The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide to Finding Intimacy, Passion and Peace with Your Man


Like millions of women, Laura Doyle wanted her marriage to be better. But when she tried to get her husband to be more romantic, helpful, and ambitious, he withdrew -- and she was lonely and exhausted from controlling everything. Desperate to be in love with her man again, she decided to stop telling him what to do and how to do it. When Doyle surrendered control, something magical happened. The union she had always dreamed of appeared. The man who had wooed her was back.

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Like millions of women, Laura Doyle wanted her marriage to be better. But when she tried to get her husband to be more romantic, helpful, and ambitious, he withdrew -- and she was lonely and exhausted from controlling everything. Desperate to be in love with her man again, she decided to stop telling him what to do and how to do it. When Doyle surrendered control, something magical happened. The union she had always dreamed of appeared. The man who had wooed her was back.

The underlying principle of The Surrendered Wife is simple: The control women wield at work and with children must be left at the front door of any marriage. Laura Doyle's model for matrimony shows women how they can both express their needs and have them met while also respecting their husband's choices. When they do, they revitalize intimacy.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
I know, I know: You could never be a "surrendered wife." Just saying the words makes you feel like flossing. But that's exactly what Laura Doyle thought before she discovered the ecstasy of marital surrender. "When I stopped trying to control the way John did everything and started trusting him implicitly," she confides, "I began to have the marriage I've always dreamed of. When I stopped criticizing his ideas and taking over every situation as if he couldn't handle it, something magical happened. The man who wooed me was back."

In The Surrendered Wife, Doyle spells out her plan for creating a hot, dreamy marriage. Just stop trying to control your husband, she suggests, and you can better appreciate the gifts of a trusting, dependent relationship. "Control and intimacy are opposites," Doyle explains. "Without being vulnerable, I can't have intimacy. Without intimacy, there can be no romance or emotional connection. When I am vulnerable with my husband, the intimacy, passion, and devotion seem to flow naturally." With simple, effective writing, Doyle teaches her readers how to trust their husbands.

Does Doyle preach the Zen of happiness -- or the zilch of wimpiness? Either way, The Surrendered Wife is sure to raise questions for every woman.

--Jesse Gale

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743509237
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 4/1/2001
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.65 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Read an Excerpt


"To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult;
our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest
worth making to find a comrade through whose steady
presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be."



When I was newly married at twenty-two, I had no idea I would ever call myself a surrendered wife. At that time, the very phrase would have repulsed me.

I did know that marriage was risky because I had watched my parents go through a brutal divorce. Still, I was hopeful that I could do better. I was amazed that my husband, John, could love me as much as he did, and part of me believed we could make our marriage work simply because it was born of so much goodness.

At first our marriage was blissful. Then, I started to see John's imperfections more glaringly, and I began correcting him. It was my way of helping him to improve. From my point of view, if he would just be more ambitious at work, more romantic at home, and clean up after himself, everything would be fine. I told him as much.

He didn't respond well. And, it's no wonder. What I was really trying to do was control John. The harder I pushed, the more he resisted, and we both grew irritable and frustrated. While my intentions were good, I was clearly on the road to marital hell. In no time I was exhausted from trying to run my life and his. Even worse, I was becoming estranged from the man who had once made me so happy. Our marriage was in serious trouble and it had only been four years since we'd taken our vows.

My loneliness was so acute I was willing to try anything to cure it. I went to therapy, where I learned that I often used control as a defense. I read John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, which gave me some understanding of the different ways men and women communicate and approach life. I talked to other women to find out what worked in their marriages.

One friend told me she let her husband handle all of the finances, and what a relief that was for her. Another one told me she tried never to criticize her husband, no matter how much he seemed to deserve it. I decided I would try to follow in these women's footsteps as an "experiment" in my marriage. I desperately wanted to save the relationship, and I also hoped to rescue my self-respect, which was fading with each episode of anger and frustration I unleashed on John.

Little did I know that I was taking the first baby steps in surrendering and that doing so would renew our marital tranquility and my self-respect. Today I call myself a surrendered wife because when I stopped trying to control the way John did everything and started trusting him implicitly, I began to have the marriage I've always dreamed of. The same thing will happen to you if you follow the principles in this book.

None of us feels good about ourselves when we're nagging, critical, or controlling. I certainly didn't. The tone of my voice alone would make me cringe with self-recrimination. Through surrendering, you will find the courage to gradually stop indulging in these unpleasant behaviors and replace them with dignified ones.

You will also have more time and energy to focus on what's most important to you. Whether your desire is to have a more harmonious family, run a top corporation, or both, you'll feel increasing pride as you realize your goals faster than ever before. Surrendering has a way of bringing out the best in us, both as individuals and as wives, which is why it's so worth doing.



1. Feel superior to your husband?
2. Nag your husband?
3. Commiserate with other wives about your husband?
4. Hear yourself say, "I told my husband..."
5. Think that everything would be fine if your husband would do what you tell him to do?
6. Eavesdrop on your husband's conversations?
7. Feel like the only adult in the family?
8. Feel overburdened in parenting your children?
9. Do things for your husband that he is capable of doing for himself?
10. Have recurring anxiety and depression?
11. Feel exhausted?
12. Find either of you are disinterested in sex?
13. Feel resentful or jealous about your husband's victories in life?
14. Reject or criticize his gifts?
15. Fantasize about divorce or life with a man who would better match you?
16. Discount the reasons you chose your husband in the first place?
17. Feel hopeless about your marriage because your needs have gone unmet for so long?
18. Have a hard time trusting your husband in even small matters?
19. Find yourself trying to control your husband?
20. Get angry with your husband when he makes a poor decision?



  • 5 points for each "rarely"
  • 3 points for each "sometimes"
  • 1 point for each "frequently"
  • Add all three columns together for a final score (somewhere between 20 and 100)


What intimacy?

You're probably wondering what the heck you ever saw in this guy! But not to worry -- the tenderness you seek may just be dormant. If you can remember the reasons you agreed to marry him in the first place and start respecting him for those reasons, you can still have the marriage you always dreamed was possible. Find the courage to stop controlling your husband today. You won't be sorry. You can transform your marriage, starting now.


Overworked and Underappreciated

It's hard to tell because you make it look easy, but you're doing too much and you need a break. Start to take better care of yourself and ask for help more often. Your vulnerability will be rewarded if your husband feels respected. Thank your husband for his contributions and you will be well on your way to igniting passion and achieving intimacy.



Your marriage is very intimate and passionate. You found a man you respect, and the two of you have a positive impact on each other. This union is a healthy mix of individuality and togetherness. You practice good self-care, you're quick to apologize, and he adores you for it.

"Our thoughts, our words, and deeds are the threads of the
net which we throw around ourselves."


There was no single moment when the surrendered lightbulb went off in my head. Instead, I changed little by little. I experimented, first by keeping my mouth shut -- and sometimes even my eyes -- when John drove. When we arrived in one piece, I decided that I would always trust him behind the wheel, no matter how strong my urge to control.

Next, I stopped buying his clothes (yes, even his underwear), even though I worried that he wouldn't buy any for himself. (I was wrong.) I learned what not to do from making painful mistakes, like criticizing the way he maintained the cars, which made me feel like my mother when she was cranky and caused John to watch TV for four straight hours, avoiding me. I prayed for wisdom, and took more baby steps towards approaching the relationship without control.

Slowly but surely, things started to change.

As I stopped bossing him around, giving him advice, burying him in lists of chores to do, criticizing his ideas and taking over every situation as if he couldn't handle it, something magical happened. The union I dreamed of appeared.

The man who wooed me was back.

We were intimate again. Instead of keeping a running list of complaints about how childish and irresponsible he was, I felt genuine gratitude and affection for John. We were sharing our responsibilities without blame or resentment. Instead of bickering all the time, we were laughing together, holding hands, dancing in the kitchen, and enjoying an electrifying closeness that we hadn't had for years.

For our ninth wedding anniversary, I changed my last name to match my husband's. "Now that I know him a little better, I figure I'll give it a shot," I joked to my friends. What I really meant was that I wanted to be intimate with John in a way that I never was before. I wanted to do something that symbolized my tremendous respect for him, and to acknowledge outwardly an inward shift. This was the natural development of a path I had started some time ago without realizing it.

