How to encourage a husband to show more leadership.

A reader who I’ll call Ann emailed me a while back asking for my thoughts on what she can do to encourage her husband to show more leadership.  I’ll share parts of her message below but have left other parts out which might overly identify her.  One thing which is clear throughout the message is that Ann loves and respects her husband;  her message doesn’t have the feel of a wife who is frustrated with her husband or at her wits end.  Ann is in her early 30s and she and her husband are fairly newly married.  English isn’t her first language but she does an excellent job expressing herself in it anyway:

My husband and I love each other very much. In general we don’t have any problems in our marriage, and I am wondering what I can do to keep it that way for years to come.
What I would like to ask you particularly is, what can I do to treat him like a man? This is not to say I treat him like a woman (poor English issue) but I would like to “underline” his masculinity…To make him feel that his wife is proud to have him as her husband. To make him feel that it’s perfectly OK to do what he chooses to do even if it doesn’t make everyone happy.
I don’t know if I’m making myself clear… I am not the super assertive type, I don’t yell at him or humiliate him or anything like that…I just want to learn new ways to make him feel good and strong about his manliness.

One of her objectives is to encourage him to be more assertive:

…he usually prefers to avoid conflict. I am not saying that I want him to start punching everyone in the face, but I’m guessing you understand my point.
I don’t want to “talk to” him about this, I don’t think that’s a good idea, instead I would like to find new ways to support my husband.

Anyway, I hope I was clear :) Please let me know your thoughts, if there are any books I can read, any tips etc.

I have framed the question as how she can encourage her husband to show more leadership.  She may be asking something slightly different but I think this is what she is most likely to be able to influence, and it also should have the effect she is looking for outside of his dealings with her.  Part of my assumption here is that what she is looking for is fine tuning instead of a total transformation.  She loves him and is happy with him now, but she can see how they might both be happier with a small change in the dynamic.

My first thought is to implement the simple ideas I mentioned in a recent post.  There are a number of customs which feminism has discouraged which should be able to help change the tone of your relationship.  Many of these are simple and ceremonial like having him drive, order for you at a restaurant, etc.  However simple gestures can be very powerful, and can help you fine tune this kind of thing.  Grerp writes about the powerful impact seating her husband at the head of the table had on her husband and her son:

It really doesn’t matter to me who sits at the head of the table.  Half the time I’m in and out of the kitchen getting stuff, so I sit on the side and that works fine.  But it does matter to my son, who has shown a vaguely covetous attitude about that head chair, and it matters to my husband who actually said to me the other night, “It’s so nice to come home to dinner and to eat it as the head of the table. It’s such a good way to end the day.”

I also think it would be a good idea if she can find some activity which her husband would naturally lead in.  This will vary based on the individuals involved.  Several years ago my wife and I bought a boat for me to use fishing on the local lakes.  She at first agreed to come along just to humor me, but soon found she loved the feeling of power when speeding across the lake as well as the calmness when stopped.  It was natural for me to take the lead more when we were working with the boat because of my experience handling boats, trailers, etc.  A few times we had mechanical problems which I needed to fix to get us home.  But even though I was leading, it was also important that we had to work together.  This was especially important when docking and trailering the boat.  All of this lead to an improvement in our dynamic together;  we were both happier with our marriage from this time on.  Boating may not be the right answer for other couples, but any activity which forces you to work together while encouraging him to lead should have the same impact.

Athol Kay has a great post about the Captain and First Officer model in marriage which I think really nails the kind dynamic she is likely hoping to achieve:

I’ve always liked the dynamic on the Star Trek series between Captains and First Officers. It’s always been quite apparent that the First Officer is always competent and skilled, and if anything happens to the Captain, they step into the role of being in command immediately. The Captains always listen, sometimes the First Officer has a better idea than their own. Sometimes the First Officer actually overrules the Captain in a crisis and gives the crew an order, the Captain usually just trusts the First Officer isn’t doing this to make trouble and runs with it. But at the end of the day… the Captain is the Captain and leadership comes from them, and final responsibility for the ship lies with them. If it all goes to hell the Captain is last off the ship.

The whole post is worth reading, as is his book.  For Ann what I would suggest is to pick certain areas she most wants to have him lead with and actively defer to her husband when a decision needs to be made.  She might say something as simple to him as that is something I trust my husband to decide.  Critical to this process is to pick something that he is good at and something that if he makes a choice she doesn’t agree with she can still live with the outcome.  As the two of them become more comfortable with him leading she will become more comfortable with raising concerns without overruling him.  But at first this might discourage him so I think it is best to try to avoid it if possible.  Also, be ready for him to make a choice which turns out to be “wrong” at some point.   Leaders make decisions, and some percentage of those decisions will be wrong.  It probably makes sense to look at this as a critical opportunity to reinforce his leadership role, especially if he made a different choice than she would have (or did) counsel.  From that perspective him making a wrong decision is something she should actually look forward to.

Both of them should get better at the process over time.  It also is worth noting that it isn’t right to judge the validity of a decision based on the outcome.  This is counterintuitive, but I believe it is actually correct.  When making a decision you can only decide based on the best information available at the time.  Sometimes this leads to the wrong outcome, but trying to do anything else will lead to never ending second guessing.

Hopefully this is at least a good start for them.  I’m also looking forward to the thoughts of my readers, both men and women.  Please share your wisdom in the comments section below.  As with a recent post where a reader asked for advice I will ask that all comments be respectful and kind in tone.  Normally the comments section is pretty much no holds barred, but in this case I will remove any comments which aren’t respectful of Ann or her husband.

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65 Responses to How to encourage a husband to show more leadership.

  1. Anonymous Reader says:

    It would be good for her to read the book “For Women Only” in order to understand him even better than she does now. (It would be good for every woman to read it, for that matter). It can be found at Barnes & Noble in the Christian section, not generally in the Relationships question — what conclusions that leads to are off topic.

    http://www.shaunti.com/BooksStudies/ForWomenOnly/tabid/137/Default.aspx

  2. Mormon Man says:

    The advice about supporting him even when he makes a bad decision is excellent. Obviously this doesn’t mean stay silent if you have information that he doesn’t or don’t voice concern if it’s something that is going to be dangerous for the family; but on any other decision it’s good to let him lead.

    The idea that a wife only has to support her husband and be his First Officer if he’s 100% right all the time is an impossible standard to live up to but all too common in Christian marriages where the couple puts on a show of traditional marriage without actually sticking to it when things get tough. It takes a significant amount of pressure off a husband to know that he has his wife in his corner even if he makes a poor decision every once in a while.

