Help for your marriage!

Posted: Feb 18, 2004 12:00 AM

The letters are enough to make a grown woman cry.

I'm referring to the many stories sent by men across the country to Dr.Laura Schlessinger that are included in her newly released book, "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands."

Several weeks ago, I decided to write a column about Dr. Laura's book because I deeply value her wonderful work on behalf of families. As I have written before, the basic unit of every single civil society ? the family, starting with marriage ? is in grave peril due to efforts by social and judicial radicals who are seeking to destroy the sacred institution.

Proponents of same-sex marriage often cleverly point to the millions of failed heterosexual marriages in modern culture as support for their argument that homosexual marriages could be more successful than the failed model. If ever there was a time to provide a resource to husbands and wives to help them strengthen their existing marriages, it is now. My original thought was to read Dr. Laura's book, pen a simple, impersonal review and then move on to another topic.

But that was before I ended up in tears on an airplane as I turned the pages and read letter after heart-breaking letter from real husbands who are berated, relentlessly criticized and often ignored by the wives that had once loved them with all their hearts.

A letter from "Roy" expresses the sentiments of most of the letters:

The world is full of messages to men that there are standards we don't meet. There is always another man who is more handsome, more virile and more athletic than we are. None of that matters if the most important person in our life looks up to us, accepts us as we are, and loves us even though we aren't perfect.

Maybe there is a part of the small boy that never leaves the grown man, I don't know. All I know is that the husband who has a wife who supports him and praises him for the positive things he does is the envy of all the other men who have to live with criticism, sarcasm and constant reminders of their failures.

"Chris" had this to say about his constantly critical wife: "I want to be admired. I want to be acknowledged for being the breadwinner and making sure that we are all well taken care of. My greatest pleasure is when I feel like her hero. Like her 'man.' Not her boy."

I must admit that in reading the book, I felt a few pangs over the many times when I've served my husband a little too much whine with his dinner. Or when I've been too busy, or too tired, or too (wince) selfish to let him know how much I appreciate him. Don't get me wrong, I'm head-over-heels in love with Andy, and this year we celebrate the blessing of 20 years as husband and wife.

But reading the words of men desperate not for fame or fortune ? but merely the affection of their wives ? has caused me to vow to let him know every day that I respect and value him and his opinions. If I am to convince other women of the necessity of working on their marriages, I have to face the ugly truth that the majority of the conflicts in my own marriage over the years have occurred because of my failure to follow the Golden Rule with this man who captured my heart two decades ago.

That is not to say that there aren't some really lousy husbands out there. We all know that there are. There's never any excuse for abuse or adultery, but those horrors and the horrible men who engage in them are not the focus of Dr. Laura's book nor this column. Nor are the smaller mistakes of husbands. Those topics are worth discussing, but they are for another day.

Today, ladies, the microscope is on us. "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" is for wives who have lost their way. Its purpose is to illustrate for women the tremendous power we have on our husbands and our marriages. It's to show us that even the smallest of gestures and words can impact our happiness and lives far more deeply than we have ever realized.

As Dr. Laura says, it's easy to have a great marriage with a decent man. Just provide him with an ample supply of the three A's ? acceptance, approval and affection ? and most men will do anything to keep it coming.

Men are simple creatures. They want a wife who not only loves but also appreciates them. They want to be the hero, to rescue the damsel in distress and keep her and their children safe and secure and happy.

Yet, with the rise of feminism and the "me, myself and I" mindset of many women, wives often prevent their husbands from becoming the heroes they so desperately want to be and unwittingly relegate them to the status of water boy. The result is profound sadness and disappointment for both parties, as well as for the children they share.

Ladies, if you're married, you must read this book. If you ever plan to marry, you must read this book. If you know someone who is married or who plans to wed, buy the book for them.

I'm convinced that for every wife who dedicates one afternoon to read "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" and then follows its advice, there will emerge one invincible and thoroughly happy couple passionately in love and ready to take on the world.