Thinking about example #2 in the earlier post about power, and the quote from Marlene Dietrich: Most women set out to try to change a man, and when they have changed him they don't like him.
I actually think that most women want a man who is “in charge”. Not “in charge” as in telling her what to do and how to think – but in charge of his life, his opinions, himself. Some people look for a partner who is spontaneous, uninhibited, and quirky, but I think the majority of women – especially those who want to have kids – want someone with discipline, with direction, who knows who he is, what he wants, who has a plan for his career, for dates, for the lawn.
I also think that both genders have a hard time understanding why the other cares about – or doesn’t care about – certain things.
Example: husband honestly doesn’t care what color the living room is. He sees it as irrelevant to the Purpose of Life, which is
a) taking care of the family’s most basic needs, and
b) having fun (ie, sex & sports).
Wife may see husband’s Not Caring About Things She Cares About as a lack of caring about her, or not being engaged in stuff important to the family.
Note: she may think his opinion lame, and have no intention of ever accepting his ideas (eg, painting dartboards on the wall), but she may still want him to *have* one.
So when the husband abdicates his duty of caring about the walls, it creates an “in-charge vacuum”. This ought to be cared about, this should be directed and managed. Since the husband isn’t doing it, the wife does. Which is fine.
But if it happens over and over (drapes, bedding, clothes, lamps, the yard, etc, etc), the wife may begin to see the husband as uncaring, wishy-washy, or lacking in direction or “in-chargeness.”
She may begin to assume that he doesn’t care about much of anything, and that he needs to be directed all the time (how to drive, where to park, when to put on a sweater, what to say to his boss, whatever.) She doesn’t understand why he’s irritated at being directed about (what is to her) tiny thing X when he left her completely in charge of (what is to her) great big things Y, Z, and W.
From the husband’s POV, it’s just not worth debating about something he doesn’t care that much about. Plus he wants her in a good mood so the chance of marital relations is as high as possible. So even if he *does* care a little, he doesn’t bother to say anything about it.
But anyway: I believe (this 10 minutes) that a spouses who never campaign for their own wants, who give in to their partners' every whim & mood, who worry overly about contradicting him/her, paint themselves into a corner. If you’re a guy, pretty soon your wife thinks you’re a pussy.
I’ve concluded that as long as you’re not overbearing, condescending, controlling, etc – it’s far better to be authentic, and to stand up for yourself. If you defend your opinions, if you call your partner on it when they’re being a twit (without being angry, without condemnation, and without holding a grudge), they will respect you and desire you more, not less. Women get worked up about stuff, and then they get over it. And if you quitted yourself like a man (ie, “Sweetie, you’re acting nuts, I think you’re totally wrong, but I still love you dearly
”), you come out far better.
Maybe this is kindergarten-level stuff, but I’m embarrassed how far into my life I had to get to decide this was true.
Bonus section: You Make The Call
You pick up your wife/girlfriend/SO at her job at the mall. She’s been on her feet all day, and on the way out, she sits down to rest for 5 minutes. You see a T-shirt stand that interests you, and begin to walk toward it, but your SO says “Where are you going? Don’t leave me here alone…”
What do you do? She doesn’t want to talk about anything specific, she just feels like having you there. If you go, she feels you don’t care about her.
So short-term, she’ll be happier if you ditch your plans and simply sit by her side like an accessory.
But long-term, where does that end? If it happens all the time, won't you eventually be a whipped puppy who has to ask to go to the bathroom? (And when you do, she makes you sit down.)
I realize it’s stupid to make every miniscule experience into some watershed sexual politics event. And a lot of it has to do with how *often* your partner directs you, and how they ask – we all have the right to feel needy on occasion.
But just out of curiosity, what do the men or women in this space think? Does that resonate with you at all?