  3. Hope says:

    “I would like to “underline” his masculinity…To make him feel that his wife is proud to have him as her husband. To make him feel that it’s perfectly OK to do what he chooses to do even if it doesn’t make everyone happy.”

    She has said the solution in her post itself. Just tell him!

    I say to my husband all the time, “You are so manly,” “I am so happy to be your wife,” “You should do what you want,” and “You’re awesome.” The more I compliment him, support him, give him praises, rub his back, and so forth, the more confident he is, and the more he is able to go out into the world knowing that I’m okay with whatever he does, and that I’m here for him.

  4. Clarence says:

    I like these ideas better than that of some ahem (clears throat) Catholic Traditionalists who say secular women should just grin and bear it and let him lead because that’s Rome’s interpretation of how marriage should be.

    Such people have nothing to say to secular or even those of a slightly different religious persuasion other than: don’t marry!

    Which I find isn’t very helpful at all.

  5. Anonymous Reader says:

    Clarence, the notion of women as passive supporters of their men is a relic of marriage 1.0 when any man who was a reliable provider and an honest man could expect a tolerable marriage. In those days there were a lot of social pressures on couples to stay married, so that the norm was to marry and remain so.

    That’s all different today. Because of the modern divorce industry and all the pretty lies that are peddled, women need to actively build up men in marriage not only for the sake of the man in question, but to reaffirm in their own minds that yes, it’s worth being married to the guy. Married people need to actively work to remain so, because of the anti-marriage messages peddled in all main stream media outlets.

    Another good thing for this wife to do would be to avoid TV shows that tear at men; the View, Oprah, all the “true confessions” programs, and so forth. Just don’t watch them, because they are poisonous. That doesn’t come under the heading of building him up directly, but by avoiding exposing herself to divorce industry messages, it helps indirectly IMO.

  6. anony mommy says:

    What do you do if you husband is really, really bad at making decisions, particularly financial.

  7. sconzey says:

    Yeah; I’d second what Hope said up there about the manly compliments. Another thing you might try is tweaking his diet to up his testosterone levels, which should have a behavioural effect on his assertiveness. Roissy has a recent post with some suggestions. Essentially it boils down to eating meat protein, doing regular resistance training and avoiding soy.

  8. Lavazza says:

    I can’t find the right clip, but after this the old woman explains that what is important is the husband’s part in making a woman a married woman.

    An interesting movie. Very mysterious.

  9. Mormon man said what I wanted to say, but much better than I would have said it. So I’ll just second that, and commend you Dalrock, for an excellent post.

    I said on my blog recently that you show more concern for marriage than I’ve witnessed on many Christian blogs, and this is a good example of what I meant.

    [D: Thanks Terry!]

  10. MarkyMark says:

    A woman wanting to treat her husband with-gasp-respect?! Who would’ve thought?

  11. Doomed Harlot says:

    I grew up in a household where my parents made an ostentatious show of placing my father at the head of the table. This seating arrangement was clearly intended to convey his authority over my mother and me. And, yes, this kind of thing does indeed have a powerful effect on children.

    From the age of 5, I found family meals to be an incredibly humiliating exercise. I was a humiliated on my mother’s behalf and humiliated on my own behalf as it was obvious that I would one day be expected to take her role. Far from making me respect my father, this custom was a major factor in my view of him as a pompous, silly person. It was also a factor in my childhood attraction to feminism. Those early experiences with symbolic sex-based subordination ingrained feminism in me so strongly that that belief in my own right to equal respect and equal leadership in my own home is an ineradicable part of my core being.

  12. Doomed Harlot says:

    That said, I question the letter writer’s concerns about her husband. One of her complaints is that he prefers to avoid conflict. Well, if he is supposed to be the leader, why doesn’t she simply accept that? There are many ways to handle conflict, and avoiding it can be a perfectly valid tactic. If she doesn’t like that tactic, isn’t that the price she has to pay for accepting a model whereby he gets to be in charge?

  13. Timitz says:

    I’ll throw out there that some practicals that will help with the process are simple things that are fairly easy to do and so subtle as to be hardly noticeable, but its the subtle things that have the most impact.

    First is the head of the table. Now I’m not sure what else sitting at the head of the table is supposed to be for you doomed harlot, but culturally and socially it has always been a position of dominance. I’m not sure what your mom and dad were doing that made that so unacceptable, but my parents did the same thing when I was a kid, and no one in the house thought it was silly. For you Anne, having your husband sit at the head of the table with you in the right hand seat sends the message that you are in charge and you are his second in command. Growing up dad sat at the head, and even when he was gone no one else sat their unless they had to for seating purposes. Mom always sat at the right hand, and I sat on the left. My sister and guests sat further down the hierarchy. You’ll find that when you use this dynamic, especially with other people around, he should start to become more confident in it. When I was in college I always sat at the head of my table for the friend group, and over time I became even more solidly the leader, to the point of no one would even challenge me, my now wife always sat on the right hand seat and the rest of them sat in positions that showed their status relative to everyone else. People just naturally sat like that because they are aware of the hierarchy. Its ingrained in everyone, so by making an effort to put him in a higher position, he will subconsciously pick up on it.

    A second one I would try is to avoid using dominant body language when you touch him. Combine that with generally submissive body language will help him “feel” in charge and step up more. It also makes him feel safe in doing that because he won’t be getting signals that you are planning to challenge him for the lead if he screws up.

    Thirdly, you could try actively asking him to make small decisions for you. An example is: “Honey do you want me to make you chicken for dinner or would you rather I make a casserole?” This puts him in the drivers seat, he is picking dinner, but it doesn’t ruin anything because you picked options that you know how to make. The more practice you have making decisions, the easier they are to make, so this should really help. Because he has the power of decision, and you are acting as the First officer in providing him narrowed down options, both of your roles as contributing members works like a charm. As you both get used to this the types of decisions will become more important, and you’ll trust him to make them more. My wife gives me options all the time, and very rarely do I see a need to step outside the options. We do this with everything from dinner, to bills, and when it comes to some of the major life decisions we’ve had to make its never been a problem for me to make it. With this its really a matter of building trust, because if you can’t trust him to pick dinner, how can you trust him to decide on something important like joining the Navy or how expensive a house to buy?

    The last one my wife does that you may or may not want to do is to walk a half-step behind me. She always does this with my no matter what I change my pace to, and I gave up trying to stop her. That is a strong signaler of leadership, I’m literally “leading” where we walk. That one isn’t for everyone, but my wife likes that one so it might be worth trying.

