (something I didnít understand at first), she also needs to feel that things are under control, and that if I donít do things the way she feels is the ďrightĒ way, she reacts badly, by becoming distraught, chiding me as if I were a child, or falsely accusing me of bad faith or ill will. When I call her on the way sheís acting, she digs in deeper, bringing up ways Iíve failed in the past as supposed proof of my ongoing unreliability, and disagreeing on any factual matter thatís no longer subject to verification, such as what one of us said or did.

All issues of dominance aside, itís obvious that we have to address these trust issues in order to become any more intimate than we are now. It bothers me a lot that she sees me as culpably selfish and thoughtless when Iíve actually given thought to her needs and tried to do the right thing, as has happened repeatedly.

I fear to lead more forcefully under these conditions of misunderstanding and mistrust.

On the other hand, my being rational and patient is getting us nowhere.

Iím a hands-breadth away from telling her that things will go as I say from here on out, period, and that Iíll get us through this. In a way, that would be being true to myself: for the first time in my life, I truly trust myself and my motives. And although I fear losing her, itís no longer a crippling fear. More daunting is the fear that being dominant in this way could make her more anxious, not less; of making a mistake that not only ruins our marriage, but harms her emotionally.

I also think thereís an issue of simple human respect involved. She didnít sign up for a so-called ďtraditionalĒ marriage in which I have the final say on things. She should have the chance to agree or reject it.

But I doubt she would ever agree. Sheís afraid of losing herself to a manís control, nor do I think she knows that someone can be dominant but not domineering.

Your advice is very welcome.
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Old 08-24-2011, 12:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

Kevan,

When you say "rational and patient", what are you describing?

Can you give a couple of examples?
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Old 08-24-2011, 12:58 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

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Kevan,

When you say "rational and patient", what are you describing?

Can you give a couple of examples?
One thing that comes to mind is my habit of responding to all her complaints/criticisms/concerns strictly on their content, even in the heat of argument.

For example, some time ago she had the wet vac out to clean up some pet stains. She was angry at the time because my schedule for cleaning them up wasn't the same as hers. She asked me to move some things in my home office so she could use the wet vac in there. I didn't want her to go in there because it would have meant not being able to use my office for several hours, plus it might discourage our cats from using the litter box in the closet there. So I said "I don't want you to clean in my office." She shouted, "That's pretty dictatorial, isn't it?" To which I responded that "Don't clean in my home office" would have been dictatorial; "I don't want you to clean in my office" was a statement of preference. This mollified her not one bit. And I know from you among others that the issue being discussed was not the real issue.

More broadly, we often talk about things, equal to equal, after fights, and while the communication often brings up important issues and leads to minor improvements on both our parts, it leaves me feeling drained and somewhat disappointed in myself. Like once again I've been proven inadequate in some way.
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Old 08-24-2011, 01:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

Less talk, more body language.

Explaining, pleading, rational cases... all for naught.

She's communicating with you on an emotional level and wants to see your masculine strength. It doesn't show in a rational tit-for-tat argument.

Head tilted to one side...

"Your hunter gatherer is stalking prey this afternoon and requires his office to make the kill. I'm thinking we may want to clean the office after the blood's been spilled."
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:05 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

Captain-first officer model, without a doubt. It already works that way much of the time. It is not explicit, though, and one problem is that I am sometimes not shown the respect I deserve simply as a human being.
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:06 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

It is good that you are already taking the "Nice guy" books and advice in consideration.

Looking at your situation here are some of my thoughts:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevan View Post
My marriage is at a crossroads which could lead to things getting much worse or much better. I donít see a middle path.

We are older (around 50) and have been married for ten years. We are both smart, mostly successful people and both employed, but we are experiencing continual stress because the economy has left us with far fewer options than weíre used to having, and thereís a feeling of being trapped where we are both career-wise and geographically. The stress is particularly hard on my wife, who doesnít take naturally to accepting things she canít change or to patience.

I came to T.A.M. a few months ago after a year of self-examination prompted by Robert Gloverís No Mr. Nice Guy book, together with related books by David Deida and Wayne Levine. The things BigBadWolf, MEM11363, AFEH and Conrad try to get across on this forum resonate deeply with me. Iíve started taking responsibility for myself, and managing my communication, my expectations and my reactions in a way that leaves me self-respect. (Of course, Iíve still got a long way to go.) Iíve recognized the ways in which I sabotaged myself and our marriage by avoiding conflict, not stating my expectations, and acting like a victim, and Iíve taken steps to change.
Excellent!

Quote:
If this were all there were to it, it would be easy. But my wife and I are both paradoxes in our own ways.

I, although gentle by nature and convictionóIím a monk type, not a warrior type, and I believe cruelty is among the greatest of sinsóam sexually very dominant, and want to be dominant in my marriage.
These things we speak of, of conflict and confrontation, do not make the mistake to imagine them as some violent caricature of the reality.