At first, I felt uneasy when I held my tongue instead of expressing my opinion about everything. Restraining myself from correcting my husband felt like trying to write with my left hand. Life had become awkward!

But there were positive results. Over time, I formed new habits. When I slipped back into my old ways, I stopped to ask myself, "Which do I want more: to have control of every situation or to have an intimate marriage?"

Naturally, emotional connection, lack of tension, dignity, having kindness, and being able to relax always trumped getting the chores done or having things my way all the time. To remind myself of my new priorities, I adopted the word "surrender" as my mantra, because it was shorter and more to the point than saying, "stop trying to control everything." I repeated "surrender" to myself silently over and over again.

"Virtue herself is her own fairest reward."


Surrendering to your husband is not about returning to the fifties or rebelling against feminism.

This book isn't about dumbing down or being rigid.

It's certainly not about subservience.

It's about following some basic principles that will help you change your habits and attitudes to restore intimacy to your marriage. It's about having a relationship that brings out the best in both of you, and growing together as spiritual beings. Surrendering is both gratifying and terrifying, but the results -- peace, joy, and feeling good about yourself and your marriage -- are proven.

The basic principles of a surrendered wife are that she:

A surrendered wife is:

A surrendered wife has abundance where she was once impoverished, and typically has more disposable income and more satisfying, connected sex than she did before she surrendered.

My sister, Hannah Childs, related the philosophy of the surrendered wife to her experience as a ballroom dance teacher. "In marriage," she said, "as in ballroom dancing, one must lead and the other must follow. This is not to say that both roles are not equally important. It is rare that I find a woman who can resist 'backleading.'"

"I did everything he did," Ginger Rogers once said about Fred Astaire. "And I did it backwards, and in high heels." Although Fred and Ginger were equally skilled and talented dancers, if they had both tried to lead (or follow), they would have been pulling each other in opposite directions. Quite simply, they would not be in sync, but rather would be tripping over each other and eventually pulling apart. Instead, Ginger let Fred lead her, trusting that he was making her look good and keeping her from harm. Instead of Fred diminishing her, Ginger allowed him to be the foil for her talent.

I want my husband to bring out my very best, too.

"One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its
original dimensions."


Long before we fell in love and got married, every controlling wife suffered disappointments. At a young age, some of our most basic needs went unmet. This could be the result of any number of things: the untimely death of a parent or the frustrations of a family member's addiction. It could have been the consequence of relatively small things, like not getting the tennis shoes we desperately needed to fit in at school, or having to adjust to less attention because of the arrival of another sibling. Whatever the cause, we then made an erroneous conclusion that no one would ever take care of us the way we wanted.

We embraced a childish belief that if we were always in charge, things were more likely to go our way.

Some of us were so used to living in fear about not getting what we needed that we never even noticed our quickened pulse and shallow breathing. We normalized this level of terror and our accompanying auto-response: Taking control. We believed that the more we could control people around us -- husbands, siblings and friends alike -- the better off we would be.

Just as fish are always the last to discover they are in the ocean, those of us who survive by trying to control things around us are often the last to recognize our behavior. We tell ourselves that we are trying to instruct, improve, help others, or do things efficiently -- never that we are so afraid of the unpredictable that we do everything in our power to ensure a certain outcome.

For instance, I thought I was merely making helpful suggestions when I told my husband that he should ask for a raise. When I urgently exclaimed that we should have turned right instead of left while riding in a friend's car who knew perfectly well how to get to our destination, I reasoned that I was trying to save time and avoid traffic. When I tried to convince my brother that he really should get some therapy, I justified butting into his life as wanting "to be there for him."

All of these justifications were merely elaborate covers for my inability to trust others. If I had trusted that my husband was earning as much money as he could, I wouldn't have emasculated him by implying that I found him lacking ambition. If I had trusted my friend to get us to our destination in a reasonable time, I wouldn't have barked out orders about where to turn, leaving a cold frost on the inside of the car. If I had trusted my brother to make his own way in the world, he would've felt more inclined to continue to share the emotional milestones of his life with me.

Trusting is magical because people tend to live up to our expectations. If you make it clear to your husband that you expect him to screw up at work, wreck the car, or neglect his health, you are setting a negative expectation. If on the other hand, you expect him to succeed, he is much more likely to do just that.

To trust someone means you put your full confidence in them, the way Robert Redford's character in the movie The Horse Whisperer trusted a teenager behind the wheel of his truck for the first time -- by resting in the passenger seat with his hat over his eyes. Trusting someone means you anticipate the best outcome -- not the worst -- when he's in charge. When you trust, you don't need to double-check, make back-up plans or be vigilant because you're not expecting any danger. You can sleep with both eyes shut, knowing that everything's going to be fine.

It bears repeating: When you trust, you are anticipating the best outcome.

Those of us who have trouble trusting others when every rational indicator says that we are safe are reacting to our own fear. We may be afraid that we won't get what we need, or that we'll get it too late. We may fear that we'll spend too much money, or have to do extra work. It could be, and often is, that we fear loneliness, boredom, or discomfort. If you are like me and find yourself driven to correct, criticize, and conquer a partner, then you are reacting to your fears. Whatever the situation, if you do not react to your fear of the outcome, you don't need to try to dominate, manipulate, or control it.

As it turns out, my fears were a conditioned response I had developed over the years to hide my own vulnerability -- the soft underbelly that exposes me to both the greatest pain and the greatest pleasure. I hid my softness as much as I could because I believed it was unattractive. Ironically, the people I found most endearing and easiest to connect with had the ability to expose their real fears, joys, guilt, needs, and sadness. I was drawn to their openness and warmth. I found them engaging.

When I was choosing to control over allowing myself to be vulnerable, I was doing so at the expense of intimacy. What I know now is that control and intimacy are opposites. If I want one, I can't have the other. Without being vulnerable, I can't have intimacy. Without intimacy, there can be no romance or emotional connection. When I am vulnerable with my husband, the intimacy, passion, and devotion seem to flow naturally.

Today I try to relinquish control as much as I can and allow myself to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, I still don't do this perfectly, but it doesn't seem to matter. Just making intimacy my priority -- rather than control -- by practicing the principles described in this book, has transformed my marriage into a passionate, romantic union.

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

-- MOM

A friend of mine described herself in her marriage as mentally "having her bags packed and her running shoes on" at all times so she could get her things together and flee in just a matter of minutes. She was always ready to pursue a life in which she could provide everything that she needed for herself without his help.

My therapist reminded me that when I first started coming to see her, I was the same way. I often felt I would be better off divorced or with another man who was more fastidious or considerate. With the husband of my imagination, I wouldn't have to plan, arrange, organize, and check up on everything. My rotten attitude cast gloom over the relationship. I was always on edge, so that the slightest problem seemed like reason enough to end this marriage and hope for a better one next time. At the time, I felt so pained and self-righteous that honoring my wedding vows seemed unimportant. Today my friends laugh at me when I tell them this because it seems so ridiculous that I was ready to toss out my perfectly wonderful husband.

"Some people find fault as if it were buried treasure."


If you're a wife who feels overwhelmed, lonely and responsible for everything, this book is perfect for you. If you can admit that you frequently or sometimes control, nag, or criticize your husband, then it is up to you and you alone to take the actions described here to restore intimacy to your marriage and dignity and peace to yourself.

I am not saying that you are responsible for every problem in your marriage. You are not. Your husband has plenty of areas he could improve too, but that's nothing you can control. You can't make him change -- you can only change yourself. The good news is that since you've identified the behaviors that contribute to your problems, you can begin to solve them. Rather than wasting time thinking about what my husband should do, I prefer to keep all my energy for improving my happiness. The point of my journey was to give up controlling behavior, and to look inward instead of outward.

I encourage you to do the same.


Shortly after I started practicing the steps of The Surrendered Wife, I had the opportunity to share this philosophy with some friends who brought the principles to their marriages. Not only did they validate the process, they added further wonder to it. They, too, experienced inspiring transformations. Soon a group of five of us -- a Surrendered Circle -- was meeting in my living room once a month. The circle grew quickly as women I had never met began calling me to learn more about how they could revitalize their marriages. When our size threatened to exceed the capacity of my living room, I closed the meetings to newcomers and started Surrendered Wife Workshops, which teach women the skills and help them form the habits they need to surrender successfully. (You can learn more about workshops in your area by calling 1-800-466-2028 or visiting Still more women came forward wanting to know how to surrender to their husbands. Now Surrendered Circles, which offer free support, meet in local communities and on the Internet.

