How to Handle a Controlling Woman
In most relationships, it’s women who are the leaders.
They take charge and subjugate men by taking the judge role in the relationship. What does that mean?
It means that they take control of the frame of reference on what’s good or wrong, what’s proper and improper, and on what are the standards of behavior. Men rarely challenge her frame, which basically means: they end up playing by her rules.
That’s from a big picture perspective, but the big picture is not the focus of this topic.
The practical side is the focus of this topic.
And to enforce her frame of reference in the day to day life, she uses the following compliance tools:
- Drama & nagging (set the priorities of what’s important)
- Blaming & criticism (browbeats him on the defensive)
- Shaming (the compliance superpower)
With these three tools she becomes the relationship leader, which allows her to task him (so he can provide for her and make her happy)
Drama & Nagging
Drama and nagging are compliance and behavioral changing tools for women.
Nagging is a long term, semi-permanent behavioral changing tool.
It works in part through conditioning of reward and punishments ( behaviorism): do what I like, and you make me happy (and get the cookie); don’t do what I like, and you fall from my grace and get my nagging wrath.
Eventually, he internalizes the rules.
When that happens, nagging puts a “voice” in his head that makes him feel in the wrong when he doesn’t follow the rules – her rules-.
And, eventually, he does follow her rules:
Nagging sets the priority of what’s important. It says “change who you are”.
Just like water molds rocks over the years, so long term nagging is low-intensity pressure that, over time, sculpts the man just like she wants him.
While nagging is a long term behavioral modification tool, drama is concentrated, focused, laser beam compliance tool.
If nagging sets the priorities of what’s important, drama sets the priorities of what’s urgent .
Nagging says “you’re not OK”, while drama says “what you are doing right now is not OK, move your ass now to change it”.
Here is a drama example:
The secret of drama are emotions. Women put a lot of emotions and passion into drama, and deliver it with a self-righteous attitude that screams “I’m right”.
Since men do not engage in drama and are not used to that over-emotional (and aggressive) type of communication, it’s even more effective in short-circuiting their brains so that they end up treating it as a real emergency. And they fail to see it for what it is: a compliance tool.
If you’re a guy reading and have been in a few relationships, just think about it: how often have you challenged her drama?
If you’re like most guys, rarely. Very rarely.
Most men take ownership of her drama and make it their top priority to fix it.
Nagging & Drama = Judge Power Tools
Both nagging and drama are punishment and compliance tools of the judge position.
They both say say “you are not doing your job” and “you are not being good enough”.
She (unconsciously) uses them to mold him to her liking.
Blaming & Criticism
Blaming and criticism are verbal aggression tools to push men on the defensive.
And here is what he communicates when he defends:
- Admits guilt
- Confirm she’s in charge
- Confirm he must serve her and make her happy
Most men, too dumbfounded by her attacks and emotional outbursts, react the following way when their women lash out on them:
- Get defensive (bad)
- Make excuses (terrible)
- Try to fix the issue (bad: it doesn’t address the real issue, which is the aggressive delivery)
- Fight her (so, it looks over-reactive and doesn’t work when he’s wrong)
- Ask her to calm down (bad)
- Tries to understand the real issue (works on some instances, but doesn’t address the blaming issue)
Trying to understand and to uncover the real issue behind the complaint goes to the root of the problem.
It’s something that relationship researcher Gottman calls “looking beyond the complaint”, and it works.
But that’s exactly the major flaw of this solution.
Gottman is an outstanding researcher on relationships, but not necessary on power dynamics.
The real issue indeed here is this: she is using verbal abuse and verbally coercive tactics to make him fall in line .
And that’s what a man should address first: the way she approaches the issue -and only after he can deal with the issue-.
Imagine the following:
(Enters back home with two heavy bags and placed them on the kitchen table)
Him : here is the shopping, help me store it
(She starts going through the bags)
Her: OMG where is the butter! Didn’t I tell you this morning to get the butter? I can’t believe you forgot it, it was such a simple task! You always do this!
Since he indeed made a mistake, men often end up on the defensive there.
But the problem of defending is that he does not address the real issue, which is not the small mishap, but her aggressive tone.
