Flipping through the channels with the remote, we stopped out of curiosity. Curiosity quickly led to incredulity, followed in quick succession by disbelief and peals of laughter. My husband and I had landed on the evening news program, Dateline, stumbling into a segment about a new book and its author's approach to making your marriage perfect. Titled The Surrendered Wife, author Laura Doyle's solution to fixing your marriage is to simply throw up your hands, change your personality and let your husband be totally in charge . . . of everything . . . period. You and Ms. Doyle will now have to forgive me while I pause to laugh hysterically. . . again.
I laugh because were I to implement her program in my marriage, the only things that would be "surrendered" would be my family's way of life and my husband's respect for me -- oh yeah, let's not forget that my sanity would be waving the white flag in no time.
But just for the sake of the hypothetical, let's say I did try to follow her guidelines: Give up total control of everything. Allow my husband to make all decisions. Don't criticize a single thing he does. Allow my husband to have total control of the finances. Get yourselves a drink while I get this laughing under control . . . In the course of one month, here is what I predict would happen:
Week One: As I am not even allowed to decide what the children wear, they would all look like before/after shots in a Weight Watchers ad. The four year old wearing the eight year old's clothes, etc. Their hair, were I to abdicate my control over their follicles, would look more like they were styled by Vidal Buffoon, not Vidal Sassoon. Oh yes, I would begin to suffer severe inner convulsions as I choke back my "criticism".
Week Two: Since I am following her advice to completely abdicate control and trust him implicitly, one child will have now missed a field trip to the zoo (What permission slip?), another will have to make up three swim lessons (What schedule?), and the third will be chafing from wearing the same underwear since last Tuesday (What laundry?). And an aneurysm threatens to take out the left, or controlling, side of my brain.
Week Three: Following her guidelines, he coordinates an entire evening out for the two of us, including picking out my clothes. Now here I give him some credit, as the children are left in the care of our capable regular babysitter, he picks out a favorite restaurant, and presents me with a Hallmark card over dinner. All of this is overshadowed, however, by the fact I am wearing a lime green dress, navy blue panty hose and brown shoes. I know a stroke is imminent.
Week Four: While he is at work, I begin fielding a non stop series of phone calls from Sears, JC Penney, the phone, gas and electric companies, and our mortgage bank, all inquiring as to when we might think about paying them? As he enters the door that evening, my Stepford wife facade will crumble and I will release a pent up tirade of control and criticism that will last into the wee hours of week five. He will smile, happy to have the real me back in our marriage and clean clothes back in his drawers.
You see Ms. Boyle, the secret to a happy marriage lies not in ignoring your partner's shortcomings. It lies in recognizing his and your own weaknesses and covering each other. Like the finances. He is a man who used to think that as long as the ATM gave him money, he had money in his account. Imagine his surprise when I took over the finances and introduced him to the term "Overdraft Protection" and the $800 he now owed his bank! Happiness is also not going to be found by changing who you are in order to keep the peace. He fell in love with me because I am independent, opinionated and strong, not a doormat.
And believe it or not, a good marriage does have its share of criticism. Like when he takes his shoes off and I tell him to spray his feet with Lysol. Because believe me, if I surrendered to that, you'd never hear from me again.