A Happy Marriage, Treat Hubby Like Fido
first noticed the title of the book "The Proper Care
and Feeding of Husbands," on The New York Times best-seller
list last spring, I assumed that it was the kind of humorous
little throwaway that one would find in the checkout aisle
alongside such titles as "101 Uses for a Dead Cat."
Then, as I was browsing through the bookstore a few weeks
ago, I saw that it is, in fact, a book by Laura Schlessinger
that purports to help women find happiness in marriage by
approaching a husband as one would a household pet.
introduction, Schlessinger states her essential premise: "Men
are very simple creatures." She uses the word "simple"
to describe men on pages 5, 10, 30, 44, 52, 64, 92 and 121.
Apparently, all a woman has to do to achieve domestic bliss
is keep her man content with a pat on the head, a hearty meal
and an occasional roll in the hay. And, of course, a night
out with the boys every once in a while.
from the obvious uproar that would result if a man wrote "The
Proper Care and Feeding of Wives" (a kiss on the cheek,
a bouquet of flowers and a little extra allowance so she can
buy that new handbag?), I am astonished to learn that there
are those who believe that the future of marriage is to go
hurtling into the past, that we should play our roles as husbands
and wives as if we're living in the 1950s. Since men are such
simple creatures, the thinking goes, it's OK to let the dears
believe that "father knows best." But we all know
who really rules the roost, don't we?
If I ever
came home at the end of the day and saw my wife, Linnea, standing
there wearing a dress and makeup and holding a martini and
my pipe and slippers, I would say, "Please, Mr. Space
Alien, give me back my wife and I won't ask any questions."
Perhaps some men would like their wives to behave that way,
but not me. I'm not that simple.
and I are partners. We recognise and celebrate our differences
as a man and a woman ("Vive la difference!" as Tracy
said to Hepburn), but we have moved beyond the traditional
roles of wife and husband. Sure, I pride myself on being a
good protector and provider for my family. So did my father.
But unlike my father, I have the advantage of living in a
time when I can be so much more than that.
in my children's lives and in the home does not come out of
some sense of "doing my share." I'm grateful for
every moment I have with them and I don't consider it a chore.
I consider it my opportunity to be a fully evolved person.
When the women's movement allowed women to break free of the
conventional, it created the same possibilities for men, too.
Isn't that, truly, what equality means?
and I are individuals, but we have blended our lives together
to create something that's bigger than either one of us. As
E. E. Cummings wrote, "You and I are more than you and
I because it's We."
matters, this means acknowledging each other's strengths.
She helps the children with math homework. I help them with
English and social studies. I'm a morning person, so I get
the boys up and off to school. She's a night person, so she
reads to them and puts them to bed. I cook, she does the dishes.
I drive, she navigates. Sometimes I pick the movie. Sometimes
she picks the movie.
what I think is the problem with marriage: it's too easy to
get married. Self-help gurus would sell fewer books, but there
would be far fewer divorces, if people would learn that it's
not enough to be in love with someone to get married. You
also have to be in love with the idea of being married. This
means that you and your partner will be a team. And the team
is more important than its individual players. If you're not
ready to accept that, you're not ready to get married.
to take a test to get a driver's license or a real-estate
broker's license. Why shouldn't we have to take a test to
get a marriage license? Here are a few sample questions from
the Sherman Marriage Aptitude Test:
you promise to accept your partner for who he/she is and not
who you hope he/she will become? (If you're not sure who he/she
is, do not marry him/her.)
you promise to fight fair and sometimes just give in because,
come on, you know it's not really all that important?
your partner asks you to do him/her a favour, do you promise
to say yes, do it and not keep score?
of a marriage does not depend on learning how to handle your
spouse. It does not depend on subjugating yourself and your
partner to some antiquated model of behaviour. If you want
to find true happiness, my advice is this: get your head out
of the book and look at the person you married.
2004, Newsweek Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004