Effect positive change by acting as if...

In an earlier article I explained that women who want their husband to take them in hand sometimes inadvertently undermine their husband's efforts to change. In that piece, I made some suggestions to help you facilitate rather than sabotage change. In this piece, I'd like to take a closer look at one technique that can make all the difference: “acting as if”.

If you want your husband to take control, one of the many things you can do that might help is to act as if the change has already happened. I shall explain why this works to facilitate change in a moment, but first, what exactly does it mean to “act as if” the changes have already happened? How do you “act as if”?

Begin by asking yourself the following question: If the change had already happened, what specifically would I be doing differently?

That is to say, what observable actions of yours would be different. Be specific. The answer is not “I would feel great!” I am asking what you would be doing differently, not how you would be feeling.

Yes, of course you would feel great. How would that show? What would you be doing that would tell your husband and others that you feel great?

You would be smiling more. You might be more animated. You might speak with a more enthusiastic tone of voice. You might be giving your husband more of what he wants. You might be unusually laidback about problems. (How would this manifest itself in specific, observable actions?) Your face and body language might look more relaxed, peaceful, serene, and happy. You might be more attentive to your husband's needs. (How would this manifest itself in specific, observable actions?) You might go out of your way to please him.

If he were taking you in hand, you might speak to him more respectfully, more lovingly, more happily. You might be more careful not to do things you know he hates. You might make more of an effort to do things for him that he would like. You might consult him more. You might be expressing more appreciation for him. You might accept decisions he makes instead of fighting him. (How would this manifest itself in specific, observable actions?) You might want him more sexually, and convey that with your eyes and body language. You might be less demanding and a lot more giving. (How would this manifest itself in specific, observable actions?) Even your tone of voice might convey more respect and deference and admiration for him.

Ask yourself what you would be doing differently if things were as you want them to be, and make a written list of every possible specific, observable difference. Check that everything on your list is specific and observable. When you have created this list, instead of waiting for your husband to change (and as I have said, often the husband has already changed and the wife simply can't see it) change yourself. Start making the changes you have listed—the changes you think would be the result of your husband taking you in hand.

Yes, I know. You think this is a crazy idea, but it is not. It is actually a standard technique that gets results. It is a way of facilitating change instead of sabotaging it.

“Acting as if” works in a number of different ways. Dwelling on the negative makes people feel worse. Acting as if things were how you would like them to be takes your focus off what is lacking and encourages you to focus on the positive. It takes your focus off yourself and puts it more on the relationship and the other person. This makes you feel better whatever else is happening.

“Acting as if” stops you pushing for change, and makes real change possible. It concentrates your mind on changing yourself instead of changing the other person. Trying to change the other person is fraught with danger and likely to be counterproductive. It is disrespectful and can be controlling. When you instead “act as if” things were how you want them to be, you are effectively giving him control, and you are also being nicer to him. And when you are kinder and more considerate, most people respond positively and become more generous-hearted towards you in turn.

Think of the relationship as a system. When you make changes by, for example, “acting as if” things were how you want them to be, you are making changes in the system that affect the system as a whole. Other parts of the system can be affected by even a small change somewhere in the system.

Some readers may be asking: isn't this technique manipulative? Actually no. In no way does it depend on keeping it a secret. Your husband might well be a psychologist who fully understands this technique, and it could still work. You could mention that you are “acting as if” and that would not be a problem (unless in telling him you were dumping yet more unhappiness and dissatisfaction on him). It is more about taking the pressure off your husband and changing yourself instead. That is not manipulation; that is taking action yourself to solve your own problem.

You may think that “acting as if” would make your husband less likely to take you in hand, because he would have less reason to take you in hand. You may think that behaving badly would be more likely to have the desired effect, because then he would have more reason to take you in hand. Big mistake. Colossal, egregious error! To provoke him by behaving badly (apart from playfully, which is entirely different) would be to subject him to a very nasty form of blackmail. If he has any sense, any self-respect, and any dominant tendencies, that is likely to disgust him. It may even make him do the opposite of what you want. He is much more likely to find it in his heart to give you what you want if you are being kind to him than if you are behaving badly.

“Acting as if” things were as you want them gives both of you a taste of the experience of your husband being in control. This can be surprisingly powerful for the woman as well as the man. You may be thinking that this is a lot of nonsense, and that the only thing that will satisfy you is being taken in hand and brought to submission, and I have every sympathy with that idea. However, if we have already established that that is not happening (at the moment, at any rate), it is in your interests to stop thinking about what you don't have, and start enjoying what you do have. And when you do things like “acting as if” he were in control and taking you in hand, you are giving him authority and control, and this helps you to become attuned to much more subtle control than you may currently think you need.

