Reader question… and a huge messy answer… I’ve been neglecting the ladies with the Girl Posts for a day or two.
“Speaking for myself and a few of my friends it seems that men who marry wives who are much geekier than them eventually feel frustrated by their wives bookish ways. When one spouse is a life-long reader who likes to gain as much knowledge as they can on every topic and the other is more of a “doer” type who learns through life experiences eventually a hierarchy is formed. This can be beneficial when the “smart” one is the man, but when it is the woman the hierarchy can be problematic.
Is there a specific way a woman can contribute her researched knowledge without being intimidating or taking on the role of the Captain?”
They have to work on their communication skills and verbally express understanding of their roles and abilities.
The smartest person does not have to be the leader. The leader provides decision making. The smartest person provides insight. The smart person can provide the leader with insight and the leader can agree with the input and decide for it (or not).
The majority of leading does not require mega-smarts, but critical choices do require smart thinking. So the leader can lead without consulting over much a fair bit, but should actively poll the smart one for advice for the critical choices. A lot of time critical choices are between two good things, rather than a good thing and a really bad idea. A presentation of her thoughts on available options – in an even tone of voice – and open discussion about them is extremely helpful. Then let him make the final decision and abide by it without verbalizing second guessing on it endlessly. (The difference between asking to review a decision and ranting that he’s an idiot is a helpful distinction here.)
So the framing for the smart-wife leader-husband set up is both of them have to be able to verbalize and agree that yes indeed she is the smarter one of the couple, but he is the leader of the couple. So when critical choices come up, he can comfortably ask for input, she can give it freely, and he can agree with her suggestion, without reversing roles where she becomes the leader. Most wives don’t actually want to make the final decision on the really big stuff, but they do want to be able to give input into the decision.
Think of the Kirk-Spock Captain and First Officer partnership. If there was ever a more Doer-Leader coupled with a Thinker-Support pairing, I don’t know what else there is. Doer and Thinker are skills, Leader and Support are roles. These aren’t perfectly male or female skills or roles either. Some marriages work perfectly with a female Captain and a male First Officer – there’s not a moral imperative in my mind to have a male head of household – I’m just saying that for the majority of couples, this is what ultimately works best.
And seriously… do not say “I told you so” after you told him so and something went wrong. It’s important to support the team and take a united front together. Just fix the problem together. Not everything is going to go perfectly in your married life and sometimes their will be unintended bad decisions and accidents. Sometimes your team will win, sometimes your team will lose, but you win and you lose as a team.
It’s not wifely smarts that pisses the husband off, it’s the going turncoat on him and the contempt.
Even being the smartest as the husband doesn’t get you an automatic right to lead without her input. In our marriage, I am the smartest one. Jennifer is a bright girl to be sure, but I get the Jimmy Neutron brain blasts thing happening. But Jennifer is far better grounded and more stable than I am. So even though I’m smarter than she is, I very much want her input on the big decisions. I make better decisions for her being around. I’m the lightning and she’s the earth. We’re a team.
Sometimes I’ve made just truly awful decisions and she has gotten extremely stressed out in the aftermath, but never reached for the contempt and mutiny options when she could very well have. That’s golden. Loyalty is a key Beta personality trait for both sexes.
Going back to the Star Trek theme of Captain and First Officer… a couple of lines to use.
Captain: “Options Number One?”
Translation: “I want your input here and I am actively listening to you.”
Captain: “Captain’s Prerogative Number One.”
Translation: “Okay I heard all that and I’ve come to a decision and we’ll be doing this. For the moment at least the discussion is closed.”
Captain: “You have the Bridge Number One.”
Translation: “Your choice / you’re in charge of X / whatever you do here is fine … and I will back you up.”
Captain: “Make it so.”
Translation: “That was a damn good idea! Let’s do that.”
Most importantly… there is an element of the Captain and First Officer approach being a way of us playing together as a couple. It’s 99% of the time a playful sort of shorthand with communicating with each other. The other 1% of the time is a critical decision discussion.