    The important thing is that you find these subtle things that you can actively give him leadership in, and as he grows used to being in charge of these little things and is more confident in it, and you grow to trust him more with decisions, and you both have ingrained that you are on the same team in mutual support, it will naturally expand into more serious and important matters.

    Good luck! I hope I helped.

  14. NMH says:

    Ive come to the incredibly sadconclusion that the only way a woman will be deeply satisfied with a man’s masculinity is not so much overt shows of it, but more subtle suggestions that he is better (more skilled) than her in multiple categories. The more categories that he is better than the woman, the more turned on she will be, and the more sable the relationship.

    This is, of course, due to female hypergamy, a woman’s desire to date up to a man who is better quality than she is.

    This puts a huge responsibility on the modern western man. Is not like you can tell the modern woman to dumb herself down by not getting an education or that she should act more feminine. Men I think are more willing to adapt to enhance sexual attraction than women are.

    Thanks to women’s demand of hypergamy in personal relationships in the context of our PC egalitarian culture, the west will slowly but surely dissapear.

    [D: Ann is clearly an exception here. She is asking how she can back him up as the leader.]

  15. Ecclesiastes says:

    While the analogy of the captain and first officer is accurate, both in depth and breadth, it is too removed from common experience to be of guidance.

    What I understand her to be asking is how to make him constantly aware that he is in the driver’s seat, and that he can not get out of it. So long as the calendar pages turn and the clock ticks, the car is in motion. If he doesn’t drive, they’ll just ride down the road and go hungry. She could drive by sitting on top of him, putting her hands and feet on his, and it is practically guaranteed that they will wreck the car like that. They could try switching, but that’s dangerous while the car is in traffic.

    She got in the car on purpose. She absolutely does not want to be lashed into a driver’s seat. It’s a 50-year chore and she knows it. She’s not getting out of their car unless lives depend on it.

  16. Doomed Harlot says:

    Hi Timitz,

    I am intrigued by the fact that you pointed out that the head of the table is, socially and culturally, the position of dominance. Maybe I am reading into your comment but it sounds like you are claiming that somehow explains why it shouldn’t bother a little girl.

    To me the message of our little seating arrangement was loud and clear: No matter how hard you work, no matter how competent or strong you are, no matter how much you cultivate your character, you will still always, even when you are grown up, be subordinate in your own home to someone else because you are only a girl. And not only that, your nose is going to be rubbed in it and you are going to be expected to participate and celebrate humiliating symbolism designed to constantly reinforce your lowly place.

    Sure, as adults, it is easy to say, “Meh, it’s only a place at the table, it’s only your surname, etc., what does it really matter?” But these things have meaning that is very powerful in the acculturation of young children.

  17. Doomed Harlot says:

    I dunno. I just don’t get why the Captain-First Mate model would work in a marriage. It seems like it would put a lot of pressure on everyone to fulfill their “roles”– and it seems unnecessary. It’s not like a family at all resembles a military operation.

    I think this letter is a case-in-point. The wife expects her husband to do certain things (i.e. lead, handle conflicts a certain way, etc.) and is disappointed when he doesn’t. If she didn’t have an expectation that he would fill a certain role, this wouldn’t be a problem.

  18. Oliphaunt says:

    @Doomed Harlot

    “No matter how hard you work, no matter how competent or strong you are, no matter how much you cultivate your character, you will still always, even when you are grown up, be subordinate in your own home to someone else because you are only a girl. And not only that, your nose is going to be rubbed in it and you are going to be expected to participate and celebrate humiliating symbolism designed to constantly reinforce your lowly place. ”

    This is a human condition, not a female one. We are all constantly shown our own subservience and uselessness. When we die all our hard work, all of the pointless things we aquired, all of the knowledge we ammased, all of the trival “power” we had, all of it goes away. You seem to have unlimited amounts of pride about your “acomplishments” which I find highly amusing. Not because my or any other person (man or womens) acheivements mean anything, but because none of them do. Either you are religous (some version) or not, but either way all of your earthly and physical prowess and trinkets end the second you hit dirt. Pride, and vanity, are so hilarious, as if anything human kind can do is even remotely signifigant. You are repelled by the thought of being second teir to a mere man. I am repelled at the thought of sharing breathing space with someone with such a ridiculous sense of grandoise ability. Shadows and dust.

  19. NMH says:

    I think “Doomed Harlot” comments suggest to me her need for the “man at the head of the table” or the Captain to be clearly respected; furthermore, to be the most respected member of the family. IMO, the only way this is going to happen is if he is clearly the smartest, coolest, and biggest bad-ass member in the family. What Doomed Harlot requires, IMO, is her powerful hypergamous urge to be satisfied for her to be respectful of the man at the head of the table.

    But still he has to treat her like an equal, even though he is better than her.

    Now Doomed Harlot eat your broccoli and Shut The Fuck Up!

  20. I don’t know–I kind of get what Doomed Harlot is saying about the roles issue. I actually think my husband demonstrates a lot of leadership in our marriage–and I do defer to him–but it’s not a CONSCIOUS thing, and maybe that’s what she’s getting at. It’s not like I deliberately think, “he’s the captain and I’m the first mate” at all our interactions. It’s just that we have fallen into a healthy pattern. So maybe what she’s reacting to is the false feel of it all.

    I think it may start out feeling false, but eventually it really doesn’t and you stop thinking about it. When we were married we were total equals, and I could never figure out what I wasn’t happy in the relationship. When my husband started making some important decisions–like leaving a church that was making me unhappy–it took such a load off of my shoulders. And I when I learned to support him in his parenting, even when I would have done it differently, he became a more involved parent.

    It’s funny how after two decades of marriage we’ve fallen in to far more “traditional” marriage framework than we ever thought we would. But it’s a lot happier. It’s just that usually it’s not a conscious thought, if that makes sense.

  21. Dalrock says:

    Moderator Note: I’ll hold further comments from Doomed Harlot on this topic, as well as any further responses to her. Her opinion is valid (as her opinion) but not what Ann is asking for.

  22. Doomed Harlot says:

    Aaaah. Sorry for the thread derail. My bad!!!! I am just endlessly fascinated by the topic, but I do see that we are getting into areas not responsive to the post. :)

    [D: Thanks for understanding. Keep your powder dry for the next post. I'm sure I'll have something you can sink your teeth into sooner or later.]

  23. Dalrock says:

    @anony mommy
    What do you do if you husband is really, really bad at making decisions, particularly financial.

