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Submissive/Dominant partnerships

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Artemisia posted 9/12/2013 16:51 PM

I have been really haunted by something I read in the book "Crazy Time." The idea that often divorce and infidelity come out of partnerships with a dominant/submissive dynamic.

From the book: "What is striking to many family therapists is that it is the submissive partner who usually becomes the deceiver, the dominant the denier. The classic act of revolt (for the submissive partner) is the marriage-breaking affair...if you're the dominant partner, you try through denial to hold onto some lost dream kingdom of marriage."

I felt that we had a fundamentally good and happy partnership that was worth the work. He had an affair and left me for her. I have heard similar things on this board - "happy marriages" broken by the WS.

Have I been denying my role in this partnership? Was I dominating? What does it mean to be dominating, and what does that look like? How unhappy was he, and did I ignore it? If only -I- thought we had a happy partnership, what does that say about me or the relationship? Are we fooling ourselves when we say we thought our relationships were good? I have been feeling very bad about myself. Just wondering what others think.

ladies_first posted 9/12/2013 17:15 PM

I prefer this explanation:

“Who does more? A common belief is that a person having an affair may not be ‘getting enough’ at home. But the reality is that he or she may not be giving enough. Contrary to popular wisdom, people are not as satisfied in relationships where they are ‘overbenefited’ as in relationships where there is more equity. In the most satisfying relationships, giving and receiving are balanced….

It’s easy for the person who is giving less to become involved with another person. Partners who give much less than they receive already have one foot out the door, so it’s not difficult for them to break the loosely held connection to their marriage. The more you invest, the more committed you are and the more attached you feel.” ~“Not Just Friends” by Shirley Glass

[This message edited by ladies_first at 5:18 PM, September 12th (Thursday)]

SisterMilkshake posted 9/12/2013 17:35 PM

(((Artemisia))) Welcome to SI. Sorry you had to find us, but glad that you did.

What ladies_first quoted from Not Just Friends helped me a lot and was true in our dynamic.

For us I feel my FWH thought I was the dominant. That isn't true, though. He was projecting onto me.

We were in MC one day and FWH brought up that "Milkshake is controlling." I asked FWH could he please, please give me one example of how I was controlling. This was a recurring theme throughout our marriage and he could never give me an an example, would just say that I was a control freak. MC told FWH to give an example, also. We sat there waiting for what seemed like at least 5 minutes and FWH finally said "Milkshake won't let me have the tv remote control." Guilty as charged! (I do share the remote, now. )

My point is, FWH thought I was dominant, but the truth is, he was. However, since he thought he was being domineered did he actually feel like a submissive in his revolt?

I have been feeling very bad about myself. Just wondering what others think
His cheating had nothing to do with you, Artemisia.

Have you read anything in the Healing Library? It is in the yellow box in the upper left hand corner. Click on the Healing Library and then Click on the BS FAQ's at the top of the page. They have some great information in there. Please go check it out if you haven't already.

mouse posted 9/13/2013 10:13 AM

It was never about you, so absolve yourself of any blame for the affair. Having an affair is selfish and secret behavior. I've seen much to support Ladies First's post in terms of an entitled spouse discounting devotion and seeking EVEN more elsewhere. And affairs by the seemingly devoted party. Use the Healing Library and hopefully find a good IC. Humans are complicated creatures .

dbellanon posted 9/13/2013 10:28 AM

So I also read "Crazy Time," and I think that the idea that the dominant/submissive deadlock lies at the heart of most failed marriages has a ring of truth to it, but is probably too simplistic.

Nevertheless, I think that there was some truth to it in my situation.

What I think you need to understand about this thesis is that the "dominant" spouse may not necessarily be "dominating." The idea of the book is that couples enter into these roles willingly, as part of an implicit kind of marriage contract. Just because someone is "submissive" doesn't necessarily mean that he/she is being held down by his/her partner (though it might). The enemy in these cases is not the other spouse, but the dynamic in the relationship that has become the norm and which needs to be "renegotiated." Unfortunately, I think that often (and certainly in my case), the betraying spouse sees her partner as the enemy seeks to get rid of him rather than to address the underlying assumptions that both of them have brought to the marriage.