Even more importantly, it confirms her frame of power : that he must serve her and execute her tasks (and do so properly)
That’s a nasty and aggressive way of communicating and it does nothing good to the relationship (a relationship where the man understands relationship power dynamics is a better relationship for both).
How to Deal With Blaming
Here is how you handle blaming instead:
Her: OMG where is the butter?
Didn’t I tell you this morning to get the butter? I can’t believe you forgot it, it was such a simple task! You always do this! (pause a few seconds, look at her)
You : I am not comfortable with your tone
You don’t address the perfunctory butter issue but, calm and collected, you go to the crux of the matter.
Her: What do you mean my tone, what are you talking about, you didn’t buy the bread!
You : That is the case indeed. I forgot the butter. But how does that give you the right to raise your voice and verbally assault me
By admitting that you did indeed made a mistake you protect yourself from further attacks.
And by making your criticism more specific -and more emotionally charged- you are now playing the same game and backing her against the corner.
Her: Assaulting you? I’m not assaulting you! I’m just saying you forgot the bread how can you say i did that
You : You are yelling at me with an aggressive facial expression for what’s a very, very minor issue. That’s verbal abuse in my book
As soon as you get her to admit that she overreacted and/or that aggression is not the way to deal with issues, you want to say something like this:
You : Look, I did forget the butter, my bad.
But to me it’s more important how we deal with issues. Because bread come and go, but how we deal with each other stays.And blaming, yelling, finger pointing and any other nasty way of communicating are not what I consider good and healthy relationships.
And I want to have a healthy and respectful relationship with you because that’s how I treat you and I expect the same back. (pause)
Do I make myself clear?
With that, you addressed the power dynamics: you are not a punching bag for her anger.
Now you can move to the root causes of this particular issue.
To get to the root causes of a situation like this, think about your priorities.
And if you realize that you don’t care about butter and you don’t want to spend your life shopping for butter, then assign the task of what it’s important to her back to her.
Tell her candidly that since you don’t care about butter, you will probably forget again in the future. And you will not take any responsibility for stocking up butter ever again.
From then on, what she cares about is what she takes responsibility for.
Shame is the superpower of the judge role. Shame is a tool of psychological aggression and compliance.
Researcher Brene Brown says that shame leverages our need to be worthy of love and basic respect. Shame punishes us with scorn, isolation, and by stoking feelings of unworthiness.
When women use shame in a relationship, they attack something that every man feels deeply inside: what it (supposedly) means to be a man..
Some of the most powerful attacks on manhood are:
Here is an example of a woman, actually jealous, who wanted to hurt him and chooses “weak” as her weapon of choice:
The power of shame is compounded when, as it’s often the case, the whole society stands behind them -ie.: the whole society takes the judge position against him.
This is the case for weakness for example, as a man is not supposed to be weak. But it’s also the case of providing for the family, or protecting women.
Men internalize those values and beliefs, which allow women to push his manhood thumbscrews without even having to be too direct.
In relationships women can leverage shame to cage men into provider roles , potentially sabotaging his own goals and dream.
Here is an example:
She says it was fear that pushed her to corner him. Maybe, But also female pragmatism and domestication instincts, leveraging shame.
She didn’t even need to say “you’re not a real man if you don’t provide”. That was implied: he already had internalized that rule from society.
In some cases, it might be argued that it’s fair to shame some men: for example if children who need to be fed are involved. And some men might even deserve some shaming.
In that case, fair game.
However, women will often take an attitude that enlarges the scope of “what it means to be a man” to fit what they want and need .
So shaming becomes:
Her: I’m unhappy. Make me happy (or you’re not a real man)
Her: Protect me and make me feel safe. Buy a house in the good part of town (or you’re not a real man)
Her: Make me come (or you’re not a real man)
Notice that none of the above are wrong per se .
But they do are unhealthy and manipulative when they are not part of a balanced relationship of give and take .
So here is an example for you.
I love Tom Bylieu and he is one of the few motivational speakers I recommend people to follow.
I use this example though to show how his wife used shaming to corner him into being a better provider (taken from his interview with Tony Robbins):
Tom : I want to walk away from all this work I hate, it’s destroying me
Wife : I bet on you (= I bet on you to provide for me, don’t disappoint me!)