    I’m not sure of the context of this but I would guess it involves either not being able to stick to a budget and/or risky financial decisions (gambling, stock market, etc). I have seen this and it is a disaster. I wish I had an answer beyond working with him to recognize his addiction (chronic problems with overspending and gambling both strike me as addictions) and see if he is willing to change. Even then it might not make sense for him to lead in the area which is a proven weakness for him. By the same token, an alcoholic or recovering alcoholic probably shouldn’t be the one deciding whether there should be beer in the house.

    Where this can get bad very quickly is if he can’t lead and won’t follow. Then at some point this starts to resemble an ultimatum on his part; put up with it or get out of the marriage. Hopefully he is wise enough not to make such an ultimatum.

  24. Yes, the thread was getting derailed quite a bit. If I may, I’d like to piggy back on Sheila’s comment and say that it is possible for Ann to back her husband up as he leads without it feeling false.

    Despite the fact that the roles are pretty clearly defined in our house, there’s nothing “false” about it, but I think that may be because we both grew up in homes where the roles were pretty defined as well. My dad always sat at the head of the table as did my husband’s dad. We fell into it kind of naturally.

    Still, sometimes when the need arises, my husband cooks or puts the kids to bed. When the need arose, I chnged the oil in the truck. Accepting the idea of the husband/father as the leader of the family may look practically different for every couple.

    I think Dalrock’s advice to Ann is good advice no matter how the practical details of their daily life plays out. We have tendency to confuse the two things far too often.

  25. paige says:

    My husband is naturally authoritative but I do have a friend whose husband is very conflict avoidant and because she isn’t she has become the family Rottweiler…a position I don’t think she prefers. I think where she went wrong was in coddling his weaknesses. All husbands (and people) have weaknesses…but spouses are suppose to gently encourage each other to reach beyond our weaknesses. I tell my friend that she needs to start refusing to fight his battles for him.

  26. Clarence says:

    Paige:

    Didn’t you mention your sister was the type who preferred to be the leader in her marriage?

    If I have you mixed up with someone else, I apologize.

  27. paige says:

    Yes- I did say that about my sister.

    I wasn’t referring to my sister in the comment though…I was referring to someone different who is very religious and prefers a more traditional model.

  28. Matt says:

    I think a lot of people instinctively react badly to the “husband as leader of the family” model mostly because they have so few examples of what a good and effective leader looks like in practice. They hear “leader” and think “tyrant” instead.

    I’m trying to picture a normal dinner table with only one head, and I really can’t. The geometric nature of rectangles effectively requires that there be two of them. Likewise in a marriage.

    My wife and I don’t so much share authority as divide it. There are areas of concern in which it’d strike both of us as positively freakish for me to try and make imperative decisions, and corresponding areas in which it’d be just as strange for her to do so. But we always take one another’s opinions and concerns quite seriously. And if either of us makes a decision that turns out to be wrong, we both expect to learn from it, in order to do better next time.

  29. They hear “leader” and think “tyrant” instead.

    Yes, Matt, this is true. I had a person comment on my blog just last night and say they thought I was married to a tyrant simply because I expressed one aspect of my husband’s personality. She felt so sorry for me, LOL!

    When my husband hears me say that some of my online regulars picture me as a Stepford Wife, he finds that most amusing. He responds with, They clearly don’t know you the way they think they do. I’m thinking the one-sided nature of my postings give that impression.

  30. Kai says:

    I too wonder whether that many tables these days have ‘heads’ and ‘foots’.
    Growing up, I certainly never noticed it.
    I think *I* sat at the ‘head’ of the table (as I was at an end), while my parents sat across from each other with my mother on the side closer to the kitchen, since she was usually the one to get up and grab things.

    I think that even if one person is the leader, that doesn’t mean they lead in all areas. If you think about it, the CEO of a company may not be great with money – he’s good with people. He has a CFO for that reason. So even if a husband is to be the ‘leader’ in a marriage, it makes total sense for the couple to divide tasks according to skills, abilities, and interests. If the wife is much more financially prudent, it makes sense for her to handle the finances, and for the husband to encourage her in that role.

  31. Bike Bubba says:

    Part of me wonders whether one great way for a woman to encourage her husband to show more leadership is….well, to let him lead. Ask him what he wants, and do it unless it’s a sin. Understand that the world beats men down, and that he’s going to take a while to clue in that his wife truly does want to follow him.

    And as she lets him lead, five will get ya ten that he’ll fulfill the other part of the Ephesians 5 equation.

    (or if a man wants a submissive wife……flip it around and see what happens)

  32. Sweet As says:

    When I was a young girl, I was frustrated by the ways boys were treated over me. What my understanding came to was the idea that a men get two lives — public and private — and women get one — private. I saw this as women getting half a life, and men getting a full life.

    So, I truly, deeply understand Doomed’s position.

    But, I’ve also become deeply aware of my need for that familial hierarchy and leadership (something my family had; my husband’s family was ruled by my MIL who is very disrespectful of FIL, and FIL is a massive conflict avoider — I perceive him as a very weak man), because it became truly an untenable situation for me.

    I found myself making *all* of the decisions for our lives, and it was incredibly unbearable. This is how we came to sites like Dalrock’s (via Athol’s). I just needed something that *worked*.

    Things are a lot better, now that DH more-or-less is heading the household. I still am looking for ways to demonstrate these things to my husband, actively.

    There are areas where he did decide — we moved here because he wanted to, the method was through my work. we’re moving to a new neighborhood where he wants to; I realized it was better for the family (and i’m planning the move now). He keeps track of the finances (i back him up, of course), and so I ask permission before buying anything at all. This is an interesting dominance process in and of itself.

    We have a round table, so there is no “head” of the table. But, i think the ‘head’ can be demonstrated in many ways. we’re still finding our way, but it’s working for us.

    I feel more secure and more fulfilled having this as a partnership, rather than having to lead (and the Captain/First-mate thing really works for me).

  33. Zildjian says:

    Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. What fits your taste, ladies and gentlemen?

  34. grerp says:

    It is difficult to know what to advise because it’s unclear as to whether Ann’s husband has suppressed or unpracticed leadership qualities or just little ability/desire to lead. Women often are good at encouraging positive thought patterns, independence, and leadership in children – by saying the good stuff, downplaying weakness, encouraging practice, and not stepping in when skills are still wobbly but are being displayed. Those things might translate.

    It’s absolutely essential not to fall into henpecking or constant criticizing and to back up your husband when he’s being pushed into a corner by other people. My husband will often run through stuff that happened at work for me to get a second opinion, and if I think he messed up, I’ll tell him and give my opinion on how to make it right, but if he’s in the right, I tend to get my back up on his behalf. I think the idea that I’m willing to go on the warpath to defend him is enjoyable for him.

