When She Wears the Pants: A Miserable Marital Dynamic That Will Send Your Relationship Straight to Hell (Part 1 of 2)

When She Wears the Pants: A Miserable Marital Dynamic That Will Send Your Relationship Straight to HellI had coffee with a friend the other day, and we were talking about her parents’ marriage. It didn’t take long to realize we both grew up witnessing the same dynamic between our respective parents, both of whom were married for decades. (Hers are still alive; mine are not.)

In each marriage, the wife ruled the roost.

Now I realize most wives tend to be the ‘keeper of the home’ and thus are usually in charge of that domain. What I’m talking about is different. In each of our parents’ marriages, my friend’s and mine, our mothers were the dominant partner.

Our mothers led, and our fathers followed.

Another term for this sexual dynamic is emasculation—as in, the woman has emasculated her man. Some would call a man like this weak, although I don’t believe that’s entirely fair. It’s true a man cannot be emasculated unless he to some degree allows it, but that doesn’t convey the scope of this type of relationship.

It also doesn’t convey the intricacies of marriage in general. It would be fair, for instance, to call my father ‘soft,’ or more conciliatory, than argumentative as my mother was. But men, as I’ve written before, don’t like to fight with women. It’s not in their DNA. So a husband is at a distinct disadvantage when he’s up against a wife whose personality is stronger than his because the more he fights back, the louder and more argumentative she’ll become. And if he expects to get laid any time in the near future, he reasons to himself, he needs to let go of the fight.

In other words, he’s stuck. His options are: let his wife win and still get sex, or win the argument and never know when or if he’ll get sex again. Which option do think a man is going to choose?

As for my parents, in general my father did fight back. But his version of fighting back came mostly in the form of disagreeing with my mother or dismissing her claims. This would then escalate into full-blown arguments. When I asked my friend if her father “took her mother’s crap,” so to speak, she said yes. I said, “So he didn’t fight back? He’d just roll over?” She said yes.

Now that takes this sexual dynamic to a whole different level. If there’s a lot of fighting, that typically means the husband is fighting back. If he’s rolling over, there’s not really any fighting going on. But, the husband is absorbing his wife’s antics all the same. And all of that rage will come out in some other form: he will retreat into alcoholism, passive-aggressive behavior, etc. The latter is what happened with my friend’s father.

My father didn’t have those issues. He spoke up, which would result in constant fighting since my mother was never conciliatory. My father actually understood my mother very well and perhaps this is in part what kept them together. But if someone had asked him if he was happy, or if someone asked him what his wife was like, I’m confident his answers would not be of a positive nature. Which makes me sad.

At the end of the day, my father wanted my mother not to be difficult; but he was helpless to stop it. And my mother lacked the introspection and self-awareness to make any changes in her behavior. So this terrible dynamic between them carried on until my father’s death.

Something that’s rarely, if ever, addressed about dominant women who insist on being in charge at all times is why they are the way they are. What are these women looking for? Why do they behave in this manner? I’d like to shed some light on that.

I’ll begin with a clear memory of my mother successfully riling my father, which was always her underlying goal—even if she wasn’t consciously aware of this fact. I’ve already explained that my father fought back on a regular basis in the form of openly disagreeing with my mother on almost everything. But he would do it without raising his voice or becoming physically agitated. He certainly didn’t harm my mother physically, but he would call her ugly names under his breath.

Now you might be tempted to think women like my mother are just mean or bitchy. I won’t argue the point (though for the record, there was plenty to love about my mother, too, which is what made anyone’s relationship with her complicated), but again, I’m more interested in the whys of her behavior—and of women like her.

Here’s the most important thing to understand, though it will seem paradoxical: Women who are the dominant partner in their relationship do not, in fact, want to be the dominant partner—even if they’ve chosen a soft male, which would suggest they do want to be the dominant partner. In reality, women act in such a manner to test men. They want to see who’s stronger, and they want the answer to that question to be: HIM.

Which brings me back to my mother successfully riling my father on a few occasions. When I say “rile,” I mean that, depending on the subject matter or the nature of the fight, my father would very occasionally become louder than normal or have a physical reaction—such as getting out of his chair with a forcefulness, perhaps knocking it over, let’s say, and then shouting back very loudly at my mother. When that happened, my mother would back down. In that moment, she learned my father had it in him to fight back. And that’s ultimately what she wanted to know.

Of course he was always fighting back, but it wasn’t until or unless his version of fighting back successfully dominated my mother—or showed her in that moment that he is, at the very least, capable of being as strong as she is—that she genuinely respected him.

In this way my mother is no different from most women. I don’t mean most women act like my mother; I mean ‘no different’ in what most women want. At the end of the day, most women want to know that their man is stronger than they are. The best way to be assured of this is to marry a man who wears his manhood with pride.

The problem there, of course, is that manhood is undergoing a massive restructuring. We have feminized our males, many of whom are being raised primarily by women and who have no models for manhood. Add to that the pernicious message that masculinity is bad, and what we end up with is a generation of soft men.

And these soft men are going to suffer in their love lives—big time. So are the women who love them. As Camille Paglia wrote in her book Free Women, Free Men, “The more men accept the feminist line on what women want, the less women want them.”

No woman, deep down, wants a soft male.

Every fiber in her being calls out for a strong man who can protect her if need be and who can ravish her sexually. (No, that doesn’t mean rape her. But it’s not a coincidence that Fifty Shades of Grey has sold 100 million copies worldwide.) A man who agrees with his wife all the time or who bends over backward to make her happy will frustrate the hell out of him and his wife.

She will lose respect for him, the sex will wane, and both will wind up miserable.

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.