LIVING WITH WOMEN
 

POWER IN MARRIAGE


UNDERSTANDING POWER


A common erroneous notion identifies power with dominance and views submission as powerless. Understanding power (as I mean it here) requires going beyond this error.


Power, like hope and faith, is invisible, but is often expressed or exercised in such stances as dominance or submission, "standing up to," or "giving in to." Consequently, power is difficult to express or see literally. Often it is better revealed or grasped in colloquial language, in phrases such as: "having the last word," "can-do-ness," or "move-ability."  Or in feelings, like: confidence, stand-ability, well-being, "okay alone." These in contrast with: fearful, threatened, anxious, or stressed.

Power is inherent in "being yourself," in embraced capacity to "stand up for yourself," "not be run over by others," to represent your own values and desires in present tense living.

Power may be better recognized in its absence, as when one is "overwhelmed," "done in," in despair, helpless.


Although power is more visible to others in stances of dominance, distinguishing power from any such stances is critical to understanding its nature.


Dominance = overtly "having your own way," "lording it over others," "running over others." But much dominance is but a show, a cloak for fear.

Submission = overtly "giving in," "lying down before others," "getting run over." Even so, much submission involves "standing up inside."


Power itself is a consequence of embraced capacities, of "being yourself," not a matter of conscious choice. Mode of expression, for example, dominance or submission, is a choice, but power itself is only acquired indirectly, as through focus on un-repression or self-activation.


Real power results in "feeling good." Exercising power is inherently exciting, self-authenticating.


Power is more evident in "letting" than in "doing"--that is, in which person is "letting" the other act (choose, speak, or do). A wife, for example, who quietly "lets her husband decide" where to go on vacation (or, what to eat, which movie to see, which TV station to watch, etc.) is exercising more power than the man who is overtly deciding. He may, in fact, be entirely fooled in "thinking he is in charge" when he is actually being quietly manipulated by the "little woman" who lets him "think he is boss."


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POWER BALANCE


Power balance is one of the least acknowledged but most significant issues in functional relationships at all levels of encounter–from countries to couples. Whenever one party holds more operational power over the other, whether it be nation over nation or husband over wife (or vice versa), primal genetics evolved for self survival at any cost cannot but be operative, even if unconsciously, on the part of a down party.

On the other hand, temptations to self-righteousness and phoney benevolence to the "under privileged" (lessor powered or weaker ones) cloaked by false humility, are so great that those on top seem incapable of not falling into self-righteousness–that is, hiding power advantages with token charities.

Given genetic drives for selfing, no healthy relationship is possible as long as either party is dis-empowered. Of course, alliances based on pathological conditions and/or complementary limitations–where need (lacks) of one are met by opposite needs of the other, may exist over extended time, as in, many long marriages. But clock time and personal health are not synonymous characteristics; often longest marriages, e.g., are actually the "sickest," with peaceful conditions cloaking deep unhappiness and/or psychological illness.

Temporarily functional balances may be achieved between overt and covert forms of power, when outward submission is balanced by behind-the-scenes dominance, as in marriages where a husband "rules" an overtly passive wife, who quietly controls him "behind the scene."

His overt power may be balanced by her covert power. He may appear as "head of the household," even "king on his throne," while she actually "runs the house (including the bedroom)," and exercises queenly power "behind the throne."

Or, in more extreme cases, even overtly abusive physical power may be balanced by covertly abusive emotional powers. Pathological alliances may last over time where threats of bodily pain are balanced by others of heart pain.

Such a passive wife may endure degrees of physical pain, even non-life-threatening bodily injuries, so long as she can inflict balancing degrees of emotional pain which maintain her covert control over other aspects of their relationship.

Similar situations may exist between slaves and masters, where established outward dominance of masters is balanced by inward "rebellion" or passive resistance of slaves. Slaves may maintain personal integrity by cloaking inward independence with outward acts of servitude.

A Dennis The Minis cartoon portrayed this stance with a small boy sitting in the corner of a school room wearing a dunce cap, while mumbling: "I'm sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up inside."

Or, in less dramatic and more socially acceptable forms, power balances are often established between complementary personality patterns, e.g., a dominant one with a submissive other, and couples with complementary psychological needs and supplies. For example, romantic love, as firmly established, accepted, and approved in many current societies, even as a proper basis for monogamous marriage, is typically rooted in repressed drives for individual integrity in which wholeness is unconsciously sought through attributes of another person, or is blithely and openly acknowledged when, for example, men find our "missing halves" in a woman. As voiced in song, "first we were half" (before marriage), "now we are whole."


