Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Why do women try to police men?

(50 Posts)
tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Tue 11-Dec-12 21:28:09

I don't want to offend anyone here.

This is a genuine question, I would like to know why a woman would try to police a man who has been/might be/is being unfaithful. I'm not a journalist and anyone who's seen my many posts will know that.

I just can't identify with this: why is it worth the effort? What's the point? If someone wants to do this, why would their partner still want them?

And if you do avert an affair, or make one end, isn't it a pyrrhic victory?

If there are kids involved, I almost get it. But two people are responsible for keeping a family together and cheating on your children's mum makes someone a crap dad as well as a crap partner IMO. Why would anyone want to stay with someone who was so thoughtless and disrespectful? Whether it's someone who is 'at it' whenever he gets the chance, or a partner who seems to have fallen in love with someone else who is a genuine threat... why bother trying to 'keep' them or pull them into line?

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Wed 12-Dec-12 23:44:15

Haha garlic that's fair enough. But since he got CZJ in RL and she's still with him he probably has no concept of how unrealistic these plotlines are... grin

garlicbaubles Wed 12-Dec-12 20:22:33

Michael Douglas films ... any in particular? grin

Perhaps he has done a film in which some woman of inappropriate age doesn't make an absolute tit of herself for love of him? I must have missed it - or maybe a film that passes the Bechdel test? Missed that one, too.

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Wed 12-Dec-12 19:16:47

Michael Douglas films

He's done a lot of films... any in particular? Personally I'm not keen on Disclosure and Fatal Attraction which I think contain really terrible messages about male/female relationships/dynamics.

And I think you are right about skewed values re women vs men. I detest the women's magazine thing of giving women tips re how to attract/please/keep men. The idea that men's mags would do that in reverse is unthinkable. I guess the idea that a woman is 'lucky' to have a man is still powerful and explains why women might indulge in policing behaviour - the man is a prize to hang onto even if he's a cheating cunt

But I suppose as long as men have more financial clout than women this will persist... the 'don't be a SAHM' thread on here is pretty salutory.

garlicbaubles Wed 12-Dec-12 17:58:14

women who seem to be high-functioning in other areas of their lives who are insecure in their relationships and put a lot of energy into policing men who don't behave respectfully towards them

Yep, that describes me to a T! I think the reasons such women commit to men who treat them disrespectfully, then expend loads of energy trying to get some respect, are all tied up with skewed ideas of self-worth and of women's value compared to men's. Since pulling this apart in therapy, I've become quite intolerant of many social norms from lapdancing to Michael Douglas films (and plenty in between.) I agree with you that couples are probably drawn together by shared beliefs about responsibility. The couple in your story seem to accept that she's responsible for moderating his behaviour - and it worked for them this time. While they might both deny it if you put it to them, this is what their behaviour shows about them.

When you think of how many women infantilise their partners in general terms (laundry, diet, bills, etc.), it's not much of a stretch to suppose they also consider men incapable of emotional self-monitoring. Actually it would be seen as a red flag if a man were to act as if he didn't trust his wife to sort out her own laundry, to know what to eat and to manage her friendships. It could be interesting to wonder why we're so tolerant of the reverse.

Feckthehalls Wed 12-Dec-12 17:52:20

great thread, and yes, whoputhedickonthesnowman that was exactly my point

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Wed 12-Dec-12 17:38:36

Tiredofwaiting - do you honestly believe the OM in your friend's case is still with his wife purely because she is policing him?

No I don't, not at all. I think I didn't explain it all very well. I wrote about that in response to someone who said you can never influence the outcome. I disagree with this. Any threads on here about affairs - and that Shirley Glass book I think, though I've not read it - point to affairs happening often because an attraction gets pursued and indulged and eventually turns into an affair. I think in the situation my friend was in, something might have happened if his wife hadn't been so vigilant. And it might have been something big. But ultimately he wasn't prepared to do anything about it anyway, because he was happy to be brought back into line.

So I suppose you can stop someone from having an affair if you police them. If you think something is developing you can shut it down before it goes too far.