Women who put their heart into this tend to grow to appreciate the smallest expression of authority on the man's part. When the woman consults the man, this in itself can be thrilling. At first, the man may well react as though he finds it most peculiar to be consulted, but at some point he may simply reply by telling the woman what to do. The woman then experiences the pleasure and the thrill of being controlled.

The power of that thrill can be very surprising if you have in the past been narrowly focused on control through spanking. You can become attuned to much more subtle control if you give yourself the chance. But it might well be that when your man has the experience of being in control over time, he will develop a taste for it and change himself.

You may not notice any positive changes immediately. It takes time, sometimes a very long time. But often, when a man gets used to being treated well and to having control, he grows into that position of authority, gradually changing as he does so. As he learns to enjoy having control, that starts to inform his thinking and actions. And as a result of his consequent changes, his wife gets very excited and feels deeply peaceful too. She melts, and becomes ever more adoring and thrilled, and that inspires him further.

“Acting as if” things were as you want them tends to stop any vicious circle in its tracks and replace it with a virtuous circle in which each tiny positive change leads to a host of other positive changes, which snowball into more and more positive changes. Somewhere along the line, you may yet find yourself being thoroughly and violently and painfully taken in hand and cursing yourself for having given your husband the idea!

the boss

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I do have problems with this

I do have problems with this technique in that acting 'as if' is in some ways denying 'what is'. If 'what is' is a source of dissatisfaction, then it's hard to act as though you're already receiving the benefits of whatever it is you want because acting that way would be incongruent with what you're feeling. From this point of view acting 'as if' is, in essence, acting, rather than being genuine.

It might also convey to the other party that you're in fact satisfied with the staus quo, signalling to them that there's nothing more they need to really do. I believe it would have operated this way with my husband. A partner who does not really want to change, who is uncomfortable with the whole idea, will be only too pleased if, instead of his wife acting as if change is necessary or articulating any needs in that direction, she is acting as if she is fully satisfied by things exactly as they are.

Does this technique accord with the concept of attempting to 'seduce' the other partner's dominance by behaving submissively towards them that is recommended on some other websites? If so, then however well intentioned, I can't avoid the conclusion that it's manipulative as ultimately it's seeking to change the other for one's own benefit but without making this explicit. It seeks to elicit certain 'desirable' behaviour from the other partner without stating that up front.

I can see how acting 'as if' might work when say, someone who has no spiritual beliefs or practices acts as if they do to receive the benefits that spiritual practice brings. In those circumstances no change is anticipated in another person, only in the self. Where I think it becomes problematic is if the motive is to change someone else's behaviour. However much you may be thinking that you're changing yourself, if you're doing it in a relationship context, having tried a more direct means, then the conclusion is inescapable that it's really your husband you're still hoping to change. After all, a woman who attempts this is already convinced of the benefits of a Taken in Hand lifestyle. It's the man she's hoping to convince by one means or another.

I suppose I think that joint issues cannot really be tackled effectively unless they're first articulated. I agree that if a wife is consistently pressing her husband to change then he may well feel not accepted as he is and put up resistance because he feels criticised and threatened. Perhaps the challenge is managing to present these needs to one's husband in a non threatening and uncritical manner, emphasising what is already fulfilling in the relationship.

I agree that if one changes one's own behaviour then from a systemic viewpoint other parts of the 'system' (the husband in this case) will adapt. The thing is, his reaction will be determined by him and may not be at all in the direction wanted or anticipated by the woman. And whilst it is always good to change in the direction of giving one's husband more respect and consideration, I question whether one could smile more or be more animated in circumstances where one is feeling disappointed or frustrated. Where one is feeling satisfied by other aspects of the marriage, then of course this would be quite genuine and not acting 'as if'.

To give an example from my own marriage. If I attempted to consult my husband more, he acted angrily as though I was pressurising him and should be able to make these decisions on my own. Any asking of his opinion would usually be met with irritation. I could not demonstrate I wanted him more sexually. I did want him sexually; it was he who consistently rejected me sexually. In these circumstances I could not be more animated and smile more because I felt at fault for pressuring him and rejected sexually. Giving him more of what he wanted would have meant leaving him alone more and tolerating a level of interaction, shared social activity and sex that was far, far below what I needed and, I have to say, far below what most people would consider acceptable in a marriage.

