After nearly 18 years of marriage, my wife and I are experimenting with a Taken in Hand relationship. The breaking point came after I became depressed and withdrawn and it became clear that our marriage was on the rocks despite the fact that we still loved each other dearly. (As an aside, reading other posts on this site, I'm simply astonished how many times a posting starts like this...) We both have a feeling of exhilaration like newly weds at the moment. Although I don't imagine the adrenaline rush will remain, I do feel strongly that it is the way it's meant to be and will be the long-term solution we both so desperately need and want.
That having been said, being an intellectual kind of guy, I find the hardest part of asserting myself the fact that I always take time to consider things and usually find that I can see most people's point of view. In general, I would say that I come across to most people as a shy, conciliatory and empathetic person. I definitely avoid conflict where I don't find it necessary. In fact, all in all, I would be exactly the sort of guy that many women (and men) on this site would warn you off as being a "weak" man. But this is very deceptive. In fact, I am usually quietly ranking the probability of my opinion being right against all others and therefore feel a sense of unassailability even if someone can convince me of their opinion—I still usually have the sense that my analysis was reasonable.
But recently, I have been becoming more and more aware of the need to be the head of the household and be more in control both mentally and physically over my darling wife. This is coming from a dark and irrational place that I don't understand and have always suppressed. It bubbled up to my consciousness—my rational persona—through feelings of hurt and anger but it's definitely always been there and now it won't go away. Why do I feel these urges? Am I a bad person? And why does my beautiful wife, so spontaneous, vivacious and direct to the point of being forthright, feel so comfortable when I assert myself? We neither of us understand this completely. While she is worried about the apparent "demeaning" nature of being the woman in a relationship like this, she needs it on some level and can't hide her obvious responsiveness. For my part, I have struggled with the deep shame of thinking that there must be something very wrong with me.
So, you could see this article, perhaps, as a kind of armchair psychoanalysis of what it all means. I can see from many of the posts on this site that I'm not the only one to struggle with the "meaning of it all". It's helped me beyond description to be able to read so many different perspectives on something I'm also feeling.
I also wouldn't be the first person to go back to evolutionary biology to try to find the answer here. Several people have speculated that, back in the caves of pre-history, the woman needed someone to protect her and chose the most dominant man accordingly. I think this is surely true, but I also notice that there are precious few people (if any) who, armed with this new logic, feel comfortable proclaiming to the world at large how they feel. I'm guessing that despite all the affidavits and congratulations exchanged by most people on this site, they would still rather keep the details of their relationship to themselves and not tell their friends and neighbours. (By the way, that's why this site is so important—deep respect and gratitude to the Taken In Hand site owner!)
In a way, the problem is not explaining where the primal feelings are coming from, but explaining how it is that we override them so easily. Here, I think it's the tremendous flexibility and adaptiveness of the brain that lies at the heart of it all. Analogous to the way our brains have picked up writing, philosophy, ethics and watching TV, etc, etc, despite these not being "necessary" for prehistoric daily life, we have also been able to slowly rationalize human-to-human interactions and change our behaviour. We do it so well, that for most of us, it is now second nature, at least in a modern Western culture, to say that men and women are equal and should be able to aspire to the same things in life. I suspect that most people, if they ever thought about it, would conclude that feelings running contrary to this opinion come from conceit and selfishness (or maybe poor upbringing, cultural indoctrination, etc.). But something else is going on. There's more to the prevalence of politically incorrect thinking and motivations than bad ethics, it's just that nobody's allowed to talk about 'the dark side'. In fact, in many cases it's pretty well verboten to even suggest that peoples' attitudes might somehow be influenced by their biological, primal urges. This is often justified explicitly with, "don't even consider that possibility because it will excuse the evil-doers for their behaviour" which is the dreaded slippery slope. No! Rapists are just bad men, period, no more to say, don't even go there... well, to preempt myself, I'm not about to let rapists off the hook but I'm still going to go there.
