James, married for over 12 years, says, “My cantankerous better-half would have been less caustic but for her ever-gushing and acidic tongue. Alas! She does not understand the pitfalls of unrestrained communication.” He has given expression to the feelings of a myriad of husbands.
A wife like the above, at core, is castrating. She tears down a husband’s ego and self-respect. She robs her husband of his individuality. She tries to be dominant, aggressive and overwhelming. Symbolically, she carves up his psyche.
The results are devastating because her attacks are always aimed at the plus-points of his personality. She substitutes love choices for hateful ones. She symbolises broken relationships. This is particularly true of a working wife I know. She is, at the subconscious level, always comparing herself with her husband. This leads to jealousy.
The case of a painter hubby makes it clear. The working wife has no hobby. The husband’s hobby has brought him fame, publicity and respect. Significantly, she has never suggesting complimented him. Contrarily, she has always chided him, and even gone to the extent of that he give it up. It serves no purpose except that it gives you wrong ideas about yourself.
Such acidic observations are immasculating in effect. They are bound to leave psychic wounds on the husband. He may carry it all his life, fouling up the relationship. Such a wife is an ambitious career woman who wants to advance in her own career, just like her husband, but shrinks and sours at the very thought of him going up the greasy pole of acclaim and appreciation.
Alternatively, she may be the demure, domestic housewife who mends her own bras and blouses and bakes her own beans. She secretly resents her husband’s popularity and feels awful if he spends time with outsiders or goes out. She can be either. But she is the typical wife who is apt to have the most disturbing attributes. Frustrated, she attempts to intrude on her husband’s interests. That’s her way to get the better of him. A neurotic struggle for superiority!
Dr Van de Velde has a practical solution. Says he: “There’s no man’s job in which a woman cannot help him, to some extent, materially or mentally; there is no terrifying anxiety and perplexity of hers which he could not dispel with a word.” Or, if you are a wife with such inclinations, give yourself activities of your own; you will not need to dominate him.
Your mind and body need work. When you begin to learn a new skill, both get involved. You have to develop a discipline and a lively mind to direct your hands and limbs as the new skill demands. Whether you take up arts or crafts or anything else is up to you.
Your mind will become energetic, quick and eager to do more. Don’t rest your mind by doing nothing. Instead, give it a fresh zest by burning it to do something new. You will not only find your husband’s hobby interesting but also illuminating.
Join him. Let him share your self, thoughts and feelings. Become an integral part of his life, merge into it. Marriage is not a game of mutual deceptions; it’s of mutual appreciations. It demands maturity of minds. Also, mark the areas of his influence as well as those of your own. Avoid overstepping boundaries without irritating arguments.
Avoid picking up dropped reins of authority. The husband likes a wife who plays a fair game. Avoid brushing away his likes and dislikes. Insistence on doing everything your own way amounts to snubbing him. It recoils upon you in the long run. Use your imagination.
Try to work things out on your own. Deal effectively with each other on the basis of what you actually are not as you imagine yourself to be. In living a married life, spouses must face the unyielding rock of reality which does not bend to whims and fancies.
LOVE: A DISGUISED WEAPON
In most failed or failing marriages, the truth is that love has been used as a disguised weapon of hate. The element of bewilderment in broken marriages stems from this psychic contradiction.
Complaints and resentments surface when a marriage sinks into misery and quarrels. These are symptoms of deeper problems. Sometimes, on the surface, it is an absurd trifle. For example, a husband leaving the lights and fans on, and going out. Or the towering rage of the husband because the wife did not bring his shoes from a nearby rack.
Incidents precipitate vicious flare-ups that last weeks, completely breaking down and blocking communications. Hidden behind can be money matters, selfish behaviour, interference of relatives or in-laws, betrayal, shock and many other factors.
Yet, it does not mean that spouses who run into such problems cannot live together or solve their problems without damaging their happiness. They must realise, however, that problems are masked expressions of psychic hostilities, which must be attended to.
Be honest in your approach and dealings. Dishonesty and cunning a disguised sometimes disastrous effect. Snappy conversation which means bottle-necked communication, element of is another factor that fails the relationship.