Changing the self is certainly focusing on the only person one has the power to change. But I can envisage a situation when one might get fed up acting 'as if' one is getting what one needs when one clearly isn't. And I wonder how long you need to act in this way to get results. Is it the self who changes to become satisfied with providing their own submissive fulfilment (or whatever someone is seeking) without a great degree of active participation from their husband? Or is the hope that one's husband will get to like it and, having already had an introduction by more direct means, be led to reflect and reconsider things for himself?

Surely there comes a point, if no changes take place in your husband, where you're back to considering whether you need to drop the issue and find a way to live enjoyably with your husband without it, or to find a new partner who will better satisfy your needs? Surely for any meaningful progress to be made in any direction, one eventually has to accept 'what is'?

I can see both sides

Essentially, what this article seems to be proposing is a "fake it til you make it" idea, and there are some possible benefits to it, but one thing in the post troubles me some. It may well be true that women who propose a Taken in Hand relationship to their husband (or significant other) don't see or recognize the extent to which changes by him have been made...the flip side is when the woman does this proposed behavior and those changes are not noticed at all by her husband, then what? Women are certainly not the only ones prone to overlooking positive changes.

Unfortunately I have tried this theory (albeit only for a few months), and the reaction I got was most similar to Lauren's reply. I made myself available sexually a lot of the time, and mostly what he seemed to want was to be left alone more, and more, and more. As I am the more verbal one in this relationship my not "bothering" him with conversation about our relationship only turned out to mean that we had zero communication.

There were a few areas though, that worked well in this regard. He is happier that I consult him about where I go or what I do or who I talk to. He is happier when I call him when I get home from work and let him know I am here (though I think the reason he's happier about that one is because he starts the timeclock at home and knows how much time I've had to get things done around the house.) But he infinitely not happier when I consult him about things like, "Honey, what color paint would you like for the kitchen?" This, of course is because he simply does not care what color the kitchen is as long as it is in the realm of colors I know he likes, but giving him paint samples that are all in that realm and asking him to pick one drives him mad.

Anyhow, that's my two cents worth...like most suggestions on this site, everything is not going to work for everyone. Pick and choose what you think will work for your own relationship, but you really have to try this one to see if it will work, as I said, for me, there are some areas that have worked really well this way and have produced some change (without my nagging for it), and some where it didn't work at all.

I can't comment on whether it is manipulative or not because the coin is still up in the air for me.

a few comments


I had a different impression of 'acting as if'. I understood the word 'act' to be like 'behave'. I did not think of act in terms of playing a role on stage, screen, or in the home. It's just a word, but if you reread the original and substitute behave for act the overall impression is different. It does not seem like one is trying to seduce or deceive (by changing behavior).

Whether we say act or behave, or tomayto or tomahto, I think you are right when you say "I suppose I think that joint issues cannot really be tackled effectively unless they're first articulated". So behaving as if will not work if your partner has no idea what the behavior means.

When you talk about 'as if' versus 'what is', it seems to me that the way we behave in an intimate relationship defines 'what is'. Again, I think you are right to say "changing the self is certainly focusing on the only person one has the power to change".

But the way we act towards another person depends a lot on our perceptions of the other person (as well as our perceptions of ourself). By changing your behaviour, your partner's perception of you will probably change. This will usually lead to a change in your partner's behaviour. I don't see this as manipulation or seduction, but I expect others would disagree.

As you say, "the thing is, his reaction will be determined by him and may not be at all in the direction wanted or anticipated by the woman". I think that is true, but there is no reason to expect a reaction that makes things worse.

This is all very nice in theory, sort of based on Albert Ellis. I realize it may not work for many or most, but I think it is not silly or impossible. I am not trying to argue with you or convince you of anything. If you have tried it and found it didn't work, then that's the real 'what is' for you.


Reply to a few comments


Thank you for your comments on my post. It's always interesting to consider another perspective.

I understand you have a different interpretation and approach to acting 'as if'. My view around the word ‘act’ in this context probably comes from my difficulty with being incongruent—feeling one thing but acting another. I don’t feel I’m being genuine in those circumstances. Others may take a more detached approach and see it simply as a technique to employ.

Perhaps whether one believes it is worth attempting depends on the degree of dissatisfaction in the relationship and whether one believes it will have a positive outcome. Most people make predictions after all before embarking on a course of action.

To take an extreme example, if a woman’s husband becomes violent and hits her when he is angry and she has tried to sort this out in direct ways but has been unsuccessful, it will not benefit her to act as if her husband does not hit her and as if he is already behaving in a non violent way. Sometimes people’s personal issues are too strong for a change in their partner’s behaviour to make very much difference.

