For several years now, Dr. Laura has been arguing that it is up to women to keep their husbands happy. She took up this theme in earnest when she published a book, “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.” In her book, Dr. Laura stated that women have been “indoctrinated and threatened into an anti-male bias.” It’s not necessarily that some women hate men, she said; they simply disdain and dismiss them and their needs.
I can certainly see Schlessinger’s point. It’s appalling how many women have little regard for their husbands’ feelings or concern for what is vital to his sense of self-worth. Women who are all sweetness and light to other people can say the most awful things to their husbands. Women who are so careful not to hurt the feelings of a coworker or neighbor can be critical — even bullying — toward their husbands.
Obviously, some husbands are brutal and uncaring. These situations are tragic. Some of the time, though, even hostile homes can be transformed into havens of warmth and caring by the right catalyst; a change in the wife’s attitude and different actions has sometimes worked miracles. It is shocking to see many women totally ignore their husbands’ needs. Too often, wives give everything else precedence, and the husband’s needs are not even on the radar screen of their priorities. This relational imbalance is compounded when women view masculinity as distasteful, if not downright disgusting. Then there are those wives who view sex as a commodity with which to barter — if the husband will give her what she wants, she’ll “give in.” Ironically, the feminists urge unmarried women (as early as high school) to find their independence by being sexually adventurous, defined by being eager, available, and aggressive as sex partners. At the same time, they urge married women to drive a hard bargain to avoid giving up any “power” in the relationship. Such women think that if they give, they’ll lose. Therefore, they hold back their affection and drive hard bargains in the sexual arena.
Most happily married women would agree with Dr. Laura that their “power” comes from very simple and basic things in regard to their husbands: respect, gratitude, understanding, lots of loving and a cheerful acceptance of a fair share of the household and family responsibilities. Many of the women who gripe the loudest about the drudgery of housework have no appreciation for the tedium of the typical male responsibilities — among them: taking out the trash, washing the car, mowing the lawn in the summer and shoveling the walk in the winter, cleaning out the gutters, painting the trim and balancing the checkbook.
In fact, many of the most miserable women have abdicated their femininity in an attempt to be a dominant force in the workplace; control is the air they breathe. Feminists have told women that they deserve more than pregnancy and the burden of children. Radicals have convinced too many women that a career is more important and meaningful than a family. Thus, young women are confused by their need for permanency in a relationship with their man — the yearning to belong — and some mature women are surprised and perplexed when they discover their need to make a home for the man that they love and stay home with their newborn.
In spite of the trends toward singleness, most women are still idealistic and want to eventually have a loving, secure marriage, children and a happy family. Often, even those who are in the most miserable and unhappy marriages want to change their situation. To them, Dr. Laura affirms that women have the power to make things right. By listening, expressing appreciation and substituting a positive attitude for dissatisfaction, women can dramatically transform a hostile environment into a peaceful, happy home. The way a woman speaks to her husband sets the tone for the home — sarcastic witty put-downs of blundering males are a staple of advertisements and television sitcoms, but a frequent diet of this type of communication in a marriage is corrosive and ultimately deadly. A positive, appreciative attitude can be a recipe to change a husband’s responses so that the whole atmosphere of the home is warm and caring.
When Schlessinger was asked whether she would ever write a book for men about the “proper care and feeding of wives,” she quickly said “no.” Men don’t need such a book she claimed because when the husband gets the attention and affection he needs, his wife gets all the love and support that she wants and needs.
Dr. Laura’s approach may not work with every man (particularly a guy whose background has made him emotionally damaged and thus was a poor candidate for marriage to begin with), but I think for the most part Schlessinger is on to something.