Artemisia posted 9/13/2013 12:40 PM

Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. These are good things for me to think about.

I appreciate how often I hear that his affair/leaving was not about me, because I would like to believe it, but I can't. How could it NOT be about me? He consciously chose to lie to me, hurt me, leave me, and told me the things he loved about his new partner that were better than me. How could this not be directly, absolutely, completely about me?

RightTrack posted 9/14/2013 07:18 AM

Was I too controlling? My WS says I was always angry with him and always had a list of things for him to do so her turned to AP. She was nice and expected very little from him.

Really though, I was trying to work full-time and raise two small kids, cook and keep the house clean and chase after the dogs while he had checked out. That Shirley Glass quote hits the nail on the head.

brooke4 posted 9/14/2013 10:36 AM

I read Crazy Time many years ago for something I was writing, long before infidelity was a factor in my life. I remember that assertion, and I agree with dbellanon--there is an element of truth to it. But I also agree that it's an overly simplistic take on a complicated marital dynamic. I mean, all relationships have some element of that going on at least sometimes.

It makes me think of the following from the fabulous Nora Ephron. It's funny, but you can clearly see the dynamics that could evolve, and both partners' complicity in them:

You know what a Jewish prince is, don't you?
If you don't, there's an easy way to recognize one. A simple sentence. "Where's the butter?"
Okay. We all know where the butter is, don't we?
The butter is in the refrigerator.
The butter is in the refrigerator in the little compartment in the door marked "Butter."
But the Jewish prince doesn't mean "Where's the butter?" He means "Get me the butter." He's too clever to say "Get me" so he says "Where's."
And if you say to him---"In the refrigerator"---and he goes to look, an interesting thing happens, a medical phenomenon that has not been sufficiently remarked upon. The effect of the refrigerator light on the male cornea.
"I don't see it anywhere."
"Where's the butter" is only one of the ways the Jewish prince reveals himself. Sometimes he puts it a different way. He says, "Is there any butter?"
We all know whose fault it is if there isn't, don't we.
When he's being really ingenious, he puts it in a way that's meant to sound as if what he needs most of all from you is your incredible wisdom and judgment and creativity. He says, "How do you think butter would taste with this?"
He's usually referring to dry toast.
I've always believed that the concept of the Jewish princess was invented by a Jewish prince who couldn't get his wife to fetch him the butter.

realitybites posted 9/14/2013 10:47 AM


But then mine would be a Puerto Rican Prince cuz I could apply ALL of the above to him.

I think that it could more likely be called Passive/Aggressive stuff but it could apply all over the place.

sisoon posted 9/15/2013 15:12 PM

I may be unable to find butter, but my W can't find her keys....

I always thought the 'submissive' has the more powerful position.

I know this: every time I've thought my W was keeping me from doing something I wanted to do (i.e 'controlling' me), the real problem was that I never told my W what I wanted. All I had to do was figure out what I wanted to do, tell her, and figure out what to do so I could get it. In almost 48 years together, she never has forced/manipulated me to do anything I didn't want to do.

'Control' hasn't been a term that we've used. One big issue in our M, however, turns out to be that my W assumes I want things done in a certain way, so she does them that way and then resents me. (I might be feeling some self-pity here. Ignore it. )

A lot of these issues have come up in MC, and I think W is finally seeing that if she lets me know she has an issue, I'm willing to work it out. (I've always assumed she's willing to work stuff out, and she has been. again, all I have to do is raise an issue.)

On the whole, unless abuse is involved, my prejudice is that the person who complains about being controlled is lying to him-/herself. The solution is to say something like, 'I don't like the way this is being handled. Will you work with me so we com come up with a better way to do this?'

That's easier said than done, to be sure, but I suspect it's a lot easier to do than the 'controlled' person thinks.

Artemisia, I wouldn't worry about being assertive in your relationship. This is just another area in which, IMO, our WSes attempted to dodge responsibility.

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