Today there are thousands of women practicing the principles of The Surrendered Wife. They, too, have rekindled the love and closeness that had been dormant for years in their marriages, and gotten a break from feeling responsible for everything. In the pages of this book, you will see glimpses of stories from the women I've met through the circle, my workshop and The Surrendered Wife web site. All the anecdotes are true, although the names and some other details have been changed to protect their privacy.


Your husband does things that get on your very last nerve. I know this because I have a husband myself, and, like yours, he is a mere mortal with numerous imperfections. At times I found his shortcomings so big that I thought I couldn't live with him for another day.

As it turns out, my husband is one of the good guys.

But how do you know if your husband is a good guy? When should you get out?

There are some situations in which a wife should not trust her husband. Under these particular circumstances, I suggest separation or divorce -- not surrender. Only you can judge whether you are in one of these situations.

Before you surrender check to see if any of the following apply to your situation:

1. Do not surrender to a man who is physically abusive to you.

When your safety is threatened, there can be no intimacy. I urge you to leave your relationship as quickly as possible if your husband has done any of the following:

Get help from friends, therapists or clergy and get out. Start making plans and taking action today. For further assistance, call the National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

2. Do not surrender to a man who is physically abusive to your children.

If your husband is inappropriately violent or sexual with your kids, you must protect them immediately. The sooner you leave this relationship, the better your chances of getting into a relationship with a healthy, loving man who will protect, rather than harm, you and your children. (Spanking a child as discipline, however controversial or unacceptable to you, does not qualify as physical abuse. Just because the two of you disagree about corporal punishment does not give you justification to leave the relationship.)

3. Do not surrender to a man who has an active addiction.

A man with an addiction to a substance such as alcohol or drugs, or to an activity such as gambling, cannot be trusted. I can offer little hope of intimacy in this situation, as he will always serve his addiction ahead of your safety and happiness.

Of course, it's not always easy to identify an addiction. If you are uncertain, but suspect that he has an active addiction, find some quiet time and space to contemplate this question. Has his substance abuse or gambling ever interfered with your relationship? Would he keep drinking, using, or betting even if he knew it was making you uncomfortable and lonely? Has he tried to stop in the past, only to take it up again?

Ask your gut, and listen carefully to the response. If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, your husband probably has an active addiction. If this is the case, remind yourself that you deserve to be the first priority to your husband. Remember that the sooner you reject what is inappropriate for you, the sooner you will be able to form a relationship with someone who will treat you like a princess.

If you are having trouble deciding whether your husband falls into the category of a practicing addict, consider contacting Al-Anon, a free program designed to help the family members of alcoholics and addicts. Al-Anon has meetings all over the world, and is listed in your local phone book.

4. Do not surrender to a man who is chronically unfaithful.

A man who has been unfaithful time and again, despite promises to the contrary, cannot be trusted. You deserve to be with a man who is sexual and romantic with you and you alone. So, if your husband is not capable of doing that, your best chance of true intimacy is to end the marriage and look for a man who can be faithful.

Having said that, a past extramarital affair does not automatically make your husband a chronic philanderer. It may have been his inappropriate reaction to years of emasculation and criticism from his wife. That doesn't make the affair your fault; it's still his responsibility to communicate with you and to keep his vows. However, your marriage can heal from this type of infidelity once you begin surrendering, if your husband is willing to recommit himself to monogamy.


Women sometimes ask me if they should leave a husband who is verbally abusive. This is an important question because verbal abuse crushes your sense of self-worth over time, just as physical abuse does. You certainly don't deserve to be belittled. Fortunately, as you will see, respecting your husband and refraining from controlling him will put an end to his hurtful words -- as long as he doesn't fall into one of the four categories above.

Here's why.

If he is insulting, check to see if you have a culture of verbal abuse in your relationship. This kind of mistreatment is very rarely a one-way street, and is often a man's way of protecting himself against ongoing insults and emasculation. Again, it is not your fault if your husband is verbally abusive, but your behavior certainly influences him.

One woman complained to me that her husband had called her terrible names while they argued and that his verbal abuse was simply intolerable. As we talked some more, she told me some of the dreadful things she had said to him during this same argument. At first, she objected to the idea of apologizing for her disrespect because he had not yet apologized.

Rather than try to convince her that they both needed to apologize, I decided to take a different tack. I asked her what was more important: his apology (and her ego) or restored harmony. It didn't take long for her to admit that it was the latter. It wasn't long before she was willing to break the ice.

Her husband responded by apologizing for what he had said in anger, and harmony was indeed restored.

Over time, intimacy, respect and gratitude completely replaced verbal attacks in that relationship, as well as many others, as the wife continued to surrender. The same can happen in your marriage.

"We all suffer from the preoccupation that there the loved one, perfection."


If your husband doesn't fall into one of the categories above, then you are married to one of the good guys. Not a perfect husband, but one who is capable of loving you and cherishing you -- one who has the potential to help you feel great about yourself and your marriage.


If you are like most women, you are already thinking about how your life will fall apart if you stop controlling your husband. Perhaps you feel you cannot refrain from teaching or correcting your husband because then the children will lack discipline, or because you will go broke, or because you firmly believe the marriage will never change. If you are thinking there is some reason you can't follow this suggestion, you are not alone.

That's what we all think. 

I know what I'm suggesting is difficult. I know it doesn't seem fair. It didn't seem fair to me that I had to work so hard to change while my husband continued to sit around watching television, but your husband will have to make big changes too. In fact, he will have to transform in order to stay in step with you as you leave the bumpy road of not trusting him and steer onto the smoother road of having faith in him. He will have to rise to new levels to meet this remarkable occasion.

He will have to listen to his own inner voice of conviction instead of relying on yours to tell him when he's not doing something right. He will need to use his own mind to figure out what's best for his family rather than reluctantly carrying out your subtle or not-so-subtle orders. He will be taking on far more responsibility than he ever has before. He will change as soon as you begin practicing the principles of The Surrendered Wife.

Copyright © 1999, 2001 by Laura Doyle

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Table of Contents

Introduction 13
Take the Quiz: How Intimate is Your Marriage? 15
1. Respect the Man You Married by Listening to Him 33
2. Give Up Control to Have More Power 45
3. Keep Surrendering a Secret 63
4. Take Care of Yourself First 69
5. Express Your Desires 78
6. Relinquish the Chore of Managing the Finances 89
7. Receive Graciously 108
8. Foster Friendships with Women 120
9. Resist Biting the Bait 125
10. Avoid Setting Up a Negative Expectation 133
11. Stop Reading His Mind 140
12. Don't Crowd the Setter 148
13. Abandon the Myth of Equality 153
14. Set Limits by Saying "I Can't" 162
15. Strive to Be Vulnerable 172
16. Admit It When You're Hurt 178
17. Let Your Husband Be the Children's Father 182
18. Listen for the Heart Message 191
19. Take a Feminine Approach to Sex 199
20. Say Yes to Sex 206
21. Never Eat Worms 221
22. Ignore the Red Herring 228
23. Rely on a Spiritual Connection 235
24. Let Him Solve Some of Your Problems 241
25. Be a Diplomat in the Male Culture 249
26. Measure Your Progress 255
27. Spend Your Energy Surplus on Yourself 265
How It Is Now 272
Appendix Surrendered Circles 274
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First Chapter

Chapter Two: Give Up Control to Have More Power

"When a man does not feel loved just the way he is, he will
either consciously or unconsciously repeat the behavior that
is not being accepted. He feels an inner compulsion to repeat
the behavior until he feels loved and accepted."


Stop telling your husband what to do, what to wear, what to say and how to do things, even if you think you're helping. As much as possible, mind your own business. Recognize that when your urge to control him comes up, you may be feeling fear that isn't appropriate to the situation.

Write down five situations where you have been controlling with your husband recently. For each situation, ask yourself what it was you were afraid would happen? Was your fear realistic? What was the worst-case scenario? Did needing to control the situation justify losing intimacy with your husband? Practice facing your fear and relinquishing control of your husband to create room for intimacy, and to become the best person you can be.

Just underneath the urge to control is fear — big fear. I'd go so far as to call it terror. But what is it we're so afraid of?