Tom : She bet on my relentlessness, so I had to find a way (to make money and make her wealthy)
Notice what his wife told him when he was tired of chasing money: “I bet on you”.
That’s shaming for not keeping his word (a purely male thing BTW: women don’t care nearly as much). And shaming for not providing for her.
And there he put his head down again to chase money for her.
I’d like to stress again that Tom is an amazing fella, and there is nothing inherently wrong with being a provider.
Being a high-quality provider in a healthy relationship does more good to society than being a player.
BUT there is a big difference between a high-quality provider, leader of the relationship and overall high-quality man, and a clueless guy who is being played and provides as the submissive party of the relationship.
Solution To Shaming
If women want to control men they should indeed use shame and enlarge the scope of “what it means to be a real man” and “what it means doing a good job as a male figure”.
And what if men want to be free and throw off the yoke?
Then you can completely discard the whole notion of “being a real man”. Bleep being a real man, why should you let anyone dictate what you should be and do? Be whatever you wanna be instead.
OR, men can come up with their own personal definition of what it means to be a man and only obey to their own standards.
Tasking is at the core of how women control their men.
Drama, criticism, and nagging are the support tools to make sure that he will follow through on the tasks she deems important.
Many women will start tasking early on to test his mettle.
The more he executes her tasks, the more likely it is he will commit and invest. Thus, tasking also works early on as her screening tool for providers.
It can start innocently enough.
Or maybe you two are shopping and she hands you the cart telling you “hold this”.
Or it can take a while longer.
If you seem strong, independent, and rebellious enough sometimes tasking and shaming only starts in earnest when you fully commit to the relationship.
It might be surprising for some men to see their women’s demands increase dramatically when they pass a major commitment point such as “exclusivity”, “official status” or “marriage”.
What happens is that you were in charge in the beginning and she didn’t dare to take a judge position on you. Plus, you probably rebuked a few attempts at drama and tasking.
But that doesn’t mean she will stop trying to domesticate you. It simply means that the process is on hold.
Until her power increases; which can happen after a key milestone such as commitment.
Some men, like the super-rich, extreme lover-types, and sky-high sexual market value, might never reach the point of tasking.
But 99% will.
So buckle up.
Here is an example of tasking + nagging during an argument.
Most of all, notice how her attitude, and how hard for him it is to resist. Her conviction and righteous attitude make her frame iron-solid, and it feels as if it’s a foregone conclusion that she is right and he is wrong.
It ends up looking like a mother/child dynamic (read transaction analysis for more), with the mother “knowing” what’s right to do and the man being the rebellious kid not living up to her righteous expectations:
He seems strong and independent, but he is not. He is reacting to her orders instead of the way she commands him, which escalates the argument in the wrong direction.
He should instead escalate the way she bosses him around. After he dealt with her aggression, he should then do the table his way if he promised. If not, he should get up in earnest and have an eye to eye conversation as “who wanted to organize the dinner”.
And if it was her, then he should tell her it’s her task -or, tell her he wants to help because he’s happy if she’s happy… As long as she learns to ask nicely and respectfully-.
The more he executes tasks, the more it becomes the norm
Cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) dictates that the more he executes on her tasks, the more he will internalize that it’s the right thing to do.
And through back-rationalization (Eagleman, 2011), the more he executes, the more likely it is that he will rationalize his actions by telling himself that “she must be worth it”.
So, with tasks, she is also increasing her power and more effectively framing herself as “the prize” of the relationship.
Tasking + Drama + Shaming = He’s Owned
When a man resists or is slow in taking action, a woman can combine all the tools at once:
- Drama, to make action seem more urgent and important
- Shame, in the sense of “do something (or you’re not a real man)”
- Tasking: go do it for fuck sake!
The previous example we saw was a good example of this deadly female power cocktail:
Notice that drama in itself often includes shaming without needing any overt dig at masculinity.
This is because most men feel responsible for making her happy. They feel that “doing” things is their job. Even when “doing things” actually means “doing things for her”. Not doing it, especially when she’s all emotional, is shameful for men. And women (unconsciously) leverage that.
