One of the most touching moments of our marriage is when we were being filmed for Close Up by TVNZ. In response to a question Jennifer directly referred to me as “the head of household” to the interviewer. I thought that was very brave of her to actually say that to the watching eyes of an entire country. I don’t think a woman can compliment a man much higher than that. Naturally because it was a perfect statement of Captain and First Officer working as intended… it was cut and never made it to the final segment.
One of the hard parts about writing about this stuff though is that I very much fear that someone is going to misunderstand me, and end up turning into a thug-husband. Add in the encouragement to explore rough sex, and it’s doubly worrying.
So let me restate things a little…
The Captain and First Officer model, does not explicitly require her conscious awareness, some couples just naturally slip into it. For those couples when they are told about C&FO they just go “Oh yeah we do that.” and it’s old hat to them. They probably just think of themselves as “traditional.”
But for almost everyone else, the whole Captain and First Officer model is going to be a little weird at first, and you will make mistakes in trying it out. Usually that’s just going to be the husband doing a momentary reversion back to being too Beta, sometimes though he’s going to push a little too hard on her though and hurt her feelings.
When these mistakes are being made, it is vastly easier to correct things if you are both consciously aware of what is going on. By which I mean you’ve had actual conversations together about doing it, and you’ve both agreed to try it.
Captain and First Officer is a voluntarily lifestyle. You can’t effectively trick her into becoming a First Officer, and you can’t intimidate her into the role either. The only way to do this easily is to be a man she respects enough, to want to submit to your leadership. So yes indeed there is an element of strength and assertiveness that creates a dominant presence, but it’s her own internal wiring to enjoy submitting to a safe but dominant presence, that drives her interest in the First Officer role.
The conscious agreement to play these roles is of value because of the way it can nearly completely eliminate serious conflict in the marriage over some of the bigger decisions that need to be made. Very frequently marital arguments are not over the decision itself, but simply who gets to make the decision. Once you remove that battle, everyone’s shields come down and you can have more of a calm discussion about the decision itself.
The decision tree looks like this…
Captain or First Officer – Identifies issue and brings it up with the other
Captain – Listens to First Officer
First Officer – Provides input
Captain – Considers effect of decision on both the Captain and First Officer (and the kids)
First Officer – Provides further input if needed, but otherwise allows Captain space to make decision
Captain – Makes decision
First Officer – Respects decision and abides by it.
If the decision turns out to be wrong…
Captain – Admits error in decision
First Officer – Doesn’t say “I told you so!”
Captain and First Officer – Revisit decision and seek ways of not making the same mistake again.
If the decision turns out to be right…
Captain – Thanks First Officer for input and abiding by decision
First Officer – Gets wet panties
At first glance that looks like the Captain can just run riot and do whatever they want, whenever they want, but the reality is that a good Captain isn’t going to “win” every decision and decide to get exactly what they want every single time. Doing so would eventually wear out his welcome so to speak as the First Officer would start to lose respect for him. Eventually she would quit the role in disgust.
However if she perceives him as being concerned for her well being and on balance making fair decisions, she will grow even more respectful for him. There’s a lot of responsibility on the Captain to get it right more often than not too.
All that being said – I won’t lie – it’s really kinda cool to have a woman obeying you.
Jennifer: Being able to trust that Athol is always going to try and make the best decision is very important to me.