Why do some rules work but not others?

Why do some rules work but not others?

Women who want their husband to take control in their marriage sometimes come up with a list of rules for themselves and ask their husband to enforce them. In many cases, the wife is surprised to find that in practice this rule enforcement feels all wrong to her. In some cases the wife feels as though she herself is in control because the rules were her idea. Or the whole thing feels too much like a game. In many cases, the rule enforcement makes the wife feel resentful, angry and oppressed.

I don't know whether these negative reactions happen because the whole rules and punishment thing just doesn't work for some women, or whether it's because the woman herself instigated the rules concerned.

I love it when my husband gets really bossy with me. The more he lays down the law, the more cheerful I feel. When he really cracks the whip I feel positively ebullient. I don't feel resentful about him making rules (though sometimes I get slightly sullen when rebuked about something I have overlooked).

However, it is important to me that the rules my husband lays down for me are things he is actually interested in himself. It wouldn't work for me to have me tell him what I want him to make rules about, the rules need to be his idea in order for them to work for me. I might feel differently if I thought that the rules were only there because I wanted them, rather than because he wanted them.

Louise C

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[This is an answer to a frequently-asked question: this page is part of the FAQ. Please try to ensure that your post is answering the question or discussing the above post. The question is: Why do some rules work but not others?]


why some rules work


Your statement resonants so much with me. I love having my DH in charge and setting rules. I get annoyed sometimes because he won't implement the rules that I suggest. I don't want this to be a game, so I back off from repeating my suggestions. Your last paragraph is SO true.

The Enforcer

Interesting, and probably true for some women.

Personally, however, I am much more keen on having my man bully me (harmlessly, and playfully or lovingly) than in having him provide "guidance" for me. I am also not much drawn, in general, to the "spanking as punishment for misbehavior" idea, which is Domestic Discipline (DD), not Taken In Hand. Instead, I find it erotic and romantic and thrilling to be forcibly conquered by male strength.

The idea of the man making up rules is not so bad I guess, provided that it's rules about the things he cares about, as Louise said. But I have a strong aversion to the idea of a man imagining that he is some kind of mentor or teacher to me, and dreaming up rules and guidelines to "help" me become a "better" person or whatnot. I think I can handle the wisdom part all on my own, thanks. His big (and sexy!) advantage is in his muscles.

But while I have the wisdom to understand what I need to be doing, I don't always have the discipline to carry through with it. That is, I sometimes don't have the motivation or courage or will to do the things that deep down I know I "should" be doing; and often I don't have the restraint or willpower to avoid the things that I should not be doing. While I would love to have that kind of inner strength—and while I'm slowly working on cultivating it—the truth right now is that I often just don't have it. So the idea of a man using his physical strength to bully me into doing what I really want to be doing anyway does has a certain appeal to me.

If I'm feeling sufficiently bullied and intimidated—that is, if I'm feeling utterly CONQUERED by him—then I'm unlikely to do anything that I know will cause him to get really angry and forceful with me.

It could also work with me asking him to be the enforcer of some rules and guidelines that we both think would be good, whether they're his ideas or my ideas. As part of the role of enforcer, he could find ways of making sure that I obey the rules, whether I feel like it at that moment or not. That way, the possibility of me being obstinate would be reduced.

I guess there is still the possibility that I might disobey the rules at some times; and what to do then? If he can keep me feeling intimidated enough, then that should help prevent problems coming up in the first place. On those (hopefully rare) occasions where punishment is warranted, the one thing I would not want is for it to be any kind of patronizing thing, such as removing some "privileges" or giving me a lecture, etc. I would resent being treated like a child, and I respond much better to direct physical force.

[See also DeeMarie's article, Firm preventive action.—The Editor]

Too Many Rules Spoil the Marriage

The core difficulty may be confusion of means and ends. In theory, rules become a means to an end. The desired end is a secure—and, therefore, a solid—relationship. When that does not happen, then frustration occurs because the rules get in the way of achieving the desired goal.

[For the rest of this post see Taken In Hand works best when it is organic.—The Editor]


Hi Louise,, I love your articles!!! I too love it when my husband is bossy. I sometimes think of things that would be good rules but I hate having to suggest them. It changes things somehow. I am new here but your articles are helping me so much so thankyou

To Galwaygirl

Hi Galwaygirl,

it is very kind of you to say you like my articles!

I enjoy it when my husband is bossy, in fact i find that i tend to get more cheerful the stricter he is. I would quite like it if he was bossy about more things, but a lot of stuff he just doesn't have strong feelings about.


I'm Not a Rules Girl

A long list of rules would only make me obstinate, not obedient. My husband focuses on the things that really matter to him, and especially on my attitude, which used to frustrate him to no end. He seems happy with this way of doing things so far, as am I.

Louise, I enjoy your posts. I told my husband about a comment you made somewhere regarding the colors (I think white, pink, red, white?) your husband takes your bottom through during a spanking. So he has a couple times, when laying down the law about something, teased me, "If you don't obey me, I will take you through the entire color sequence." He wouldn't really. I have very light, delicate skin, which turns red easily, plus I squirm and say ouch a lot. He has probably never smacked me more than 15 times, and it's always with his hand only. I think he's afraid of hurting me, which is very sweet of him.



Bossiness would just bring out my stubbornness.
Quiet strength accompanied with a 'look' has been enough to make me realize that I have displeased a former boyfriend and to make corrections and/or apologize. Also a code phrase employing light humor has worked for me.
I wonder if the abuse I suffered as a child is the reason why I have such strong, negative reactions to punishment and spanking in particular.
I have a question - I know it doesn't fit here - perhaps some one could direct me to the proper place? The fact is ... neither the Pope or husbands are infallible. What do you do when you husband is clearly out of line, sometimes to the point of being abusive?

What if...?

If you want a Taken In Hand relationship, both parties including the man have to be good people. If a man is abusive, he is not Taken In Hand material. So the answer to the question what do you do if your husband is abusive is obviously LEAVE. No one (woman or man) should stay with someone who abuses them! Get help and leave.

Everyone is fallible, yes, but that does not mean everyone is abusive! People make mistakes but the mistakes should not be abusive. If they are, leave.

But this is a side issue anyway. Punishment or spanking is in no way a necessary part of a Taken In Hand relationship. I myself have no interest in all that stuff, and I am the person who founded Taken In Hand! So forget about that. Or is the issue that you have some kind of unhealthy attraction to abusive violence because of your own history? If so, I urge you to seek professional help.