Can I still take charge if I'm not a superhero?

While the concept of the impossibly firm, always calm, high-dominance man in charge in a Taken In Hand relationship certainly sounds appealing, I can think of multiple reasons why it just can’t work, unless the man is some sort of super hero, and we all know they exist only in comic books and movies.

In reality we’re left with what can only be described as the real man, a fallible being who can’t possibly aspire to being a take-charge super hero.

Consider the following:

Real Men Have Needs

Cara Mia says she feels safe and cared for when lying in bed with my arms around her. The same doesn’t hold true for me (nor should it) but I have to admit there are days, when life has kicked my balls firmly up about my neck, that I feel the need to be cuddled by Cara Mia. (Is this considered ‘mommying’?) How could the husband in a Taken In Hand relationship possibly have this need? Isn't he a high-dominance take-charge super hero?

Real Men Aren’t Always Confident

This is personally the biggest monkey on my back: a temporary, but debilitating lack of confidence. I have to think this happens to everyone from time to time. Sometimes it’s just a matter of having a bad day at work that leaves you beaten, battered and bruised and in need of a recharge. Or, perhaps a long day with too little sleep the night before. Or…do we still have biorhythms? Perhaps you’re having a low biorhythm day.

How can the husband in a Taken In Hand relationship possibly lack confidence, even for a split second? Don't you need to be super-confident to be in charge in a marriage?

Real Men Need to Vent

While there are times when, say a co-worker, needs a good throttling, workplace ethics frown on this sort of thing and so you take your frustration home with you.

Last week I listened to Cara Mia vent for 45 minutes about what was bothering her, which mates are supposed to do for each other.

The very next day a situation at my job escalated and I seriously wanted to throttle two of my co-workers. As a real man, I needed a chance to vent my frustration, but I’m sure the impossibly firm, always calm, high-dominance man in charge in a Taken In Hand relationship would have just taken the situation in his stride. A super hero doesn't need to vent, right?

Real Men Apologize When They Are Wrong

OK, so this morning I was a bit of an ass. As a real man I will apologize to Cara Mia later today. But how could an alpha male super hero type apologize? Wouldn't that diminish his power and control? Or… could apologizing possibly make the husband in a Taken In Hand relationship somehow stronger?

Real Men Aren’t Afraid to Show Weakness

No anecdotes for this one, I’m just throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks.

Real Men Are Sometimes Jealous

No anecdote for this one either, just fishing a little.

Hopefully it’s obvious that I’m having a little fun here, but I would love to hear some feedback about how these issues fit in with being the take-charge husband in a Taken In Hand relationship.

With this in mind, I have a few questions:

1. Do any of these things diminish a man's perceived dominance level or otherwise make it difficult for him to be in charge in his marriage?

2. Do you have to deal with any of these issues?

3. If so, how do you cope with them?

4. What issues do you have to deal with that I haven't listed above?

Robin F. (with a penis)

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Re: Can I still take charge if I'm not a super hero?

Brilliant, Robin. Thanks for the reminder that we are talking about real live fallible human beings here.

Of course real men (as opposed to fantasy superheroes) have needs too. Of course real men (as opposed to fantasy superheroes) sometimes need a cuddle. Of course real men (as opposed to fantasy superheroes) sometimes suffer from self-doubt. Without a little humanity of this sort a man in charge might not be lovable. Women on this site have occasionally said that they wish their husbands were just aometimes a little bit more human, a little bit more affected by things.

Of course real men (as opposed to fantasy superheroes) sometimes suffer a severe crisis of confidence. This is real life, not marriage to a superhero. A good wife does everything she can to help her husband to believe in himself (in a wifely as opposed to motherly way).

Of course real men (as opposed to fantasy superheroes) sometimes need to vent. A good wife listens.

Of course real men apologise when they have done something wrong. I know Louise's favourite fantasy take-charge man, Gibbs, a take-charge character on the TV drama NCIS, has a rule against apologising but in real life a person who never apologises is weaker than one who can apologise: never apologising when one is warranted is a self-protective defence.

Of course real men (as opposed to fantasy superheroes) aren't afraid to show weakness. You might like this article, in which the author presents a real-life example of this very idea.