If you give in to the biological component as part of the explanation, i.e. you say, okay, by and large, there are deep and primal urges in men to be in charge of their women and deep and primal urges in women to live under the loving protective control of their man, you can still get all the opinions on this site and elsewhere by simply acknowledging that the suppression of these urges versus the strength of the intellectually-arrived-at preferred attitude varies from person to person but generally successfully overrides the urges. And also everyone has a different set of experiences and background that mould their "intellectual" interpretations of, and responses to, their primal urges. So in the end, the fantastic plasticity of the brain itself shapes our behaviour enormously and disguises the commonality of the base urges. I find this way of looking at it extremely liberating. Just as wanting to eat chocolate doesn't mean you disagree with the health expert's opinion that sweet, fatty foods are not good for you, nor does it mean you are a bad person for wanting it, so, feeling urges to rape your wife (or be raped by your husband) doesn't mean you condone rape or that you are intrinsically immoral. It's whether you rape your wife or not that makes you a bad person not what your urges are.
Clearly, I've gone into territory that will tread on lots of peoples' toes now. Looking at all the fuss it caused when a woman wrote "When rape is a gift", imagine how much worse it would have been if that had been written by a man? I still don't think I've ever read or heard of a guy admitting that he wants to rape a woman. Obviously, not only do some men, but they're even willing to risk more or less everything they value in life for it. Now that's some urge! It's time to look at it and marvel at the sheer force of that. In fact, I'll go further: unless you take into account the strength of the primal urges we all feel and not judge a person for having those urges, you can't begin to solve the actual problem—namely, that despite the presence of urges, it's still unacceptable to act on them without examining the consequences. That's what I'm coming to. There should be nothing to apologize for in having primal urges. They are just there (and probably far more common and dark than anyone cares to admit). But you do need to identify them and know how you plan to respond to them. So actually, at this point, I would be arguing that if you're denying to yourself that you have the urge to rape your wife, you are being irresponsible and ultimately unethical because you won't be able to deal with it as well as someone who is able to admit it to himself. And as a woman, if you insist that any man with the urge to rape a woman is a "bad man", you're actually fueling the problem because fewer men will learn to deal with it properly.
In this sense, anyone who has crossed the line and discussed their desires to have a Taken in Hand relationship with their partner, should pat themselves on the back for being so damned responsible!! :-) But seriously, this way of seeing it doesn't just get you off the hook. Many people here have commented on how relieved they feel to firstly be able to confront it and secondly to see how many others feel the same way. But relief is only the half of it! I believe it's time we, as a culture, were advanced enough to acknowledge the presence of primal urges without any condemnation and then to encourage people to deliberately follow them (if and only when the consequences have been examined and accepted by all people affected). Where there's a conflict of urges and consequences, every effort should be made to find benign outlets for those urges or ways to handle them. Then we would have a functional society in which we weren't all hiding dark secrets. Women could openly tell a guy on their first date of their desire for a strong man who will be firmly in charge without fear that he will think she has psychological problems. If this was as easy as saying you like jazz music and movies, there would far fewer dysfunctional relationships. It all starts with the acceptance and embracing of all primal urges.
Well, I don't have any magic bullets for changing society, but I'm sure it's immediately possible within trusting relationships. Weak as I may appear to those who don't know what I'm actually feeling, my wife can now have the satisfaction of knowing that deep down, I am the man she needs, but I'm also sensitive enough and responsible enough to consider her feelings and put them before my urges. And sometimes this means giving in to my urges. I can also finally make sense of the dichotomy in my intellectual beliefs and my deeper feelings. In other words, I can now be proudly honest about my primal urges to my wife and put my trust in her and vice versa. At that point, we haven't simply immunized ourselves against each other's reactions, we've actually embraced each other's darkest secrets and can truly be ourselves to live life to the fullest.
Sounds like the best of both worlds to me... or am I just kidding myself?