Learning Captain and First Officer

Reader:  I have noticed that my wife has started reading your blog here and there. She puts on like she is un-interested, but she has made enough comments that I can tell she is reading and paying some attention.  She occasionally hits me up wanting to know if I’m trying to pull something over on her from your blog.  Its like she wants me to be dominant and alpha but resists it at the same time.
This sets up a question I want to ask you.  Basically my wife and I are both naturally more dominant than submissive.  From reading your blog, you have pointed out that you and your wife are basically both more submissive or beta.  At least you started out that way as I understand it.  So as you up-ed the Alpha your wife just ate it up and it made a big difference in the relationship and with the sex.
In our case, we are starting from both being dominant.  So its more a matter of my wife deciding to be submissive which then brings out my Alpha or at least allows my existing Alpha to actually work on her rather than just piss her off (when she takes the dominant stance). She struggles with this and frankly has just been all over the map the past few weeks as I have been taking a more Alpha/Dominant stance with her (I also focused on beta things while upping the Alpha, night off from the kids, doing laundry, etc etc).  Some of my attempts have worked with amazing results and other have backfired horribly and really upset her.  My problem, is I can’t be so Alpha that I can just completely ignore her when she gets upset like this.  It tears me up inside, so I try to talk to her about it to smooth things over, and this always goes nowhere and in fact angers her to no end.
So my question is basically, what advice to you have in this situation (2 Dominants rather than 2 betas trying to work this out)?
Do I just need to take a harder stand against her dominant behaviors towards me (which I don’t know if I have the nerve to fully go there)?  Or do I need to just add more beta in which seems to role reverse us as my wife can be very Alpha herself?
Remember, my wife says she agrees with heading in the dominant/submissive direction, but in practice its easier said than done. Any ideas?
Athol: Hiya, and hiya Mrs. Reader who is no doubt reading and lurking. The good news is that it sounds like everything is “working as intended” in that you’re on the learning curve and making progress.
 Here’s the crucial line in your question…
“My problem, is I can’t be so Alpha that I can just completely ignore her when she gets upset like this.  It tears me up inside, so I try to talk to her about it to smooth things over, and this always goes nowhere and in fact angers her to no end.”
Just give her space to process the emotion next time and see what happens. You might find that she’s on the edge of a breakthrough of allowing your leadership, but you try and un-leader yourself to make her feel better. Which she doesn’t actually want.
I would keep talking together about this and understand you are learning these new roles and ways of relating. Try not to think of it as you’re “two dominants” vs Jennifer and myself being “two submissives”. It’s Captain and First Officer for both couples.
Jennifer and I play a very soft low key C&FO. Most people probably don’t even notice that’s what going on because I don’t typically use/need anything but the most minimal force – simple asking – to gain Jennifer’s compliance. In real life you have to watch us quite well to start noticing that I’m the one in charge.
You two may play a harder tougher C&FO. Your wife may respond positively to firm tones and slightly raised voice for example. Or even Klingon directive speech patterns. (You remove all the words except verbs and nouns… You. Here. Now.)   She might get her being dominated fix from an occassional light spanking. Or maybe it’s just hair pulling and a rough pounding in the sack once a week that floats her boat. You can recite poetry while she hurls things at you if that’s what works for you as a couple. Seriously, I don’t care what it is that works for you guys, just explore together and find out what does work.
Don’t expect to immediately unpick and rebuild an 16 year pattern of interaction, it’s going to take at least a year to smooth out the kinks. During this time you will make mistakes in attempting to lead her, and she’s going to have hurt feelings in those moments. But if what she wants – by her own admission – is for you to be dominant over her, the little emotional bumps and bruises translate into her deeper feelings of being dominated effectively.
Which is not to say that you purposely set out to hurt her feelings, or ride roughshod over her. It’s just that not everything works as well as you can hope. You say “Okay that didn’t work, my bad.” and don’t linger on it. Leadership isn’t static, it’s dynamic and adaptive. Listen. Adjust. Move on.
She just doesn’t want her tears to be your kryptonite.

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    And then on the next step of the continuum, the husband who can be either Alpha or Beta and the wife who is continually trying to be Captain. But says she would really like to be First Mate, but never gives up control without a knock down drag out fight.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Or people who decide the best model for captain first officer isn't the two norberts from Star Trek, but go with:
    Captain Bligh / Fletcher Christian or
    Ahab / Starbuck

  3. Anonymous says:

    While reading that I wondered if you were my husband.
    Here's a suggestion: You're confusing the crap out of her.

