In her most provocative book yet, Dr. Laura urgently reminds women that to take proper care of their husbands is to ensure themselves the happiness and satisfaction they yearn for in marriage. Here's an excerpt of “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands":
"As a man, I can tell you our needs are simple. We want to be fed, we want our kids mothered, and we want lovin'."
"Men are only interested in two things: If I'm not horny, make me a sandwich."
I am a thirty-seven-year-old man who has seen quite a bit in life, and I can offer this to your search for how to treat a man. We are men, not dumb-dumbs, psychics, or one bit unromantic. We need only clear communication, appreciation, honest love, and respect. This will be repaid by laying the moon and stars at your feet for your pleasure. There is no need to 'work' a man to get what you want. We live to take care of a wife, family, and home. Just remember that we are men, and know that our needs are simple but not to be ignored. A good man is hard to find, not to keep."
"A good man is hard to find, not to keep." That sentence should really make you stop and think. As a radio talk-show host/psychotherapist, I've got to tell you how remarkably true and sad it is that so many women struggle to hold on to some jerk, keep giving an abusive or philandering man yet another chance, have unprotected sex with some guy while barely knowing his last name, agree to shack up and risk making babies with some opportunist or loser, all in a pathetic version of a pursuit for love, but will resent the hell out of treating a decent, hardworking, caring husband with the thoughtfulness, attention, respect, and affection he needs to be content.
It boggles my mind.
What further puts me in boggle overdrive is how seemingly oblivious and insensitive many women are to how destructive they are being to their men and consequently to their marriages. Women will call me asking me if it's alright to go off on extended vacations "without him" when they want some freedom or R&R, or if it's okay to cut him off from sex because they're annoyed about something or just too tired from their busy day, or if they really have to make him a dinner when he gets home from work because it's just too tedious to plan meals, or if it's okay to keep stuff from him (like family or financial issues) because his input is unnecessary, or if they're really obligated to spend time with his family (in-laws or stepkids), or if they really have to show interest in his hobbies when they're bored silly by them, or -- well, you get the idea.
Let me relate the specific call that prompted me to write this book. Annette is thirty-five, her husband is thirty-nine, and they have a one-year-old son. She is a stay-at-home mom who just doesn't enjoy cooking and doesn't feel it's useful to spend a lot of time doing it. She called wondering if that was detrimental or not to her child. Right away I was alerted to her lack of concern about the needs or desires of her husband -- you know, the guy who slays dragons for her and their child every day. In order to really get a feel for this caller, you'll have to imagine the completely hostile and disdainful manner in which she spoke.
Dr. Laura: What do you do for food?
Annette: We eat peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
Dr. Laura: That's not healthy three times a day.
Annette: No, he's [the child] not eating it three times a day.
Dr. Laura: What do you eat for dinner?
Annette: Well, he's still breast-feeding at one year old.
Dr. Laura: What do the adults in your house eat for dinner?
Annette: My husband might eat beef enchiladas from the freezer, and I might eat cereal or cottage cheese. My husband doesn't much like what I cook.
Dr. Laura: That's not really a balanced, healthy diet. Are you intentionally making awful things that he won't eat or is he some kind of ogre?
Annette: (Sarcastically) No, I'm just not a good cook. [What you can't read is her disdainful, hostile tone.]
Dr. Laura: Okay, Annette, being a better cook is easy to come by. All you do is take a class or get a book of recipes. I wonder if you're intentionally undermining his enjoyment of a home-cooked meal so that you simply don't have to do it. Let me tell you what is detrimental to your child. Dinnertime turns out to be one of the most important functions of a family in terms of a child bonding with parents, their ability to communicate and feel close to their parents -- all of which supports their self-esteem.
The dinner table is a most important aspect of that bonding. That is the routine time when the family sits down, says their prayers, and spends that pleasant time enjoying their meal together and talking. So, if that means you have to do what you don't like, so be it. Or did you plan to teach your son that when he doesn't enjoy something, he doesn't have to do it at all, or he doesn't have to do it right? In which case you are going to have a child growing up to be a monster.
There are a lot of things we all don't enjoy doing, but they are part of the rigor of life and they are a part of our obligations in our various roles. To be people of integrity, we have to follow through whether or not we enjoy something. So, if you are at home, I think it is important for you to make the effort to prepare pleasant dinners because I think that's part of the joy and comfort for your family. Put in the effort. If your husband can eat frozen, prepackaged Mexican food, with all those spices, it means he has a pretty open-minded stomach -- so you must be going far out of your way to mess with him.