Of course real men (as opposed to fantasy superheroes) sometimes experience jealousy. To be stable, a marriage needs to be balanced. It also needs to have desire. If there is no possibility of even a hint of jealousy in a marriage, the marriage is at risk, because there is a lack of passionate desire. When you desire your spouse, it is completely natural to feel the occasional touch of jealousy because if your spouse is desirable to you, he or she is undoubtedly desirable to others too. Excessive jealousy would suggest that the marriage is dangerously unbalanced, or that it feels that way to the excessively jealous spouse. Either way, the marriage would then be in danger. You might be interested in reading this post and the comments following.

In his book, Kosher Adultery, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes:

“Marriages should be based not on trust, but on tension. Not on routine, but on raging emotion. Not on respect, but on jealousy. Not on confidence, but suspicion.
      Sounds crazy, right? But think of it this way: When you trust that your spouse will never be erotically attracted to a stranger and will never be unfaithful, you start taking him or her for granted. Isn't this really the number-one killer of marriage? Isn't growing bored and ‘falling out of love’ the most lethal of all marital illnesses? Won't a relationship be doomed if a couple is complacent and smug to the point of not having to work at it anymore?”

Boteach argues that the standard advice that trust is the foundation of marriage, and that jealousy is bad, is terrible advice, leading to complacenet, boring, lifeless, passionless marriages.

In The Passion Trap, (formerly published as The Passion Paradox), Dean C. Delis and Cassandra Phillips do a marvellous job of showing that feelings of intense jealousy can occur in perfectly normal individuals who are simply in a relationship that is unbalanced, with the other person being less in love with them than they are with that person.

In The Married Man Sex Life Primer 2011, Athol Kay gives some very practical advice for men whose wives are hotter than they are (and who thus may be feeling very jealous and making all sorts of mistakes in their marriage in their desperation to keep their hot wife). I don't agree with all the advice he gives (though much of it is excellent) but his insights about the importance of balance for the stability of a marriage are spot on.

When you take your wife out in public, and you see other men wanting her, if there is no possibility of you feeling even a hint of jealousy, you probably don't feel all that much passion for your wife, and I would advise your wife to take steps to increase her attractiveness to bring the marriage into balance. Likewise, if your wife were so completely sure of herself that there was never the possibility of any hint of jealousy on her part, I would strongly advise you to up your game, by adopting a more bossy, confident approach to your wife and perhaps by working out and becoming more muscular, etc., as Athol Kay advises.

None of these things makes it impossible to be in charge in your marriage. As to whether any of these things reduce the perceived dominance level of a man, well, who cares? Some of them might a bit, but so what? Reduced does not mean eliminated.

And actually, Robin, you don't have to feel naturally dominant to take charge either. Plenty of men learn to take charge and enjoy doing so despite having no apparent natural dominance before they decide to try taking charge. In The Married Man Sex Life Primer 2011, Athol Kay writes fascinatingly about how he and his wife were both submissive and used to get frustrated with each other because each wanted to defer to the other and that made it difficult to make decisions. He writes about how very unnatural it was to him to take charge, and how surprised he was to discover that his wife actually liked him to make decisions and be a bit bossy.

As for the monkey on your back, my advice would be to try to act as if you are confident, as well as actively working to solve whatever problems have led to this crisis in confidence, so that eventually, you will actually feel more confident. Taking charge more with your wife is highly likely to make you feel more confident, especially as you see how it affects her (like Athol Kay saw how it affected his wife).

Best of luck!

Superhero, doubtful, doing my best, more likely!!

I am very fortunate to have a very lovely wife, who has what could be considered an old fashioned attitude to life, she lights up when I take control, which has done wonders for our marriage, Yet I have never been under any pressure to be perfect. I do my best with what I have at my disposal. I am learning to take charge more and be more assertive but it does not come naturally to me: I am by nature a sharer and mixer, more than a little daunting to take control but the more I see my wife's positive reaction to my control, the easier it becomes.

To the men: don't pressure yourselves to be perfect. Ladies, please don't pressure your man to be perfect. I am developing my own style and without pressure I hope that will develop even futher and moreover in a way we both like.

By the way if I suddenly develop the ability to fly or become impervious to bullets I will let you all know.