    Maybe explain what you are doing. After reading hundreds of these things typing so many different questions all I see is these complicated solutions. I get that it is a complicated practice but chicks are chicks and when they are emotionally confused you aren't going to get anywhere and doing so could cause real and deep hurt.
    My marriage is about to end due to what I feel is exactly this problem. A battle of wills with one party not realising they are in battle let alone what they are battling for.

  4. CL says:

    Don't worry about her feelings – as 7man said recently, her feelings and her heart are two different things. Feelings pass and your job is to not get sucked in by them – you need to be unswayed by them while still acknowledging them as valid. You can understand her feelings without having to change them.

    This may sound cold, but when I am feeling out of sorts or upset over something and 7man simply acknowledges it without either trying to "make me feel better" or getting sucked under by my emotions, I recover much more quickly than if a big deal was made of it. I know he cares for my heart and that I can't manipulate him with feelings, which gives me a feeling of safety where I can express my feelings but not dwell on them or drown in them. Furthermore, there is no emotional drama this way.

    Trying to "smooth things over" is a mistake. Give her a safe place to express them (which may simply mean listening and then leading the conversation a bit) but don't try to fix it! Men make this mistake all the time – it's natural for men to want to fix things – but women do not want you to fix them.

    If you can maintain your composure, without trying to change how she feels, you will seem more solid and reliable and thus, more dominant than her and then she won't feel the need to be so dominant because she knows she can relax and let you lead more – i.e. be the Captain.

    She is probably looking for you to claim her. You need to be the oak tree (see Roissy's 16 commandments of poon) so that you are at the centre of your marriage, not her emotions.

  5. Trimegistus says:

    Ahab/Starbuck isn't a very good model for a relationship. Ahab led the ship to disaster and Starbuck couldn't work up the nerve to prevent it.

    Which brings up a question about the "Captain/First Officer Model" — how do you deal with being wrong? No one is infallible, but what do you do when the First Officer can see the Captain heading off a cliff?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Trig: That's when it helps to know that you're ultimately answering to the Monarch back on land. There are (very rare) times when the FO is responsible to the rest of the crew to pull a mutiny (at least if quiet counsel doesn't work).

    Of course the FO has to understand that she'll be put on trial for that mutiny, so there better be an iron-clad reason… and she'd better be willing to die on that hill.

    Having stretched the metaphor until it's sad and whimpering… basically this means that we all have hard and fast lines, and there's nothing saying that we should have to cross them simply to please the captain's whim. If your captain wants you to prostitute yourself to buy him some drugs… say no.

  7. Eric says:

    Trig,

    My wife and I generally have a good C/FO relationship going, though she'd probably get resentful to hear it explained that way. But here's the thing: under the right circumstances, every First Officer will eventually engage in mutiny. If my wife fundamentally disagrees with my leadership, she's most likely going to resist, refuse, or even sabotage.

    That's why it is important to make wise decisions as leader of your family, and also important to have good sales/negotiation skills (a very Alpha trait… show me an good salesman who isn't an alpha-male and I'll show you somebody whose daddy owns the company).

    Even the best Captains have to get out there and peddle their wares from time to time in order to get the crew vested in their plan. In fact, the best Captains do this in such a way that the crew doesn't even realize they are being presented with a sales pitch.

  8. Eric says:

    I kind of got off track in my answer there… what I meant to say when I started out what this: if the captain is wrong enough times, the First Officer will lose faith in his abilities and engage in mutiny. That's just human nature.

    Going back to the Moby Dick analogy, part of the reason the story was so good was because the crew stuck with Ahab way past the point of sanity and waaaaay past the point when most people would have stuck it out.

  9. Anonymous says:

    When a woman is continually fighting to be co-captaining there can be a number of reasons.
    1.A misunderstanding or disagreement about egalitarian vs complementary roles.
    2. Fears related to surrendering to a man i.e. untrustworthy in the past,poor decision making on his part in the past,abusive or neglectful males in their past history.
    3.Disagreement about what is valuable to each partner. Example: money and how it is spent,discipline of children,use of leisure time,housework,in-laws,etc. In these cases the Alpha leadership may be going in only his direction of value and she fears hers will not be considered.
    4. Lack of enough Beta nesting value to provide a safe comfortable feeling.
    5.The Alpha display continually results in uneasy and not too much fun interplay (see Athol's suggestions though to improve that).

