Shaunti Feldhahn again. This is the women who recently discovered that, YEAH!, the divorce rate is a little lower than we thought. She posits that getting the word out would stop many more divorces because divorces are happening when folks are demoralized by the number of divorces they are told have been happening. Kinda like encouraging smoking because you had a 4 pack a day uncle that lived to 100.
The research for her newest book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, found some spouse specific marriage rules of thumb she condenses for men and for women. Her website describes it like this:
Shaunti spent three years interviewing and surveying 1,000 couples to uncover the most important habits of the most happily married couples – what are they doing differently, that they may not even realize is making them so happy, that others can replicate?
- Take her by the hand.
- Leave her a voice mail message, text message, or email to tell her you love her and are thinking about her.
- Put your arm around her, or your hand on her knee when you’re sitting next to her (especially when you’re in public).
- Sincerely tell her she’s beautiful.
- Pull yourself out of a funk.
- Notice his effort and sincerely thanks [sic] him for it.
- Say, “You did a great job at __________.”
- Mention in front of others something he did well.
- Show him that you desire him sexually, and he pleases you sexually.
- Make it clear to him that he makes you happy.
These lists thingies are too clever by half. My mother in law, for example, overtly, sometimes physically, shirks my FILs efforts at innocent sweet affection. It is troubling to watch. Whenever he is strident about it and they are stuck seated together on a sofa, she stiffly and awkwardly if he uses his hand to touch her anywhere on her body. I’ve seen this enough elsewhere, though not a majority, to lead me to conclude that it doesn’t belong on a list unless it has qualifiers. As is, it is stated as universal advice.
The notes and cards and letters idea is ubiquitous, and in my opinion, banal. The sentiment, and various modes of expressing it, OK. Telling her she is beautiful is solid advice. It is a mine field of disingenuous potential however. If your wife grows slovenly and obese, and you tow the line that it is her inner beauty blah blah etc., you are an enabler, not a husband complimenting his wife. Finally, if a man is in a funk, of course he should pull himself out of it. I have, in the past, resembled that remark so to speak. It is crucial though that if his funk is from her endless toxic nagging and such, the cause be exposed as well. A man needn’t be endlessly put upon to pull out of a funk of his wife’s creation. My anecdotal experience is that most men go into a funk over provision or work related things, or relational wife related things. Within that set, it skews to the wife related things.
They offer better advice to the women. They address respect and sex, thus nailing it. Then the writer has to add a qualifier that reduces the value of the comprehensive list. He writes:
Oh, if you’re thinking that #4 is the most important thing on a guy’s list, think again. It’s #5. Almost 90 percent of men said knowing that they make their wife highly happy is what makes them highly happy.
There is something right about this and something wrong about this. It is correct that men genuinely want their wives to be happy. In fact this could use more emphasis because its not clear that women actually subscribe to this. If women truly understood the drive men have to see their wives happy they would perhaps back off on trying to micromanage and control things in order to create their own happy space.
Apologizing for men’s sex drive is never right, but very common.
It’s interesting how the claim that it isn’t the most important thing is derived. Above the quote form the book’s author’s website says she interviewed 1000 couples as research for this book. If they were interviewed together, as couples, that goes a long way towards explaining the bias that would lead to the claim that devalues the sexual aspect for men, removing it from the number one spot. Simple. Husbands will not answer the relevant questions about sex honestly if the wife is present. Period.
Recall that Willard Harley surveyed over 40,000 couples for his book His Needs Her Needs. He then compiled lists of the top needs by gender. Sex was number one for men. Number one by a lot. I sat through the two week seminar offered at my church in the mid 1990’s. There I encountered the explanation for men not being honest if questioned in front of their wives. As we went need by need, one per session, when we reached the need for sex, several of the wives went apoplectic. One went so far as to say that it was not even a legitimate thing to have listed in the context of needs. The discussion of sex took several sessions with primarily the wife of the seminar giving couple fielding the objections lest the poor fellow end up castrated. I could offer countless examples that affirm the reasons for the bias. In typical fashion, the author from FL was very concerned that the women reading may get” the wrong idea”. Especially from a male writer. Pastors do likewise, both fearing the women and simultaneously chasing The lift that the women will give back.
If Feldhahn likewise disclaims the primacy of sex as a male need, then she is as wrong on that as she is on her take down of the divorce rate. I once had her in the good-hand category. She is out.