But I note these various forms of achieving degrees of functional power balance only to try to confront the limitations and temporary nature of such alliances, especially as related to fulness of life in the here and now, that is, heaven here.

When any such power balance is achieved with loss of personal integrity (as in pussy-whipped husbands with emotionally abusive wives, or brow-beaten wives with physically harmful husbands), or when repressed parts of oneself are temporarily captured in the form of projections onto another person (as in typical romantic relationships), then personal salvation is inevitably undermined, if not prevented thereby.

Certainly reality includes different forms of power, often with one type more in the hands (or control) of one than another (as in, nuclear power between nations, or financial and/or sexual powers between men and women); but functional cooperation between different forms of power, such as may be exercised in conscious bartering, is not the same as unconscious wielding of power over another.

While the latter types of relationships may sustain in time, such imbalances in operational powers cannot but be inherently unstable and personally destructive to each party in differing ways.


BALANCING POWER


Definition: Balancing power is keeping the embraced power of each person at a relatively equal level, without either one or the other being overwhelmed or done in. If power were visible, like mercury in a thermometer, balanced power would be like a U tube with each side representing a person, and equal levels of "mercury (power)" in each side of the tube.

Balanced power is not necessarily revealed in who-is-deciding or who-is-going-along; in fact, such stances may be entirely deceptive, with more actual power operative in the going-along person.


Balancing power is literally a "balancing act," like standing straight on a tight wire-- except in this event one is, in effect, balancing for two persons, that is, trying to keep both persons erect together.

Ideally, both persons are consciously involved in an effort to keep power balanced, to avoid situations in which one literally "runs over" or is "done in" by the other. But in practice, "meanwhile back at the ranch" where couples live, this rarely seems to be so. Almost always one partner is more conscious than the other, who is more repressed or moved by unconscious forces. When so, responsibility for balancing power is left up to the more conscious partner.

Typically, persons who are less conscious (more reactive or "on automatic pilot") wield their embraced power blindly, willy nilly, without regard to its effect on others, or even on relationships with those they love. Unwittingly, they often "run over" or emotionally dominate "without meaning to" or even recognizing that they do so. The mode of such rampant power operation is incidental to its emotionally destructive effects.

For example, unrecognized emotional abuse may be effected by overt dominance, as in an overwhelming mother, or by passive submission, as in a self-sacrificing wife. In either case, the "overprotective mother" or the "always giving-in wife" may consciously love their children or spouse, and yet be totally unaware of their destructive mode of relating. Even so, the resulting imbalance of power is still the same.

Because exercising power "feels good," even if done unconsciously, those who are less aware of how they relate, naturally tend to exercise as much power as they possibly can in blind quest of greater self-satisfaction. Unmindful of effects they are having on others, they are typically "overbearing" or "running over others," as they blindly luxuriate, as it were, in the emotional benefits of exercising power by any means. Whether exercised by obvious-to-others dominance, as in a dictatorial father, or by outward submission cloaking passive manipulation, as in a self-sacrificing mother, the power-wielding effect on others is still the same, namely, emotional abuse.

Other notable examples of more socially acceptable forms of unconscious power-wielding include "do-gooders," such as, religious evangelists who cloak their manipulation as "just trying to help (or save) you," or, "for your own good." Often abusive activities are enhanced by greater degrees of self-repression which allow one to be "totally sincere"--that is, to make emotional kills while feeling "humbly" self-righteous.

In all such encounters or relationships where one person blindly wields embraced power, whether by outward dominance or self-righteous submission, any balancing of power is left up to the more conscious person.

The challenge then becomes to seek balance: 1) without allowing oneself to be done in or manipulated, while at the same time, 2) not reversing the situation by "over kill"--that is, "doing in" the other person. The situation is further complicated by the degree of unconsciousness of one who blindly exercises power--that is, "doesn't know what he or she is doing," and consequently, may be "completely sincere" in their efforts.

When so, one who is consciously seeking a power balance is, in effect, responsible for the unconsciousness of the other; not, of course, for causing it, but for dealing with consequences of their self-repression. He must, that is, deal both with what the other person "thinks she is doing (e.g., "trying to help or save") as well as their blind attempts at manipulation.