Many women are terrified that their husbands won't know how to perform everyday duties properly when left to their own devices. These women are convinced that their husbands are so inept that they are a perpetual threat to the whole family's well being — unless the wives step in. Everyday I see exhausted, exasperated women who insist that unless they manage how their husband does everything — be it parenting, tracking the finances, performing in his job, or even brushing his teeth — things will fall apart.

Some women say they are afraid to leave the children with their own father while they go out because they're "sure" he won't bother to make them a proper dinner or put them to bed on time or check to see that their homework is completed. Others doubt their husbands' ability to plan an enjoyable evening out or to negotiate a good deal on a car. I have to smile when women tell me these kinds of concerns, because I remember not too long ago, I thought the same way. Now I challenge those familiar fallacies by asking "Do you think he would let the kids starve? Do you think you'll go bankrupt buying a minivan?"

As irrational as it sounds, the short answer to those questions is, "Yes."

Women feel the need to control because they fear that if they don't take matters into their own hands, their needs will go unmet.

It is possible that your husband is thoughtless or inept, but until you give him your complete trust over a sustained period of time, you can't be sure. Chances are he is a great guy who spends most of his time defending himself against your criticism. Until you stop trying to run his life, you'll never know what it's truly like to be married to your husband. I am not saying that you are the cause of your husband's shortcomings. Your husband is always completely responsible for his own actions. If he is a poor father or neglects his family, that is not his wife's fault. At the same time, if you are nagging, undermining, criticizing, or disrespecting him, you are crushing his confidence, intellect, and potential — both emotionally and financially.

"I have not ceased being fearful, but I have ceased to let fear
control me. I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically
the fear of change, the fear of the unknown, and I have gone
ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back,
turn back, you'll die if you venture too far."


My own terror was so strong that I had great difficulty going with my husband on what we called the "no-control date." My therapist encouraged me to experiment with the concept of trusting my husband by agreeing to go on a date where he made all the decisions — just for one night. On this particular date, he was to tell me how to dress and what time to be ready. He would also drive, pick a restaurant, order for me, pay, and plan any other activities for this one evening. This would give me the opportunity to relax and practice trusting him to be in charge for a change.

It would also prove that despite my superiority complex, my husband would indeed give me what I needed and wanted, right down to ordering my favorite meal for dinner. Agreeing to do this exercise meant I would deliberately be vulnerable — a state that I would normally do anything to avoid.

The therapist must have known that I would have trouble letting go when she assigned the exercise. She must have realized that my habit of calling all the shots would be hard to turn off, even for one night, and that it would be impossible to sit with my fear.

I did so poorly with this experiment that by the time we were backing out of the driveway, I had already figured out where John was taking me and I was telling him the best way to get there. At the restaurant, I told him where to park and squirmed anxiously in my chair as he ordered the dinner I had strategically mentioned appealed to me.

The service that night was abominable. The food took far too long and the waitress ignored us. I told my husband I would ask to speak to the manager and get him to give us our dinners for free because of the extraordinary wait. John assured me we were in no hurry and that he was happy to pay for the dinner. He said he was just enjoying the opportunity to sit and talk with me!

I was beside myself with anxiety. When we finally left the restaurant, I begged him to please take me home (instead of to the movies as he had planned) because I was so distressed. But why was I terrified to be out on a date with my husband? It made no sense!

At no point during the evening was I in any danger of being hurt, embarrassed, bored, deprived, or even having to eat something I didn't like. But to see how I acted, you might have thought I was going before a firing squad. That's how big my fear was.

In reality, my terror had nothing to do with him. I was with a man who knows me well and wants me to be happy. In fact, I was terrified of being out of control long before I met him.

Dominating a situation, however ungraciously, somehow made me feel grounded and safe in an unpredictable world. Finally, as I tried to give up my unpleasant behavior, I learned to dig a little deeper when my urge to control came up and simply say that I was afraid. Unfortunately, this was only a little better in terms of healing my relationship and restoring intimacy. It wasn't until I discovered my "trust muscles" — and started exercising them — that I started to get the connection I'd always wanted.

When Amy talked about her husband, she explained to me that there is always a reason she needs to control his actions. The reason he should eat less red meat is because it's better for his health. The reason he should take one route to the city and not the other is because it would save time and hassle. The reason he should install the curtains her way is because it's more efficient.

The real "reason" Amy can't stop controlling her husband is because she's terrified that if she relinquishes even the tiniest bit of control for a minute, she will lose something precious to her. In this case, she fears losing her husband to heart disease, or having to wait for him because he doesn't know the efficient way to get to work or fix up the house. Like most controlling people, Amy is very bright, and has a distinct set of ideas about what should happen, and how.

Telling her husband how to do things provides her with the illusion of safety, but what she has also done is signaled to him that she doesn't trust him.

"If a relationship is to evolve, it must go through
a series of endings."


There are many ways to be controlling, and I've probably tried them all.

Years ago my husband told me a story about a couple he observed while waiting his turn for a haircut that illustrated just how controlling I could be. While the barber was trying his best to cut the man's hair, his wife was standing by giving the barber explicit instructions. "Not too short in the back," she told him, "and make sure it doesn't stick out on the top!"

Several other men were waiting for haircuts as well, and when the barber finished and the couple left, everyone sighed with relief. My husband got in the chair next and told the barber, "My wife couldn't be here today, so you're on your own."

Even though I recognized myself in this story, I wasn't able to change my seven shrewish habits. I couldn't seem to keep from (1) talking on my husband's behalf and making decisions for him. I told myself that it was a good thing I did, or he would be a mess. Sometimes I would resist uttering criticisms, but (2) give my husband a disapproving look. This seemed less offensive to me, but not to him. When I tried to stop giving him "the look," I started (3) asking questions that seemed innocent enough but clearly conveyed my disapproval. (i.e., You're going to wear that?) I would (4) try to explain to my husband what I would do if I were in his situation, hoping that he would do what I thought he should. I've made (5) countless unsolicited suggestions, (6) gasped in the car while he was driving, and (7) frowned at the lettuce he bought, all in the desperate, futile attempt to modify his actions.

None of those tactics got me the intimacy I craved. Instead, they annoyed my husband. It seemed like John was always waiting for me to decide what we should do, and then dragging his feet once I did. I might have been getting some things done my way, but now John was dependent on me. I was exhausted from doing everything and lonely because I was doing it all by myself.

If your husband doesn't speak up when he gets a haircut or doesn't pay attention to the route when he's driving, it could be because he's always expecting you to pipe up. If you jump in and tell him what to do because you think he can't figure it out, you are encouraging him to cruise while you maneuver. If he hasn't already, he will lose the impetus to do things for himself because he knows that his wife-crutch is always there.

You might argue that it's a two-way street. You could say, as I have before, that if he would stop being so obnoxious or lazy, you wouldn't have to get after him and "help."

Perhaps you think someone should write a book for men explaining how they can be more responsible husbands.

Perhaps someone should.

But you couldn't make your husband read it, or do what it says. So your only chance of improving your marriage is to change your behavior. I'm reminded of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change [like my husband]

The courage to change the things I can [like myself]

And the wisdom to know the difference [between him and me].

He early on let her know who is the boss. He looked her
right in the eye and clearly said, "You're the boss."


One of the most difficult things about relinquishing control is that we don't always know when we're being controlling.

Letting your husband know how little regard you have for his ideas is the most dangerous and subtle form of control. When you squash your husband's ideas you are telling him you don't trust him. Without trust there can be no intimacy. Therefore, one of the keys to relinquishing control is to respect your husband's thinking.

Your husband may make a pronouncement that sounds silly. He's human and he deserves the space to think about things, concoct crazy schemes, and make mistakes, just as you do. We all need the freedom to muse out loud about whatever it is we're thinking. So, the first step in respecting your husband's thinking is to let him think out loud without criticizing, laughing at, dismissing, or insulting him.

Instead, say with as much kindness and sincerity as you can muster, "Whatever you think" when he is telling you his ideas. For instance, if he comes up with a nutty thought that he should change jobs, and this strikes terror in your heart, you say, "Whatever you think." If he says he thinks the kids should learn how to ski, and this sounds dangerous to you, say, "Whatever you think." If he says he thinks the two of you should go out to dinner, and you think you should save money and eat at home, say, "Whatever you think."

