Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Her Wish Is My Command
All teaching, I once read, can be divided into three forms:
The point I recall being made is that “Example” is most effective, “Impetus” least, with “Hint” somewhere in the middle. Teaching by example is pretty obvious; “impetus” equates to direct commands; while “hint” covers just about everything else, from harangues to hypnotic suggestion, lectures, textbooks, maybe even the unimaginable whole of Wikipedia.
All three styles are employed by good classroom teachers, of course; or maybe, in higher educational jargon, they’re called “pedagogical modalities.”
Of course, all three forms are equally in play in Wife-Led Marriages or Female-Led Relationships. Let’s start with “impetus.”
Prurient literature of the female supremacist genre used to favor the autocratic Victorian schoolmistress issuing directives, punctuated with well-aimed slaps from a ruler. We’re definitely talking impetus here.
Judging from the WLM and FLR forums and message boards I’ve frequented over the years, real matriarchal martinets do exist, but are more likely to be creatures of male fantasy than flesh and blood.
The extreme autocratic wife issuing arbitrary “Now Hear This!” commands is probably role-playing by mutual consent, with both parties reveling in the delicious topsy-turviness of it all. Full-time, non-stop role reversal tends to be derailed by the little distractions life throws our way, like holding a job and raising kids.
Far more common, and more powerful, I think, are wife-worship or wife-led marriages where the woman leads by “example” and “hint.”
How by “example”? Perhaps just by being herself. My wife doesn’t have to put on queenly airs to be a queen, in my view. She just IS one. In fact, she plays her regality down (in terms of the Power Distance Index, as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling Outliers.)
In general, wives are far more likely to employ hints than ultimatums, subtle cues than imperious gestures. The difference in Wife Led Marriages is that husbands learn to pay attention to these cues, to interpret these hints, and eventually to treat them as directives.
“Your wish,” the courtier-husband says to his queen-wife, “is my command!” Or perhaps: “Your hint is my impetus!”
A textbook example was supplied in the (now inactive) blog of fdhousehusband:
“In the early days, my Wife would say something like, ‘My carpooler went home early so I'll be taking the bus home today.’ i just accepted that like She was giving me a bit of information. What She really was saying was ‘I need you to pick me up from work.’ Once i understood the Female language, i learned to respond by saying things like ‘May i pick You up from work today?’ i found that She really responded to these ‘offers’ to do things for Her which She in fact had prompted with subtle ‘requests.’ i also think that it showed Her that i was really listening to everything She was saying.”
According to Fd, he actually taught himself how to decode “female language” by studying books by sociologist Deborah Tannen, especially You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation.
Fd provides another example (using ultra-feminist spelling and capitalization): “Even with my Wife, i've had to read between the lines. Today, She called me at work to tell me that one of our daughters was at a friend's house and that it was getting late. If a Womyn gives you a piece of irrelevant information, look at it carefully and try to figure out why she would be telling you that. i immediately read it as ‘I need you to go pick her up.’ So i said to Her, ‘i'll leave now and pick Her up on the way home.’ She said, ‘That would be great Sweetie.’ Womyn speak in a different language and that is why such gender language books are so valuable.”
Another husband quick-on-the-uptake when it comes to wifely hints was the oft-quoted (by me) Au876. “I seldom if ever ask her what she wants me to do next. I know what she expects and I do it without asking. She often drops gentle hints which I respond to as though they were absolute commands. Our relationship is such that I consider any hint or suggestion by her as a direct order. She may is just as likely to say ‘Would you like to vacuum the den?’ as ‘Go vacuum the den.’ Either way I go vacuum the den.”
As such female-led relationships mature, of course, the wife may grow comfortable with a more direct communication style.
A current WLM blog, At All Times offers an example of a wifely progression from indirect to direct:
“Jane’s attitude is changing towards what and how she expresses herself towards me… we had been shopping together, and had forgotten several things. Jane called out to me, ‘We have forgotten this and that, do you want to go back to the shop?’ When I replied, ‘Not really’ in a less than enthusiastic voice , Jane was quick to add, ‘But you’re going, aren’t you?’ Realising my mistake, I said, ‘Yes, of course,’ and so it was that I had to go back, because Jane had insisted.”
Jane’s husband clearly could improve his female literacy skills, so that those “But you’re going, aren’t you?” reminders could become less frequent and things could go as smoothly as for this wife-led couple:
“We believe that she can be totally and really in charge without raising her voice at me (except when I really deserve it) and with her showing as much respect and affection for me as I for her.”
Pointed reminders, even schoolmarmish lectures, however, may be required on occasion, in the wife-led home as in the classroom, as this husband learned:
“The most satisfying and exciting part of my marriage is doing what my wife wants. I would not have been able to do that if she had not been willing to assert her wants and to coach me on how to best fulfill them. Men are dense. If my wife's ‘asserting’ and ‘coaching’ had come in subtle signals rather than explicit requests, I wouldn't know half as much about her today. We agreed that she did not need to pull her punches to spare my feelings.”
If you’re husband continues to tune you out, this matriarchal Ms. suggests, get in his face: “Sit him down, shut off the TV, get his undivided attention and talk to him until he is dismissed. While you are talking to him, remember that women and men think differently and it is your responsibility to be heard—to teach your [husband] how to hear you. Women like to give subtle hints while men need a flare gun shot at their heads to get the point.”
"Flare gun" may be a bit strong. A rolling pin is more traditional--right, Enoch?