This situation is further complicated by the fact that by definition, unconsciousness is unrecognized by self-repressed persons. They literally "don't know what they are doing." Consequently, one seeking power balance must deal with their repression indirectly--that is, non-verbally. You can't wisely talk to or about what another is unaware of.

Attempts to confront repression directly, as in, telling an unconscious person "what they are doing" or "how angry they are," will often backfire--that is, result in denial and further repression, or else in more overt efforts to overpower one trying to point out what is not seen by the other.

This doesn't mean that language can't be used in attempting power balance with such a person, but that words can rarely be directed toward unconscious efforts of the other (without the above noted undesirable results). Instead, language, if used at all, must be formed in ways which privately acknowledge what the other is blindly doing (while at the same time not falling for it), but does not focus attention on manipulative efforts themselves--such as: 1) changing the subject of the conversation. In the midst of an unconscious effort to wield power over you, one seeking balance might simply avoid picking up on a tricky subject and carefully raise another less dangerous topic (e.g., "that reminds me of.....").

Or, 2) one might pick up on some less dangerous aspect of what is being said, something he can agree on without supporting the manipulative effort, and note his agreement (without supporting the unrecognized attempt at manipulation by the other).


PRIORITIES


Reclaiming power is a first priority if one wishes to live well with women. Without required powers to exercise them, even the best of male efforts will prove unworkable. Next comes defensive maneuvers--learning to protect oneself against abuses of woman's wiles. Finally, developing offensive ploys on ones own is the crowning art.

First, reclaiming powers. I estimate that about 90% of the force behind female wiles comes from male projections--these being the inevitably result of self-repressions. Until projections which result in "giving away" masculine powers are stopped, and projected forces reclaimed and activated within a male's own skin, we are in no position to either defend ourselves and certainly unable to mount an offense.

Projected powers are in typically in two major arenas: selfing and sexuality, or mothering and fucking. Until a male can move past deep, un-faced "needs" for mothering ("being taken care of") and for permission to be sexual, we are inherently stymied, both in defending ourselves from vulnerabilities created by repression, as well as creatively developing ploys of our own.

Defensive maneuvers are essentially ways of protecting ourselves from continued vulnerability to wiles. Even if we reclaim powers which fuel wiles, still habits of reaction are apt to remain. This second phase of male homework involves looking clearly at woman's wiles, seeing how they work, how one has personally learned to react (without thinking) to them, and then finding ways to creatively counter their forces.

Finally, ploy art is the third essential for living well with wily women. Even if there were no women's wiles (which are, in effect, mainly de-fused in steps one and two), still men would need ploys of our own to confront the "natural superiorities" of females. Learning ploys involves several steps of its own: first, learning to recognize female needs and vulnerabilities; then, figuring out ways (called ploys here) to relate positively to them; finally, developing artistry in using our ploys creatively.

In terms of numbers, I figure that about 70% of an average male's attention should go to part one, reclaiming power; 20% to learning defensive maneuvers, how to protect oneself from wiles or let go of defensive habits now become reactive; and 10% for developing skills at ploy art.

Summary: In largest perspective, I view typical male homework in learning to live well with women (which I explore here as though it were advice to other males) as this: 70% attention to unrepressing oneself and reclaiming powers rooted in masculine capacities for selfing and sexuality (for taking care of ourselves and seeking maximum replication); 20% work at facing and de-fusing woman's wiles as I have long been manipulated by--that is, learning to protect oneself from real female forces and break long habits of habitual reaction to wiles which have actually been outgrown already; 10% schooling in learning ploys--male versions of wiles, which may work in achieving personal satisfactions while living among women.


ADVICE


Overall Stance: Stand with a woman, but never be had or get owned. Be hearted with, but never give your heart to her or try to find your own in her. In biblical metaphors, don't "sell your soul for a mess of potage."

Stand with a women, but do not lean on or lord it over her. Aim for mutual inter-dependence rather than either independence or dependence--either you on her or vice versa. Be individuals together rather than leaning on each other in other than pragmatic ways (not "emotionally"); be loving with, but don't try to get love from.

Avoid: wimp/macho; over/under; dominant/submissive; boss/slave, or many other variations on these familiar themes.