But I think it must be a horrible way to live.

garlic I don't think this this thread assumes women are controlling obsessives. I just find it really sad that I've often seen on MN women who seem to be high-functioning in other areas of their lives who are insecure in their relationships and put a lot of energy into policing men who don't behave respectfully towards them. And I was curious to understand the mentality. I've never been in this position myself; I'm not a jealous person but I'm not particularly trusting either. I'm quite cynical about people sad But I more accept that they might do wrong things than think it is worth trying to stop them.

garlic I think you made an interesting point that there are men who enjoy making their partners insecure and gaslight, which does make you feel like you are going mad and determined to find out what the truth is.

The guy I mentioned upthread whose wife wouldn't let him have female friends was very accepting of her being like this. I think he saw it as evidence that she really loved him, ditto her freaking out at him if he'd had a sneaky cigarette on a night out.

So I guess sometimes it might be the man who encourages the policing because he gets some kind of buzz out of it, or because it helps him with his own insecurity.

I don't think this is exclusively female thing either and I am sure there are men who keep tabs on women as well. I only made the thread title as it is because there are many, many more women on here than men, and arguably men are more likely to cheat, or they certainly seem to be. But it's very controlling either way, isn't it?

garlicbaubles Wed 12-Dec-12 12:45:37

I have to say I'm a bit uncomfortable with a thread that seems to want to paint a picture of women as controlling obsessives, without looking at the behaviour of the men in their lives

Me, too. I've been open about having behaved in a controlling way through fear. What about the husband who played on my fear to manipulate my thoughts and feelings? He told me I was imagining objects and events I'd seen for myself. I was quicker to believe I was wrong/damaged//drunk/insane than the evidence of my own eyes & common sense - it didn't occur to me that anybody would lie as blatantly as he did! He found it amusing.

To me - and to everyone around us - it seemed more likely that I was crazy than that he was a manipulative cunt. The abuse victim is often blamed by others, who fail to understand that they're looking at the effects of systematic and deliberate undermining. I now find it shocking that women are so readily written off as unstable or controlling: this enables abusers and isolates victims.

A cheating partner is abusive. S/he may or may not be an habitual abuser but, during the build-up and execution of an affair, they abuse their partner's trust and love. It's not surprising that the victim loses confidence, becomes fearful, and attempts to re-establish their security.

I described the underlying values that brought me together with 'compatible' partners. To simplify a lot (!) we saw men as cheeky villains, who use women while the women are trying to trap them. We never sat down and discussed this but, no matter how clear your logic, your unconscious values show through. Please bear in mind that this is the same precept underlying 99% of romantic films, music and even history ... women compete for men; men run rings round them. Just because I've analysed my mind in therapy, don't assume my problem was unusual.

worsestershiresauce Wed 12-Dec-12 08:38:21

Tiredofwaiting - do you honestly believe the OM in your friend's case is still with his wife purely because she is policing him? I'm astounded. He's there because he wants to be, for whatever reason. I am sure your friend believes he is bereft without her, and his life has been ruined by the controlling wife, but I'd put money on the reality being a little different. Men who cheat/want to cheat tell a whole lot of lies to their OW, mostly about their wife.

Policing anyone in a relationship is a bit insane, as it breeds resentment. If a partner has breeched trust, they have to put in the work to prove they are trustworthy themselves, because they want to, not because they have to.

tumbletumble Wed 12-Dec-12 08:34:50

I think it depends if the policing is short term in response to a specific situation, or a long term pattern.

4 years ago I had suspicions about DH and a colleague. He said they were just friends and she maybe had a bit of a crush on him but nothing had happened and nothing would happen. I checked his emails whenever I had the chance to see if there was any evidence to refute this. I found nothing, and have had no reason to mistrust my DH since then, so I'm glad I did it to set my mind at rest.

I guess your OP assumes the H is definitely cheating.

YouCanBe Wed 12-Dec-12 08:30:30

The only time I did it was when I believed that I wouldn't be able to find anything better if I / he left. I thought I didn't deserve to be treated any differently.

Men do this too though you know, in relationships. It isn't a 'woman' thing.

