Sunday 23 November 2014

How to choose a husband – without selling your soul

Hooking a hubby does not require becoming a simpering doormat, says Heidi Scrimgeour

Heidi Scrimgeour

Published 21/02/2013 | 06:00

Library Image. Photo: Thinkstock

A new book has just hit the shelves, snappily titled How to Choose a Husband – and Make Peace with Marriage.

It's a 12-step guide to how to hook a husband in what the author, Suzanne Venker, calls today's post-feminist culture. Inside, she includes gems such as: "Women don't make as much (as men) precisely because they don't work the same number of hours. Women continue to take years off the job to care for their children or aging parents or to live a more balanced life. Feminists leave that part out."

There's also a chapter called 'Accept It: You Can't Have It All', in which she writes: "Making choices is part of life. You can't go to every party. You can't go on every vacation. You can't go to every college. You have to choose."

But I beg to differ, and believe firmly that it's better to die alone than to turn yourself into a simpering doormat just to snag some company during this thing called life.

So here's my tongue-in-cheek riposte: 10 tips for choosing a husband - without selling your soul in the ways Venker seems to advocate.

1 Compromise. Ask any married person of mature years to share the secret of a long and happy marriage and they will likely admit that compromise is key. Just don't forget that you have to practise it yourself and not just demand it of your husband.

2 Value tolerance. Obviously we should all endeavour to cultivate tolerance but as my friend Aileen recently said of her own newly coupled-up status: "I was never in pursuit of a husband, just someone who would tolerate me." Love and romance are wonderful but having a partner who tolerates you is what really keeps couples cosy at night.

3 Learn the value of saying nothing. I'm not about to suggest that wives should be seen and not heard (God forbid) but with almost 15 years of wedded bliss under my belt, I feel I am qualified to share this pearl of wisdom.

Learn when to say nothing or, if total silence is impossible, when to bury your head in a pile of pillows so as to adequately suffocate your screams.

Not every comment that enters your head pertaining to your husband's actions (or indeed his lack thereof) needs to be uttered aloud.

To my surprise, screaming into feather-stuffed silencers can also be significantly more satisfying than screaming at other human beings anyway.

Really, I urge you to try it.

4 "Draw attention to your best assets," advises my friend Julie, a mother of five who has been married for 10 years.

"It was my legs that sold it, apparently," she muses on the topic of which of her many charms most captivated her husband.

So don't waste time worrying about what potential suitors might make of your imperfections or inadequacies, just make the most of your best bits and don't be afraid to flaunt them.

5 Venker asserts that women can be happy when we accept that we are not equal with men. Hmm. I say why embroil yourself in a lifelong commitment with someone who you know is not your equal?

6 Never fight about housework. Ever. It's just a personal rule that works for us. If you really have to fight with your spouse then at least pick a cause that's worthy of the aggro that a humdinger of a row requires.

Debate solutions to end child poverty, or argue your way through the finer points of the the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Just don't waste all that energy shouting over whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher.

7 Never engage in circuitous discussion about whether it's possible for women to have it all. If you're lucky enough to have a baby with a man who loves you then simply make the most of every damn second of your family.

Work if you want/need to and don't if you don't. Just love your kid like it's the only job you'll ever do that really matters and don't forget to focus on what you do have, and not just on all the things you're supposedly not getting your mitts on.

(PS: your friend's green grass? Her with the high-flying job and the six-figure salary. It probably looks kind of yellow up close anyway.)

8 Venker writes that the secret to being a good wife is to be nice, cook, and have sex. I say why not delegate when you can? Naturally I'm referring to the cooking. Let your husband take care of that. The other two are probably fairly non-negotiable, though.

If that makes your heart sink then maybe marriage isn't for you. Possibly you've picked the wrong guy. Therapy can help.

9 The one thing on which I agree with Venker is that we should work harder to make our marriages work.

If you still want to be kissing goodnight when you're 70, look around at the couples you know in their twilight years who are still going strong and ask them if they'll teach you everything they've learned about how to make a marriage last.

10 Laugh. At yourself. At each other. At your ridiculous marriage and your unlikely pairing. At silly books and articles that purport to be able to tell you how to find a husband or cultivate a happy marriage.

Just laugh with your other half and do it often, and if the laughter ever fades then treat it like the relational version of a medical emergency, because it is.

As that cheesy old adage goes, the couple that laughs together lasts together.

Irish Independent

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