You say you are a "monk" not a warrior. That is perfect!

Consider the strength and display of power from the humble Shaolin Monk to compare to your own journey to dominance, then see these things we discuss as your very own person masculine ascent up Songshan Mountain!

Quote:
Iíve never allowed that side of me much expression, but after years of repression, I know that I canít continue to leave it unacknowledged. I want with all my heart for my wife to be secure, safe, and happy. I want us to be truly and joyfully intimate in a way beyond what we have ever been. But I also dream of a relationship in which, in love and trust, sheís given me full authority within our home, which I use to see that both of our needs are met.
There is not a word I type on this forum that is not in full faith that what a good man envisions for himself, or his marriage, that he can have the same as his reality.

Quote:
She, on the other hand, has issues of trust and security which are greater than most. Over the years itís become clear that although she wants me to lead (something I didnít understand at first), she also needs to feel that things are under control, and that if I donít do things the way she feels is the ďrightĒ way, she reacts badly, by becoming distraught, chiding me as if I were a child, or falsely accusing me of bad faith or ill will. When I call her on the way sheís acting, she digs in deeper, bringing up ways Iíve failed in the past as supposed proof of my ongoing unreliability, and disagreeing on any factual matter thatís no longer subject to verification, such as what one of us said or did.
Fitness testing, in it's various forms, flows ultimately from insecurity.

And your observations are correct, how she FEELS, whether the situation is "right" or "wrong", that is the driver.

It is emotion, primal emotion, and not logic.

So it cannot be remedied by mere words, or rational persuasion, discussion, or debate. Much less by any arguing!

Quote:
All issues of dominance aside, itís obvious that we have to address these trust issues in order to become any more intimate than we are now. It bothers me a lot that she sees me as culpably selfish and thoughtless when Iíve actually given thought to her needs and tried to do the right thing, as has happened repeatedly.
Do what you KNOW is right, that is the foundation.

On that foundation, put in place the confidence, passing fitness tests, dominant and masculine attitude.

Finally, then, is the place for communicating your leadership and vision, and setting this goal, and working toward this goal, is the way of making your vision the reality.

Quote:
I fear to lead more forcefully under these conditions of misunderstanding and mistrust.
Do not confuse mistrust with insecurity.

Trust is earned over time, from seeing results of wise and proper actions and decisions.

Insecurity, much less tangible, much less tactile. It is emotional, and responds in kind to primal, emotional actions and behaviors. We call this, in this situation, dominance.

Quote:
On the other hand, my being rational and patient is getting us nowhere.
More evidence the issue is insecurity.

Quote:
Iím a hands-breadth away from telling her that things will go as I say from here on out, period, and that Iíll get us through this. In a way, that would be being true to myself: for the first time in my life, I truly trust myself and my motives. And although I fear losing her, itís no longer a crippling fear. More daunting is the fear that being dominant in this way could make her more anxious, not less; of making a mistake that not only ruins our marriage, but harms her emotionally.
Put in place what needs to be in place, then lead with confidence!

But do not do one without the other.

Quote:
I also think thereís an issue of simple human respect involved. She didnít sign up for a so-called ďtraditionalĒ marriage in which I have the final say on things. She should have the chance to agree or reject it.
What does her action and behavior tell you already what she signed up for, and what she will accept or reject.

You likely have already had your answer for a long time.

Quote:
But I doubt she would ever agree. Sheís afraid of losing herself to a manís control, nor do I think she knows that someone can be dominant but not domineering.

Your advice is very welcome.
Don't discuss this with words, or attempt to use logic or rational arguing or debate.

And do NOT seek her permission! That is tripping right out of the gate!

Put in place what needs to be in place, and then judge for yourself on the results.

I wish you well.
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:26 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

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Originally Posted by Kevan View Post
I, although gentle by nature and convictionóIím a monk type, not a warrior type, and I believe cruelty is among the greatest of sins
Just for clarity - when you say "monk", are we talking shaolin temple or the Rule of St Benedict here?
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Head tilted to one side...

"Your hunter gatherer is stalking prey this afternoon and requires his office to make the kill. I'm thinking we may want to clean the office after the blood's been spilled."
Are you for real?
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:38 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

Kevan . . .not really any words of insight here except how did you write about my life/marriage so accurately.

For what it's worth . . . one thing I learned from these posts is that the man-up/no more doormat thing is multi-faceted and works amazingly well (far beyond what I would have thought). I thought it was macho BS about 'the higher the pedestal, the harder you push the vacuum' the more she'll walk all over you.

I wasn't/am not a total doormat or 'nice guy' (I don't think), but by chance, after several nights of coming home with a chip on my shoulder and tired of picking up everyone else's crap (who have been home on summer vacation all day), the wife's disposition changed dramatically. I think it's a bit sh!tty that by not being the super-nice guy, I get treated well . . .but whatever works! Wow. I'll be reading this thread with much interest. I still need some fine-tuning.
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:45 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

jayde,

She responds to "you", not to some "super-nice guy" manipulative version of you.
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:50 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

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Originally Posted by Sawney Beane View Post
Are you for real?
lol... If my H said Conrad's comment in the same situation, it would totally make me bust up laughing.

