If you haven't already read it, go look at this:
Athol Kay: Captain and First Officer
This post on Athol's blog, more than anything else, turned my marriage around.
I know that my wife has a submissive streak. Yet she's also a strong, capable, professional woman.
We know couples who actually live out a BDSM lifestyle, where one partner is Dominant and the other is Submissive, full time, 24/7. That has no appeal to me, and while my wife's submissive side likes it as a fantasy, she wouldn't like the reality of it.
So we had settled into what I thought was a "relationship of equals." What that really means is that I had abdicated my responsibility to be the leader of my household. On a more practical level, it means that we had a lot of these conversations:
"What do you want for dinner?"
"I don't know, what do YOU want for dinner?"
I'm not like that at work. I'm not like that anywhere, actually... except that I was like that at home. At the office, I wear a suit to work every day. My job title includes the word "Director." I'm highly competent and often have to make quick decisions, and implement them.
Reading the Captain and First Officer model, it finally clicked: that expensive leadership training course that my employer paid for would be useful at home, too.
A man can be a leader without being a full-time Dom. There's no need to wear black leather and carry a riding crop. That doesn't work at the office, and for most people, it doesn't work at home, either. But any organization, including a household, has to have someone leading the way.
In that expensive leadership course, we learned this definition:
Leadership: The act of gaining willing followers for a course of action when the way forward is uncertain or unclear.
Some important points about this definition:
Leadership is an action. It's not a state of mind, it's not a personality, it's an action. And like any other action, one can learn how to do it.
Willing followers: Forcing people to do what you want doesn't make you a leader. You are only a leader if people want to follow you.
When the way forward is uncertain or unclear: If everybody knows what to do next, they don't need a leader. Leadership matters when there are options, and it's not entirely clear which option is the best one.
After reading the Captain and First Officer model, I decided that I would never again be trapped in a circular "I don't know, what do you want to do?" conversation. I am now the Man With A Plan. If my wife says "Want do you want for dinner?" I have an answer: "I'm going to grill steaks, why don't you bake some potatoes to go with them," or "I'd really like that casserole that you make with the chicken and broccoli." If she says "What are we going to do this weekend?" then I say "We're going to go see Ghostrider and have dinner at Chili's." Of course, if she replies "I'd really rather have pork chops," or "Can we eat at Olive Garden instead," I'm open to those suggestions. But I always have a plan.
Sometimes she immediately agrees with the plan. Sometimes she suggests changes. But the important thing is that I am leading, not waiting for her to decide what we will do.
I wasn't sure how she would respond to this. I thought I might get some resistance. But no, she seems to love it. This one thing has changed her attitude towards me from distant and mildly hostile, to close and affectionate. This is really powerful stuff!