Here are some suggestions for husbands wanting to take small steps towards a more Taken-in-Hand style of marriage.
I decided that the Taken-in-Hand concept was worth trying—my wife did not come to me wanting to make changes. She has never asked me explicitly to lead her, so I have taken things very slowly, and checked regularly to ensure that happiness was increasing for us both.
My marriage is still very conventional, certainly in comparison with most of the material that I have read on this website, but it has elements of Taken In Hand that might be useful for aspiring Heads-of-Household.
1. Build a firm foundation for leadership
These suggestions assume that you have the basics of a happy marriage already, that you are a trustworthy, loyal, hardworking, reliable, loving and considerate husband.
I doubt that any wife would trust her husband’s judgment, consent to his leading role and hand-over control unless the husband has a solid record as a good man.
2. A few warnings
It is one thing for your wife to come to you wanting Taken In Hand, but quite another for you to start rapidly moving towards Taken In Hand without her consent.
Taken In Hand exposes you to a whole box of tools for your relationship, so be discerning about what and when you use them. This article may not apply to your relationship at the moment, and may never apply. Be sensitive to the limits of your relationship and wife.
The goal is for a lifetime of happiness together, so expect your marriage to evolve over years, not weeks.
If you have already been married for a long time, your relationship is probably in a steady pattern. Your wife has expectations about how it works, so any change in her behaviour will be gradual.
Finally, be prepared that Taken In Hand may not work for your marriage or your wife. As a wise husband, be prepared to consider other approaches to build a vibrant and happy marriage.
3. Who is your role model for leadership?
Choose a role model from history or fiction, someone who exemplifies the kind of leadership your marriage needs.
Someone demonstrating commitment to people, leaders of teams, men achieving greatness by building strong groups.
This is not public information—it is to help you imagine how you will build the team that is your marriage. How would your role model approach team members?
Thinking of yourself in the role of head of the household will help you act as if you are.
4. Attitude not content
As leader of the house, you have the final say, so what she says matters less than the way she says it.
You always speak respectfully to her, and you expect to be treated in the same way. When she does not do so, call out her rude behaviour. (Calling out means that you talk about the way she is speaking, not what she said.)
If she has a problem or issue, and asks you rudely, then first deal with the way she is asking for help. Obviously, don’t choose some life-threatening problem to begin with.
The first time you do this, you can expect increased conflict, and many times following as well. Over time, if she is suited to be taken in hand, she will learn that a better way to ask for help is to ask politely, to say "please".
Speaking respectfully is a good first rule… not that a wise husband testing the waters of leadership in his marriage will refer to “rules” at all.
5. Be firm and consistent
Plenty of writers have reiterated the need for their husband to be firm and consistent, so it is clearly an issue for new heads-of-household.
When you start making small changes, you need to be clear about what you want to change, and be consistent in the change.
It is only natural that she will resist the change, so make it small, but be firm. Test the waters and go slowly in small steps. Identify and call-out (verbalise it) when she does the wrong thing.
Conflict is going to increase in the early stages as you make changes to the pattern of your relationship—this is to be expected. Do not be afraid or back away from conflict.
For example, once you begin to focus on her attitude not her content, be consistent about it.
6. Start to recognise opportunities for taking command
It took a long time for me to realize that my wife was giving me opportunities to be head-of-the-household.
When she asks your opinion, for advice, to do something, take it seriously. Give the issue some thought and make a decision. If she rejects your decision, then ask why she came to you. Be prepared to be the bad guy at times.
For example, my wife asked (respectfully) that I please make the last checks of the children and see that the house is secure before coming to bed. For years, I saw this as a silly imposition on my being more efficient at getting to bed quickly, instead of being a perfect opportunity to man up.
7. Be clear about her explicit yield of control to you
If the steps above seem to working, then it is important that after a few months you start to be more explicit about the changes in the relationship.
This has also means that you can check that you are both feeling happier about your marriage.
Once you have established a new pattern, then if she pushes back, it is okay to express disappointment or even anger about her behaviour. Your marriage matters to you, and you are allowed to demonstrate that. Express quiet but firm displeasure when she tries to cut out your leadership role.
For example, I decided that I would close the car door for her, so that I would make the last check of the children and the car before we drive. A silly little old-fashioned action, I know, and one that felt very unnatural at first. She resisted for a short while, but I insisted, and she relented. One day, a few months after we had this new pattern of behaviour, she loudly insisted that this was one thing she really disliked. I expressed my anger at the disrespectful way she was treating me, and agreed that I would stop. Three days later, she told how much she missed it, and asked me very humbly if I would start closing the car door for her again. I did not gloat or put her down, I simply agreed to do so.
8. Manage her plans
Over dinner, or exclusive time together, ask her what she is planning to do the following day, or on the weekend, or next week. Discuss her plans, and take command when invited to do so.
You can’t take command to begin with, but you can express an opinion, or offer advice, particularly if she is overloaded. You will find lots of opportunities for leadership, and help her out, by helping her prioritise. You may find that asking for advice evolves over time into asking for permission.
For example, my wife has a tendency to over-commit herself and get run down. She is a helpful and loving person that cannot easily say no when others ask her for help. By discussing her plans with me, and asking my advice, she is actually asking for permission. When I tell her not to do something, I may be the bad guy, but it gives her the excuse she needs to say no to someone, because her husband said so.
9. Treat her growing dependence with love
Eventually, you may find that your wife is coming to you regularly for advice and permission.
It is important to respect her dependence on you, and treat her growing need for leadership with love.
Having taken the decision to take your wife in hand, asking for permission is to be expected. You are getting what you set out to create in your marriage. You cannot expect her to continue to defer to you if you do not consistently give the leadership and control she is beginning to crave.
So, treat her growing dependence with love. She is not coming to you to be annoying, or to test you, but because she values your guidance and judgment.
10. Enjoy the ride
Marriage is a journey that you take together, not a destination. Successful marriage requires continuous effort. When it is not working, only a crazy husband continues with the same behaviour. You have the power to make changes, and decide what those changes will be.
Make changes and slowly evolve your marriage to increase both your happiness.
Taken In Hand style marriage is not easy for the husband, and it is not for every man. Even taking the simple steps above is a lot of work because requires you to listen much more carefully to your wife, to think hard about your marriage, and your plans for the future together.
But it is good to be king, and if your wife is suited, then a Taken In Hand style relationship, where the man actively controls the woman, really is to the delight of both.
I would never have thought that more active leadership is what my wife wanted in a marriage, but she is enthusiastic and now seeking more.