Good riddance to Clark Kent!

Wow. I can't speak for anyone else here, but that description of a man who is always cool, calm, centered, rational and always in control of himself and etc.—that would totally turn me off. Really NOT my cup of tea at all. And I don't really see why anyone would assume that sort of personality would be preferable in a Taken In Hand kind of relationship.

I have always been drawn to men who are intensely passionate and emotional; fierce and fiery and funny; mystical and eccentric and quixotic; spontaneous and crazy and impulsive. The men I've loved would weep when sad, scream and even get physical when enraged, dance and sing and cavort when happy, have a hilarious and often wacky sense of humor and make devilish mischief every day just for the heck of it. I'm drawn to a very mercurial personality—unpredictable, with a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of moods and feelings. I love the thrill of being on that ride. There is no way in hades that I would want some lobotomized zombie who is totally predictable and so lacking in emotional depth or so emotionally repressed that he seldom shows any spontaneity or intense emotions. Ugh.

I have long believed that men are much more emotional than women are, on average, but that they have a much bigger stake in hiding their emotions in order to mask their vulnerability. That may be necessary if he's a soldier out on the battlefield—literal or metaphorical battlefield—but when he's with his loved ones he should be fully free to feel and express his deepest, truest emotions. If anything, I would assume that I would be the one who's more cool, calm, rational, thoughtful, wise and all that. (I'm also emotionally intense. But I'm always drawn to men who are even more intense than I am.)

To my mind, the man's power over me is not only a physical power and a sexual power, but it's also an emotional power—that is, the power of his passions is where his real strength comes from. With that passion also comes vulnerability, yes—but there is no contradiction at all in my mind between strength and vulnerability. For me, his commanding presence is not a matter of him being calm and collected, but a matter of him being intense and intent on bending me to his will. Are there times when it helps if he can remain calm and collected, instead of swinging to emotional extremes? Sure, of course. And the same goes for the woman too. But that is only sometimes, not all the time.

For one thing, I don't see the man's control as something that needs to be going on all the time. Yes, there would be times when he feels hurt or vulnerable or afraid, and I don't at all mind being the one to comfort him and provide security. That's not a situation in which I would feel much sexual attraction, but then I would not be feeling much sexual attraction if I were the one feeling vulnerable and in need of comfort, either. My idea is more of a shifting balance—where the man is, on average, more in charge than the woman. But it's a balance more like 60/40 than 100/0.

But even when he is at his most dominant, for me that should be a moment of fierce passion and intensity, not a moment of calm rationality. I can do the calm rationality thing by myself, thanks. What I need from a man is the emotive firepower for him to overwhelm my cool and calm. The main thing is that he needs to be willing and able to take the reins when and if he feels that need or I feel that need. And for me that would occur mostly in romantic and sexual settings. I'm not really interested in being under his control all the time. Mainly that is appealing when it's done for erotic reasons. In that context, he would need to be totally and absolutely dominant—and he would need to relish and enjoy and get turned on by his dominance. It's not a moment for cool and calm, but a moment for fierce passions and sheer animal heat.

But in other settings I would expect more balance, more of an ebb and flow. When we're both cool, calm and collected is when there is no passion and no dominance going on. When we need to sit and think and solve problems, for example. I'm not sure why there is this common idea that he's "not really" in charge unless he's being bossy one hundred percent of the time. If you're working for your boss at your job, is he always telling you what to do about everything all the time? Probably not. And he probably often asks your input and advice on things, too. Why should marriage with a take-charge husband be so different?

In any case, I don't see where this idea comes from, that a man is higher dominance if he's a cold fish who is never moved spontaneously by his passions. That would just be boring to me. That's why the character of Clark Kent was never very interesting or appealing—there was not much fire there, not much depth, not much humor, not much vulnerability, not much darkness, not much passion, not much mischief or humor or charisma or anything that would fascinate and attract me. Maybe other "superheroes" have more depth—like Batman, for example. I like the dark, brooding mystery there. But he also needs to lighten up—maybe get a bit of the Joker to rub off on him or something.