Certainly there are emergency times for temporary use of many of these roles, but never fall into either for extended times or as prevailing stances together.


Keep power balanced


Carefully avoid all degrees of dominance/submission in which one partner lords it over the other who consistently gives in. For example, avoid: macho man with submissive wife; hen-pecked husband with bossy wife; pussy-whipped man and ball-busting woman.

Best relationships are between equally empowered partners.


Avoid being hen-pecked or macho; don't be a Casper Milquetoast or a Lord and Master.


Avoid head to head conflicts whenever possible. Never try to win a verbal argument because you will most often lose in the moment; and even if you win initially, you will predictably lose in the long run because of beating her down (making her submissive) or in loss of favors (both sexual and emotional).


If you lord it over her, you invite dependency which may be temporarily satisfying but is destructive to the relationship in the long run. If you give in too often or consistently you set her up for illusions of unrealistic power, which she may blindly seek and temporarily delight in; but, on deeper genetic levels, a woman needs a strong man even more than a subservient slave. So, setting her up with too much power predictably leads to eventual resentment and acted-out abuse.


Use Your Head


Use your head, not your body, as your major power for maintaining a power balance and relational harmony. Your single greatest advantage and least dangerous force lies in embraced ability to truly be reasonable--that is, to think beyond feelings and to prioritize accepted values in the face of a woman's constant temptation to rely on blind emotional powers only.

Certainly head sense is innately less powerful than bodily emotions, and head to head, feelings will predictably win every time over reason alone. But still, as a commercial reminds: "A brain is a terrible thing to waste." Even if inherently weaker, male powers for remaining cool, for keeping-on-thinking, for holding emotions in check, can, when embraced, prove successful in confronting the greater forces of emotions alone.

Even when a measure of physical restraint is called for--either in containing personal urges to hit of inflict bodily pain, or to hold a woman to prevent harm to oneself, continuing to use your head remains the wisest choice.

"Using your head" is to be carefully distinguished from trying to make a point by being reasonable or to win an argument by the lessor powers of logical sense. "Out thinking" a woman is not to be confused with "making more verbal sense" or "being more logical."

Certainly "sense making" is involved in "using your head," but the larger issue is far beyond rational logic. When a man tries to "out argue" a woman--that is, win by rules of reason, he will lose every time due to inherent advantages, namely, whole brain thinking and freedom to drop sense making at any time when emotions will work better than trying to be reasonable.


SACRIFICE AND POWER


I explored the relationship and relative strengths of overt versus covert power–that is, of outward force, as more typical of males, and passive aggression, more common in females. I have noted that whereas male-type overt dominance tends to prevail at first and in outward ways, female-type submission, which appears to lose immediately, may more often prevail in the long run. But power potentially inherent in self-sacrifice is often even more dangerous.

Relevant here is the genetic fact observed in the beginning, namely, that self-sacrifice, as operative in mothering, is as natural for females, as is forceful "selfishness" in males equally devoted to contrasting fathering agendas. In practice, this means that whereas unselfishness–putting others first, is naturally easier for females, the same mode of operation is equally anti-genetic for males. Females, we might say, "easily give in" (at least at first and on the surface) while males typically find "not standing up for ourselves" (appearing to be selfish) to be threatening as well as difficult to do.

As social and religious ideals now stand–where the first ("turning the other cheek"--is viewed as virtuous, and selfishly "putting oneself first" is frowned on, if not religiously condemned, men are at an obvious disadvantage. It is, that is, easier for females to "be good" in this regard than for males.

Genetically as well as socially, females consequently find self-sacrifice easier to do as well as powerfully effective–both in immediate situations with most males (especially typically repressed males), and often in the long run with even the most outwardly selfish other males.

In these same regards, selfishly-inclined males find themselves socially judged and at a genetic disadvantage when self-sacrifice is the path to virtue and/or success with gaining female approval--all the way from sexual permissions to major family, home, and daily living decisions.


Conclusion: I have previously erred in only viewing the phenomenon of self-sacrifice as a human issue, regardless of gender. But I now see that genetic gender values are often at play when this socio/religious ideal is operative and taken as virtuous.

"Giving in" or "putting others first" is not the same for men and women. What is both genetically functional and hence natural for females, is at the same time typically counter-productive in most male ventures, even when aimed at the same goal of genetic immortality.

