The Surrendered Wife Phenomena

Everywhere I turn I seem to run into another profile or interview with Laura Doyle, the author of The Surrendered Wife. I haven’t read the book, but Doyle is kind enough to post the first chapter on her web site.

After describing the problems she initially confronted in her marriage, Doyle writes what she learned from talking to other women about her marital difficulties.

One friend told me she let her husband handle all of the finances, and what a relief that was for her. Another one told me she tried never to criticize her husband, no matter how much he seemed to deserve it. I decided I would experiment with doing things differently in my marriage and hoped that it wasn’t too late for us. I desperately wanted to save the relationship, and I also hoped to save my self-respect, which was fading with each episode of anger and frustration I unleashed on John.

Fortunately, the steps of surrendering helped me with both marital tranquility and self-respect. Today I call myself a surrendered wife because that’s what’s helped me have the marriage I’ve always dreamed of. The same thing will happen to you if you follow the principles in this book.

And what does a surrendered wife do? Let her husband be in charge. More precisely she seems to be advocating that women should aim for an almost child-like trust in their husbands. How does this manifest itself in every day life?

For instance, I thought I was merely making helpful suggestions when I told my husband that he should ask for a raise. When I urgently exclaimed that we should have turned right instead of left while riding in a friend’s car who knew perfectly well how to get to our destination, I reasoned that I was trying to save time and avoid traffic. When I tried to convince my brother that he really should get some therapy, I justified butting into his life as wanting “to be there for him.”

All of these justifications were merely elaborate covers for my inability to trust others. If I had trusted that my husband was earning as much money as he could, I wouldn’t have emasculated him by implying that I found him lacking ambition. If I had trusted my friend to get us to our destination in a reasonable time, I wouldn’t have barked out orders about where to turn, leaving a cold frost on the inside of the car. If I had trusted my brother to make his own way in the world, he would’ve felt more inclined to continue to share the emotional milestones of his life with me.

Today I try to relinquish control as much as I can and allow myself to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, I still don’t do this perfectly, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Just making intimacy my priority rather than control by practicing the principles described in this book, has transformed my marriage into a passionate, romantic union.

To be fair to Doyle, she is explicit that women should immediately leave or seek help if they are involved in relationships with men who are abusive, unfaithful, have substance abuse problems, etc. At the same time I can’t help but think that her advice is horrible regardless of whether her advice is taken by men or women.

Her financial advice is extremely wrongheaded. Somebody who feels emasculated and unable to participate in a relationship because his partner suggest he might want to ask for a raise or consider the possibility that his wife might be better at managing the finances sounds like a real control freak (one of Doyle’s core ideas is that men should always handle the finances and that they don’t feel in control if they don’t).

The same thing goes for the bizarre example of Doyle attempting to correct her friend, who while driving made a right turn when he should have made a left. According to a Time magazine profile, in her book Doyle recommends never telling a husband, for example, that he just missed the correct exit even “if he keeps going in the wrong direction … past the state line.” That’s just bizarre.

What strikes me most about Doyle’s advice is that she seems to think that in order to have a healthy, productive relationship a man must be convinced that a woman blindly worships him and always thinks he’s right. Forcing that sort of relationship strikes me as not only demeaning to both parties, but also psychologically unhealthy. People need others to act as a sort of “reality check” and saying that a wife should simply act as a mirror for her husband’s views misses the point of why people enter relationships. Certainly people try to avoid relationships with nagging, disagreeable people, but the alternative of marrying a sycophant seems unappealing as well.

The thing that really amazes me is that such simplistic pop advice is so popular. The Surrendered wife has been selling like crazy, cracking the Top 10 best sellers on Amazon.Com and Simon and Schuster upped the print run of her book to 100,000 which is an extremely high figure for a non-fiction book. That’s a little scary.

Sources:

Wives surrender all to cult of obedience. John Harlow, The Sunday Times (UK), January 7, 2001.

I Surrender, Dear. Tamala M. Edwards, Time Magazine, January 22, 2001.

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4 thoughts on “The Surrendered Wife Phenomena”

  1. I think it is pathetic to mollycoddle and flatter up a man so as to keep him”sweet”–its entirely dishonest. Both myself and my daughter havw tried this “experiment” in the past–before this idea was around–both of us only managed a week then gave up in hysterics, the men lapped it up and were livid when they realised what we had been doing! We are both single again I might add, hip hop horrah, no messy man to make a nuisance of himself and to pander to! What a silly woman!

    greenwych

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