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"The Surrendered Wife"?

I cringed at the title, but the book, "The Surrendered Wife," offers a surprising amount of wisdom.

by

I don't know who her PR agents were. I don't know what her marketing strategy was. I just know that there couldn't be a worse title for a truly valuable book than "The Surrendered Wife" by Laura Doyle. Even as I write it I cringe. But it got my attention. And maybe that was the goal...

Despite my reservations, I read the book in an effort to demonstrate how broadminded I am. "The Surrendered Wife" is a book about letting go. It is not a book about submissiveness. It is not anti-feminism. It is a book that demonstrates the destructiveness of trying to control another human being, particularly your spouse. So I read it. Cover to cover.

Perhaps my husband would enjoy if just once I would keep my big mouth shut.

I saw myself, and many close friends (you know who you are) in Ms. Doyle's stories. And while she takes her philosophy to an extreme of passivity that I find unpalatable – i.e. "don't express your opinion, just say to your husband 'whatever you think'" – there is a lot of wisdom in her insights. Perhaps my husband would enjoy if just once in a while I would keep my big mouth shut and turn to him adoringly and say, "Whatever you think."

Maybe. Maybe not. But I know he would appreciate it if I didn't always tell him he took the wrong turn and the slowest route. He might appreciate it if I didn't tell him how to talk to the waiter, what to order, and the exact amount of the appropriate tip.

Our husbands want to know they have our respect, trust, and, as Laura Doyle suggests, every time we control, direct, or even worse, criticize them, they know they don't.

And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As with children. If we don't expect our husbands to succeed, they probably won't (unless he's got a very contrary personality and responds well to reverse psychology!)

The nitpicking, the correcting, the "I know a better way" attitude is destructive on many levels – to the husband personally and to the marriage. I know that I don't enjoy spending time with people who are always telling me I'm wrong – either directly or by implication.

And this situation sure doesn't augur well for one's intimate life. It doesn't encourage closeness and desire.

FOR HIS OWN GOOD

Of course when we correct our husbands, we mean it for their good. We're only doing it to help them. But most husbands don't experience it like that. To them, it's an attack. To them, it's emasculating. To them, it's depressing and destructive.

There's nothing liberated or egalitarian about being critical.

There's nothing liberated or egalitarian about being critical. Our husbands are not our project, our work in progress, a piece of clay for us to mold. And our husbands are not children. (It always annoys me when women refer, half-jokingly, to their husbands as one of their biggest children. Do they think their husbands find that flattering or amusing?) It won't create a new/modern marriage if we whip our husbands into shape. But it is a quick road to divorce.

"But I do know a faster way to drive there," wives complain. Good. Keep it to yourself. (I would say, "Unless asked"; Ms. Doyle would say, "Even then.") You'll get there five minutes later with a stronger marriage.

"But he's handling the situation all wrong." Give him a chance to figure it out for himself and grow from it. Don't rob him of his opportunities to stretch and change.

There is an important caveat in the book that none of this advice applies to an abusive situation. Similarly, if there is, God forbid, a serious crime at stake. If your husband is about to commit armed robbery, don't say, "Whatever you think!"

We have to lift our husbands through caring and respect. As Rabbi Eisenblatt writes in Fulfillment in Marriage: "...to the extent that the marriage partners appreciate and respect each other they will create a nourishing atmosphere in which each can grow and develop into a still better partner."

Worth taping to the fridge.

POSITIVE EXPRESSIONS

Positive expressions of pleasure after tasks well done accomplish much more than harsh words. And don't qualify those compliments. Drop the "but" as in: "That was nice of you to make dinner but why didn't you clean up the kitchen?" "I appreciate that you went grocery shopping but why did you buy ten bags of potato chips?" Practice saying two simple words: "Thank you."

A woman's belief in her husband's abilities and potential will inspire him to greater heights. Nagging will drag him down.

It's not about being submissive. And I don't know if it's about surrendering either. It is about letting go. We don't have to run the world. (The Almighty's on that job 24/7.) We don't have to control our husbands. We don't have to dominate our children.

And the most surprising thing of all is not only do things not fall apart without us at the helm, sometimes they actually get better.

Postscript: Whenever I address this topic to women, they invariably say, "What about the men? Don't they need to hear this?" Of course they do. There are many men who would benefit from the ideas in this book. Hopefully their needs will be addressed. But asking, "What about the men?" can also be a way of avoiding personal responsibility. Don't worry about the men for a minute. Look inward instead of outward. Do you see potential for growth and change? You go girl.

Published: June 30, 2001


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Visitor Comments: 31

(30) rochel, December 31, 2012 7:00 PM

concerned

I actually just heard about this book , and plan to read it, its good to hear its concept being backed by you. I have a concern that I see one perrson alluded to. I backed out of finances a while back because I was advised to based on same concept as this book, but what if husband is financilly iresponsible? just sit back and wait for foreclosure to happen?not voice opinion about concerns about losing home??

(29) Laura Doyle, April 26, 2012 9:20 PM

Enjoyable Review for the Author

Thanks for this thoughtful review of my book The Surrendered Wife, Emuna. Recognizing yourself in the pages of my book takes some courage and self-awareness, and going public with it is even braver. Although it's a New York Time best seller and translated into 15 languages in 26 countries, the thing I'm most proud of is that my marriage of 22 years is the romantic, supportive, loving, tender relationship I was envisioning when we took our vows. I didn't set out to be a relationship expert, but what I discovered seems to resonate with women all over the world. I'm always humbled and honored when another woman pipes up and says this book speaks to her. I hope it's helped to strengthen your marriage and therefore your family. All My Best, Laura

(28) Gladys Diaz, April 24, 2012 9:43 PM

I'm not just a believer, I'm helping to spread the word!

Thank you so much for writing an objective, open-minded review of the book! A friend of mine (who is also a graduate of our Surrendered Singles program) was on your site and sent me the link. I didn't quite know what to expect when I saw the picture of the woman wearing the red duct tape! (My color of preference is purple!) However, I was pleasantly surprised! You nailed the message right on the head! Surrendering is not about being submissive or subservient. It's about letting go of and relinquishing the control that's not ours in the first place. It's about acknowledging that the only thing in this world we can really control is ourselves: our thoughts, words, actions and reactions. And that, when we do that, and let go of the urge to control or try to change and fix everyone around us, we are filled with peace. And in that space of peace, love and intimacy can flourish. I've experienced the miracles of surrendering in my own marriage, and now I work with Laura to help spread the word! Thanks again for a great article! I will be sharing it with our graduates, Facebook and Twitter followers! In Sweet Surrender, Gladys Diaz Heart's Desire International, LLC

(27) Anonymous, April 22, 2012 9:51 PM

recommended book

In meeting with a very reputable person in Beit Shemesh, he recommended this book to me. In addition he gave me a rough copy of the book which will be reprinted in manner more for the very orthodox world. In addition he gave me exercises to do along with the book, So far , so good!

(26) tammy, March 6, 2012 7:15 AM

letting go, surrendering... difference?

I have not read but am considering reading the book and this review's even-handed approach is helpful. I would just say that our negative reaction to the term 'surrender' is a result of post-feminist conditioning. We as women are especially reluctant to even "let go" or give up any control, especially to a man, regardless of how close we are supposed to be with him, because we've been taught that that is to indirectly feed patriarchy. Yes I think the book's principles probably apply to both men and women, but the fact that we bristle to the very word 'surrender' probably suggests that women are in greater need than we think of the introspection this reviewer calls us to in the end.

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