It also seems like a modern misconception of the hero to think that he's going to be this noble, serious, calm and unflappable character who is never driven to extremes. If you read about the epic heroes of ancient sagas and classical legends, they were not at all like that. They were fierce and fiery and emotional, and vulnerable too. In the Odyssey there are times where Odysseus breaks down and weeps like a woman because he feels so lost and alone. That kind of hero is much more appealing to me than the cool, calm, collected cardboard cutouts that never cry or yell or lose control.

And intense passion and vulnerabilty don't make a man flawed.
It's what makes him fascinating, exciting, lovable and sexy.
It's the guys who suppress and repress their emotions to the point where they seem like flat cardboard zombies that are flawed. Passionate and intense men are perfect in my book.

So I would not worry at all if you're genuine and emotional, and not one of those cool, flat, calm zombie types. I think that's a misconception of what it takes to be a strong, take-charge man who can take his woman in hand. You can be emotional and real, and still be strong and in control—if that's what you want. But if it's not what you really want—if the idea of taking charge of your woman is just not all that appealing or exciting to you, if it doesn't kindle some fire down below—then that would be the real issue, I would think. Good luck with everything, whatever you choose to do.

In praise of Clark Kent

I think you all are vastly misreading Clark Kent. He is a very passionate person, his passions are focused however and he pursues them relentlessly. They direct him but they don't control him. He fights for the things he is passionate about, justice, the lives and well being of those less powerful than himself. He loves his friends and even strangers enough to put his life on the line again and again when he could instead just make his own life very comfortable and not bother with them. Even in his day job he fights for the things that matter to him.

And while he is hard to hurt physically, he carries the burden of being alone in a way none of us ever will be. The last of his people, a stranger who must hide at times how different he is just to be treated like others are. A man who could rule the earth by force easily, but who is restrained by his own morals and nothing else.

Lois is the emotional storm, the wild horse he bridles or the ship that he anchors.


I'm afraid, Robin, you will have to try your very best. You are absolutely expected to be a hero, although not a super hero—you exaggerate there.

Your Cara will not see your need for affection as a weakness. She wants you to need her body. She may lose track of your need and shift focus to hers, but why split hairs?

I suppose the best way to handle a lack of confidence is to work harder. This is what my husband tells me when I lack confidence. "You're nervous because you're under-prepared." He works very hard.

My husband, I'll admit, vents about work. At these times, when cool calm control seems at least half an hour away, I feel somewhat put upon. Does your Cara find you good-looking, Robin? Because that certainly helps.

My husband apologizes to me for matters entirely out of his control like the weather. These godlike apologies are more fun than his terser apologies for actual mistakes but those are necessary too.

I happen to like jealousy, and many women enjoy it. My husband seems to be under the impression that I might in all innocence accidentally cheat on him, slip up, if he doesn't warn me off from it. I suppose I should be insulted, but I think it's kind of cute the way he talks about men as if they were cars hurtling down the streets I cross. Jealousy doesn't undermine his control at all. He isn't afraid I'll love another man, just get creamed by one.

If you find my expectations too great, you can take comfort that I'm newly married.


Super Heroes are boring

Yeah, I'm not attracted to Clark Kent at all either. Calm and non emotional makes him boring. The Hulk (Bruce Banner?) is more interesting. More intense too. Okay, maybe The Hulk is a little TOO intense (not really turned on by the whole mean green thing :p) but I'd rather take my chances with him than be bored to death by Superman. :)

Seriously, real men have real emotions. The whole gambit of them. They get mad but they also get sad. They get confident but they also get vulnerable.

And they should be able to show ALL of those emotions to their wife. If there is one person you should be able to be yourself, all of yourself, with... It's her.

Real men vs superhero men

I'll admit confidence is attractive to me. Also calmness. But that's probably because I was married to a man who was angry a lot of the time. That was too stressful for me to deal with longterm. Sure he was passionate and the sex was the best I've ever had but boy do I yearn for a calm man now.

My husband would never apologize ever. I view that as a fatal weakness.

My husband vented plenty. I've got no issue with that.

My husband was jealous and spied on me, reading my email and checking my cellphone and such. I didn't mind that.

I did mind the anger and blaming and accusing me of being unfeminine. That hurt bad.

You sound like my husband!

Yeah, especially the parts about needs, confidence, venting, apologizing, weakness and jealousy. How about insecurity and occasional laziness?