“What happened at the office today?”
End of communication.
The reason is the question itself is out of touch. A wife really interested in drawing him out would have asked a specific question: Has your boss returned from abroad? Have you applied for leave?
These questions are specific enough to be answered. They also show interest and involvement. There is an underlying reason too. Communication is easy if spouses share the same world.
“I had a rift with a colleague today,” says the husband. The wife responds, “Interesting. I too.” Vague queries then vanish. This starts a conversation, which is the bedrock of communication.
Communication is easier if the spouses share their inner world and, the same people live in the world of their minds. If the world is peopled by different sets, there are bound to be conflicts. Loyalties clash in the name of freedom!
One silver principle to be borne mind is: it’s easy to be difficult but difficult to be easy! Freedom means choice. A woman is forced if she has to always do as others want her to. True, freedom meant to be exercised. But it should be liberty, not licence.
To avoid chaos in married life, liberty of the self should not be allowed to clash with the right of the husband.
You can add extra salt to your dish, but you cannot ask your husband to shut his book. It conflicts with his liberty. It is much the same as in society. You can drive but you cannot drive on the right side of the road. If you do, you infringe on others’ liberty. Hence the clash. Thus, freedom can be forbidding, and scary. Especially when you are not used to thinking in terms of making a choice.
But don’t let this throw you off. You can have harmony and choice too. Keep to the “left” of the matrimonial road. Trespassing and violation of rules is disallowed.
Proximity, informality and compatibility are the other keys to a good marriage, just as they are to love. Proximity is important because you find it natural to be warm with your husband, as he is one man who is always at hand. You don’t get this chance when he is away on some errand or official tour.
Informality matters because formality makes your behaviour strict, unnatural, stand-offish, and constrained. Informality means you don’t have to invite your husband to a formal dinner! All you have to do is to bring a fruit or vegetable salad and join in after putting it on the table. Eating together cements relationships.
Give him a surprise. You are both relaxing, watching TV in the sitting-room, feet spread out on the centre table. Quietly, get up, prepare two cups of tea or coffee, and bring one to him. Ditto for the husband. Each has added a string of strength to the relationship.
Compatibility can be summed up as a principle of human behaviour that people like people who like them. In marriage, you need not keep rigid standards for each other’s behaviour.
One guidepost is: allow your husband three faults. He gets up late. He spends too much time on his newspapers. He talks too much about his office. Accept these three without fuss or fuming.
The areas of friction and fault-finding will decrease, making for more compatibility. You become tolerant and friendly towards your husband. The husband, too, should chalkmark his wife’s three weaknesses and be tolerant to her. Never mind if she talks too much on the phone, gets chummy with the maid, and leaves strands of hair in the sink.
His imbibing is an impediment in adjustment. He is difficult to get along with when he is drinking or after he has had one too many. He neglects food after drinking.
Before you begin to explode or simmer inside, think carefully about whether he is an alcoholic or has just gone awry on it. There is a chance that he has a drink-habit but is not an alcoholic. If his drinking is merely circumstantial, switch circumstances. Let him have one drink and then serve food. Or suggest some activity that will preclude drinking. Phone friends or relatives to drop in, in whose presence he will not look for drinks.
If he hedges or dodges, you know he has a problem. There is one thing, which is almost a sure-fire help: no man likes to be labelled an “alcoholic.” This is your greatest ally. Use it sensibly. Emotional dependence on your parents is worse than their meddling in your money matters. You may be hooked on both counts. You are responsible of your own troubles.
The husband rightly resents it. They have no business to violate his area of authority. Interference equals insult. Emotional dependence can work both ways. It shows to the husband that you are unfit to step into a fully adult role. Hence you cling to dad’s or mummy’s thumb.
Perhaps, your mother is trying to re-live her own life through you after having failed in her own. The results are disastrous for your marriage.
Vital in-law problems cannot be wished away. You must see that you protect areas of your married life to prevent parental poaching. You must stand by your husband. Or be ready to pay the price. Marriage is like a pair of scissors. It cuts anything that comes between the two blades!