But maybe that's the point...humor can surely defuse a tense situation and put it on a different footing.
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:55 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

You say you dream of a relationship in which she's given you "full authority" within your home. I'm wondering what specifically you are covering when you say this?
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Old 08-24-2011, 03:39 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

When I found my marriage at a crossroads more than a year after D-Day, it was confidence that garnered respect from my wife. With the discovery of her EA I made the typical mistakes most make. Trying to shoulder all the blame, not recognizing the fog she was in, begging and trying to immediately morph back into the knight in shining armor. All that got me was more distance from her, more lack of respect and her depending on TOM even more. What I mean by lack of respect is that I turned into just the kind of man she didn't want in her life. She needed me to take her hand and lead. Once I got my arms around it, read Love Must be Tough and worked on my confidence the tables slowly began to turn. She began to "believe" the marriage could recover because she saw my confidence in it come back. So when we reached what I considered my crossroads, the second breach of NC, there was no hesitance in the conversation. It was cool and controlled. She knew it was my deal breaker and without that it was a show stopper. She both resented me for making her do it and respected me for setting the boundary. When I joined TAM in early 2008 I included confidence in my signature line as one of the four words I thought would pull us through. It turned out to be one of the most critical in regaining my wife, my marriage and my life. Carry yourself with confidence with your wife and she will respect you.
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Old 08-24-2011, 04:41 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Dominance vs. respect in a strong but troubled marriage

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBadWolf View Post
You say you are a "monk" not a warrior. That is perfect! ... Consider the strength and display of power from the humble Shaolin Monk to compare to your own journey to dominance, then see these things we discuss as your very own person masculine ascent up Songshan Mountain!
This made me smile. What a great vision.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBadWolf View Post
Trust is earned over time, from seeing results of wise and proper actions and decisions. ... Insecurity, much less tangible, much less tactile. It is emotional, and responds in kind to primal, emotional actions and behaviors. We call this, in this situation, dominance.
I get it. What I'm having trouble with is determining whether her level of trust in me is sufficient for me to be more dominant. She's told me she has trouble trusting me. But I believe I've done enough to have earned her trust, and that there's ultimately not much I more I can do to prove myself to her. Is her lack of trust just her insecurity talking? Or does she really have deep-seated trust issues that could lead her to view my dominance as a threat to her person and safety?

I know I'm trustworthy...but if she doesn't or can't believe it, surely I have to proceed very carefully with her.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBadWolf View Post
Put in place what needs to be in place, then lead with confidence! ... But do not do one without the other.
I wish I knew how to be sure of what needs to be in place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBadWolf View Post
What does her action and behavior tell you already what she signed up for, and what she will accept or reject.
Part of my wake-up call came on a couple of occasions when I asked her to do whatever I asked for a day, as a birthday present. Not only did we have a great time, she just glowed with happiness and security for a couple of days afterward.

But she won't acknowledge this, and my dominance wasn't at all tested on those days--we had no conflict. And when she fights, she really fights. Emotional and dirty. Accusatory, contemptuous, and frighteningly certain of her mistaken ideas of what's going on in my head. This is the behavior I haven't tested myself against.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BigBadWolf View Post
And do NOT seek her permission! That is tripping right out of the gate!

Put in place what needs to be in place, and then judge for yourself on the results.
As Wilde said, there are temptations it takes strength and courage to yield to.

Do I really know what's good for her?
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Old 08-24-2011, 04:44 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Amplexor View Post
When I found my marriage at a crossroads more than a year after D-Day, it was confidence that garnered respect from my wife. With the discovery of her EA I made the typical mistakes most make. Trying to shoulder all the blame, not recognizing the fog she was in, begging and trying to immediately morph back into the knight in shining armor. All that got me was more distance from her, more lack of respect and her depending on TOM even more. What I mean by lack of respect is that I turned into just the kind of man she didn't want in her life. She needed me to take her hand and lead. Once I got my arms around it, read Love Must be Tough and worked on my confidence the tables slowly began to turn. She began to "believe" the marriage could recover because she saw my confidence in it come back. So when we reached what I considered my crossroads, the second breach of NC, there was no hesitance in the conversation. It was cool and controlled. She knew it was my deal breaker and without that it was a show stopper. She both resented me for making her do it and respected me for setting the boundary. When I joined TAM in early 2008 I included confidence in my signature line as one of the four words I thought would pull us through. It turned out to be one of the most critical in regaining my wife, my marriage and my life. Carry yourself with confidence with your wife and she will respect you.
Amplexor, thank you. As you can tell from my response to BBW just above, right now I'm trying to find the confidence.

Fortunately, in our case there's no question of infidelity.
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