Even if you think what he's saying is lunacy, respond by reminding him that you respect what he thinks. Practice saying, "Whatever you think" repeatedly because it's difficult to form those words when you really need them most. For best results, use this phrase exactly like you see it here. I've heard variations on this phrase such as "It's up to you," "What do you think?" "That's for you to decide" and "Whatever you want," but none of these communicates both implicit trust in his thinking and a healthy detachment from his problems as well as "Whatever you think."

Of course, this phrase also implies that you agree with whatever he thinks, which means you're going to end up agreeing to a lot of things that you never would have before. It's not as dangerous as it sounds — all you're really doing is allowing your man to be himself.

Sometimes your husband's ideas will materialize and sometimes they won't. But if you trust him — and respect his ideas rather than trying to control what actually comes to fruition — I guarantee that you will be one step closer to fostering intimacy with your husband. He may lose money. He may make you late. The kids might get bruised knees. He may make a mess, or lose his job or let the bills go so long that the water gets turned off.

None of those situations is permanent, none of them is life threatening, and all of them are part of being human. They can certainly put a strain on your marriage, but they don't have to. You have the power to choose whether you fight about something for days or laugh about it for years.

Many of us harbor the illusion that when we reject disagreeable thoughts and ideas immediately, those thoughts die and never materialize into actions with unpleasant consequences. We believe that we won't have to deal with the financial uncertainty of a job change if we tell him it's not a good idea. We think we won't have to be afraid for our children's safety if we dismiss his idea of teaching them to ski. We won't have to watch our husband suffer and curse while repairing the plumbing himself if we give him "the look" that lets him we know we don't think he can do it.

The problem is that when your squash your husband's ideas, you kill his spirit. When you disrespect your husband's thinking, he feels rejected. You give him no choice but to believe that you already know what's best and have complete veto power. You are letting him know who is in charge: you. He has that recurring thought, "Why bother?" And you are left with feeling tired from shouldering all the responsibility.

But this vicious circle can be interrupted. If you respond to your husband's ideas with trust, he will feel a new level of responsibility. If he says he can fix the plumbing himself, and you say, "whatever you think," he will feel the full weight of the task on his shoulders and probably even some fear. He will think more seriously about the task before deciding whether he wants to take it on.

"Try to want what you have, instead of spending your
strength trying to get what you want."


"But what if he says or does something really stupid, then what do I do?"

"But what if I completely disagree with him?"

"But what if I know I'm right and he's wrong?"

If you're like me, you probably think that these are the situations in which you can make an exception and maintain control.


Instead, they are the times when you especially need to surrender.

When you find yourself desperate to steer your husband's actions, consider your choices: Either you hold your tongue and preserve harmony or you speak critically and create a chasm of resentment and resistance. Once you speak the first note of discord he will distance himself from you. Contradicting is sure to exasperate him and cause a great divide. If you are condescending (and telling your husband what to do is always condescending), you will have to endure his aloofness and sulking afterwards.

If you keep quiet, keep breathing, and remind yourself that this too shall pass, the one stress you won't have is a marital problem. What a relief!

When your spouse appalls you, keep in mind that you married a capable, loyal, hard-working, dependable man. When things go wrong as a result of your husband's decisions, remember that he is learning. Next time, he'll probably invest more carefully or have the kids wear kneepads or hire a professional. If you don't make a big deal about his mistakes, he'll begin to take initiative in every area.

Isn't that what you've always wanted? Somebody who had his own ideas and acted on them?

"We are most deeply asleep at the switch when we fancy we
control any switches at all."

— Annie Dillard

The only time you might disagree with what your husband thinks is if he wants you to do something that would require you to sacrifice your emotional or physical well-being. If he thinks you should hike in the desert heat, and you know this will cost you dearly in terms of emotional balance and physical health, then you must simply say, "I can't." If your doctor prescribes medication that keeps you vital and your husband thinks you should give it up and try a homeopathic remedy, you can tell him that doesn't fit for you. If your husband thinks you should work full-time and you would be devastated to be away from your children for so long, then don't do it. Conversely, if your husband thinks you should be a full-time mom and you know it would drive you mad to be home all the time, then don't do that either.

The way to tell if a situation falls into this category is to ask yourself if you will feel serious physical or emotional distress as a result. If he thinks the two of you should go whaling in Greenland and it's not your favorite idea for a holiday, then you'd want to go along with your husband because there are no serious emotional or physical consequences. Do you see the difference? The holiday is not ideal for you, but it doesn't threaten your well-being. The key point is that you are not controlling him: You are looking at yourself and your own limitations.

Typically though, when a wife is surrendering, her husband doesn't ask her to do things that he suspects will make her uncomfortable or unhappy. A surrendered wife usually only needs to say what she wants or doesn't want to win her mate's agreement, because treating a man respectfully brings out his natural tendency to treasure his wife. When he realizes he has your full faith and trust, he will not want to let you down, and will feel a fierce responsibility to meet your expectations. In fact, chances are he'll take you somewhere besides Greenland on vacation if he knows you'd rather be in a bikini on deck.

The more you relinquish control and respect your husband's thinking, the more powerful and masculine he will feel. Your faith gives him added strength and reminds him who he is and that he wants to take care of you and ensure your delight.

If he feels disrespected, his natural instinct to provide, protect, and adore his wife is derailed. When a wife respects her husband, he naturally responds with more confidence in himself and gratitude for his wife. This makes him cherish her more, and spend more time and effort memorizing the things that make her happy.


The scariest part about surrendering to your husband is that it may seem like you're never going to get your way, but just the opposite is true.

When you give up unnecessary control of things your husband does — how he drives, what he wears, what he does at work, how he loads the dishwasher — you actually gain power in the relationship and in your life. Doing all the work is not what makes you powerful — it's what makes you exhausted. On the other hand, relaxing and enjoying yourself while someone else takes care of things is a very powerful position to be in. Certainly the VIP who rides in the limousine is more powerful than the chauffeur who controls the vehicle. Here are two more situations that illustrate this idea:

Toni is overwhelmed with doing everything around the house, going to work, taking care of the kids, and trying to make ends meet when she pays the bills. She has to nag her husband to do things for her, but when he forgets, she frequently ends up doing them herself. Toni lets her husband know how everything should be done, but he can never seem to get it right. Although Toni doesn't realize it, her husband is on the verge of having an affair with a coworker who admires him.

Barbara is also busy taking care of kids, but her husband earns most of the income and pays all of the bills for the family, so she doesn't worry about that. She often asks her husband for help and relinquishes tasks that are stressful for her. Recently he attended a parent-teacher conference for their son (to relieve Barbara of the chore when she said she found the teacher contentious). Barbara rarely tells her husband what to do, but he is always thinking of things to please her. Although Barbara doesn't realize it, her husband is buying her a diamond anniversary ring.

Toni is staying in control of everything to avoid being a victim. Barbara is relinquishing control to her husband so she can relax more. Who do you think has the most power? Which one would you rather be?

"The only thing worse than a man you can't control is a man
you can."


Put yourself in the room with the following conversations John and I had before I surrendered. Most of them took place in our living room at times when we could have been relaxing together, reading the paper or playing. Instead, this is how our discussions went:


HIM: I gotta get a present for Steve for Christmas.
ME: Do you have to? He didn't get you a present last year!
HIM: Well, I want to.
ME: We don't have much cash right now, so don't spend more than $20. Do you have to get him something?
HIM: Well...maybe something little.
ME: I know, what if I bake cookies and we give him some in a tin?
HIM: Yeah, okay.
ME: Let's do that.


ME: We've got to get the house painted. I think we should get started on it today.
HIM: I don't think so. I hadn't really thought about it and I was going to do some other things today. Maybe we could do it next weekend.
ME: It's supposed to start raining next week. You never want to paint the house! What do you think the neighbors think of this place? It looks awful out there.
HIM: We'll wait until after next week then, but this really isn't a good time.
ME: Why not?
HIM: Because we have other things to do today.
ME: I'll paint it by myself then. I'll just do it myself.
HIM: Why can't you just wait?
ME: Because you never want to do it!
HIM: ArrrggghhhhHH!


