Thursday, August 10, 2006

Who's the Boss?

One thing that really intrigues me about the blogs I read is how much time the men spend brooding over the power dynamics in their relationships.

Christian Husband has referred to “our now dead discussion on male/female power relations”. For the uninitiated, he is probably referring to a long debate on female submission we had over at Digger’s alternative site, Unsolicited Advice. Now, a lot of that was a debate about the bible, and whether the generally patriarchal tone of the bible was essentially culturally specific (ie commentary on female submission was basically reflecting the culture of the time and not necessarily appropriate for today), or universal (somehow essential to God’s plan for the universe). And I agree that the biblical debate is over, in the sense that we are never going to convince each other.

Some of it reminded me of that moment in Mighty Aphrodite, when Woody Allen's son asks him "Who is the boss between you and mummy?" And Allen replies, "I'm the boss. Your mother is just the decision maker".

But I have pondered that debate from time to time, still mulling it over. And one thing that struck me was how much they cared about female submission, how much they wanted it, how poignantly they mourned the lack of it in their relationships. And Helpmate Hubby seemed to have some similar power issues, except that he had adopted an ideology of female superiority and leadership to resolve them. Intriguing. And one thing they seemed to agree about was the importance of avoiding power struggles in the relationship.

And I was surprised. What’s so bad about a power struggle? Don’t many of the best things in life come from struggle?

Now, when I first moved in with my partner, he was 24 years older than me and a very confident, assertive man. He did not consciously expect to dominate me and our relationship, but the fact is that he did expect it.

And the fight was on. We spent much of our first year locked in a power struggle. And it was difficult at the time. But it was worth it.

Because, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to be the boss in our home. I just don’t want to have a boss in our home.

I don’t want a father. I already have a father. At home, I want a lover, a friend, a partner, an equal.

I actually find it disturbing how often nowadays you see a smart, dynamic woman paired with an apparently much weaker, somewhat insipid sidekick. Now, some of these women are just plain bossy. But a lot of them are pretty much having to carry their partner’s weakness and lack of confidence. I discovered quite early in my life how a woman like myself, fairly intelligent and driven, can tend to attract a weaker partner who is too easily rail-roaded. Whose submissive nature makes things easier, but who ultimately is hard to respect.

And that was a problem. Because to me, respect is crucial to love, passion, intimacy and all good things in a relationship. I truly respect my partner. I think he truly respects me. And we respect ourselves.

I love that my partner is a strong and even obstinate personality. Its infuriating at times, it can make things difficult, but I enjoy it.

I love that he can let a lot of things slide, that he doesn’t have to start a fight over every issue, but that he takes the initiative and stands up for what he wants on the issues he cares about it. I love that he is able to feel relaxed about the ways in which I have grown over the years – in understanding, in skills, in confidence, in ability to make decisions - confident that he in his turn is strong enough to be up to the challenge. I love that I have a partner, an equal, and not a master or a slave.

And battling it out sometimes can be, well, fun. It keeps things interesting.

Does a man who has enough confidence in himself to lead really need an ideology of female submission? What do you think?


Blogger Satan said...

I definitly sought out an older man specifically for those reasons. I wanted someone secure and confident in himself, not still discovering his flaws and how to deal with his weaknesses, etc. Wonder if that makes me far-seeing or lazy? (Not saying my partner is perfect in any way, just further along in development than boys my age.)

I think some men equate female submission with male strength. However, having a female sumbit to you doesn't make you strong. Being strong makes women submit to you. ;)

7:02 PM  
Blogger FTN said...

It sounds like the two of you have a very good relationship!

I think that much of this goes back to our current cultural definition of the word submission. You keep using words like slave and master, which I don't think ANYONE would want (well, okay, that's not true, there are definitely some fetishists really into that). And I don't think that's what the Greek word "hupotasso" means at all.

And I can't believe I'm drawing myself back into this discussion.

The submission talked about in Ephesians 5 is not talking about one-sided subjection by a Christian to a selfish and domineering person. I think that word means honor, uphold. Not bow down to.

Here's an interesting quote I found, if you believe in the Genesis story of creation:

The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.

6:56 AM  
Blogger helpmate hubby said...

I agree with your questioning asa to whether a "real man" capable of leadership needs the concept of female submission to be an inetegral and conscious part of their marriage.

I am also very happy that you can have a 50/50 relatinship with your man. Unfortuntly for my marraige our struggles made us both miserable and i could tell we were headed for divorce until i simply made the conscious decision to submit to her. She doesn't see my submission as weakness, but rather strenght that in spite of my own bull headedness i am able to put her wants and desires ahead of my own which she percieves as passionalty romanitic, and also loves that she controls things, as she is "downright bossy." I've find that i now actually get my way more, as by taking a deferential aproach to her she listens better and gives my opinions more wieght. Had i not decided to submit to her we would still be in gridlock over such important issues as to where our kid would go to school, what our kids names even would be etc.. Our framework may not work for everyone, but both my Wife and myself have never been happier.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Satan - I too sought out an older man, and probably it was partly his security and confidence that attracted me.

FTN - I am very happy to honour and uphold my partner if that is what it means. And I think he honours and upholds me. I just don't believe in obeying him and making him the leader in everything just because he has a penis.

Helpmate Hubby - I'm not sure our relationship is 50/50. I think the power generally shifts around between us according to a range of factors, like how much each of us cares about a particular issue, the knowledge and skills we each have, and our state of mind at different times influencing our general willingness to assert ourselves or to let things slide. I am happy to hear that things are going so well for you.

12:47 AM  

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