    As for the table thing (and thanks for the linkage, Dalrock), I don’t know if this is clear, but I don’t look at myself as being lesser than my husband. I don’t have any self-esteem problems, actually. Yes, my husband is bigger and stronger, and he’s older and has had different experiences, but from a theological perspective, my religion states that men and women have the same intrinsic worth to God. I don’t feel at all invaluable. But I don’t care where I sit, and this is a way for me to show him consideration and telegraph his value to me and to our family to our son. I could do it in other ways, but this way works and is therefore how I choose to do it. It does not make me either less honored or honorable to show him honor. Ultimately, I’m not a philosopher or a sociologist, I’m just a pragmatist. He participates more in the family when he feels important, and he is important. I don’t care how important I am relative to him because I have never felt unimportant. I go with what works. Let’s get ‘er done.

  35. Zildjian says:

    “I go with what works. Let’s get ‘er done.”

    It’s as simple as that PERIOD

  36. Ann says:

    Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment and advise. I read each comment carefully. I found some new and interesting answers to my question. Thank you.

  37. Sweet As says:

    Grerp’s comments about suppression vs desire for leadership/tendencies hits close to home.

    I’m in a bit of a triple bind.

    First, DH is the typical super-beta male. He was entirely raised this way, and as I said before, I view his father as very weak, and he was raised to be even more weak. He was raised to think that he was incapable (and actually coddled to be incapable) of the most basic tasks such as spreading cold butter on soft bread to make a grilled cheese sandwich. He was criticized and then “rescued” from any task of this sort.

    In addition, his parents use splintering as a coping mechanism. Splintering is a particularly evil activity. A person who splinters cannot tolerate the idea that they are bad in any way. They do not accept that humans are just as bad as they are good, and that it’s ok to be both, but strive to be good — as they say, “to err is human . . .”. So, the extreme discomfort means they have to ‘splinter’ and put the ‘bad’ onto someone else. This usually comes via shaming. And the “culprits” of the “badness” tend to be anyone who is closest at the moment that they feel “bad.” In families, it often happens to the kids. This means that kids have such a deep level of toxic shame that they are really uncertain in themselves.

    The kids of these families tend to go in two routes: 1. drugs/alcohol/self medicating; 2. internal harsh critics that impose such anxiety toward “bad” or “failure” that they get a sort of decision-making or action-taking paralysis. And typically, this second type “casts” their internal critic onto someone else — that the someone else is the critic, not the person inside of them, or rather themselves.

    Add into this my husband’s natural personality type — which is a peacemaker. Using the enniegram system, he is a classic 9, who seeks union with others, wants to form a unified decision, and is a conflict avoider in the extreme. In fact, the 9 will do pretty much ANYTHING to avoid conflict. And, one of the quirkier behaviors from a 9 is that they will sit back and want you to make the decision, but if you don’t make the decision that they want, they get angry with you (their personality is an anger type). Of course, this is after they have told you that they are “fine with whatever” or “i want to know what you want to do. . .” which is essentially a way of avoiding making a decision, which another person may not want/like, which would create the all horrifying conflict.

    So, this puts me in a really confusing position.

    First, DH has very little skill and he also is shy to try anything new. He’s afraid of failing, afraid of criticism, and also afraid of being rescued. So, he’ll start to try– in a fearful/anxious half-hearted way, and then complain (his anxiety coping mechanism) which encourages someone to come in and rescue him. And if you do that, he gets angry with you for not allowing him to do it.

    But, the real difficulty comes when he doesn’t want to do a task — he’ll play at being weak and incapable and complain about having to do it. Then, if you don’t step in, he gets angry with you for not doing what he wanted — which was to do the task for him.

    The difficulty is that the outward behavior is the same: complaining. In hte one instance, he’s complaining out of anxiety (fear of shame), and in the other instance, he’s complaining because he doesn’t want to do the activity (normal complaining).

    Since I can’t stand the complaining, I just was doing “everything” both “men’s” and “women’s” roles in our household. But my new tactic is to ignore ALL of the complaining until he is clear and simply goes “would you please take care of this for me? I’m really stressed out about it.” And then I do it. Because I can’t discern between the two kinds of complaints — and I don’t want to get yelled at for nothing.

    Btw, this happened at breakfast, and he just came unglued. I was making the bacon and needed to take DS to the toilet, and so I asked him to take over — a task he does often — and to make the salad as well (which i usually do while the bacon is going). DS can take his time! LOL Anyway, he started complaining about it, and I said I would be there in a minute, and then he snapped at me that he was doing it and doing it right and I didn’t have to criticize or rescue him! Got a good 10 minute chewing out over that.

    The second layer is that inner critic. When that is going on in his head (which is fairly frequently, but particularly when he’s under stress and therefore very anxious), then I am cast as the critic. The critic is, of course, in side, but he’ll say things like “you’re just like my mother and you NEVER support me.”

    To give an example, today I was to go to work and then come home, wherein we would gather up and go out to the beach. So, this is what I did — as DH had directed. Well, at some point while I was at work, DH decided that he would come to the offices with DS. Of course, I get home and DH is not there, and DH gets to the offices with DS and I am not there. So, DH had to walk back because he had our only cell, and so on.

    DH comes home and is FUMING mad. I did exactly what I was supposed to do, and he was screaming and carrying on about how unreliable I am and why wasn’t I at the office, and if I was coming home why didn’t they run into me on the street? Well, because the other yoga teacher gave me a ride home (very nice of her) which kept my dry (there was a sudden rainstorm) until I got home without a key and was trapped outside in the rain storm. Oh well. It’s ok to be wet. :)

    So, he then fumes for about 20 minutes about how I’m always criticizing him and not doing what I said I was going to do, and as it was storming it probably wouldn’t be a good beach day, so I suggested we go to an indoor playground near us, and he got upset about that because I’m not the boss of him, and I’m always criticizing what he chooses to do when he’s trying to be decisive and take action (by walking to the office), and that I’m just like his mother!

    I swear, I did exactly what he asked me to do, and what I said I would do! And, I didn’t criticize him at all. I made absolutely NO statement about him changing the plan (due to his anxiety about the family we were going to meet at the beach around a certain time, but we’d text before heading out anyway), and simply stated things like “I did what you asked me to do.” and “let me get the baby out of these wet clothes” and “I’ll start some tea and then text Ann that the beach is out due to the storm.”

    So, he railed at me for about 30 minutes because he was really angry with himself.

    Then, the third element comes in. Instead of saying what he wants, because he doesn’t want to create conflict, he either asks what you want and goes along (usually begrudgingly because you didn’t choose “rightly” which is what he wanted) or if you ask what he wants, he won’t say because he doesn’t want to create conflict so he says he’s “fine with whatever.” And if you choose ‘whatever’ and it’s not what he wants, you know, he gets angry.