HIM: The brakes are starting to go on the car, so I'm gonna take it in next week.
ME: Next week? Brakes are pretty serious, John. Don't you think you should take it in right away? You can't drive without brakes.
HIM: I don't have time right away. The brakes are good enough to last another week.
ME: Hmm. I think you should take it in right away. Why wait until next week?
HIM: I'm not going to have time right now.
ME: You need to make time for things like that.
HIM: There's just too much going on and it has to be next week.
ME: So are you going to take it in?
HIM: Next week!
ME: Maybe I can take it in for you.
HIM: Why don't you just put my head under the wheel and drive over it?

I had veto power over everything, but that also meant that now everything was under my jurisdiction. The responsibility that accompanied the control had me stressed out and utterly exhausted. For protection, my husband placed himself before the television.


Today, if I were to have those same conversations with my husband, they'd go something like this:


HIM: I gotta get a present for Steve for Christmas. ME: Okay.

John is in charge of the household finances, so I don't need to worry about what we can afford. I have my money, so this purchase will not affect me. Instead of discounting John's friends as I would have before, I honor them because I recognize that they offer him things that I can't, just as there are things I share only with my girlfriends. John enjoys giving gifts to me, and it also gives him pleasure to show his affection and appreciation to his friends. Finally, how ridiculous is it for me to pick a present for his friend? Don't answer that!


ME: I wish the outside of our house looked better. I want new paint. What do you think?
HIM: I think we should go to the paint store, buy some paint, and start painting.

This is a real-life example! Notice that I just said what I wanted, not how it should happen. He could also have said, "Let's hire somebody to do it." Of course, he could have also said, "I think we should wait until spring and then paint it."

I would have gone along with either scenario because I'd rather not spend my energy trying to get John to do something he doesn't want to do. If we had painted the house when John didn't want to, I would have gotten my way, but it would have irritated John. Harmony and closeness are much greater gifts than having a house the neighbors admire for its fresh paint.


HIM: The brakes are starting to go on the car, so I'm going to take it in next week. ME: Thank you for taking care of that.

Once again, I don't need to worry about what he's doing because I trust my husband to maintain the car without any input from me. After all, he was doing it long before he met me, and his method worked. Maybe he didn't do it the way I thought he should, but that didn't mean he was being irresponsible.


Some women worry that their husbands will be shocked and find them insincere when they say, "Whatever you think." But not surprisingly, most husbands are just so glad to be trusted that they don't want to ruin it by asking questions. Still, even if you're worried that your husband will doubt the new you, don't get into a long discussion trying to convince him that you really mean what you say. That just opens too many cans of worms. Rather, it's best to just reinforce the original message. You might say, "I'm sure you've got it handled," or "I'm just relieved that I don't have to think about it."

Along this path of respect, you will find peace, relief, joy, and passion that you will never find any other way.

Copyright © 1999, 2001 by Laura Doyle

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Interviews & Essays

The Surrendered Wife

Women often shudder at the title of my book, The Surrendered Wife —until they read it. Then, they see that it isn't the ghost of a marriage book from the '50s. Nor is it the symbol of a feminism backlash. It isn't about women dumbing down or being rigid either.

Rather, my book is about recognizing the following:

  • When you control your husband, you demean him, which causes him to doubt himself.
  • When you nag and criticize your husband, you squash intimacy in your marriage.
  • If you want emotional connection with your man, you must give up trying to run his life.

My journey from being an overbearing shrew to a respectful wife has taught me that control and intimacy cannot coexist. When I try to control my husband, John, and our marriage, I may get to have everything just the way that I want it, but I also end up feeling lonely. When I adopt an attitude of loving trust —whether I feel like it or not —intimacy is sure to follow. In this way, surrendering is about having a relationship that brings out the best in both of us.

I know the title may conjure images of the Stepford Wife rising from the grave to avenge the modern woman, but "surrender" simply means "relinquish," and my book is about giving up control of your husband so that you can create an environment in which intimacy will flourish. Not so chilling after all, is it?

What I mean by "surrender" is that I refrain from commenting on things great and small: I don't mumble about John's driving, even if he's crawling along in the stupid lane. I don't complain if he wears a shirt with holes in it, nor do I remind him that we have a mortgage if he's considering leaving his job to start his own company. When I allow him to make his own decisions —and respect them —he has more confidence, and that, I've discovered, is when we have the best emotional connection.

Surrendering doesn't mean that I have stopped thinking for myself or given up my own ambitions. At work, I'm aggressive, tough, and bossy. But I also recognize that those are not the ingredients for intimacy. For romance to come back into my marriage, I had to reacquaint myself with being vulnerable, feminine, and soft when work was over. This wasn't easy. I'm much more comfortable with control because then I know that everything will go the right way —my way. But when I stopped criticizing, dominating, and trying to "help" my husband, I had a revelation: I didn't need to dictate every situation for it to turn out right. Better yet, I experienced the delicious feeling of true intimacy.

If you're like me, you don't really want so much control anyway. I was exhausted and lonely from trying to do everything myself. I didn't want my husband to treat me like his boss. I wanted him to treasure, adore, and protect me.

Surrendering is not for everybody. Women whose husbands have an active addiction, are chronically unfaithful, or are physically abusive should not surrender. Women with passionate, peaceful marriages don't need to fix what isn't broken.

For a woman whose husband doesn't fall into these categories, but suspects she may be at least a little controlling, surrendering —acting with loving trust —is powerful medicine.

Of course, your friends may be horrified that you're reading The Surrendered Wife. But when they see you in your renewed marriage, it won't seem so spooky.

A Month of Daily Meditations

1. Your Husband Wants to Make You Happy

I've posed the question, "How important is it to you that your wife is happy?" to thousands of men, and no matter the man, time, or place, the answer is always the same: "It's everything."

It may not seem like it right now, but your husband wants to make you happy, too. In fact, few things are more important to him than knowing that he has pleased you.

Every time I see a man holding his wife's purse in the store, moving across the country to be near her family, or driving the old car so she can drive the new one, I'm reminded of just what lengths men will go to ensure their wife's happiness.

If you're thinking your husband is different, think again. If he hasn't made any effort on your behalf in a long time, perhaps he has lost faith in his ability to delight you.

To restore his hope, thank him for the things he has already done that make you happy. Once he sees that he can succeed, his natural instinct to please you will return in full force.

2. Trade the Illusion of Control for a Romantic Reality

When I focus on what my husband could be doing better, I enter a fantasy world in which I can change my life by changing him. In my fantasy, I can have more romance if I tell him to be more romantic, I can be rich if I tell him to ask for a raise, and I can have an easier time keeping the house tidy if I tell him to clean up after himself.

Unfortunately, the reality of my control was dreary. Instead of having more romance, I had a distant husband. Instead of more money, I had a resentful husband. Instead of a cleaner house, I had wall-to-wall hostility.

When I was honest with myself, I had to admit that controlling, or attempting to control, accomplished nothing. The only product of harboring my illusion was loneliness. It wasn't until I gave it up that romance returned.

3. It's Okay to Have the Last Word, as Long as It's "Ouch!"

When your husband says something that hurts your feelings, you may be tempted to lash back with an insult.

Don't do it!

Instead, remember to express your pain by saying, "Ouch!"

It's tempting to express your anger, which may seem like the more prominent emotion at that moment. But admitting that you hurt rather than lashing back curtails the fighting because it reminds your husband that his job is to love you, not to hurt you. This is a good habit to get into because you will transform a moment of pain into one of intimacy and emotional honesty. Your husband may even apologize for what he said, but even if he doesn't, you can be glad that you avoided saying something you'd probably regret later.

4. Bringing Home the Romance

The best way to make space for romance in your relationship is to let your husband see that he is safe. By that I mean he should have confidence that you are not going to complain, nag, criticize, or dismiss him. Once he realizes that you're treating him respectfully, he's more likely to share what he's thinking about and let his guard down -- and you won't have to do any prodding. What's more, his desire to make you happy will resurface. That's when he'll be most inclined to bring you flowers, give you a back rub, or tell you how beautiful you are.

Romance will blossom when you create an atmosphere of safety.

5. The Magic of Gratitude

Before I surrendered, I always remembered to complain when my husband didn't do something he was supposed to, but I rarely remembered to thank him for what he had done. Naturally, he felt that his efforts were invisible, as though it didn't matter what he did or how hard he tried.