ErikNorseman Wed 12-Dec-12 08:20:27

You don't know how you would feel in that situation.
For me, I wasn't ready to end my marriage, so I tried to police it for a while. Eventually I stopped bothering and we ended it but that was my timeframe and a process I had to go through. Sometimes you have to live something to find out how pointless and destructive it is. If we could all act on other people's advice nobody would ever make mistakes.

And yes there is vitriol directed at the OW. I never ever absolved my H of responsibility and my hatred o the OW does not preclude my anger at him. I hate her for various things related more to her behaviour after the affair ended and that's my right. I look forward to one day feeling nothing towards her but I'm not quite there!

VelvetSpoon Wed 12-Dec-12 07:24:45

I think a lot of it stems from insecurity.

In the interests of fairness this policing isn't limited to women I know men who do it too - the worst example was an old schoolfriend's dad, who recorded all conversations on their landline (pre mobile era) and drove his wife to and from work every day to ensure she had no opportunity to speak to other men.

The friend I mentioned upthread is v insecure and has low self esteem. I believe her father has a history of affairs, and she grew up with her mum constantly checking his whereabouts, hence perceiving it to be an almost normal way to behave.

SomersetONeil Wed 12-Dec-12 05:00:13

I think there's probably zillions of little reasons for why this happens...

Immaturity is probably the first one that springs to mind. As in - being very young; the actual meaning of immaturity. Young people without very much life experience can be less trustful of their partners. I know I was in my early 20s.

But aside from this, there are all sorts of reasons. It doesn't take much imagination to figure them out.

Upbringing, your parents' blueprint for relationships, life experience, low self-esteem, an unfortunate early experience with an emotional abuser which fucks you up. Cheating yourself, and knowing what people are capable of and how 'easy' it is to getaway with stuff. Being a naturally suspicious and/or pessimistic person.

Really, when you think about, there's loads of reasons. In fact, my experience on forums has taught me that happy, well adjusted people with healthy self-esteems are very much in the minority.

Me, I'm way too lazy. smile That, and the fact that I have a lovely Dad and a lovely DH and so have no cause for concern.

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Wed 12-Dec-12 02:07:21

badinage I am purely basing this on what I have seen on these threads. Have a read yourself.

a thread that seems to want to paint a picture of women as controlling obsessives, without looking at the behaviour of the men in their lives...

This is a very distorted view of what this thread was about and if you had read all the posts, including mine, I don't think you'd have said this actually this is total bollocks but let's be polite. Of course men aren't absolved of responsibility, not at all. But if men behave badly and serially cheat, why do some women tolerate this and see the solution as policing rather than just get rid? That was the question. And there have been a lot of really interesting replies and perspectives that shine a light on this.

I'm not going to say more about my friend and the OM in her life. It was a complicated situation but to give more detail would compromise people and I'm not prepared to do that. You've made a lot of assumptions but that's understandable because you don't know the parties involved. I do, and I'm confident my take on the situation is pretty measured and thought-through, not to mention corroborated by others, not just my friend with the 'jaundiced view'. But let's not pursue that as it's a red herring really.

Dunno what your issues are but assume there must be some as you seem to want to pick a fight. I'd love to humour you but I am off to bed now, sleep well smile

badinage Wed 12-Dec-12 01:38:29

Where are you getting all this from OP? Do you know loads of single women with no commitments who monitor their completely trustworthy partners?

I have to say I'm a bit uncomfortable with a thread that seems to want to paint a picture of women as controlling obsessives, without looking at the behaviour of the men in their lives......the story about your friend for example, makes it sound as though her and the man were completely blameless for getting involved in a relationship that could have damaged their marriages. I'd say you're likely to be getting a very jaundiced account of his wife's behaviour too, because it suits your friend to think that his wife put a stop to any affair - rather than the truth which is that this man had free will. If he wanted an affair, nothing his wife did could have stopped him. Your friend should really stop this sort of denial that blames women for men's behaviour......

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Wed 12-Dec-12 01:06:34

Thanks for your post Comrade.

Yes, I guess you are right... the circumstances you describe are quite extreme but it is an illustration of women's lack of clout in so many areas of life. We should have achieved equality now but we haven't. The SAHM thread on here right now is a case in point. A woman who gave up her career for a man and is now financially and emotionally shafted since the relationship ended.

