David Duff

On reading that, my instant re-action was: two lawyers locked in a marriage - what an idea for the great Neil Simon to write up as a play! Imagine what the rows sound like: affidavits, injunctions, the party of the third party, 'caveat emptor' and so on.

In my own, 40-year marriage, I have found that the best way to proceed is for me to make very clear, at some length and in exact detail, precisely what it is that I wish to happen - and then do what my wife tells me! These days I have the satisfaction of taking out my frustration on hapless commenters who dare to contradict me. At least I can switch them off!

The Happy Feminist

My husband does have an annoying habit of saying, just like a judge, that he will take a matter "under advisement." Of course, I yell "Objection!" all the time.


For me, what you have described is the basis for a very sound marriage; ours is a similar relationship. It's about negotiation, respecting one another's needs and wishes and looking for the best solution for the relationship as a whole, not about someone 'having the final say'. We find that if one holds those principles at the heart of any difference of opinion, then the 'best' solution seems to fall out naturally.

I guess it's whatever works for any particular relationship - if both participants are comfortable in a relationship where a designated person has the final say, then that's fine. It wouldn't work for me; but I know one or two couples who do make it work, generally by dividing up the areas of responsibility. He looks after decisions about the car, she makes decisions about schools. That sort of thing.

Staircase Witch

When we have disagreed, the person who feels most strongly or who is most affected by a decision prevails. We each have the absolute last word regarding our own careers regardless of how those careers affect the other. (We have committed to staying in this locality so there will never be a clash where one of us finds a plum job in another part of the country.)

This is how we handle many things in our marriage, although I should add--and this is probably true of yours, as well--that being able to do this is predicated on the fact that we each trust the other's judgment and know that no matter how strongly the other person feels, that emotion is always within reason. My husband has the same confidence in my judgment that I have in his, and I think that's a major difference from the kinds of marriages that the women on that site talk about.

The thing is that there is often a very good reason for a strong emotional impulse. I don't want to go overboard about intuition, or imply that women have some preternatural ability to suss out things without knowing why, but there have been times when I felt strongly about a particular choice and couldn't yet explain why we needed to make that choice. More often than not, that turned out to be the right choice to make. I can't help wondering if whether by discounting their own emotional impulses, women in submissive relationships--and their husbands--might be ignoring important right choices and solutions.


Someone (perhaps BitchPHD) had an interesting article about "Wife Swap." The gist of the article was that swapping wives changes the family dynamic more than swipping husbands bc the wife has the power in the house.

Mrs. B

This post was good, HF, thanks for explaining. I must say that our ways of handling conflict are somewhat similar. We've been married for 14 years and we both try to put the other's needs/desires ahead of our own. As I'm sure you know (based upon my comments on the other post) my husband does have final say.....and that's o.k. with me because I trust him and also because I trust God.(o:

There are, of course, differences but I think we've already covered that ground pretty well so I won't start all that up again. But I thank you for answering my question.


This is a great topic. I will probably hit it on my blog at some point. My husband and I run things similarly, but there are a few things more specific to us.

1. My husband and I are both VERY moody and our moods tend to match. If he's depressed, I can't maintain a good mood and vice versa. So it is very much in both of our interests to keep the other one happy. This leads to a delicate power dynamic.

2. We each have certain Deanships within the marriage. Social obligations are largely my job, he takes care of financial stuff and fixing up the house. He decided when it was time to get a TIVO, I painted the bedroom blue. He makes sure most of the bills get paid, I hire and fire the housekeepers and make sure they do a good job. I buy art, he buys major appliances. Yes, these fall onto typical gender lines. But he's a financial whiz and I'm a more creative type, so we try to play to our own strengths.


Barbara Preuninger

I noticed that no one took on my argument talking about "monarchy v. democracy". A very non-bitter, pleasant post, I might add. And I was really hoping for an honest disagreement to that particular argument.


Well, I'm still wondering: how do we get by in the U.S. when we have 3 branches of government designed to balance each other out? There's no "one person" who gets to make "the final decision", is there? At least not about every matter. And if it works OK on a large scale, then how much easier is it between two individuals?


My husband and I also do things along these same lines. One important thing you touched on, HF, was the recognition of how critical it is that the resolution of the problem is more important than "winning" the argument, whatever it is (which is sort of ironic for a couple of lawyers, but then I've always been a resolution-oriented attorney, not a scorched earth attorney). Which is why a quasi-consensus decision making amongst equals is, in my opinion, far superior to an approach when one person always has the ultimate decision making power - as discussed in your earlier post. If someone is used to always 'winning' any debate, not only are they going to be less likely to listen to other views, but the one who always 'loses' stops feeling the need to justify their point of view, b/c their point of view doesn't matter.

As a side note, a funny thing my husband & I have discovred over the years is that we are far more likely to lose our tempers if we are hungry. So whenever one or both of us starts getting snippy we just say "time for lunch!" and usually if we couldn't agree on a solution before, we usually can after, assuming we can even remember what it was the aggravated us in the first place. The power of breaking bread - it works, even after over a decade together.


One aspect of a marriage where one person is always has the final authority that rarely gets considered is the how unfair it is to the spouse who is always ultimately responsible for making decisions. I've been married for 34 years and our biggest fights haven't been over one of us insisting on a decision but over one of us feeling that the other person was abdicating his/her responsibility to be a part of the decision.

What's more, saying that one person will always have the final say means that there is less of an incentive to make the sometimes difficult effort of working toward the best solution.

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