Where the marriage is otherwise good however, and, as an example, it may be an issue of the man feeling uncomfortable at departing from the ideal of ‘equality’ encouraged by society—or perhaps being uncomfortable with aspects of physical discipline (and I can understand men may be uncomfortable when introduced to this)—then the woman acting ‘as if’ may well work to demonstrate the benefits of this type of arrangement and allay the man’s reservations.

However, people’s personal resistance to assuming dominance can be based on many things—perhaps a reluctance to assume greater responsibility or greater engagement. Perhaps being completely unmoved personally by this kind of dynamic. In these sorts of cases then I think personal aspects of the individual will subvert any attempts by a wife who is acting ‘as if’. As we agreed, the man’s reaction will be determined by him, not by what his wife hopes for. There are any number of possible reactions. It may go completely contrary to what was hoped for. The woman behaving in a manner which indicates she is fulfilled and satisfied may give the man licence to be even more uninvolved.

If a woman is trying to get her man to assume a dominant position in the relationship and this is not working, then more fruitful I would think, would be approaching him in a non threatening way and trying to really understand what his objections are or where the stumbling blocks are occurring. It seems to me there are a number of qualities that someone must possess in order to be dominant. One is a willingness for the high level of engagement this entails. A high level of personal responsibility is necessary as is a rational approach. A man must also know his partner very well I should have thought, in order to always act in her best interests. Without these abilities, or the willingness to go to the effort of assuming them, then I suppose I think dominance is a bit of a non starter.

still more comments


Four quick ones

1) Is acting 'as if' genuine? If we choose to act or behave some way, then I think it is genuine for us. I don't mean to quibble about words, but it doesn't feel right to apply 'deceitful' or any other negative label.

2) It is "incongruous"(good word choice) and that will wear on a person over time. So acting 'as if' is a short term solution.

3) Or "technique" or "method" or something else ? Whatever the term, I don't think it is wrong. It either works or it doesn't.

4) I agree with your statement "then more fruitful I would think, would be approaching him in a non threatening way and trying to really understand what his objections are or where the stumbling blocks are occurring". Acting as if is not a substitute for communication, I think it just another way to try and improve a relationship.


It takes two - you can't fly Taken In Hand airlines solo

I'd have to agree with Lauren on this one. To me, Taken In Hand is all about meeting the needs of both parties, based on effective communication. That communication can take on many forms: verbal, written, body language, and others.

As in any relationship, it takes two to fly this airplane. If the husband just isn't interested in being in the cockpit (and it sure sounds like it in Lauren's case), you'd better consider the flight grounded.


It works but...

The techiniques in this post work with my husband. I'm the one who gives up—I'm way too impatient—then I have to start all over again. My frustration is that he isn't changing as quickly as I'd like. I am a dominant person who married a very laidback man. But he is a good man and I don't want to leave him. I would be insane to. So I have to work on 'acting as if' a lot, and I have to see every small effort on his part as a huge deal, because for him and me it is.
The good news is he is changing (if I can just hang in there) and he is worth the wait.
If I knew then (25 years ago) what I know now I would have married a different kind of man. But I didn't and I love what he is becoming, and he likes it too. I guess I'm more worried that he will get frustrated with me and decide I'm not worth it. These three articles by this writer are ones I have to go back to again and again. For women like me, they are worth their weight in gold.
Any suggestions from women who've been down this road? Or men who have learned to take charge? How long did it take you? Any short cuts, secrets, things to avoid, etc?

Short Cuts

I hope it's been going well for you Rita-I'm a believer in Taken In Hand, although I continue to struggle with taking charge (mostly unlearning all the BS I was taught growing up).

Anyway, my woman (lol...don't you just love the sound of that?) let's call her "Sue". Well after Sue and I discussed Taken In Hand, and decided it was what we were already heading for, I believe she started acting "as if"...she may disagree. But her acting "as if" made it feel like I was doing the things I needed to be doing, though I didn't feel I was *being* particularly in charge about things.

Because she acted "as if", I began to feel much more confident about what I was doing.

So acting "as if" *can* help-in the right circumstance.

Work on your patience-if he's already agreed to Taken In Hand, then you trying to push him is incongruent with your stated goals! If you want him to be the leader, stop trying to make him do something and *follow* him!

Often I hear women describe themselves as "forceful" or "driven"...as if that's something men should admire. The only way I see such women is bitchy and unattractive. Who wants to deal with a woman who pushes to get her way?

