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Video: How to save a marriage

updated 1/3/2007 12:03:01 PM ET 2007-01-03T17:03:01

Many marriages are filled with resentments, complaints and bitterness... and Dr. Laura Schlessinger gets to hear them every day on her syndicated radio talk show.

In her latest book, “The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage,” she offers advice on how to bring a marriage back from the brink of disaster.

Here's an excerpt:

Chapter One
"Me Tarzan. You Jane."

The first and most obvious issue in approaching the glory and angst of marriage is to understand the fundamentals of the two people involved; one is a woman, the other is a man. And that is no small thing! Sometimes it must seem to frustrated spouses that each has more genetics in common with flies and daffodils than each other. Not so; but if one doesn't understand, admire, respect, and at times forgive, the nuances of the opposite sex, then the beauty and satisfaction that can arise from the uniting of man and woman in the most important covenant of marriage will not be discovered and enjoyed.

So much sociopolitical time and effort has been spent trying to eliminate the reality, subtlety, magic, and meaning of masculine and feminine, that men and women are afraid and hostile to acknowledge their own pleasure in being such and in yearning for the complementary gender in their spouse.

I remember some twenty-five years ago working with a middle-aged couple on their marital problems. Frankly it seemed as though they were hopeless, refusing to spend any time at all on their difficulties other than complaining and blaming each other for their unhappiness. I recall closing my eyes for a moment and just listening. I could hear the hurt, loss, and need in their voices. Instead of trying to reconcile their "problems" I decided to get to the root of the plant and stop worrying first about the way the petals looked. I opened my eyes and interrupted their fight by saying, slowly, to each of them, "Sir, what do you do to make her feel like a woman?" and "Ma'am, what do you do to make him feel like a man?"

They both just stared at me, speechless. I insisted that they answer my question, despite their determination to get back into the fight. Finally she began to cry softly, and he looked deflated, when just seconds before, they were both energized, reddened with anger. We had some fifteen minutes left to the session, and they had nothing to say—to me or to each other.

Marriages are not business arrangements of coworkers or co-owners. Marriages are the joining of two minds, bodies, souls, spirits, hopes, dreams, needs, personalities, and different genders. Unisex clothing does not erase the fact that men and women are very different creatures, and that they are each at their best in enjoying life and love when they revel in those differences with awe and respect.

Harper Collins

I did a number of surveys on my Web site (www.drlaura.com). The first had to do with men's and women's perceptions of the opposite sex. For all my questions about men/women, marriage/divorce, and so forth, I received thousands of responses, usually within an hour of my posting the questions! Presented here are, in no order, the most frequently mentioned answers. This first group of answers are from men, and they are about their perceptions and feelings about women in general. So you women need to read these with an open heart and mind, for in these answers are many of the solutions to your marital problems with your husbands. The second group of answers are from women, and they are also about women's perceptions and feelings about men in general. You men need to read those with the same open heart and mind, if you wish to move your marriage into a more satisfying place in your life.

Part A—Answers by Men

Question 1

What do you, as a man, most admire about women in general?

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1. Social skills, nurturing nature, compassion, sensitivity, listening skills, focus on relationships and bonding (friends, family, community)
2. Physical softness, sexy, curvy, beautiful, and graceful bodies
3. They will sacrifice for family, the power of creation of new life, being mothers
4. Better at details (multitasking)
5. They take the rough, hard edges off this world, they bring feelings and emotions and a sense of intimacy to us logical guys
6. They can create a home out of any environment, adding aesthetics (color, grace, beauty) to life, they make a house into a sanctuary . . . a home, homemaking
7. The positive effect a good woman can have on her husband and family
8. In femininity there is gentle power over people

Paul, a listener, added: "What I admire the most among many things in women generally is the strength, inspiration, love, and support they give men. They are the balance that counterweights all the chaos, hard times, and heartache us men go through."

I believe that men yearn for their spiritual and psychological counterbalance to humanize and beautify life. I don't think it matters much to a man if his woman chooses to be an accountant or physician—as long as she is "his woman" and "a woman" to him. That understanding is lost to too many women today. Sadly it is all too typical for women to want to be seen by their men as the high-powered position they have at work, instead of as a woman, with those special attributes that are natural to her and yearned for by her man.

But the reality is that women today do not think of themselves in the context of helping "their man." Women today have been brainwashed into thinking that efforts in that direction are in the category of oppression, subservience, and catering to frail male egos. It is sad that this is the prevalent point of view, because interdependence is what ultimately feeds both the man and the woman what they truly need to be happy.

Generally when people lob the phrase "know your place," the understanding is that they are reminding someone of their subordinate position in a relationship or situation. I look at that quite differently. I believe that when a man knows that he actually has a place with his woman, and she with her man, they bring the best out in the other—and enjoy life more feeling purposeful, needed, wanted, and necessary.

Excerpted from “The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage,” by Laura Schlessinger. Copyright © 2006, Laura Schlessinger. All rights reserved. Published by HarperCollins. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.

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