The shrew gets tamed

By Isabel Lyman
web posted March 19, 2001

Ladies, are you stranded in an equal partnership marriage? Longing for a more freewheeling, que sera, que sera paradigm?

If so, Laura Doyle has one word of advice for you: Surrender!

"Surrendering to your husband is not about subservience," Doyle explains. "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." Doyle's law for reducing marital discord is simple. Respect your man + be quick to apologize + don't be a bossy boots = a wooed and wowed wife.

Laura Doyle says she knows it is the sun that shines so bright
Doyle says she knows it is the sun that shines so bright

Laura Doyle, recovering shrew, knows of what she writes. Once upon a time she was on the fast track to a divorce, because her long-suffering spouse, John, had more faults than San Andreas. Laura carped about his clothes, badgered him about the way he maintained the cars, pooh-poohed the gifts he gave her, critiqued his driving, pestered him to paint the house. Picky, picky, picky. Stripped of his dignity, the poor fella often turned to the television for companionship. Laura, natch, became lonely.

Desperate to salvage her marriage, she sought counsel from "happily ever after" couples and other savvy folks and learned one of the keys in forming a more perfect union: Stop treating your husband like a child. (Or, shhh!)

Concurrently, she began Surrounded Circle support groups on the west coast, and her quest to become a softer, more successfully married femme morphed into a national crusade. And a popular one at that. Her book, The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide to Finding Intimacy, Passion, and Peace with Your Man is a New York Times and bestseller, and she has appeared on The Today Show, Dateline, and The View. (In case you're wondering, Mrs. Doyle adamantly discourages women from surrendering to physically abusive or drug-addicted louts.)

Those who prefer a Churchillian slant on matrimony ("Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never …") won't cotton to a philosophy that employs the "s" word. Besides, you have to suspend logical thinking to grasp the book's impractical, quirky message. The author tells wives to surrender the household finances, including the checkbook, to the husband. She also suggests going on a no-control date, where the Mister makes all the decisions, including - this is really frightening - what the Missus will wear. Self-proclaimed feminist that she is, Doyle says that "a surrendered wife can be a force to be reckoned with at work." By all means, be vulnerable and feminine at home, but don't act like that on the job.

Ironically, self-help books like The Surrendered Wife are loaded with self-serving platitudes, like "surrender control and something magical will occur." Please! Relationships can't be manipulated to one's satisfaction like ingredients in a cookbook recipe. They're more like the Dow Jones industrial average – often wildly unpredictable.

Newlyweds, for instance, might bear their small burdens a little better if they were to approach a fair-minded friend as a sounding board, instead of paying for a how-to book, written by a person they will probably never meet. Chris Hall, a fellow ice hockey parent and father of three, says he thinks future brides would be wise to talk over expectations about daily married life with the groom, before the wedding, as well as to scrutinize family backgrounds. "You marry a history," he tersely notes. Well, that common-sense notion comes - at no charge - from a landscaper not a therapist.

Having shared my reservations, I am going to cut Laura D. some slack, since she avoided playing the victim card, acted like an adult, and purposed to stop harassing her husband. Male-bashing, no matter how justified it might be or what form it takes, is an ugly practice. As David Bell, a South African psychologist suggests, "You don't empower women by taking men's voices away."

Laura Doyle has also chosen to honor her marriage vows and has learned to cherish her mate in an age in which it's no big deal that a high percentage of divorces (there were 1,135,000 divorces in 1998 in the United States) are occurring in what researchers describe as "low-conflict" marriages. Dr. Gregory Palumbo, director of Oklahomans for Families Alliance, notes that, "Studies indicate that the majority of divorces with children typically occur because momma fell out of love with papa."

If that's the case, then what guy, whether a sensitive new age man or a confident alpha male, doesn't want to be shown appreciation and be given a second chance? My buddy, Big Lloyd, who's been married for sixteen years, humbly shares, "Husbands need nourishment and need to feel like they're important." Awww. Here's to wives, surrendered or otherwise, who cheerfully help their husbands shine.

Izzy Lyman, quasi-surrendered wife, can be reached at

Buy Laura Doyle's The Surrendered Wife : A Practical Guide to Finding Intimacy, Passion, and Peace with Your Man from for only $10.40 (20% off)

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