I don't understand that hostility, especially from a woman who has a one-year-old child. The ability for you to maintain a safe and nurturing home for that child largely depends on the quality and existence of your marriage. I'd expect you to make more of an effort. Most of the women who complain that they are not getting what they want from their husbands should stop and look at how disrespectful and disdainful they are of them. They should also look at what they put their time and energy into at the expense of him and their marriage. It would be a stunner for them to realize that they try harder to impress strangers than they try to impress the person who is supposed to be the most important to them. As one listener, Gary, says:
"A husband is like a horse. At the end of the day he is usually rode hard and put away sweaty. Like in the movies, if his master drives and beats him, he'll go just so far before bucking and rebelling.
If you love him, if you coax him, he'll drive himself till his heart explodes before he will let down his master. He'll give himself to death for the one he loves.
Which way should women handle a man?"
I have never gotten a complaint from a male listener in twenty-five years on the radio over my assertion that men are very simple creatures. They agree. I have explained time and again on my radio program that men are borne of women and spend the rest of their lives yearning for a woman's acceptance and approval. Unless you've got a man with a frank mental or personality disorder (the exception, not the rule), men admittedly are putty in the hands of a woman they love. Give him direct communication, respect, appreciation, food, and good lovin', and he'll do just about anything you wish -- foolish or not.
With one particular caller, Sandy, I pushed this agenda through to a successful conclusion -- but not without a lot of sweat on my part and resistance on Sandy's part.
Sandy: My husband and I have a horrible relationship.
Dr. Laura: And why is that, I wonder.
Sandy: He says I'm too headstrong... but I think we are both too headstrong for each other.
Dr. Laura: He says you are too headstrong. And what does that mean? Sandy: He always tells me I like to take over situations -- that I like to control situations and that I go around him when we should discuss these things together. I just go ahead and do it myself.
Dr. Laura: So, why do you do that?
Sandy: I don't know.
Dr. Laura: It is destroying your marriage. Why would you continue to do that?
Sandy: But it is stupid things like going to the store and buying something. Why should I consult him in things like that?
Dr. Laura: Well, it doesn't hurt to have a chat or invite him to come along.
Sandy: I just don't see it.
Dr. Laura: Do we have kids in the middle of this?
Sandy: Yeah, we have three kids.
Dr. Laura: That is why we have to make changes -- so that the three kids have a peaceful home. And you can make the changes.
Sandy: We worked on it.
Dr. Laura: No. We didn't work on it. You didn't change.
Sandy: It is just hard.
Dr. Laura: So what, it's hard. This is about the lives of your three children. Don't tell me something is difficult to do when your three kids are depending on it. That should be incredible motivation for you to behave better in your marriage -- to treat your husband better in your marriage.
To help her make some changes, I asked her to make a short list, right then and there while we were on air, of three reasonable things her husband wished she would do differently. She fought this tooth and nail. First, she supposedly didn't know what he'd want, then she complained about him, then she got sarcastic about his needs, then she exaggerated what she'd have to do. Whew! It was tough to get through the resistance to admit that any of his desires or requests were reasonable, much less show any willingness to give him something he wanted.
I explained to her that personal change was difficult, bitching about somebody else was easy. I persisted with my question, offering her the opportunity to make things better for herself and her children. Finally, she relented -- well, sort of -- you can still read the "edginess." Dr. Laura: What are three reasonable things you know would please him if you changed?
Sandy: If I took his opinion on things. If I listen to what he says and do it.
Dr. Laura: Okay. That seems fair for a marriage. What else? Sandy: He would like to see me accept him for the way he is without asking for any more.
Dr. Laura: Generally, I think that means he wants to feel appreciated for what he is and does.
Dr. Laura: And, when you are constantly trying to change him or demand more or different, he reads that as though you don't approve and appreciate what he is offering and who he is. Remember, this is the man you picked. Okay? So he needs more appreciation. And, what is number three?
Sandy: To just let things slide off my back sometimes. He always says I am too perfect.
Dr. Laura: Okay. Be easier going.
Dr. Laura: Here's your assignment. Do this for a few days and call me back. Number one is ask him for his opinion about something. Number two is show him some appreciation. Number three is if it really isn't important, let it pass because nobody likes to be jumped on all the time. Read them back to me please.
Sandy: Ask him his opinion. Show him appreciation. If it isn't real important, let it pass.
She did call back in a few days and was rather surprised that with seemingly small efforts she had helped to improve her husband's mood and behavior and lighten up the atmosphere in the home, all leading to her own peace of mind.