Is he still my hero? Absolutely!

LilyRose: Yeah, Clark Kent never really appealed to me, either. Han Solo, on the other hand? Definitely yummy! And Wolverine? Absolutely drool-worthy!! Both are imperfect, right? At least by superman standards, but I love a man who's impulsive, passionate and a little unpredictable.

Um: "He isn't afraid I'll love another man, just get creamed by one." LOL—Was that intentional? I wonder if my husband sees lascivious glances from other men where there aren't any. He loves me to wear skirts, but is somewhat reluctant to let me leave the house in one, and WON'T let me go out in a skirt without him, at all. He's even funny about me wearing shorts as the weather starts to warm up.

Robin F. (with a penis)—Here's how human my man is: He was orphaned at a young age, but was adopted by his grandparents, both of whom died of cancer by the time he was 26. He had nothing. He got himself through college, then graduate school, while his two older brothers either broke legs for a living or committed suicide. And it's been a lot worse than only what I've mentioned, here.

But my point is that sh*t happens, and everyone, men, women and children have to do their best to get past it. Is Drew less than superhero-perfect? Sure he is, but I've never met anyone who wasn't. And I think every woman on this site will readily admit their men aren't perfect all the time. But I'll bet they love, admire and devote themselves to them, anyway...

No Skirts Out!

Mariela, you should argue for a change in policy! I can wear skirts as Catholic as I please.

My husband's fine with my clothes—jeans or skirts, but he gets charmingly hot and bothered by my friendliness with men in general. He thinks I send confusing signals—as in "Hi, I'm Little Red Riding Hood." Part of this is that he's from a small town, and he still thinks of the city—my city—as dangerous. There's another weakness for you, Robin—a boyish lack of street smarts.


My husband is the opposite

My taste in skirts runs mostly to long (3/4 length) boho/hippy style skirts. I just love the way they flow when I move. I usually wear peasant style tops and flip flops/ sandles with them. I think I look cute in those outfits but I wouldn't say they are "sexy" at all.

My husband agrees. So he picked out this sexy outfit for me to wear sometimes when we go out. It wouldn't be my first choice but he likes it so I make a point to wear it sometimes.

The point is my husband doesn't mind me looking sexy at all. In fact, he really likes it when I do. And it doesn't bother him at all when men look at me. It amuses him.

He's very confident and isn't the least bit worried about another man. That's one of the things I like best about him. ;)

You guys are funny

And of course I don't want my husband to be a super hero. As long as he is my super hero, I don't care! :D
I love when he vents about work because it is something I can do to help him calm down. When listening doesn't work, we usually shift to the bedroom.
I don't need my husband to be 100% in control of himself all the time, as long as he doesn't lose focus, and turns needy, I am okay with whatever happens.

Skirts out, but...

Well, for one thing, I don't miss skirts. With the kinds of activities I get up to, skirts are just not appropriate, i.e., gardening, climbing ladders, horse-riding, dog training—actually had a bloodhound who liked sticking his head up women's skirts. Yeah, he didn't believe in propriety!

Jeans were always more my thing (grew up on a farm, so there it is), and that was what initially attracted my husband. He loves the way women look in blue jeans. "Green eyes and Levis", is the phrase he always uses when people ask him about when we met.

But he does let me out of the house in skirts, just not around some of his friends. So, it's usually when we go out to dinner, or something and we are alone. I love the way the flowing boho-hippy skirts look, too, and DH thinks I'm cute in those, but mostly he likes the above-the-knee, but not mini skirts, look. I guess it depends on his mood, if he wants a cute hippy, or a casual-sexy woman on his arm.

One thing I hate wearing, however, is panty-hose. I think they are better suited to disguising bank robbers than wearing on one's legs. But other than that, I am not a fashion plate so I really don't care what I wear so long as I don't look like a drag queen.

With you on that

I'm with you on the panty-hose. I absolutely hate them! Maybe that's why I gravitate towards the boho style skirts. :)

Being in control

On the clothing issue: I, too, really hate high heels and short skirts. I prefer slacks and blouses, but long hippie/boho skirts are fine, too; or medium length dresses with black tights. However, I don't want to get too far off-topic here, so let me mention that there are already a few topics for discussing clothing choices:

How should a woman dress?