Bob TC wrote:

Bob TC wrote:

Often I hear women describe themselves as "forceful" or "driven"...as if that's something men should admire. The only way I see such women is bitchy and unattractive. Who wants to deal with a woman who pushes to get her way?

I would, for one. The woman for me is one that's wild and yes, fierce, not already tame, whom I can hunt, capture and tame into obedience to my will. Sure, it would not work for me if she was not tameable, but it would also not work for me if she was tame from the get-go. I want a real woman not an off-the-shelf submissive.


Pushy vs. pushover

Bob asked "Who wants to deal with a woman who pushes to get her way?"

But who wants to deal with a pushover?

If a woman is already in hand, how can you take her in hand?

Not denying what is, but creating some breathing room.

I disagree that this method of acting "as if" is of necessity ignoring bad conditions that are detrimental to your desired outcome. I think what's true is that women in particular are usually very focused on the endpoint they're looking for, while men live much more in the moment. (Now, that's not always true, but it does seem to be part of why things seem so difficult from the woman's perspective a lot of the time; she wants her husband to make these profound changes NOW, and isn't satisfied until he does.)

The problem with that attitude, is that NO ONE makes profound changes overnight. NO ONE. Not even the woman, who very much WANTS the man to take on more responsibility, take charge, and become the man she wants to see. This process is a learning experience, and it takes time to achieve. The man generally has no real guidance, just his wife's desires, and his own instincts. So if you consistently behave the way YOU want the desired outcome to look like, I believe you'll get a much better response from him than if you just assume (or hope) he'll get it and make these changes overnight. That's unrealistic.

So my thought is that even though the relationship is NOT where you want it to be, IF it's fundamentally sound, you are much better off ignoring a lot of the things you don't like about what he's doing, instead of picking at each piece of undesirable behavior. Eventually, that kind of picking at someone wears them down, and they become resentful and distant. Doesn't it make more sense to lovingly say some version of "Wouldn't it be better if we did this (fill in the blank)" than to constantly say "YOU aren't doing X, Y, Z, and I am disappointed." In my experience, men cannot hear "I am disappointed" for very long. They become very dispirited if you are constantly disappointed with them. They have to know that you support their change (and this includes keeping your mouth shut a lot of the time while they struggle to make those changes).

This also includes "not noticing" when he screws up. It includes not questioning him sharply every time he screws up. It means that you might have to be cheerful when you'd like to bite his head off. Basically, what it means is that you have to accept that he doesn't know what he's doing--yet. He will eventually, but no one taught him how to do this stuff (or if they did, it's highly likely the society around him undermined those lessons).

So I see the behaving "as if" mantra as an opportunity to create some breathing room in the marriage, to create an atmosphere of trust and acceptance of his foibles. Okay, so he doesn't do everything right. That's hard to ignore. But ask yourself, in the grand scheme of things, does he really love you? Does he want you to be happy? Is he trying to do the things you want and hope for? Does he put your needs first? If he's consistently there for you, even if it's botched up on occasion, that's got to be more important than if he messes up.

If, however, you truly have a damaged relationship, that's a very different problem, and ignoring the issues is not the answer. Then you're dealing with the likelihood of needing therapy and repairing any real damage prior to undergoing something like Taken In Hand. It seems to me that Taken In Hand is for those couples who know already that they want to be together and stay together, and they are looking for a method to make their already okay relationship (which nonetheless has problems) much better.

Effect positive change by acting as if...

I can testify from personal experience that this approach that writer advocates is totally effective! After spending time on this website and making up my mind that I was going to improve my marriage, I began acting more deferential to and respectful of my husband. I also began acting more considerate, more giving and took more initiative with household chores so he wouldn't wind up doing them. The change was almost instantaneous!

My husband was starting to order me around more, exactly the way I wanted him to! I felt so good I told him I don't want him doing the dishes any more. He works very hard at his career and doesn't need any more work around the house. After returning home from an early morning doctor's appointment with our son, I walked in to the kitchen to discover my husband had left the breakfast dishes for me to do, just as I had suggested! In the past, my husband used to do dishes, laundry and vacuuming, just to make me happy. But I find I am happier to have these tasks left to me.

I also consult my husband on more decisions and defer to him most of the time. For example, if my mother wants to take our son out of town for the week, I don't give her an immediate yes; I tell her I need to check with John. Then when I broach the subject with John, I don't tell him what I want, I just tell him the situation and ask what he wants. As our new way of relating evolves, I am expecting our marital harmony to continue to blossom. Once you embrace the idea that your husband is in control, your husband feels free to control you more, and there are just far fewer things to fight about!