Today, I'm quick to thank him for big and small things alike, even if I consider them his responsibility, such as taking out the trash, driving us home from a late party, or paying the bills. I used to worry that if I thanked him, he would come to see those jobs as optional. Now I realize that expressing my gratitude just lets him know I notice how hard he works and that I don't take it for granted. He does more chores than ever (even the dishes) and seems happy to do them -- all because I say thank you.

6. Marvel at Your Imperfect Marriage

If you're feeling like you can't possibly stand to live with your husband's snoring, laziness, or selfishness one more day, spend some time with a single friend to remind yourself what it's like to be alone.

First there are the little things: No one to snuggle up with in bed or help you move the heavy furniture.

Then there are the medium things: Nobody to share dinner with every night, help out with the kids, or run out for medicine when you're sick.

And then the big things: Wondering if you're unlovable, knowing that you're the only one you can count on, and always being on the lookout for that special someone. I'm not saying it's better to be with just anybody, but you aren't. You married a man you love and respect, and lucky you -- you still get to be with him.

Hug him tight when you see him next.

7. 'Tis Better to Receive Graciously than to Reject Gifts

Years ago a friend of mine told me I had the most beautiful hair and wanting to seem modest, I responded by saying, "Too bad I never do anything to take care of it!" My friend insisted that it looked great just the way it was, but I shook my head as though she didn't know what she was talking about. I've noticed lots of women have trouble receiving compliments, and not just because we're trying to be modest.

It makes us feel vulnerable to hear those tender words, and so to draw attention away from the compliment we make a joke or put ourselves down. At times I've felt undeserving of kind words. When I reject them, however, I also miss the chance to acknowledge the person who's complimenting me. This is especially true with my husband, who sometimes says I'm beautiful when I have bed-hair or mascara under my eyes. No matter how uncomfortable I feel taking it in, now I simply smile, look him in the eye, and say, "Thank you."

That mutual acknowledgment is intimacy.

8. The Best Time to Be Intimate Is in the Present

If you're worried that your husband won't feed the kids a nutritious dinner while you're out or pay the bills on time, you're anticipating the future. We all do it, but for the sake of intimacy, it's especially critical to stay in the present. Every second that you spend anticipating what's going to happen is another second that you're not in the relationship. Seconds turn to minutes, hours, and days. You could miss your whole marriage worrying about ways that your husband will disappoint you. Some women do.

Instead of focusing on the future, take a minute to inventory this moment. Just for today, are you okay? Do you have everything that you need? Do you have more than you need? If you find yourself saying "yes, but..." to this question, take a deep breath and come back to this moment where everything is fine. Nothing terrible has happened yet, and it probably won't, but while you went away you may have missed a tender moment, a funny story, or a loving caress from your husband.

Intimacy can only be found in the present.

9. Put Your Own Pleasure First

If you feel overwhelmed by physical and emotional demands and are always counting the days until the weekend, you need to rearrange your schedule and make time for self-care. Until you feel grounded and relaxed, you won't have the energy you need to contribute to intimacy in your relationship.

Every day, do three things that you enjoy doing just because they're pleasurable -- not because they are necessarily productive. They can be simple things, like walking barefoot on the grass, reading a trashy novel, or taking a hot bath. Lying in the sun or talking to a girlfriend on the phone might make your list, or even watching your favorite TV show.

Your self-care will go a long way toward improving your mood and your attitude with everyone in the family, including your husband.

10. Promote the Positive with Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecies Every time you reinforce your husband's faults you're creating a Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy. In Success Self-Programming, Lee Milteer talks about how one wife complained that her husband had a terrible temper, and every time it flared, she would say, "That's just like you to lose your temper!" After attending Milteer's workshop, however, this woman realized that she was inadvertently reinforcing her husband's behavior, and she made a decision to start saying, "That's not like you to lose your temper!" The next time he started to fly of the handle, this wise woman told her husband that it was not like him to lose his temper. He nearly fell out of his chair. Even the kids looked at her funny, but she stuck with her new affirmation. Finally, months later, this woman was at a restaurant with her husband where he was irritated by the slow service. He started to fume about it, and then suddenly he stopped, turned to her, and said, "That's not like me to lose my temper, is it?"

This time, she nearly fell on the floor.

11. For the Best View, Take the High Road

Once when Janet's husband was rushing around in a panic like a little boy who needed his mother to help him find his shirt, she found herself watching him with amusement, detachment, and even a sense of smugness. "It's not my job to rescue him," she told herself.

In the past, she would have jumped up to help him, thus encouraging his behavior and neglecting her own work. This time, however, was different. When her husband asked her in an agitated tone where his shirt was, she calmly told him the truth: "I don't know." A few minutes later he slammed the door as he rushed out. Janet made absolutely no comment, critical or otherwise, and so she was surprised when he called later to apologize. "I'm sorry I was so childish this morning," he told her.

When Janet took the high road of not engaging or criticizing her husband it left him with the stark reality of his own behavior. In that quiet space, he saw his own shortcomings and decided to apologize. Often we only see this beautiful view when we've taken the high road.

12. Enjoy an Energy Surplus

If you're feeling exhausted, overworked, and stressed-out most of the time, you'll especially appreciate having an energy surplus when you surrender.

An energy surplus is what you're left with after you let go of all the things you worry about on your husband's behalf, like his driving, health, and the way he spends money. Now you can transfer all of that effort and thought to yourself. It may feel odd at first, but you'll get used to it. It's not selfish to do this -- it's self-loving.

What will you do with the surplus? Daydream? Sing? Solve a problem you're having at work? Think of new colors for the bedroom? Meditate?

The point is to keep that energy for yourself.

13. True Romance Always Accentuates the Positive

When you spend a lot of time with someone, you get to know all of his faults, and they can seem quite glaring. You may think your husband has more than his share of problems, but chances are, he just has the usual number of human foibles. He also has a number of gifts, talents, and strengths that impressed you at one time. If you can't remember what those were, it's time to shift your focus.

What was it about your husband that made him so magical when you were dating? How have his strengths been an asset in your marriage? Build a case in favor of your husband's good qualities and use it to persuade yourself that you can trust and respect him. You may be tempted to make a case against him, but don't -- nothing is more damaging to intimacy. Accentuating the positive will go a long way toward reigniting your romance.

14. A Side-Effect of Surrendering: Restoring Your Dignity

Nothing erodes your self-esteem like hearing yourself screech, yell, and complain at the people you love. No matter how provoked you are, each unpleasant word out of your mouth makes you feel awful, as you hear yourself sounding like your mother on her worst day.

By contrast, when you follow the surrendering principles by sticking to expressing your feelings and desires, you avoid having a hostility hangover, as well as having to make apologies. In this way, surrendering restores your dignity, as well as the intimacy in your marriage. As you make a habit of saying what you want and how you feel instead of criticizing your husband, you slowly but surely become your best self.

15. Having Harmony Sometimes Means Holding Your Tongue

As you already know, arguing with your husband can have a negative effect on the entire family. Even preverbal babies tune into their parents' tone and react with howls of unhappiness. Certainly older children react with fear and anger when the tension is high. It's safe to say, therefore, that the cost of engaging in a fight with your man is loss of harmony for the whole family.

If peace in your home is something you hold dear, consider the cost of your actions before you issue a complaint, criticism, or sarcastic remark. Sure, you might feel some relief in the short run, but in the long run you can't afford the luxury of starting a brawl.

As you become conscious of this switch in priorities, you can give yourself credit for producing so much harmony in your home every time you hold your tongue.

16. Beware of the Red Herring

When your husband is getting on your very last nerve and you're dying to give him a piece of your mind, check to see if there's something else that's bothering you. Are you angry with your sister? Frustrated at work? Overtired or hungry? Perhaps the issue with your husband is a misleading "red herring." Often my desire to lash out at my husband is a cover for another problem. I'm tempted to blame him when I don't want to have to blame myself or the boss or my mother. Other times I'm just too depleted to have a reasonable perspective, and the tiniest things start to bug me more than usual.

Now I know to look inward before I lash out. I may still be miserable once I find out what's really bothering me, but at least I won't have acted on a red herring -- and alienated my number one supporter in the meantime.