How my husband took my clothing choices in hand

Do you have clothing standards for your wife?

Now back to the "superhero" issue:

It seems to me that the main issue here (aside from the OP's question about how to gain more confidence) is a paradox inherent to Taken In Hand relationships. Namely: (1) Taken In Hand is all about the man taking active control of the woman. (With her eager willingness.) (2) It seems obvious that one must first be in control of one's own self, before one can responsibly take control of another person. (3) It seems equally obvious that nobody is ever totally in control of themselves all the time.

How can we resolve this essential paradox?
I would be interested in hearing some ideas.

For my part, I would be willing to give up a bit on all three propositions above. With regard to (1), I don't necessarily want the man to be in control all the time. For me it's mainly a romantic thing; and when it comes to other issues, then I think we both need to have input and choice. As for (2), I'm not sure that being in control of oneself is always necessary in order to be in control of someone else. A good example would be ravishment—where the man might give in to his uncontrollable lustful urges, and pin the woman down and ravish her. He is very clearly in control of her, even if he is not fully in control of himself.

And with regard to point (3): I don't think it's an all-or-nothing thing, where his control over himself is either totally there or totally missing. It's not Either/Or, but a matter of degrees. We are, all of us, being influenced all the time, both by forces deep within us and by forces outside of us—sometimes subtly, sometimes in obvious ways. Our deep subconscious minds have a huge influence over our behavior, in ways that the conscious mind does not always understand or even approve of. Likewise, as members of society, we find ourselves compelled to act in certain ways just in order to maintain our good standing within the tribe. Sometimes this compulsion to behave in certain ways is overt, in the way of laws and rules and regulations; and sometimes it's covert, in the form of subtle peer pressure to conform to cultural expectations. We can often choose to override these pressures, whether they are inner forces or outer forces; but we don't do that all the time or it would make our lives very uncomfortable or even difficult.

So it's more a matter of balance: that is, the man having more control than the woman does, most of the time. Not being 100% in control of everything all the time. Therefore, no superpowers are required. Just a healthy degree of inner integrity and strength of character; as well as the physical strength to compel his woman's compliance if such coercion is an integral part of their Taken In Hand relationship.

~ lilyrose

Real Men

I don't have a problem with any of these things, I accept it as a fact that my husband is not a superhero and isn't always going to be perfectly in command of every situation, and that he is going to need to vent etc.

However, I don't think it has ever occured to my husband that he needs to be a perfect superhero, so I don't think he worries about those things. I think probably you have been reading too much about these perfect 'Alpha Male' types.

Anyway, a man who was always perfect would be a bit trying to have about the house, as he would be too much of a strain to live up to. It would quickly become very tiresome.


You said it.

Louise states: "Anyway, a man who was always perfect would be a bit trying to have about the house, as he would be too much of a strain to live up to. It would quickly become very tiresome."

Yup! I'm sure anyone who grew up with a *perfect* sibling or cousin would instantly agree with that statement.


It's understood

Robin—I don't mean to sound glib, but I just assumed that everyone understood that all men have their vulnerabilities. The difference is, will he let those vulnerabilites prevent him from being the best man he can be?



Stephen shoots lightning from his fingers, Noone reads minds (with some interfering static), VelvetHammer always arrives by horse (white), Max Maximovich laughs to produce earthquakes, and Louise's husband always wears a suit with dress shoes.


Another interpretation

This is my first post and I registered so I could comment on this post, so please be gentle! Heh

My future husband and I have a bit of a different theory about "super powers".

Having "super powers" (to us) means having ultimate influence. "Super powers" means never having to worry about feeling less important than anyone else to the person who matters most to you. It's knowing that this person you've put all your trust into cherishes that trust.

You don't have to be a comic book or movie-perfect super hero. Super powers are bestowed, gifted. When I do something I know he will love or appreciate, I do it because he has super powers that make me want to. Or if I don't do something I know will hurt his feelings, it's for the same reason. And vice versa. Super powers!

In addition, I would never want him to be calm, collected and perfect. I'm so scatter-brained and eclectic, I'd never measure up and would always feel as though I were falling short. I love his imperfections!