Is there an unspoken code of conduct between you and your partner for public relations purposes? A wealth of body language, carefully coded messages which pass between you like chemicals absorbed through relational osmosis? Perhaps you have agreed that there are certain things you will or will not say or do in the presence of others, and it takes but a meaningful glance, shared, to recall that agreement.


Have you ever found yourself bristling in public over something your husband said to you, or some behavior your wife exhibited that at home would either be accepted with courtesy and respect, or dealt with swiftly and unselfconsciously? Has your partner ever totally shocked you by bandying sharp retorts in the presence of others for no better reason than sheer perverse self will?


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At home, I’m perfectly content to allow my husband a great deal of latitude in how he chooses to assert his dominance. Well, actually it has nothing at all to do with my allowing or not; it’s more in how I react. I respond positively when his hormones overflow, and he reaches out either physically or metaphorically to exercise his will. A well chosen turn of phrase can turn my knees to jelly and send tremors through the sub strata of self in a heartbeat. Privately. That same tone of voice or pointed suggestion in public can feel like fighting words to me. I often wonder why I find certain aspects of masculine dominance highly appealing privately, whilst those same characteristics can rankle in the presence of others.

Not long ago, we had dinner with several other couples at a favorite restaurant. The waiter moved efficiently around the table taking drink and appetizer orders, the responses ranging from Margueritas with nachos, to Martinis with marinated asparagus. Stopping half way round the table the waiter enquired what I’d be having. I was mildly surprised when my husband spoke for me saying, “Ameribrit doesn’t drink spirits. She’ll have a White Wine Spritzer.” Immediately, all eyes were upon us, the crimson in my cheeks undoubtedly looking neon bright. Embarrassed though I was, I simply smiled, reached for my darling’s hand and agreed, “That’s true. I always pay too high a price when I drink spirits.” My response was one of those coded messages which only the two of us could decipher.

The awkward moment passed, further orders were taken, and the meal was lovely. Had we been alone that evening, I would have given over to the deep seated gut reaction of fierce pleasure my husband’s pronouncement caused. In mixed company, I did everything in my power to sublimate the urge to playfully say, “Yes Sir.” I have a history of being sick if I drink hard liquor. It takes but a few sips, and my body rebels, so we’ve agreed that it’s in my best interest to avoid strong drink. The high price I pay is not only the physical illness I might suffer. More significantly, it’s the caning I’ll receive the next day for being foolish about my health. Why do I allow him to punish me? Why, I’ve asked him to do so. It’s our private, mutually enjoyable ritual on those rare occasions when I choose to live large.

So, why did I feel so deeply ashamed of my reaction to my husband taking me in hand in front of God, the neighbors and various and sundry wait staff? The dynamics of our relationship seem, to me, as private as sexual behavior. I feel no shame in what we share physically, behind closed doors, but I don’t want anyone peeking in the widow. Perhaps I feel that his making his primacy in our relationship clear to others, they are being given a glimpse of something I feel is too personal to share.

Many people who know us well have witnessed the subtle interplay between my husband and me, and one brave girlfriend actually asked a few pointed questions. Carefully wording my reply, I basically told her that I followed his lead because I like where he’s going. True. I do. I like where he’s been, where he’s headed, and particularly his vehicle for getting himself to and fro. That heady aura of dominance which women like me seem to sense. He seems to walk in a rarified atmosphere, one which is too rich and sharp for the average man. I feel it, I smell, it drives me wild. So my friend got the edited version of what transpires between us. Those of you here can probably articulate, more clearly than I, the whats and wherefores. The rest of the world just doesn’t need to know.

Nearly always, my husband politely requests, cordially invites, subtly urges. When the tides of primal manhood course through his veins, he steps close, right into my personal In Zone. Standing in his manly, commanding presence with my head tilted back to see his Nordic blue eyes, I’m barely in control of my deeply female response. Others see that, and it can be unsettling to me. I feel the exchange between us like an elemental power, electrifying, exciting, intoxicating. Sometimes, I wish there was on OFF switch I could throw, dashing out what seems like blinding natural light in a world bathed in the harshness of artificiality.

We’ve developed a shorthand of sorts, but there are still times in public when I feel the urge, or give in to the desire to push at the boundaries; test the limits. He’s unyielding. I can push, but the reassurance of his loving presence remains steadfast. Am I the only one who doesn’t want the outside world to see this exchange of power? I’d like an official code of public conduct. You can put that in caps. Of course, when I told him so, he merely smiled.

Invisible dynamics

I can't speak from experience because (hankies out) I haven't had a proper relationship yet. But when it happens I can't imagine wanting the dynamic between us to be visible to others at all. To let it leak out into the real world in a way only we understand - sure, I think that might be fun. But the point of that kind of game is the irony of its not being sussed.

I think my own preference actually is to treat my partner in public as my Queen - to be more respectful, more considerate, more devoted and attentive than most blokes are towards their women. If others wonder, especially other women (because I think if my partner's likely to be interested in anyone's speculation, it's theirs) what exactly she's got that makes her so treasured - all the better. She'll deserve eyebrows to be raised in that way.