    My question to Athol is what situation should the husband being showing the Alpha side whether it comes naturally to him or not. Is it just sexual expectations?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Are there actual disadvantages to being a sexually submissive female? I started wondering the other day after looking at Athol's post on taking over at times (cowboy position,etc.).

    I am not that interested in certain positions or even oral sex on me. They end up feeling like I'm too Alpha or he's too Beta. I like and need a very strong Alpha response (which doesn't happen at my place). It was a relief to me to read what Athol said one time about men should not expect the woman to initiate.

    As I said in my previous comment on this dilemma it might only work if he ordered or commanded to do the things that feel too dominant for me. And since he seems to be a low sex drive,Beta mostly this isn't likely to happen.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Trimegistus said…
    "Ahab/Starbuck isn't a very good model for a relationship. Ahab led the ship to disaster and Starbuck couldn't work up the nerve to prevent it."

    That's the point. It doesn't work very well when one or both parties is a whackjob or f*ckwit…

  12. Sai says:

    She just doesn't want her tears to be your kryptonite.

    Then what should be? I scare myself a little thinking what would happen if I were to go unrestrained.

  13. Duke of Earl says:

    Why? Would you actually hurt her?

    Of course not. You love her and your limits will always be that you don't want to hurt her.

    But women are emotional, they cry when they're happy, they cry when they're sad, they cry for no particular reason at all. Tears shouldn't be your limit criteria.

    If she is crying let her be. If she wants to talk about it she will. If not then trying to make her talk about it will just cause friction.

  14. Chip says:

    I think for me it is as simple as saying, "Let's eat Mexican tonight" instead of saying, "Where do you want to eat?" If she wants something else she will suggest it. Instead of asking, "Do you want to have sex tonight?" just assume that she does and let her say no if she can't because of her chronic pain or the fact that she is falling asleep. I think we are pretty low key C/FO also, but, as I look back on 39 years of marriage, my wife has been telling me to take the lead; I just didn't recognize it. She is a natural born leader and she will quickly fill the void if there is one to fill, not in a "bitchy" way at all, but she will fill the void nonetheless.

  15. Ted D says:

    "I think for me it is as simple as saying, "Let's eat Mexican tonight" instead of saying, "Where do you want to eat?" If she wants something else she will suggest it. Instead of asking, "Do you want to have sex tonight?" just assume that she does and let her say no if she can't because of her chronic pain or the fact that she is falling asleep."

    I still struggle with this. In regards to eating out: I tend to ask where she wants to eat. Not because I can't lead, but because I'm no sure what I want myself, and I'm hoping she has a preference. If I don't have a solid decision in mind, I rely on my SO to provide input. But everything I'm learning here says that is wrong…

    In regards to sex, THAT is one I'll be working on for a LONG time. I've been told by my SO, repeatedly, that she is game for sex just about any time I am. And yet, I find myself more often than not trying to figure out how to get it going. It feels totally crass and rude to just say "want to have sex?", but trying to hint around usually doesn't get anywhere either. And I know that it is not likely that she will initiate often, so I find myself in bed, with her passed out, mentally kicking myself in the ass for not doing "something" sooner. We've been together for a little over two years, and yet I still fear she will reject me.

    Of course, I'm sure this is left over baggage from spending too many years in a miserable, sexless marriage. But its a deep hole to climb out of…

  16. Duke of Earl says:

    Look her straight in the eye, place your hand firmly behind her head, kiss her on the lips. Escalate from there.

    Some things are too important for words.

  17. Sai says:

    Duke of Earl,
    Physically? No. But there are plenty of things I would be doing if I wasn't so compelled to kiss all her boo-boos – so to speak. Yes, I get that she's a big girl and that she doesn't need/want me to do that yada yada. But at the same time, she/society/my own self is bent on making me feel like I'm neglecting her if I don't.