The best approach

The OPs approach is the best by far, IMHO, for a wife who wants to effect her husband's behaviour and perhaps allow him to realize his potential as a take-charge man.

I've tried it with some success, as I notice a much more take-charge side of my husband the more I act as if he is in charge. Before now, I've actually told him how big and strong he was (cheesy, right?). Totally over-the-top, but in the moment, it sounded genuine (he IS both big and strong!) and worked. Explicity asking him what he wants me to do also seems to do the trick, though feels a little forced since I have to make that effort to ask. With "practice" though, I hope it's a role he'll slowly take on of his own accord, and begin to tell me what he wants without any prompting.

I do, however, find that my DH still reverts to being somewhat submissive on occasion. Which drives me nuts, of course, but he does it by asking questions. Can he do this? Can he do that? —a behaviour that results in me nearly screaming in exasperation and wanting to say "forget it".

Although my default reply is always, "Do you want to (fill-in-the-blank)? Then DO it!", I'd much rather have a strategy to eliminate this issue altogether!

Perhaps one answer to his que

Perhaps one answer to his questions is to simply reply, "That is a decision for you to make... and for me to accept." Thoughts?

What an excellent suggestion

What an excellent suggestion—definitely one I'm going to try the next time my husband asks me if it's OK for him to do something he enjoys. I know he only asks because it is his way of being considerate of me and whatever needs or wishes I might have (this is my second marriage and his first—he has no children, I have many, and the youngest are special needs), but being asked for permission makes me feel as if I'm his mother nonetheless.

This does raise the issue of consideration, which I believe is important and should be mutual. While I want to accept and respect his decisions to do the things he enjoys, I would still very much appreciate his taking into account the overall family needs of the day, which sometimes require his help—i.e., last week was my eldest daughter's baby shower, and he cared for our younger ones while I attended. He is always happy to help, as he sees his new role of "father" as one of great importance. This loving attitude in turn makes me want to give him his own special time even more.

I'd appreciate hearing how other couples handle this within the context of a Taken In Hand relationship (which we are not yet in). I have been contemplating and considering the best way to broach the subject with my husband, as I am learning more and more about myself and my heretofore conflicting paradoxical sides of my nature, which is both strong and (longing to be) submissive.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts :-)

Re: Effect positive change by acting as if...

There's a popular quote (attributed to various people, probably none of them correct):

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.


Change your thoughts, change your character/personality.

C.S. Lewis once that the best way to become something is to pretend you already are (I'm paraphrasing). If you want to change your personality, think about how someone with the personality you want would act, and act that way. The chain from the quote above can go both ways. Your actions can influence your thoughts.

Self Improvement vs. a Mask

When I read this post, I was delightfully pleased. I've decided to give it a shot, and already I've been feeling enlightened. It reminds me of a song by John Mayor who says that everyone wants change in the world, but not all are willing to act upon the forces that effect change. Put this on a smaller level within the taken in hand dynamics and you remember that you can't change other people, you can only change yourself.

I think of this as a manifestation of the saying “you get more flies with honey than you do vinegar". By becoming the embodiment of positive actions, the more likely predication of the behavior of those around you will be a positive one.

Of course, you cannot guarantee it. Trying to do something like guaranteeing a positive reaction from those around you is about as effective as trying to quell the mighty waves of the ocean with a wave of your hands. You can't, it’s out of your control. But, if you had a mathematical probability placed before you that equated to a better percentage of getting someone to react positively to you I would think you'd be better off going with the actions that purport higher chances of your desired goal.

I'd also like to think I'm not too far off by saying that most, if not all, respected mental health professionals would concur that you get better reactions through positive affirmation than negative instruction or nagging. The 101 of child psychology will tell you that positive reinforcement will shape the desired behavior quicker than any thing else (though discipline has its place too)

You are your own master puppeteer, and as much as we as women would like to respect the wishes of our men, I agree with a popular consensus found on this site that we only "obey" as a result of our own will, because that is our desire. If it was not, we would not act so.

I'm also reminded of Rhonda Brynes book called “The Secret”, which was one of my main thoughts whilst reading this post. In her book, she talks about the manifestation of positive consequences by the power of positive thinking. In one chapter she suggests a form of acting "as if" for those who struggled with issues as severe as depression. She actually pointed out that studies showed that those who pretended to be happy actually became happy after a while.