17. Remember What Made You Fall in Love

Sometimes the things that we're most attracted to at first become the things we find most irritating later on. Maybe you think he's irresponsible now, but at first you enjoyed his great sense of fun. Perhaps you were impressed with his success in business and now you wonder why you married a workaholic. Even a man who was always a terrific lover might now seem like a man who only ever thinks about sex. Nothing's changed about your husband but your perspective.

Examine your complaints to see if you can reframe them as qualities that you delight in. You'll soon remember what made you fall in love with your husband.

18. The Law of Nature Works in Your Favor

In marriage, as in nature, water seeks its own level. Chances are your union doesn't defy the laws of nature. That means your husband matches you perfectly. His strengths are the perfect counter for your weaknesses and vice versa.

Are you dismissing the talents he brings to the relationship because you don't see them as valuable? If that's the case, then you're missing out on one of the biggest gifts of marriage -- having reinforcements in the areas where you're weak and the benefit of two perspectives.

If you still think your husband is not as smart or capable as you, ask yourself why you married him. Answering that question will remind you that those traits are right before your very eyes and that they're there for your benefit.

19. Intimacy Is Knowing You Can't Anticipate the Outcome

Whenever you anticipate what your husband is going to say or how he's going to act, you're not in relationship with him -- you are outside of it. I used to miss a lot of my marriage treading around its edges. I would be afraid he would be angry about something I did and anticipate what I would have to say to defend myself long before I knew if he would really be angry or not. Now I try to remind myself that I have no idea what my husband will do or say before he does it.

Sure, you may feel safer if you could anticipate everything, but you can't. Pretending that you can just creates NET (needless emotional turmoil) that stands between you and the intimacy you crave. Once you stop anticipating, you may be surprised at how different your husband's words and actions are from what you expected. That element of the unexpected is part of what makes intimacy so scary and exciting.

20. For a Close Connection, Curb Your Urge to Communicate

You may have heard, just as I did, that the key to a good marriage is to communicate. I figured that if some communication was good, more was better.

I was dead wrong.

Even though I have a degree in communications, trying for years to "communicate" with my husband never got me the connection I craved.

Instead, I found that my propensity to talk things out actually worked against me because so much of the time I wanted to talk about what he was doing wrong or wasn't doing at all. Of course John and I still talk a lot -- about serious and silly things. But now that I practice surrendering principles, we rarely have to "communicate." The result? Our emotional connection is better than ever.

Enough said.

21. Faking It Can be Valuable

Sometimes a woman will tell me that she can't treat her husband respectfully because he really is being a jerk or really blew it with the taxes or just doesn't seem worthy. She will even go so far as to tell me she feels dishonest about acting like she respects what he thinks when she just doesn't.

What she means is that she doesn't feel like treating him respectfully.

Of course it's important to be honest in your relationship, but it's also important to be polite. If you have to overlook your husband's minor faults to treat him respectfully, then do it. Do this for the same reason you would go to work in the morning even if you didn't feel like it -- because it's something you've committed to doing, and others are counting on you.

Just as it's not "dishonest" to go to work when you're not in the mood, it's not dishonest to treat your mate with respect when you don't feel like it. It's just a matter of keeping your commitment -- in this case, a sacred one.

22. Sleep with Both Eyes Shut

If you're anything like me, you're used to being vigilant all the time. This means that although you have plenty of your own responsibilities, you keep an eye on lots of other things as well. We do this because we believe that if we were really to let go and sleep with both eyes shut, everything might go to hell in a hand-basket.

For instance, I used to think that when my husband was driving it was up to me to warn him about cars in his blind spot, tell him when he was tailgating, and point out choice parking spots. Otherwise, I feared, we would get in an accident (or have to walk too far). When I thought about it, my husband's good driving record reflected that he didn't need any help from me.

Now I know what to do: I close my eyes -- both of them.

23. Why We Love Men

They do seem completely bizarre at times, but there are some characteristics that are universally male that I'm very grateful for.

For one thing, they don't harbor grudges like we do. That means that while I've still got a list of grievances from things my husband said in 1989, he's generally focused on the present and has forgotten (and therefore forgiven) all my transgressions from the past.

For another thing, they don't talk as much as we do. That makes me the only one around here who goes on and on about how I feel. Thank goodness.

Finally, let's not overlook their willingness to put themselves in uncomfortable and even dangerous situations for our comfort. This covers a range of behaviors, including giving us their jackets when we're cold and risking their safety to protect us.

Men are not as complicated, require far less maintenance, don't mind lifting heavy stuff, and are easy to please. How many women can you say that about?

I thought so.

24. Make Love

The one thing that differentiates marriage from a friendship is making love. Without that one significant act, you and your spouse are no different from roommates who share expenses and responsibilities around the house. If your sex life is currently nonexistent, then you're in grave danger of becoming roommates instead of the lovers you set out to be. Fortunately, you can turn this situation around by taking the following steps:

25. Lighten Your Load by Relinquishing Responsibility for the Finances

Acknowledging that this change need not be permanent may help you keep your fears in perspective. It is important, however, that you keep this perspective to yourself. While you're in the experiment, act as if you trust your husband and have no intention of reclaiming control of the finances in a short time.

26. The One Thing You Can Improve

There's nothing you can do about your husband's bad habits, but there is one part of the world that you can be certain of improving -- you. Oddly enough, whenever I focus my energy completely on improving myself, my husband seems to raise his standards too.

For instance, if I refuse to engage in an argument by letting little things slide, he's quick to apologize for making a sarcastic comment. By contrast, if I jump into a fight with him, we're both at our worst. When I'm willing to listen to what he thinks, he's more likely to listen to what I want. If I remember to express my gratitude for him, he seems to put more effort into pleasing me.

I know I can't control or improve my husband, but he certainly seems to respond well when I behave maturely. That means the burden's on me to improve the one thing I know I can: myself.

27. Express Your Desires to Be True to You

Before I surrendered, I used to try to get what I wanted by using my authority or by trying to convince my husband with logic. He typically resisted with all his might. When I tried to make demands on him or nag him, I completely crushed any intimacy we might have had.

Today I've learned that simply expressing my desires by saying "I want" or "I don't want" is the most effective way to negotiate with my husband. It's not always easy -- sometimes I feel guilty for wanting too much, or I'm too lazy to think about what I want, so I turn the question outward and ask my husband what he wants.

But when I do express my desires purely, my husband sees it as another opportunity to make me happy. If he can't give me what I want, I know it's because he's balancing my desires with our family's other needs. If he can meet my desire, he feels like the hero, and I am reminded once again how very much he loves me. Either way, I've been true to myself by expressing my desires.

28. Giving Up NET (Needless Emotional Turmoil)

Needless Emotional Turmoil (NET for short) is what you feel when you try to control things that are not in your control.

Imagine you wear a backpack every day and inside it are all of your concerns, fears, and instructions for your husband. The first day you decide not to wear the backpack, you're going to feel light and free but also strange. You might miss the familiarity of having that backpack on. You may feel jolts of anxiety throughout the day as you realize you're not wearing it. Remind yourself that you don't really need that backpack or want anything that's in it. Eventually, you will come to love how easily you move without it.

All of this will come from making a decision to give up NET.

29. The Miracle of Perpetual Dating

Remember how much fun it was to date your husband when you first met? Those glory days return when you surrender control. Every time you go out to eat or to a movie, he takes care of you by paying for both of you and handling any details. Instead of bickering at dinner, you can talk about things that interest you, what you hope for, and how you're feeling. You can laugh together and hold hands, as you enjoy being treated like a princess again.

Most of all, you can let him treat you the way he did when you were first dating by letting him know what a nice time you had and thanking him for taking you out. If you do, you'll enjoy the miracle of perpetual dating for many years to come.

30. The Cure for the Overcommitted

Before you take on more work, responsibility, or expense, ask yourself if you can really make snacks for the team, head up a committee, or work late without causing yourself distress. Will you have to sleep less, speed to be on time, or skip out on going to the gym? Then don't do it.

Instead, practice saying these empowering words: "I can't." They work just as well when your child's teacher asks you to volunteer in the classroom as they do when your husband asks you to stop by the dry cleaners on an already too busy day. They require no further explanation.

If you're thinking, "But that's not true because I can do it," think again. If what you want is to feel good, stay balanced, and have enough energy to foster an intimate marriage, you really can't do it all. Think of the phrase "I can't" as shorthand for reminding yourself that it's okay to save your time and energy for you and your relationship.

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