  18. Anonymous says:

    It's important once we start walk these things out to make sure that we stick with it even through the mistakes. For instance, I made a comment that hurt my SOs feelings while pushing my Alpha boundaries. Consequently I backed way off and almost killed her attraction to me. She basically confirmed it via conversation. I added the alpha qualities back in the mix and she's falling for me again. She DOESN'T like it when I'm too "sweet"

  19. Dave in the cave says:

    The key point Athol's getting at is to USE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE. It's just like kids…some kids just need rules, and others end up going to juvie before they figure it out.

    Also, if you're a lousy captain, don't expect her to follow you. Being captain means what's best for the crew, not dragging everyone along so you can be the hero. They won't see you that way.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Dave in the cave said…
    Also, if you're a lousy captain, don't expect her to follow you. Being captain means what's best for the crew, not dragging everyone along so you can be the hero. They won't see you that way.

    To continue this crap to its logical conclusion, sometimes the captain has to destroy the ship, and kill himself and everyone else aboard, first officer included because those are the orders, and the first officer is expected to go along with it.

  21. dc1000 says:

    @ted d

    i initiate sex with my long term girlfriend like this sometimes:

    "ready to get fucked?"

    try it sometime, but mean it!

  22. Red says:

    I saw my relationship in your post. I am a strong-willed female married to a more beta than alpha man. I have a tendency to test him and he regularly fails them. I want to be put in my place, I want to know he can keep the world at bay, I feel more attracted to him when he doesn't let me walk all over him, but I need this to happen because he is strong and decisive, not because I've reduced who and how I am so he can be in charge. It isn't a position that is given but one earned.

    "Some of my attempts have worked with amazing results and other have backfired horribly and really upset her. My problem, is I can't be so Alpha that I can just completely ignore her when she gets upset like this. It tears me up inside, so I try to talk to her about it to smooth things over, and this always goes nowhere and in fact angers her to no end."

    Does she get angry over the attempts that have backfired or upset over you trying to smooth things over because she is upset?

    Here's the thing…she isn't going to like every decision you make and some of them might make her angry. Perhaps when she is angry and you worry about smoothing things over it makes the alpha decisions seem put on and not real and that undermines her faith in your ability to lead. A good leader has to be ready to accept that those he leads will not always be happy with his decisions.

    If your decisions are made from a position of strength, after considering what is best for her and your relationship, stand by them.

    I can't give my submission simply because it is asked for. There is a tremendous amount of trust involved on her part to let you lead. There is also a tremendous amount of responsibility on you to lead well.

    It seems as if more harm is done when you coax and try to smooth things over than if you let her be angry without feeling like you have to fix it.

    Sometimes we fight the things we most want.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I don't buy that. I think if all parties know what is going on and the guy is being more alpha, it is up to the female to be more submissive or move on. I was in a similar situation with my wife and I let her be the dominant one for many years and after her almost affair and much reading here and elsewhere we figured out our roles in this marriage and it's been pretty good since then. One thing I have to say is that it does take time for both sides to feel comfortable in their new roles. It doesn't happen overnight and can take a couple of years before you stop looking at yourself in the mirror every morning going "how can I be more alpha today!"

  24. Red says:

    I can understand how the anonymous poster above would think if the man is being more alpha, then the woman should be more submissive.

    I think that works if the man is consistent…not perfect, just consistent. If my husband takes an alpha step and tells me he wants me to do something specific today but then never asks me about it or checks to see if it's done, then I am left feeling resentful. Why is he making a big deal of asking but then not following through? How does one submit to a man who doesn't do what he says he will do? How can one be confident in his ability to lead when he makes arbitrary requests? Because he is alpha in the bedroom doesn't mean he is capable of leading all the time.

    For me, and I imagine it is similar for lots of women, the foundation for explosive, awesome sex is created everywhere in the relationship except the bedroom.

    A woman tests to see where she stands and how confident, determined, and dependable the man is. If she isn't responding in a submissive way, one of the things that should be looked at is how consistent is the man being and what kind of foundation is he building.

  25. Ted D says:

    "If my husband takes an alpha step and tells me he wants me to do something specific today but then never asks me about it or checks to see if it's done, then I am left feeling resentful. Why is he making a big deal of asking but then not following through?"

    Well, perhaps he figures as an adult you are capable of doing the task without supervision or a check up?