It is not only more difficult for males to be self-sacrificial; it is also self-defeating in most arenas where genetic values are at stake.


PROJECTION ERRORS


When one is unalert to these gender differences in regard to self-sacrifice, a common error in understanding occurs via projection. A man, for instance (often I), blindly projects his own male feelings about sacrificing onto women and erroneously assumes they feel the same as he, that is, that self-sacrifice looms as large and negatively to them as it does to him.

Naturally, as a male, being instinctively moved to be Number One, to put himself before others, to avoid losing at all costs, he consequently feels negative about self-sacrifice. Then, when he blindly projects his own feelings onto females he assumes they too feel the same.

Wrong. Unlike him, many females, possessed of mothering instincts and genetically geared to make major sacrifices for their offspring, find it relatively easy to make minor sacrifices for men also, especially those they love and/or wish to possess.

In fact, small sacrifices, such as, putting others first to eat or in a line, come easier for most women than being out front, Number One, ahead of others themselves. Unlike men who delight in being first, and feel self-affirmed in having others honor us, as in, sacrificing for their benefit, natural women, gene-moved, probably feel just the opposite.

This may be one reason why women resist accepting compliments, which men thrive on. A compliment is an overt affirmation, placing one, as it were, "in the limelight"–that is, out front. Since males are genetically moved to strive for being Number One, we seek and easily bask in the favorable light of even the smallest compliment. In fact, as all females seem to intuitively know (and often take advantage of), we are commonly vulnerable to being powerfully moved by even phony compliments.

Of course females too may take inward delight in affirmation of others, especially from those they love; but unlike men, they apparently prefer receiving such knowledge in ways which do not put the focus of attention on them–as vocal praise does. Consequently, such females respond more easily to gifts (e.g., the proverbial dozen roses) or deeds which indirectly affirm, without forcing them to be out front, in the open.

Wiser men therefore, those who do not project self-knowledge onto their complementary gender, are careful about obvious, verbal compliments to women, and more freely affirm those they care for with gifts and deeds.

(Emotionally speaking, men hear words better than actions, while women "hear" actions better than words. "If you're in love, show me......").


But back to my subject: Errors of Projection. Blindly projecting our own male genetic mode onto females, we commonly make one or more of the following errors:


1. Try to affirm a woman, e.g., an admired and/or loved one, in the same ways we ourselves feel affirmed, for example, by overt verbal compliments which seem to place her in a Number One position as we are genetically moved to be.

Sans such common projections, we would more smartly be short on "embarrassing" compliments and long on affirming actions (gifts, supporting deeds, etc.)


(The same reverse error is commonly made by females who project their own native mode onto men, consequently withholding verbal affirmation--which embarrasses them, in favor of "being long on" deeds to communicate what they feel. For example, taking good care of children as a way of saying, "I love you," their father. )


2. Over-valuing a woman's small sacrifices for him, erroneously assuming they are as difficult for her as they would be for him. Not realizing that "putting others first" is easier for her than "going first" herself–the opposite of what is true for him, a man may easily mis-read "putting him first" (as in, serving food or "letting him" go ahead of her) as being more complimentary than it actually is.

In this same arena, trying to affirm a woman by thrusting her into first place, e.g., forcing her to go first when she feels safer "putting others first," is apt to backfire.


3. Misreading a woman's failure to be impressed by his own sacrificial actions. Mistakenly assuming that making sacrifices (as in, putting himself last) is as difficult for her as it is for him, and consequently that his efforts to please her by this means will mean as much to her as they would to him, he sets himself up for disappointment.

Without projecting his own mode, and thus seeing that since small sacrifices are relatively easy for her to make, and that she may also assume the same to be true for him, he may then view her limited responses with more understanding.


4. Feeling overly affirmed by a woman's small sacrifices, as though they mean the same for her as they would for you. Failing to see that "putting you first" may be more about her, as in, acting in her natural female mode, than "caring about you" as you might like to think.


SUMMARY


I do not know of a couple who has achieved an exact balance of power in their relationship. Even so, I think that best relationships come as close as possible. I observe that least satisfactory relationships have a greater imbalance of power--that is, one partner truly lords it over the other. Consequently, even if exact equality of power is relatively impossible, I conclude that striving for this goal is an attribute of best relationships.



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