Power to the People
I think most people (of any of the genders) will tend to take and wield power when the opportunity is there, including in marriage. And in some cases they may not really be trying to accumulate "power" -- it just sort of works out that way...
Example 1: Husband likes to be the in-charge guy, likes to be thought of as knowledgeable. Wife doesn’t really care about that. Gradually, husband will assume the role of the authority/expert on everything. More and more conversations will take the form of husband educating the wife. He will direct the family’s activities more and more, will offer stronger and more frequent opinions about the wife’s activities. Wife will gradually make fewer decisions on her own, will second-guess herself more, will stand up for herself less.
Conversations where husband is *not* the authority – or situations where he turns out to be wrong – will come to seem unfamiliar and wrong and might make him feel cranky.
Example 2: Husband values peace and harmony over power; wife (consciously or not) operates differently. When deciding where to eat, what color to paint the dining room, etc, husband says “I don’t care, whatever you want” a lot. Eventually, wife will begin direct the majority of family activities. She will begin to have strong opinions about – or even actually direct – activities that would ordinarily be the husband’s responsibility to decide for himself (clothing, grooming, diet, exercise, leisure activities, etc.)
The husband, operating under the “Happy wife, happy life” theory, will contradict her less and less, which in turn will make him seem even weaker and in more need of direction.
Example 3 (sort of related): Husband grew up in an environment where the conflict/stress was higher than in the wife’s home, which was more peaceful. As a child, he develops a much higher “strife tolerance” than the wife does. Husband may actually feel comfortable with conflict, or he may just not know any other way to get what he needs/wants. From the wife’s POV, there is a high price to be paid for disagreeing with the husband, so she will do it less and less. Disagreements are not negotiated, but rather take the form of husband getting annoyed and wife trying to placate him. He may make the wife feel the anger is her fault (“see how you make me feel/what you make me do”), and/or she may buy into that view on her own. Eventually he becomes a serious ***hole and she becomes co-dependent and verbally abused (or worse).
Disclaimer: a lot of male-female stuff I’ve thought/written about is really just “people stuff” -- it’s really about differences in personalities. It’s just that some behaviors do tend to shake out along gender lines even if they’re not tied unvaryingly to a particular sex. And I write from a guy’s POV.
But anyway, my point is:
1) I know we (or you) are not ALL like that, all the time,
2) I know my writing is guy-centric;
3) Not everything I write about is about me or my marriage.