A new reader asked a question related to marital fitness testing on a previous comment thread:
Followed the link to the post where you described plaguing your husband about ice cream, and wondered: can you recollect your state of mind when you were doing this? Were you deliberately trying to cut him down, maybe to punish him for something, or where you so obsessed with getting exactly what you wanted that you didn’t care about his feelings, or what….? I ask because my wife does very similar things, sometimes actually involving ice cream and sometimes involving other matters, and I am pretty much at the end of my string on it.
What is fitness testing (also referred to on some blogs as sh-t testing)? This refers to a wife directing some kind of challenging or difficult behavior at her husband as a way of seeing if she can get him to cave in. She does this in order to test his “fitness” or strength as a leader. She wonders: is he strong enough not to put up with my crap? Will he back down or supplicate? If so, he may be too weak to be a good provider or father. It is not a conscious decision and the urge to do it is intense and not voluntary (although acting on the urge is voluntary).
All women fitness test. It serves a purpose before marriage, in that it allows a woman to find a man whom she can easily respect and submit to; however, once she takes that vow before God, she should no longer be testing him because she has already publicly declared him to be fit by agreeing to marry him. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t stop unless the woman monitors her behavior very carefully, and even then it will still happen on occasion. If she senses weakness in her husband, her anxiety level will build, and she will begin ramping up the testing behavior.
A common mistake that men make is giving in to fitness tests, erroneously believing that just giving her what she wants will calm her down and make the conflict go away. In fact, all that does is increase her anxiety, as every cell in her body will begin screaming that this is an unfit man. Females do not breed with unfit males, which is why failed fitness tests often lead to reduced or absent sexual access. In other words, if she can push him around, she won’t be lying down.
What do marital fitness tests look like? Some are really overt and easy to spot. I shared this example from my own marriage on my old blog:
It’s not loving to allow someone to behave in a totally unacceptable way. Do you serve a toddler who is disobeying? Of course not. [...]Before we had children, my husband and I went out a lot but would occasionally spend a weekend evening in watching a video and eating ice cream. His job was to go out and buy the Ben and Jerry’s. This was in the days before cell phones were common, so he would nicely ask me what flavor I wanted, and I would give him my top two or three favorites. However, you can’t always predict what flavors will be in stock, so sometimes he would have to substitute another flavor. He could never predict when I would approve of the flavor he had chosen, and reader, I used to throw some fits if he chose wrong. One time I even demanded that he return the ice cream he had bought.
Was this about ice cream? No. This was about me seeing if I could push him around. I wasn’t consciously thinking that, but it was definitely the underlying motivation. And understand this: I didn’t want to be able to push him around. I wanted him to make me stop that. When he finally laid down the law about it and refused to be my ice cream b*tch, I never felt the need to complain about the flavors he chose again.
Some fitness tests are more subtle and covert. Here is an example that happened in my own marriage within the past week (I’m using myself as an example here so that readers will understand that no matter how aware a woman is, and no matter how alpha her husband is, her desire to fitness test never completely goes away):
HHG and I were sitting in bed reading shortly after tucking in the children. Earlier in the day we had shared that wink-wink-nudge-nudge moment by which you both understand what’s on the agenda for later after the kids fall asleep, so I knew what was coming and was very much on board with it. However, that little nagging sensation started when he went to wash up…
He returned and reached over to touch me, but I batted his hand away, saying “Ugh, your hands are freezing! Did you wash with ice water?” He didn’t catch on right away what was going on; he thought it really was about cold hands, so he obligingly put his hands under the covers and went back to reading for a bit. Five minutes later, he made another move on me, but his hands were still just a little cold, so I said, “Nope, they aren’t warm yet.” He still didn’t pick up on the subtext, so he rolled his eyes, put his hands back under the blankets and went on reading. On the third try, when I continued to whine about his now room temperature hands, he finally figured out that this was a subtle fitness test and just flipped me over while I yelped fake protests and gave me two hard smacks on the backside. “There,” he said, “now my hands are warm,” and we both dissolved into laughter.
Later I told him that I realized I had been testing him and apologized, but if he hadn’t picked up on it and quashed it, that don’t-touch-me test could have continued indefinitely. Tests tend to continue and increase in intensity until one partner recognizes what is going on and puts a stop to it, so it behooves both men and women to learn how to spot them as quickly as possible.
Further reading on marital fitness testing:
Married Man Sex Life Blog:
- Some Common Fitness Tests… And What Isn’t A Fitness Test
- Fitness Testing: Fail To Comply With The Request
- Fitness Test vs Reasonable Request
- Fitness Testing vs Loyalty Testing
Red Pill Wifey