Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Are You In a Bossy Relationship?

Does your partner boss you around?

Business leader Sheryl Sandberg caused an internet sensation with her new campaign to ban the word "bossy" this week....But the greater question is: Why are so many American men allowing themselves to be bossed around? Hen-pecked men have become part of the landscape of Americana, captured in countless commericals, cartoons and television shows like "Everyone Loves Raymond," "Two and a Half Men," and "Yes Dear." This very phenomenon was depicted in a "Local View" column by Jonathan Shapiro in the Wall Street Journal, where this compliant man declared, "Do Not Put Me In Charge."

 Many American  men are willingly allowing women to boss them around in exchange for romantic favors. They see courtship and marriage as another time to hide their emotions, just as they did in the playground kickball game, the paper chase in the classroom and in competing on the social ladder for friendships. These "mirage men" will listen to a woman go on and on about herself and her problems for hours on end if they believe a kiss and more await them on the other side of the conversation. Chameleon-like, they will adapt the woman's values, interests and goals and do whatever she commands, within reason, if they think it will result in romantic success. Former "Partridge Family" television star turned reality show/talk show host/disc jockey Danny Bonaduce accurately described this type of courtship and marriage as he experienced it first-hand in his life, saying, "I'm not captain of the ship at home. I'm barely first mate."

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These hen-pecked men think they are cheating the hangman, but they eventually have to pay for conjuring up their illusions of love. After the peak honeymoon period of the relationship begins to wane, a tremendous resentment builds up as they tire of being bossed around. Their partner has no idea why their once-enthusiastic lover no longer has their heart in their many activities and events they seemed to enjoy so much with her during the early days of their romance and marriage. These hen-pecked men feel trapped because the whole relationship was founded on the proposition that they were soul mates who shared so much in common. They eventually look to their beloved as their oppressor and often begin a secret life, doing the things they really enjoy on the side while continuing the charade of compliant love slave. 

The good news is if you find you are in a bossy relationship you aren't doomed to a life of heartbreak. There are steps you can take to change it to a healthy relationship.


J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.


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