I agree that this would be a temporary solution to encourage the desired reaction, not a long term solution. But, I would dare say there's a good chance that you would find yourself a bit happier with yourself while you were "behaving" as if. Wouldn't even that alone be well worth the effort?

Personally, all this time I was trying to get him to change, which was something out of my control, and then I began harboring negative feeling for his failures rather than focusing on the one and only thing I could change... ME! And perhaps, by thinking he was failing me, I was blindsided by how I was failing HIM. If you feel that this is a mask to put a smile on your face to make everyone think everything is OK when it really isn’t, then perhaps you're viewing this as a lie and a disservice to yourself rather than a tool of self improvement.

I see this as a great suggestion for those who perhaps don't know how to get the ball rolling themselves, as well as those who are trying to get a reaction from their husbands. Just force yourself to pretend until it becomes real. And while I'm sure ill get a bit of berratement for that last sentence, it’s the only way I can think to describe the concept of getting started when you don't know how else to take that first step... And you may just be surprised at the results.

I think this is on target

But for us it worked best for me to pick an area to work on. For instance my husband has left the care of home finances to me exclusively for most of our joint life. Meaning, I paid the bills, worried about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul for tight situations, while he didn't even want to hear about it. In my scenario, I told him I couldn't do the bills anymore and he grudgingly started doing it. You could say I acted 'as if' he was a competent home money manager (because he started at the bottom of the learning curve—as in he had to learn how to login to our on-line account to manage bill paying, etc.). But he is a smart person and has embraced it completely. He pays the bills differently than I did—but he has taken the responsibility of leading our family financially. I had to really step back, act 'as if' he was the money manager I wanted him to be and let him fill that vacuum the way he chose. I am happy to let this take time...because I am finding it's one thing to envision how it's going to work and another to actually do it. I have to catch myself when I start to intervene to explain something that I think he's missing. He'll learn, the same way I did—by actually doing it. If he wants my opinion, he'll ask. And if I respond respectfully, he'll feel free to ask again if something comes up. Respect, warmth and steadfast belief hasn't always been plentiful on my side of the equation. I have plenty to work on while he is working on things on his own side. He is asserting himself more. But he's doing it in his own way. He's not going to step forward and perform on command. Honestly, acting 'as if' is really all you can do—it's so true that we only control ourselves.

It works

This approach is working for us, although I'm not sure he knows it. Before anyone gets into the ‘if you're hiding something from him, it's bad’ topic, understand that I'm joking a bit when I say ‘us’, although not completely.

I saw on our very first date that my man has the desire and ability to be a loving leader. As we spent more time together, I realized that he expects to be in charge, although he is not yet consistent in his application (and we have not openly discussed these things more than a few comments here and there about him leading).

Women who put their heart into this tend to grow to appreciate the smallest expression of authority on the man's part. When the woman consults the man, this in itself can be thrilling. At first, the man may well react as though he finds it most peculiar to be consulted, but at some point he may simply reply by telling the woman what to do.

This has been so true for us. Instead of questioning his decisions and requests as I would have done in past relationships (how dare a man make decisions that affect me without consulting me?), almost immediately after we started dating, I started responding more and more with “Okay, babe”, or just doing as requested, or just going with the plan of activity...whatever. I can't say that I do this all the time but I do it a lot.

He has never said anything (except for the first time that I said “you're right” and he was flabbergasted) but I can tell that he is pleased when I simply go along. There's not even really an expression on his face when I do this but there is something that I have picked up on that tells me he is pleased about this.

In a million years I never would have imagined that consulting the man in my life before doing this, cooking that, wearing this would give me a little rush. I'm still not exactly sure why this form of ‘asking permission’ is desirable to me—but it is.

I have occasionally had to sort of push him into taking the lead on decisions (which I know is me still trying to control things). Mind you, we're not married yet so our decisions are not the same as those of a married couple managing a household and marriage. But we're both Libras, if you go in for that sort of thing, and I am a typical Libra when it comes to [struggling with] making decisions. Being a strong man, he is much better at making decisions with less deliberation but in trying to be fair, he often does not want to tell me what to do if he doesn't have any strong feelings about something.

He handed me a key to his house two days after our first date, and has made it clear (over and over) that I have an open door invitation and that if he had his way, I would be there all the time. Therefore, he gets irritated when I go home and then ask him to talk to me about when I should return*. We had this discussion last night and he became extremely irritated and frustrated on the phone. He kept telling me to come back whenever I wanted, that I know that I'm welcome there all the time and anytime. What I wanted was for him to tell me whether to arrive on Friday or Saturday, knowing full well that it was not good for me to stress out about packing bag and driving the icy road over the mountain in the dark—which is what I would have had to do based on his exasperated response that I should be there ‘right now’ (i.e., last night).

