On November 15, 2017, I did a study of conflict structure, hoping to discover something that would improve marriages (namely my own). Since then, I have been experimenting with using this knowledge to enhance my relations with my wife. This post is a three-month progress report of my findings.
Targeted Readership: Men in LTR’s
A Summary of the Study: Conflict Structure and Marital Satisfaction
The stereotypical conflict structure, in which the wife demands and the husband withdraws, is known to destroy marriages over time. However, the opposite structure, in which the husband demands and the wife submits, foments marital contentment over the long haul.
The word ‘demand’ in the study, does not mean to dictate hot, angry commands. It merely describes the conflict structure, in which the person who brings up an issue and asks for a change is labeled as the one who demands. The other person, according to the structure, is required to respond somehow, and withdrawing or submitting are the most common types of responses. In other words, one person is the initiator of the conflict, and the other person is the respondent.
Identification of the Problem
After completing this study and gleaning the takeaways, I realized that I had no direct control to stop my wife from initiating conflict (being dissatisfied, unhappy and making demands). However, I soon realized that I could initiate conflict (make demands) as well as she could. It seemed counterintuitive that my initiating conflict would reduce conflict, but I recognized the general perspective of the Manosphere, that truth concerning women and relationships is not intuitively evident to men, and I put my faith in the study (and in the Lord). I reasoned that if I made more demands than she did, then it would essentially shift the conflict structure towards the husband-demands/wife-submits structure, leading to more mutual satisfaction. So I started experimenting with this.
I implemented this strategy as follows.
I would not make a demand whenever she had just made a demand, nor whenever she was upset or angry about something. I knew this would not lead to anything productive. Instead, whenever a few days had passed without any conflict, I would make it a point to raise some issue of contention. Whatever came to my mind that bothered me in the slightest, I would express this to her, and ask for her to make a change in response.
I also explained how her change would lead to an improvement, whether it might involve her health, her own happiness, her relationships with her friends or family, our finances, our home environment, our marital relationship, etc.
I was not harsh, and I did not get angry or raise my voice. I was in no way out of control. I spoke with a voice of legitimate male authority, which is generally cool, calm, and patient, yet firm. I stated what was bothering me in an objective manner, and why. I stuck to my frame of mind, and I was persistent in asking her to say something that showed me that she understood what I was saying.
The study indicated that whenever the man makes the demand, the interaction is much more intense and stressful than when the woman makes the demand, and so I had to prepare myself beforehand, whenever I planned to make a demand. I thought through my point and my reasoning, and how to express it in words. I imagined what might transpire, and thought through those issues as well.
As might be expected, she always flew into a rage whenever I made a demand. She usually assumed that I was blaming her, and she attempted to shift the blame back onto me. She gave me a lot of hamsterized excuses and ad hominem types of insults, all done in an effort to defend her ego and retain the upper hand in the argument. But no matter what she said or did, I retained frame and continued to prod her, not for an agreement, but simply for an acknowledgment. I contented myself in thinking that I was the one making the demand, and that she was the one who had to respond. After her anger had passed, she folded and complied. She hardly ever apologized for her angry, rude behavior, and insulting words, but I took the view that it did not matter in the slightest.
Over time, I did see that she was more happy and content, and made fewer demands on me. In short, it worked like a charm!
Since then, I have come to understand that when I impose a demand, I am also inviting her to engage with me, and by doing so, I am also imposing discipline on her behavior. She seems to accept this as an inherent element of the conflict, with the idea that changes must be made in order to resolve the conflict.
A lot of husbands and wives have the wussified idea that the husband is loving his wife by doing whatever she demands. However, it has amply been proven in the Manosphere that this belief is a fallacy. Being an obedient husband does not register as ‘love’ on the wife’s radar. Instead, it conveys weakness, which women absolutely abhor.
But on the other hand, when I make a demand, then she must pull herself together to respond. Dealing with my demands pushes her to stop expecting me to change according to her whims, and to do some introspection instead. She must stop expecting me to make her happy, and must look within herself, and draw from her own emotional resources in order to maintain her own sense of balance and well-being. The comprehensive effect of this conflict structure is that it disciplines her to nurture her own inner sense of happiness. The byproduct of getting her into the habit of creating her own happiness, is that she realizes that she cannot expect or rely on others, i.e. her husband, to make her happy.
I was also happy to confirm another finding from the study, which is that my wife does not see my demandingness as being overbearing. Instead, she sees that I am adding balance to our interaction by contributing my viewpoints, instead of withdrawing, which really ticks her off. She interprets my demands as my taking an interest in developing our relationship. She also gets the satisfaction of knowing my mind about things. She does not express any positivity towards my demands, but it doesn’t matter. Over the long run, she is haaappy!
It is my hope that married men who are struggling with a contentious wife might go through my earlier study, and take the initiative to make their own demands as they see fit. I trust that this approach will help your relationship, as it has mine.