    This is exactly why I still resist the "Captain/FO" scenario. I have people that report to me at work I have to "check up on". I have children I have to "check up on". The last think I need is an adult living with me that needs to be "check up on" them. I don't want a woman to "submit" to me if it means I then become responsible for their behavior and actions. I don't feel that I should have that responsibility, and frankly I find the notion unattractive and unappealing.

    I also don't want a continual struggle for power in my relationships. Now, I realize that if I present myself as the "bad ass alpha man", that should keep the balance in my favor. But that means I have to constantly maintain that frame of mind, and frankly it wears me out. I expect my SO to be responsible for her own actions and behavior. I also don't expect her to try and sabotage my efforts. But, I also don't feel like I should have to assert myself to prevent it.

  26. elhaf says:

    @Ted D, it sounds like you've overconstrained the problem. You want all the things, but you don't want to do anything for it. Take some personal responsibility yourself for getting what you want. If you want a wife that you can ask to do things (doesn't she ask you to do things? doesn't she follow up?) ask. If you want her not to have to be checked up on, correct that behavior too. As in, "I asked you to do this and I expect it to be done without having to ask again." That's a very alpha frame.

    Results are the ultimate meter. Is what you are doing working? If not, try something else. If you get push-back it is not always because you are doing something wrong; sometimes it is because your resolve is being tested. If you think you pushed too far, apologize once, but don't allow yourself to be beat up over it.

    There will be tension, and it will be awkward sometimes. Break the tension with a wordless kiss or other alpha move.

  27. Steve says:

    Red said
    "Does she get angry over the attempts that have backfired or upset over you trying to smooth things over because she is upset?"

    This post is from an email I sent to Athol, which he then posted. To answer your question, its both. She gets angry over something I did or said that rubbed her wrong, usually something fairly trivial, not like a major decision that she doesn't agree with. Anyway, I generally react to the angry response from her by trying to talk through it and work it out. This 2nd part is what makes her even more upset. Its very hard for me to take the Alpha approach once she is angry. Athol's comment was spot on for me because I do tend to "let her tears/anger be my kryptonite".

    Any advice on how I can get to a place where I don't let her anger effect me? I find this very difficult to do.

  28. Ted D says:

    "If you want a wife that you can ask to do things (doesn't she ask you to do things? doesn't she follow up?) ask."

    Actually I get very irritated if she asks me to do something and then asks me later if I did. It makes me feel like she doesn't trust me to do what I should. I don't like to be micromanaged, and hate having to micromanage others. In fact, I don't. Its caught me some grief at work, but I refuse to be a babysitter for another adult. I also get irritated if my boss bugs me about tasks. If I am asked to do a thing, I get it done or explain what the roadblocks are.

    "There will be tension," – yeah, and that's the other thing. I really don't like confrontational tension. At work I just blow it off, mostly because I expect it. At home, I expect to avoid such things. (other than with my children, who I think have decided that causing me stress is fun) I want/need to rely on my mate to relieve tension and stress, not be the cause of it. I don't want an adversarial relationship, I want a partnership. But, I want one where the partners are not constantly trying to one-up the other. All if this smells a lot like one-upmanship to me.

  29. Red says:

    @Steve
    When you said “I generally react to the angry response from her by trying to talk through it and work it out “ what I see is you trying to explain your action and justify it. If it is a trivial thing, what is there to be worked out other than her response to you? It’s not the trivial thing to work through but her feelings and that is something you can’t do for her. So she is upset over something small and you try to “work it out” and she gets angrier. Maybe she is seeing the explanation as a weakness. If you’ll cave here, are you really solid? Maybe it’s emotional manipulation because if you accept that then she is the one running the show.
    @Ted
    For me, it’s not about the task I’ve been asked to do as much as it is a tool he tries to use to help me feel connected to him. I don’t do well when I only hit his radar in the bedroom. I don’t feel connected to him and sex feels like a service. I provide the service but then he is upset the sex feels like service. So when he says in the morning, I want you to do this today, and then completely forgets about ever asking, it leaves me feeling anything but connected or attracted. Basically, he talks the talks but then fails to produce. It’s lip service.

  30. Athol Kay says:

    I Red is just feeling ignored by her husband. She's being "good" but he isn't acknowledging that so she's getting no positive reinforcement for actually doing what he wants her to do.

    All he has to do is say "Thank you." a few times.

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