Dealing with Tasking
Here is how to deal with tasking:
Think about what you can and cannot do
You’re not a boy anymore, and you should not aim to be one.
If you want a relationship, then you do need to change some of your habits, commit to something and compromise on something else.
But that doesn’t mean you should do all she wants you to do.
Think of what you can and cannot do, and make it clear. Communicate it well and assertively enforce your boundaries. Drama, nagging and tasking will drop to (near) zero.
Return to sender all her tasks
As we have seen for blaming, we now come full circle: all the tasks that are dear to her, but not to you, are her tasks.
You can approach it this way:
You : Wait a second. Do I want cheese on the pasta, or do you want cheese pasta? Because as far as I know, you want cheese on the pasta. So why are you asking me to take care of it?
Basically it’s this: do what you agreed on and task her to do her own tasks. Then enforce those boundaries when she tries to unload her stuff on you.
Relationship Prize Female Game
This is a good time for introducing the concept of “relationship prize”.
The female domestication of men is made all easier when she manages to position herself as the prize of the relationship (and he accepts that frame).
Then, he will not only naturally accept all the behavior and dynamics we discussed so far, but he will be happy to oblige.
On the other hand, men who don’t appreciate being the subordinate in the relationship should watch out for her maneuvers to become the “queen of the relationship”.
Even innocuous “jokes” about her being the queen can carry nefarious consequences.
If you ask most men, none of them would tell you they’re OK with being the subordinate in the relationship. But in spite many men resent subordination with words , they often accept it and go along with it with facts.
Why do so many men end up accepting the female’s frame of prize of the relationship?
Power dynamics help us understand why.
It’s actually relatively easy and natural for many women to frame themselves as the prize. In spite of hypergamy, couples often get together at around the same levels of value.
But since in the sexual marketplace women are the demand and men are the offer, the power differential is skewed on her side -not always, but often.
Men do all the approaching and women just send out the signals . The prey-hunter dynamic further warps men’s mindset, who feel lucky and blessed once they can finally stop the chasing.
Thus, when men finally enter the relationship, they are already primed for accepting women’s demands.
Why do Women Work to Control Men?
The question comes naturally to any inquisitive mind.
Why do women work so hard to control men and take the reins of the relationship?
It all goes back to biology, evolution, and male parental investment.
It’s a complex issue, but we’ll make it as brief as possible.
Male parental investment is the measure of how much males invest in their offspring.
Matt Ridley explains that in species where the male does not invest at all, the female only cares about his genes -partially conveyed by his looks-. She does not care about his resources, fidelity, or investment because she knows she can’t get them anyway.
In the animal kingdom, human men are around the middle of male parental investment. That means, in practice, that men invest in their children, but not always , and not as much as women .
So here is why women want to control men:
Women seek to control men because they can get resources from them, but since not all men will do so, women need to make sure their partners will help and provide.
We can speculate -remember: parts of evolutionary psychology is speculative- that women who were able to better control men’s resources and investment have been more successful over evolutionary time, had more children who survived and thrived, and spread their “controlling genes” far and wide.
And that’s why women’s techniques of compliance and control are today the norm, rather than the exception.
And even leaving evolutionary arguments aside, isn’t it just a more comfortable life for a rational female if she can control his man?
Of course it is.
A domesticated man makes for better-fed children, and for an easier life.
In the end, a woman’s work on a man is an act of domestication.
Final Observations & Exceptions
In the sexual market place, average women are worth far more than average men. And that gives men a strong power advantage.
Describing Facts, not Bashing Genders
Finally, I am aware that this post might sound critical towards women.
And I want to make it clear that this is not a post to denigrate women -or men.
This is simply a description of how the dynamics of power evolve in most -but not all- relationships.
It can also happen that it’s the man who takes the judge role. However, most of the times, in most relationships, the woman will (subconsciously) work to make him into a provider for her and the family.
There is no judgment in that, it’s simply how it is.
This is also not to say that men should avoid being providers.
But both men and women will always be better off once they are aware of relationship power dynamics and of the conscious and subconscious tools each gender use for relationship control.