    And this one is particularly frustrating, because I got hit with this one today too. As DH was having a rough day, I suggested that I take DS through the bedtime routine. DH agreed, and had some free time in the other room. After DS went to sleep, I came out and got online to read my blogs and such.

    DH then says to me “what are you plans for this evening?” well, I didn’t have any plans. I thought he was having a good time, and I was fine, so that was that. I had no plans. And so he then goes “do you want to watch entourage?” (we’ve been going through the dvds). And I say “not really.” And then he gets angry because it is what he wants to do. And he goes “well, I want to watch it!” and I said “that’s fine, you can watch it.” And then he gets angry again and says “No! I want to spend time with you! Why don’t you want to spend time with me?”

    Well, geez. It could be because you reamed me out at breakfast for no reason, you reamed me out when I got home from work for no reason, and you are reaming me out now because instead of saying “I’d like to spend some time with you tonight doing X” you asked me what I wanted to do, then complained when it wasn’t “right” and then chewed me out because of that — or essentially for no reason.

    Honestly, my feelings are hurt.

    I truly do my best to encourage leadership in the household. I do not question his parenting decisions (how he fathers our son), and I do not question his work situation and how he does that (for his own work or our business), and I try to organize the workplace so that it works for him, and I keep the house clean and orderly, and I care for DS and maintain him so that he’s more fun when DH has him for the afternoon, and I do everything that I possibly can to encourage him to do what he needs to do.

    But man, days like this, I feel completely turned around. I’m not sure “sitting at the head of the table” is going to fix this one.

  38. I would also strongly recommend ballroom or salsa dancing. Shortage of real men who lead (ahem ahem, cough cough!)

    http://captaincapitalism.blogspot.com/2011/03/ballroom-dancings-shortage-of-alpha.html

    Men are forced to lead there! And you are forced to “obey!” ;)

  39. Sweet As says:

    To clarify, when I say that DH has “very little skill” — I don’t mean that absolutely. DH has many excellent skills — and many self taught ones at that. He’s a great writer and artist, he understands the body in unique ways (via his athletic pursuits), and he has many skills.

    But, he doesn’t have a lot of basic life skills. He did his first load of laundry when he was 27. Before that it was his mother or the laundry service or me.

    He never cooked meals until he was 25. He has very few cooking skills at all. He currently watches cooking shows to learn a few. I tried to teach him, but he fought that, and so his cooking has always been pretty bland and pretty sad. Until recently, when he decided he wanted to learn more. He’s been watching cooking shows.

    He also cannot do basic handy-man stuff around the house. This is true of both of us, as our parents said that we were “too smart for manual labor” and refused to teach us these skills for fear that we would “not utilize our intellectual talents.” Of course, it’s also really sad when you can’t hang a shelf by yourself either. Or put together a kitset of furniture from Ikea. KWIM?

    In so far as leadership goes, these are skills he was never taught. His parents are freakish followers (eg, they are always doing things based on what others are doing. as an example, they don’t plan their own vacations — they go on cruises with their friends, and their friends always choose which cruise they are doing that year.). He was too anxious to lead anything as a kid, and the paralysis meant that other kids (in group work or teams) had to take the lead, even if he was the most qualified to do so (eg, he played trumpet exceptionally, but couldn’t handle the pressure of being first chair and doing the solos; but he felt deeply ashamed of tht, and also deeply ashamed of being second chair, because being second chair meant you weren’t the best, which meant you weren’t “good.”)

    Anyway, like I said, DH has many skills, just not in these rather pragmatic areas.

  40. Sweet As says:

    I’ve tried the salsa/tango thing. DH doesn’t want to atrophy and doesn’t want to do that much cardio. Seriously, I’ve tried many things. LOL I think it would be great, Captain Capitolism. :D

  41. Doomed Harlot says:

    Sweet as, I just spent a couple minutes hesitating over whether to respond to your posts, or whether it would seem presumptuous given my obviously different political views about gender roles.

    Mostly, I wanted to say how touched I am by the power of what you just wrote. And impressed by your insight into your husband’s mental state. I feel for you and for your husband. Deep shame equals extreme pain — both for the sufferer and his loved ones. Good for you for trying to understand him and work with him.

    I don’t have any advice (though I do question whether formal gender roles might put more pressure on him than he can handle?). Are there times when he is rational when you can sit down and come up with strategies for how you both should act when these misunderstandings arise? Does he himself understand why he reacts the way he does? If not, perhaps he (and you together) could benefit from some counseling.

  42. grerp says:

    I would say counseling as well, if it is financially doable and he is up for the scrutiny. It sounds like an outside observer might be of some help to defuse the pattern of defensiveness and build communication skills. I’m skeptical of counseling in general as I believe psychologists often have their own agendas, one of which is building up their bank accounts and often pass out the Get-out-of-1-marriage-free cards, but if you can find someone you can both trust to interpret what is going on between you and help you get a better pattern going, I’d do it.

  43. Bike Bubba says:

    Sweet as, I found your comment “he doesn’t want to atrophy” very interesting; I am going to assume that he’s something of a bodybuilder, and I have to wonder (and I hope I’m wrong here) if muscles are how he’s saying “darnit, I’m a MAN!”

    (in the same way, I wonder if many young ladies dress immodestly because it’s their way of saying “darnit, I’m a WOMAN”–they’ve been pushed into sports they didn’t really like, careers they didn’t really want because it fit a feminist agenda, and what do they have, then, to speak of femininity but their body)

    And so I wonder if your husband has been so beat down that it’s going to take a “little extra effort” on the part of his dear wife to persuade him that she loves him just as he is. I’m not quite sure what feminine wiles will do this with Mr. Sweet As, but I’m thinking that a certain amount of “you worked hard on those arms….now can I get some enjoyment out of them?” might be an appropriate way to start.

  44. Brendan says:

    A very difficult situation. Unfortunately, I have to say that it is extremely hard, and also not very common, for people to truly overcome “family of origin” issues that are as substantial as what you have described.

