Them is a book sweeping America called "The Surrendered Wife" and when someone mentioned it to me, I said: "Oh yeah. The doormat school of marriage guidance. Not interested."
Still, you can always learn something new from the most unexpected source, so I got hold of a copy of this tome, written by Laura Doyle, which boasts that it has "transformed thousands of relationships, bringing women romance, harmony and the intimacy they crave".
Mrs Doyle — she would not thank you for calling her "Ms" — protests that her manual is not about being a doormat. "Surrendering to your husband is not about returning to the 1950s or rebelling against feminism. This book isn't about dumbing down ... it's certainly not about subservience."
Her prime target is a more surprising one. It is to advise women to stop trying to control their husbands so persistently. Far too many wives are control freaks, she says. They boss their husbands around, make all the domestic arrangements, treat the man like an irresponsible child, buy his clothes, tell him how to behave, scold him for doing the wrong thing, and frequently correct him in front of other people.
Is this true? I examined my conscience and found it to be more true than I would like to admit. One of my most maddening habits, apparently, is finishing, or even improving upon, my husband's jokes.
But the surrendered wife, says Laura Doyle, is one who finds harmony and intimacy with her husband by being trusting rather than controlling, by allowing herself to be vulnerable rather than turning into a nag, and by showing respect for the man of the house, rather than demeaning him at every turn. This, Mrs Doyle promises, delivers far more personal happiness and conjugal joy than the whiteknuckled control freak approach to marriage.
Her first dose of advice in the road to wifely surrender, is to hand over all the finances of the family to the husband. Let the man deal with the bills, look after the money, take care of the budgets. It will develop in the husband a sense of responsibility, and take a worrisome burden off a wife's shoulders.
Urn. Not sure about that. Even our most traditional grandmothers often had a secret cache of money squirrelled away which the menfolk didn't know about. Though I can see it might be restful to be married to a man who said: "just you leave everything to me".
One of Laura Doyle's strongest counsels to women is to hold your tongue and resist arguments: even restrain yourself from giving him advice.
A man who is constantly told what to do by his wife never grows up. And winning arguments is a great way of losing friends and affection. Nobody ever asked anyone to a party because they were smart at winning arguments. Remember, too, Seneca's words: "The best cure for anger is delay."
Women want intimacy, Laura Doyle says, but men must have respect. And they cannot provide women with intimacy unless they are given respect. Time and space too. "If he is supposed to take care of something, let him take care of it. Even if you think he will have trouble (or can't do it), mind your own business."
Laura Doyle's concept of the "surrendered wife" comes from her own experience. "Before I surrendered, I did everything myself for one very simple reason: I wanted everything done my way .... I didn't give John the chance to do anything because I knew he wouldn't do things the way I wanted them done. Eventually, he stopped offering to do things."
She stipulates four conditions where "the surrendered wife" approach should not be undertaken: where a man is violent to his wife or to the children, where a man is in the grip of an active addiction, or where he is chronically unfaithful. One extramarital affair might be pardoned, but not a habit of infidelity.
But "verbal abuse" is different, she says. In most cases, women not only give as good as they get in verbal fights: they often cause them.
Could I be a "surrendered wife"? It would be a penance. My natural character is too bossy. And anyway I often DO know best, so there!
Still, food for thought, and Laura Doyle is, I would say, very much in the tradition of St Paul. *
SI THINK we should be very suspicious of the way in which the analysis of the genome project is being reported.
There is a strong emphasis on the fact that the genes of men and women are not so very different from the genes of lower animals, inncluding the worm, the fly and even bacteria.
The Darwinist arguments of the 19th century emphasised man's shared ancestry with apes. And the more we were told that we were mere apes, the more we behaved like apes.
The modern emphasis on man's "shared heritage" with the worm, lowers humankind to the status of the worm. All this is to diminish the sacred, the special and the divine element in the human. Be suspicious of the scientific message which seeks to efface that point.
*The Surrendered Wife is published in paperback in the United States and Canada by Simon & Schuster