But that is what I keep telling women. Men are simple straight lines. Generally, unlike women, men do not have mercurial moods (like PMS) or hypersensitivity to interpersonal slights (when was the last time you heard a man complain about his father-in-law?). Men usually mean exactly what they say and don't speak in the more indirect style more typical of women. Also, men will typically suffer in silence long, long before they will complain or screech out in pain (isolation and alcohol abuse is where it shows), while women are more likely to use whining and complaining as a form of communication and even entertainment with their girlfriends. Men are simple. They know it. Women have to learn it if they expect to be truly happy with their man.
Kathryn, another of my listeners, confirms this:
"Men really are not as complicated as we think they should be. Men love to hear that their woman is happy and that they are the source of this happiness. Men deserve the same respect you would show a visitor in your home -- even more. Men love to be complimented. They also like to be admired. I always thank my husband for working so hard for us, and I encourage the kids to do so, too. Men are grumpy when they are tired and/or hungry. Anything they say while they are in either one of these states is not to be taken seriously. Men don't like it when women talk about them behind their backs. Men are not your 'daddies,' they are your contemporaries and get stressed and scared about things just like you do. And if you were a real friend, you would help ease their burdens, not add to them. Men have dreams, too, and it doesn't matter if it's logical or not, don't walk all over them.
This doesn't mean that we don't have problems -- everyone does -- but it's a lot easier to work them out with a man who knows you love and respect him."
I have been sadly amazed by the lack of understanding and appreciation so many women demonstrate for those basic facts. A recent caller to my radio program took the cake with her call. She is married for the second time and they both have children from prior marriages. She is working full-time and is involved in all sorts of activities. She called to complain about her "demanding" husband. It seems he was unhappy in his new marriage because his wife, my caller, was not spending time with him in or out of bed. She described an unbelievably hectic daily schedule, remarking that she just had too much on her plate to have time or energy or impulse to be intimate at all, much less physically intimate, with her new husband.
I immediately suggested that she take a cosmic spoon and dump stuff off her plate to make room for her new marriage, for her husband, for their relationship. She immediately came back with, "But shouldn't he just be understanding?" I almost flipped! He should be understanding about being ignored, about being at the bottom of her priority list? I responded, "Why should he agree to be a boarder in his own home, with no effort at all from you for a personal relationship? Why should he be sanguine about that? Why should he be sympathetic to your choice to exclude him from your life?" Her answer, so telling, was, "Ohhh. I didn't see it that way at all." I reiterated that she had to dump much of what was she was voluntarily allowing to hog up her plate and make room for him, or he was going to dump her off his plate, and that I wouldn't blame him much at all.
These calls are not aberrant. They reflect truly typical attitudes of a preponderance of women in today's America. Since Gloria Steinem wrote that "women need men like fish need bicycles," more than a generation of women have foolishly bought that destructive nonsense and have denigrated men, marriage, familial obligation, and motherhood -- all to their own detriment. Normal, healthy women yearn to be in love, married, and raising children with the man of their dreams. However, when their own mothers, much less society, tell them that they don't need men to be happy, or to raise children, and that their own children don't even need a mother raising them (day care will do), it's caused many women to lose the incentive and the ability to treat their personal lives with the love, dedication, sacrifice, compassion, and loyalty that will ultimately bring them happiness and a sense of purpose.
Sonya, a listener, echoes biblical scriptures with her note:
"And at the end of the day... roll over in bed, close your eyes, give him a big hug, and remember that without him, you are only a sorry excuse for a person, but as half of the team, you are invincible." In Genesis God said, "It is not good that man be alone; I will make him a helper corresponding to him. . . . Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh." Contrary to what a good forty years of feminist propaganda has claimed, it is not oppression, subjugation, or abdication of any feminine quality-of-life potential to marry a man, be proud of your bonding, rejoice in your gifts and sacrifices for your marriage and family, and derive pleasure and sustenance from your role as a wife and mother.
Your attitude makes all the difference in the quality of your life. And your understanding of men and what they dearly need will make all the difference in the quality of your marriage.
"I told my husband about the book you are working on and asked him what he thought men want. He said, 'That's simple. Lots of sex and no nagging. What's so hard about that?'"
It's not quite that simple, but Kathy's husband's tongue-in-cheek answer speaks to the truth that women have all the power in the world to determine the behavior of their men. This power is released when women practice the Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.
Excerpted from “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Copyright © 2004 by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Published by HarperCollins, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from the publishers.