Evan and I seem to be going through a great period in our marriage: we are both very happy right now. I think that this contentment is a result of a lot of recent communication, and some changes that we have made. I will elaborate here and in some posts to come.
As I had written fairly recently, we hadn't been as Deirdre-led as I would have liked over the past couple of years. But life is a process, not a goal, and so I was happy with what we had, which was wonderful, even if not always bump-free. However, I could tell that Evan seemed to be less excited by the female-led component of our life than he used to be, so I opened a dialogue, where we could talk about what would make it better. I was surprised to hear that he would like me to lead him more than I had been doing. What he meant by this is that he would like me to be more "strict" with him when he misbehaves in some way, in my view.
His misbehaving isn't a frequent event, but sometimes he is stressed at work over something or other, and he can take it out on me (like many people do). What he was asking me to do is to draw his attention to these events, and tell him off strictly at the time that they occur, with the goal of lowering the frequency of these events. At least, that would be my goal for my new strictness. From his perspective, he likes the idea of a strict wife.
We talked about his motivation for wanting a strict wife. According to him, it's twofold: (1) he is very excited by the idea (in principle); and (2) he hoped that he would accomplish more goals in his life with some external motivation. We also talked about why it is that he is turned on by having a strict wife. I think that it's hard to know for sure, because it's hard to have conscious access to the sources of what interest us and excite us in our personal psychology. But he has a plausible source of this desire in him: his mother was quite strict with him growing up. Not only did she spank him on occasion (with a wooden spoon, applied hard to his bare bottom; just a few hard spanks for a misbehaving child), but she also was strict with him in other ways, in the way that she raised him more generally. Frankly, it doesn't sound like how I would raise a child. I would never strike a child, and from his description, there wasn't enough cuddling and open affection in Evan's childhood. But that's what Evan got, and he's not upset with his mother at all for this. It's how he was raised, and so it's all he knew while growing up. He can't change what he got, and it made him who he is. It's up to him and me to enjoy him for who he is: a grown man who likes to have a strict wife.
Anyway, I listened to all this, and I agreed to give it a try. What I am now doing is taking a strict tone with Evan when he misbehaves in some way. What this means practically is that I grab his ear or some of his hair on the side of his head, and I talk to him forcefully about how I want him to change his behavior, right at the time that he is acting up. Let me give you an example. While stuck in traffic (something that he hates) he started talking to me in a slightly rude tone one morning. I knew that he was annoyed at the traffic (which was stopped), and this was a likely cause for his cranky tone. But I wanted him to not talk to me like that. So I quickly grabbed his ear, turned it a little, and told him not to talk to me that way, and apologize. So far, I have been amazed at the power I have over him when I grab his ear or hair: he calms right down, and apologizes! If I had only known this years ago, I would have been doing this for years. I guess that is getting ahead of ourselves, because we don't know if this will work in the long term. But for the short term -- over the past 2 weeks -- it has been great. Evan is far better behaved, and so far, he says he has been working more efficiently too. So for us, it appears to be working.
In addition, the ear-grab trick seems to work so far, even for getting him over my knee. I will elaborate on this more in my next post.