It's something I hadn't considered... that women will police relationships out of fear of sheer financial insecurity and lack of confidence in the legal process to see them right.

I honestly hadn't thought of that.

But again, this really applies to married women/women with kids/commitments.

Why do so many women who don't have these constraints still police their men?

badinage Wed 12-Dec-12 01:03:13

I don't see that on those threads. I see posters blaming both the person who had the affair and the other person, which is about right isn't it? I wouldn't expect posters to claim the other woman had no part in events, as that wouldn't be rational or true.

I think if you've always had competitive relationships with women, you'll probably blame them more than men, whatever they do. So you'll judge them more harshly if they are involved in an affair (either as OW or as a married person)......blame them if they are suspicious and jealous even when they've got cause to be.....blame them if their partner has an affair.......blame them if their sons do no housework or childcare....the list goes on.

Meanwhile the untrustworthy men and idle fathers escape all the brickbats.

ComradeJing Wed 12-Dec-12 00:56:17

I think that it is largely down to the very great fear that a number of women have of being alone and the perceived failure of divorce or being single.

I think also that being divorced- especially if you've given up a lot (career, life choices, etc) - and having to start again is very scary.

I know of a number of expat women who police their husbands. Divorce means losing their visa, returning to their home country (which In my case i haven't lived in full time for close on 17 years), attempting to get money out of someone who has a declared income in the UK of zero, finding a job when youve been out of the workforce for decades and a home... I imagine in this situation it feels better or safer to police their partner so that they aren't in a situation where they have to make a stand on adultery.

I bet for women in the UK who police their husbands that the answer to why they do it is tied up in the same reasons as above too.

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Wed 12-Dec-12 00:44:56

Maybe if society stopped telling women that if they kept their men happy they wouldn't stray, this 'policing' as you describe it would stop

Agreed. But it's also interesting how on threads on MN if someone HAS had an affair there seems to be an awful lot of hostility directed at the OW... the man is seen as the unwitting victim, and the OW the Lady Macbeth figure who fucks everything up. I can't help wondering if the 'policers' are often of the mentality that there are predatory WOMEN out there who have to be kept at bay...

I think my attitude would be - if you want him, you can have him.

deleted203 Wed 12-Dec-12 00:29:42

'I don't have a scooby' means, 'I don't have a clue'....(as in Scooby Doo)

I have never seen the point in policing a man. It wouldn't be worth my effort or time. If you don't want to be with me, then don't, is my basic attitude to life. No one's forcing you. If I discovered a partner was having an affair I would end the relationship. I don't play games, and I don't want to be with anyone who does.

YankNCock Wed 12-Dec-12 00:26:40

'scooby' is rhyming slang for 'clue' <helpful>

<not contributing anything much to the conversation>

badinage Wed 12-Dec-12 00:19:09

Many of these examples of controlling women who allegedly keep men on a leash are coming from.....untrustworthy men who posters know and untrustworthy women who are having affairs with said men. It's therefore not surprising that people in those two camps have a vested interest in painting women as obsessive harridans and gaolers, is it?

Maybe if society stopped telling women that if they kept their men happy they wouldn't stray, this 'policing' as you describe it would stop and women would realise that it's not their fault if they are in a relationship with a cheat and that nothing they do can stop a man if that's what he wants to do. Often people do these crazy things because they think people will blame them if what they fear happening comes true, so they do everything they can to prevent it. But they can't and so if it does happen, it's not their fault.

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Wed 12-Dec-12 00:07:22

I think that was feck's point, Snowman. You're agreeing with her, right?

WhoPutTheDickOnTheSnowman Wed 12-Dec-12 00:02:40


^I don't know and it's something I've often wondered.
Of course men sometimes do it too, in which case they are labeled controlling confused^

All I wanted to say is yes they should be, because it is controlling and damaging. Women that do this should be called out and labelled correctly too controlling having a vagina doesn't exempt you from being abusive or a fuckwit.

Feckthehalls Tue 11-Dec-12 23:37:21

The interesting thing some men in this context tiredofwaiting , is they seem to go along with their wives reining them in - your friend's situation sounds like a good example.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now