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:
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, MEM2020, 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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
On the other hand, my being rational and patient is getting us nowhere.
More evidence the issue is insecurity.
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.
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.
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.