What Does It Mean for the Man to Lead? (Part 2 of 2)

What Does It Mean for the Man to Lead? (Part 2 of 2)In my last post, I wrote about a very specific sexual dynamic: one in which the woman wears the pants in the relationship.

The opposite scenario, of course, is for the man to ‘wear the pants’—which is just a colloquial phrase for taking the lead.

But what does that mean exactly? And why does anyone have to take the lead? Can’t both partners drive the bus?

Both good questions, and I’d like to answer them.

To begin with, just because there’s a leader and a follower doesn’t mean there’s never any overlap, where the leader might occasionally follow. It just means that one person tends to drive the bus. And the reason why it’s necessary to have a driver in the first place is because no joint enterprise works well when two people are vying for the same spot.

There are never two captains on the same ship. And both pilots on the same plane never do the same thing at the same time. One is the co-pilot.

Unfortunately, the concept of a pilot and co-pilot in love was hijacked by those who insist that in order for a relationship to be “equal,” the partners must share the exact same tasks at all times.

This premise is flawed. A partnership requires trust and respect for the role each person plays. If that is in place, the relationship is equal. Ergo, there’s no need to vie for the same rank or position.

Men have always been the dominant partner, for obvious reasons: they are bigger and stronger than women. Moreover, they have a visceral need to provide and protect. Men can’t have babies or nurse babies as women can, so providing and protecting levels the playing field.

When a woman usurps his role as provider, in addition to being the nurturer of the young, the marriage or relationship falters. Because she has all the power, and he has none. That’s why the richer women get, the more likely she is to be divorced.

When the man takes the lead in a relationship, or when he’s the dominant partner, the marriage typically runs smoothly. That’s because the couple is swimming with the evolutionary tide and not against it.

What’s more, the research shows it’s what both sexes want. The only reason women fight it is because they’ve been told it isn’t what they should want. Women have been conditioned to believe they want to be in charge at all times. But that just isn’t true, which may surprise many men. Indeed, when it comes to love submission is sexy.

I can think of no greater example to illustrate this point than Gone with the Wind. In this story, Scarlett is the epitome of a strong-willed, dominant woman. She doesn’t mince words; she takes charge of everything and everyone; and she’s feisty and beautiful. She’s fun!

Well, at face value she’s fun. Living with her is a different matter. Because the flip side of Scarlett’s dominant nature is that she’s very, very difficult. And petulant to boot.

So there are two men in Scarlett’s life: Rhett and Ashley. Ashley is the kind, devoted, steady and soft husband to Melanie—and Scarlett is in love with him, or thinks she’s in love with him.

Rhett is the complete opposite of Ashley. He’s extremely masculine: confident, competent, take charge, in control. In other words, he’s just like Scarlett. (“We understand each other,” he tells her.)

When Rhett and Scarlett first meet, Rhett overhears a fight between Scarlett and Ashley—one in which Scarlett is begging Ashley to leave Melanie for her. (The two aren’t yet married.) Ashley is hopelessly “in love” with Scarlett (more like infatuated) but tells her he must marry Melanie out of duty and honor. Scarlett gets so mad she slaps him.

After Ashley leaves the room, Rhett appears; and he and Scarlett officially meet. Since Rhett’s temperament is as strong as Scarlett’s, which is apparent from the first moment, their subsequent relationship involves a great deal of conflict—including throughout their marriage. Rhett is a great husband to Scarlett; but despite this, Scarlett refuses to capitulate or to be conciliatory. In other words, she’s a crappy wife; and Rhett eventually gives up and leaves her.

At the end of the film, Scarlett realizes she has messed up, begs Rhett to stay and asks, “If you go, where shall I go? What should I do?”

And this next part you’ve no doubt heard: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Now if you read my last post, you know my mother was the dominant partner in my parents’ marriage. She was, in fact, a lot like Scarlett. And here’s what’s really interesting: my mother was obsessed with this film. Totally and completely obsessed. Today I understand why in a way I didn’t as a child. Today it is crystal clear.

My mother longed for a Rhett. And she had an Ashley.

I distinctly recall her telling me about the men who came before my father. Unlike most of the women of her time, my mother had an M.B.A. and was a stockbroker for a good ten years before she married my father and had my sister and me.

During that time, my mother had many boyfriends, several of whom wanted to marry her. (My mother was striking like Scarlett, both in appearance and personality.) And several of those men were more dominant than my mother.

When I asked her about them, she would say she couldn’t deal with a man who “bossed her around.” Clearly, my mother associated strength with bossiness, no doubt because she herself was both (as were the women in her family).

But here’s the thing: being the dominant partner and being a bossy partner—or, to go a step further, being an abusive partner—are not the same thing at all.

Being the dominant partner does not mean being domineering. Those are two different things. The reason they’re conflated is that these two concepts were co-opted by feminists who successfully brainwashed an entire generation to believe dominance means to dominate another person.

It doesn’t mean that at all.

Yes, there are some men in the world, just as there are some women (such as Scarlett) who want to dominate the opposite sex. And both are equally bad. But most men simply aren’t like this.

To be the dominant partner in a relationship simply means to be any one (or all) of the following: older, stronger, richer, smarter.

When a man is the dominant partner, on average he uses his power well due to his instinct to provide and protect. Women don’t have this instinct, so when they’re the dominant partner, they often use this power against men. They do that not because they’re evil but because they’re instinctively resisting having to be the one in charge. They want their man to take care of things so they don’t have to.

Dominance in a man does not have to mean being a CEO or the Incredible Hulk—any man of any size and in any profession can be the dominant partner. A dominant male is someone who’s capable of taking the lead, defending his territory, and doing all he can to provide for his family. It means being assertive and commanding, rather than a yes man.

America used to have these men in spades! Where did they go? Simple: women became the dominant sex. And with that singular role reversal, everything changed.

What we’re left with are relationships that are orderless and conflict-laden, if they exist at all. Because the more dominant women become, the more their desire for dominant men—but men are taking a step back in response. They’re becoming softer, not stronger.

It’s a mess. As Aaron, a Facebook commenter, wrote, “We’re setting up a future where the average male will be an unattractive partner to the average female, while at the same time recreating the harems of old with the small percentage of men who have money or who are dominant in their personality since they will be in high demand.”

In other words, there will be fewer and fewer Rhetts and an avalanche of Ashleys. And if you read Part 1 of this post, you know how that turns out.

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne is an author, a coach, and a podcast host committed to helping women let go of cultural beliefs that undermine their happiness in life and in love.