    People can do it (with the help of therapy, mostly — extremely hard to do without that, I think), but they have to be hyper-motivated to do it (i.e., want to do it for themselves, not to be a better husband or what have you, but just to feel better in their own skin) *and* have the stamina, and trust, to power through personal changes that will be fundamental, and result in fundamental changes to their personality, changes which will, to some degree, be unpredictable in terms of the person that will come out at the other end. Most people can’t manage the dissonance of that kind of process, really, as it involves taking yourself apart and putting yourself back together again — most people would rather muddle though with the familiar yet broken self, because it is easier than the daunting task of remaking themselves into a new, unfamiliar, person. Again, it really depends on how much the person is really motivated to change — that is, how much they want to be rid of this personality they have, and what they are willing to do for that. If they are self-medicating, they won’t do it, because the “meds” make their persona tolerable to themselves (not to others, obviously). If they are re-directing successfully, they likely also will not be motivated to change because they are still effectively using a coping mechanism which allows them to keep their problematic persona intact and make it more bearable for themselves (again, not for others onto whom this is redirected).

    Counseling may help, but it may not. The key is his personal motivation to change — without that, he won’t be able to get out of these dysfunctional patterns, regardless of whatever kind of tinkering he may do “around the edges”.

  45. Dalrock says:

    @Sweet As
    I’m not sure “sitting at the head of the table” is going to fix this one.

    I would agree. I made some assumptions based on Ann’s email, and in that case I think they were correct. The advice in the post will only be beneficial if 1) the wife wants the husband to show more leadership. and 2) the husband is basically ready to lead, but just needs some encouragement. It certainly isn’t a fix for everything. I’m glad to see the concern and suggestions from other posters to you. It looked like good advice to me.

    FYI, Ann responded above thanking everyone for the comments (she sent me a very nice email as well). Her comment was stuck in moderation since just after midnight my time, so it ended up getting buried.

  46. Clarence says:

    Paige:
    Thank you for the clarification.
    Everyone else: Thanks for trying to help Ann.

  47. Hope says:

    Sweet As, first of all, I am very sorry to hear about these troubles. But I think the scenario has gone far enough across the line that you can no longer do the submissive, pleasing and complimentary wife routine. You need to let him know clearly that you will not tolerate being yelled at, and walk away from the argument. Right now you are training him to make you into an emotional dumping ground. You are the “blame splinter.”

    Be honest with him, and try to do this without getting too emotional. Tell him what you have written here, that he is hurting your feelings, pushing you away, and that you do not like being subjected to this treatment. He is not a good head of household right now, and he needs to work on himself. He likely suffers from low self-esteem from years of suffering at his parents’ hands, but he needs to take concrete actions to get out of that toxic dynamic.

    In Athol’s terms, your DH is low on both alpha and beta traits. He is not dominant or confident, but he is also not loving and understanding. This is a very poor combination of traits and will be difficult to live with for you. I second the advice to get him into therapy, but most men loathe therapy and counseling. He really sounds like he is projecting his mother onto you though. You need to get out of that dynamic whenever possible. Say “I am your wife, not your mother. I will not and refuse to be your mother.”

    Sit him down and tell him everything. You MUST communicate. Tell him what you have learned from the blogs. Tell him that you try to help, and that you don’t want to give up on the marriage. Tell him what the reality of divorce is, and how bad it is for both men and women. Tell him that you want both of you to strive to better yourselves. Don’t hold anything back for fear of being yelled at or instigating an argument. If he yells at you, leave the room or leave the house.

    I grew up being yelled at by my mother, so I tolerated being yelled at and criticized and so on for the longest time with my ex. You should realize this is not normal, healthy or acceptable behavior. My husband has never ONCE raised his voice at me, nor have we ever gotten into a verbal argument. We both control ourselves and treat each other with respect. What you see couples doing on TV and in the media is not good, and it is not how couples should treat each other.

    Finally, if he really is suffering and having a bad day, you should comfort him and let him be vulnerable, cuddle together, and so on. But this is only something you do when he is not blaming you or making you his punching bag. We teach other people how to treat us. You need some girl game (inner game) — self-respect. Do not tolerate crappy behavior just because you love him and he tells you that he loves you. Love is an action and a verb. It is reciprocal in a good, heathy relationship.

    Good luck, and you are a great wife and mother to be wanting to work on your marriage.

  48. My Name Is Jim says:

    Looks like others beat me to the idea about dance. It’s how I met my wife, we’re going to a dance tomorrow. (At my suggestion) Something about it seems to just work. I’m in better shape now than the last time we went, too. Should make me a more enjoyable dance partner.

  49. Sweet As says:

    Thanks for your insights.

    We have both been in counseling before — with good results — and right now are in the process of finding the income and the right person for him. This work goes *far* deeper than his initial work (which he did for two years — with great results), and so it also means a time of time and effort (as well as money). He is very pro-active in this regard once the various pieces are in place.

    And, in general, he *is* working on multiple fronts. First, he is working on this material as well as Deida, and second, he’s also working on living his own purpose. This, of course, is difficult because between the home life and the business — and our moving into a new place — there is a lot of work and a lot of stress right now that gets in the way of that second part. When he’s really active in that second part (his purpose), he is way more happy and far less stressed, anxious, and critical.

    In addition, as Bike Bubba pointed out, is that the muscles are important. For the last two years, due to injuries (his own fault) and not taking care of them to let them heal, he has been unable to work out the way that he likes. He likes to lift heavy and create big muscles. This is in response to the fact that he is not tall (5 ft 7) and he is naturally thin (118 lb runner at 20), that his mother feminizes him and he was subject to the (gay) male gaze. So, part of it is definitely about creating himself in his own image — in masculinity, size, etc. So, he is smaller (though 160 lbs) and very lean and muscular (and manly). He does his rehab exercises and his bodyweight stuff, and is in great shape (and sexy and manly). But he’s very funny about “cardio.” LOL I consider it a quirk.

    I’m also very clear with him when he’s in a row that it is about him and not about me. Turns out that no matter what I do — engage, withdraw, half engage, whatever — he gets on a tear and there it is. As you say, he is splintering when he does this — deflecting his own negative feelings onto another as the point of origin or blame. We both know this consciously, but in the moment, he finds it difficult to perceive this.

    I think that, for me, it’s really a question of working at the levels where things are more sketchy. On the one hand, our relationship *was* such where i would basically do everything, but guessing at his expectations, and he would generally be cranky but overall we were ok. Turns out, though, that it was exhausting to run both rolls, and ultimately my emotional needs (for a Man) were not getting met.

    Obviously, every manner of his past, personality, and upbringing helped facilitate this process — as did my own (wanting to have a Full life, not a Half life “ruled by a man”). But at this point — or I would say about two years ago — it really, truly stopped working. So, we started looking for solutions. DIfferent ways of being.

    Which brings us here, and at the point where my role is to Active Do Nothing — which is to say Do Not Captain.