He kept giving reasons for why it was up to me, and they were legit, but he was not making a decision even based on those reasons. I finally kinda my lost cool and blurted out “You're not leading!” His response? “Fine. Be here tomorrow.”

I felt terrible because my desire to receive an order (based on the reality of what was good for me and for us) created an argument. I hate arguing, I hate arguing with him, and I hate making him frustrated because this means he is unhappy. But I felt relieved when he finally barked the order (he never barks unless I'm being extremely difficult), and guess what? Discussion, er, argument was over—at least verbally. I'm pretty sure he was ticked off on the other end after we hung up the phone.

I hope that he got it a little more when I said “You're not leading”. I'm pretty sure that he didn't miss the gist of what I was getting at. In hindsight, I could have been much more gentle by requesting “Would you please lead?”, and I will keep this in mind in case there is a next time.

*We live three hours apart, I live in the snow, and because he has a job that requires him to absolutely be at work on time so his visits here would be short, we decided that he would not do the drive this winter until there is enough snow to play in and justify the drive and short time together.

Don't give a man a no-win set of choices

You don't get it, do you? He has said he wants you there all the time. That's what he means. When you ask him when you should return, WTF is he supposed to say? He's already told you he wants you there all the time. He's not thinking about the icy mountain but that's not because he doesn't care, he just didn't get why you're asking when he's already told you he wants you there all the time.

If you want him to tell you when to return and he's already said come anytime, what you're doing is saying to him that what he has told you is not an acceptable answer to your question and he needs to come up with a better one. That's not asking him to lead, that's annoying.

Don't ask him to lead when he's already told you plainly what he wants and you're ignoring it.

Even if he hadn't told you he wants you there all the time, saying “Would you please lead?” would be a mistake. Instead, I would suggest you could have simply said “I can't decide whether to brave the icy mountain tonight or whether I should wait until tomorrow to come over. I'm being silly and indecisive. Would you mind telling me what to do?” Then whichever he picks, thank him warmly and make sure he knows how much you appreciate his helping you decide. Don't make him regret having said whichever option he says—ever!

Better still, don't put him in such a position in the first place. If you give a man two choices and one of the possible choices would suggest he doesn't want to see you while the other would suggest he doesn't care about your safety, that is a very bad set of choices to offer a man. He will be annoyed by being put in that no-win situation. Find a way not to put him in such situations. It's nothing to do with the way you asked him to make the decision, it's about you giving him a no-win set of options.

So much to learn


Thank you so much for your post. I have so much to learn. It is surprising to realize how little I might actually know about men at 47, even after having been in some good, long-term relationships.

But I love this man and I believe that he has what it takes to lead me for the rest of our lives—so I am very happy that I found this site.

I hear you. It's hard because I want to be there all the time but I don't live there and I don't want to be taken for granted by being there too often. It sounds like the decision is up to me when to appear at his house, and I should only ask for help in assessing the facts and not ask for a when.

So much to learn...and wanting to learn.

I wonder...do men new to Taken In Hand have the same learning experience?

Don't skip the test!

The idea of “acting as if” sounds good at first glance, but it overlooks an important piece of the Taken In Hand equation. –the husband ACTIVELY TAKING CHARGE in the relationship.

I can see how it might be a helpful thing to do for a very short time to gauge if you think you both might like this sort of relationship- imagining how it might feel in your potential new roles. But beyond a short time frame I think acting as if makes the transition to a Taken In Hand relationship harder not easier. Because it assumes the husband is already in charge, it robs him of the moment where he is tested and wins.

The transition to a Taken In Hand relationship requires a point where the balance of power shifts to the man. The man becomes the undisputed leader, the woman is conquered, the shrew is tamed.

Acting as if skips over this important step.

Both husband and wife need to know with certainty that the husband is in charge in a Taken In Hand relationship, and that he will take her in hand if he deems it necessary. They both need to feel confident that whatever she says or does, her husband can and will handle her and guide them both to a place that makes their relationship so good.

How can either one be confident that he is in charge no matter what, when he has never been tested? When they both just assume that he is in charge without him ACTIVELY TAKING CHARGE?

The flaw in acting as if, is that the woman is never conquered by the man. She in essence is conquering herself. She acts as if he is already leading, but he never proves that he is truly able to lead. This leads to doubt and is probably why to some it feels like they are, for lack of a better term, faking it.