    And when he’s on a tear, the question is whether i’m supposed to step up and captain (or “rescue” him — which he both wants and doesn’t want), or do I just let it roll out, and if sh*t doesn’t get done, it doesn’t get done. Or where the happy balance is in this process.

    Because of these deeper issues, it is tougher than simply complimenting his manliness whenever I can, or setting up and maintaining a hierarchy, or whatever. If I rescue, I could be undermining the valuable difficulty of struggling with leadership — a new role for him. If I don’t rescue, stuff may not get done.

    I also have to cope with my anxiety over the second happening far more than the first. And since I’m such a go-getter, I like to get-it-done.

    I guess I’m rambling now. :) Thanks.

  50. Sweet As says:

    Also, I have plenty of self respect. What I’m dealing with is a problem akin to depression or OCD, not a situation that is simply behavioral. It’s not comparable “to the way people act on TV” (something we don’t watch anyway). And, for the first 12 years together, we never fought.

    We never realized how deep this particular rabbit hole went, and have really only just started to understand it. There is a therapeutic need for him to express his rage, and I have some tools to facilitate that process. I also have clear boundaries about what I will and won’t accept. He doesn’t often “hear” them because the rage is irrational (and often the person enraged doesn’t even remember what they say or think — it’s just a “black rage”).

    He is not violent, it’s just that when they go unchanneled (and he’d gotten to the point where this one couldnt’ be), then they are a real mess to deal with.

    And from a Captain/First Mate perspective, I wasn’t quite sure what I needed to do. I did my best to diffuse the situation, to take care of DS in that situation, to set DH up for emotional success, and to keep myself from being the point-of-blame. We also had a pretty important meeting we had to get to, and DH was in no state for it.

    In this situation, I believe, I had to step up to “command the Bridge” so that I could get all of us to this important meeting. But, in so doing, I actually know that I actively “usurped” his power — something that we have both been working a long time to create (to get him to Captain).

    I think I was doubly concerned that I’d failed in channelling and deflecting his rage and also that I took over when I shouldn’t have.

    And I’m still curious how to know when to step in and lead anyway, and when to allow him to lead — even if I don’t like/fear the potential outcomes — and so on.

    Definitely deeper than dance classes, but still working within the paradigm.

  51. Perplotz says:

    Part of me wonders whether one great way for a woman to encourage her husband to show more leadership is….well, to let him lead.

    Yeah, this. I’m skeptical of these “how do I get my husband to lead?” questions from women in the sense that there is no other answer than “let him lead”. Anything else is just trying to manage him while calling it “male leadership”.

    In most cases what these women who want their husbands to “lead” really want is not actual leadership but a figurehead with little to no real power. It’s about having a scapegoat so that the woman can do whatever she wants and if something goes wrong she can blame her husband for “failing to lead”. (This is something that socially conservative churches promote.)

  52. Hope says:

    “What I’m dealing with is a problem akin to depression or OCD, not a situation that is simply behavioral.”

    To me that sounds like he perhaps needs some medical intervention. Is he on any SSRIs at the moment? There is no shame in it if it is necessary.

    “I think I was doubly concerned that I’d failed in channelling and deflecting his rage and also that I took over when I shouldn’t have.”

    I don’t think you should worry about that. Being too obsessive about putting him in “charge” can be just as bad as trying to take over being in charge for everything yourself.

    Nobody is perfect. We’re all just working toward our own image of our ideal self.

  53. Pingback: Linkage is Good for You: Not a Plug Edition

  54. Sweet As says:

    He isn’t currently on medication for a variety of reasons, all of which are deeply considered. He is working the coping skills that he has so far.

  55. Just waving a thanks for the link love.

  56. Bike Bubba says:

    Hang in there, Sweet As. Given you say you’ve been together 12 years, I’m guessing your man is in his thirties, and he’s in his midlife crisis.

    I hope I am wrong, but that might bring some understanding to the equation, too, if it’s true. You might want to look for other difficulties he’s had besides the bodybuilding injuries and such, too.

    Regarding the injuries he’s had, suffice it to say I pray he realizes that his dear sweet wife loves him whether he’s huge or not, and that a man can get a lot of good out of bodyweight exercises that don’t blow up one’s ligaments and tendons!

  57. Anonymous Reader says:

    Sweet As, I have a question that may or may not be useful. You write that things were good between you and your husband for the first 12 years. Is it possible that all of these emotional issues were essentially buried, and came erupting out with the birth of your son? The reason I ask is simple: I have seen couples that got along fine until marriage, or until after the birth of the first child, at which point one or both of the people began to act like one or both of their parents.

    Example: I recall a couple that were just fine, then got married and he became quite obnoxious to her; as a neutral observer, it seemed to me that he was unconsciously acting as “Husband”, and his father was quite abrasive to his mother.

    Example: I recall several other couples that married and got along fine, but with the arrival of the first child the woman began pushing her husband to act more as her father did, and she began acting more like her own mother — plus the man in this couple was no where near as monetarily successful as his father was and apparently that brought him low on a regular basis, which led to him withdrawing into a shell at just the time his wife needed him to be more masculine.

    So I wonder if the arrival of your son didn’t in some way trigger your husband to “be a parent”, in the manner of his parents, thus bringing to the foreground some traits that previously were lying buried? Something to consider?

    The other thing I can offer that may or may not be useful is something I learned from reading about Asperger’s people: since they don’t “do” emotions, they have to learn scripts / rulebases for dealing with other people, in order to avoid giving offense inadvertently. I don’t know if that notion could be applied to your husband or not, but when he’s angry at himself for failing to achieve whatever perfection exists in his mind, possibly it would help if he could consciously work through a short check list of facts (” This is good enough, that is not important, I am not my father…”) or some such.

    Just throwing things out. Feel free to ignore, discard, use, as you see fit.

  58. I sit at the head of the table. My wife sits to my left and our children sit below her. My young wife put me there when we first married, perhaps copying her own parents’ arrangement. My seventeen year old daughter does not seem offended by it, and in fact we get on very well, better than she does with her mother.

    There are plenty of other symbolic ways for a woman to show deference. But this is a good start.

  59. Badger says:

    “Yeah, this. I’m skeptical of these “how do I get my husband to lead?” questions from women in the sense that there is no other answer than “let him lead”. Anything else is just trying to manage him while calling it “male leadership”.”

    While I think this reader is honest about things, I concur with your general skepticism…much advice-column is fodder “how do I get my husband to want to do what I want him to do?” That’s a question of his initiative and motivation, but it’s not really leadership. It’s more like her manipulating him.

    Wives need to separate whether they want their husband to lead, period, or lead a certain way she wants to go, in which case she’s really just “leading from the neck.”

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