~ By an Anonymous Contributor
My husband had a very insecure childhood. Consequently, he grew up desperately trying to prove himself a man, yet so afraid of marriage and women that he didn’t marry until he was thirty.
I, too, was insecure and didn’t know how to be a woman. I tried to treat him as an equal and discuss all our problems. The result? Disaster!
We were both college graduates. He is a lawyer. I was determined to be a perfect wife and had taken several classes in college to help me become such. I read everything I could lay my hands on about marriage, love, homemaking and raising children. He had an inherent dislike and distrust of all psychology and all magazine articles and anyone’s ideas but his own.
He has an overwhelming ability to out think and out talk anyone. I had a college minor in psychology and a degree in elementary education, and could handle myself very well in any conversation. Yet, three years later I was stuttering.
To keep me in my place and to make himself feel secure, he ruled with an iron hand. There were certain clauses in our “marriage agreement” (all to his advantage). I was to bake bread, keep the house clean, raise the children, never charge anything and only work outside the home under dire necessity.
All of these items appealed to me. We were both from the farm, and were very religious. By the time I heard of Fascinating Womanhood, eight years after marriage, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown with three children, and were both far from happy.
I had tried everything I had read and still my husband was overly critical, refused to ever raise a hand to help with the children or the house, refused to ever utter those precious words, “I love you,” and threatened constantly to “turn me in on a new model”. He kept me on a bare subsistence budget and when any of the children were sick, he ignored us completely.
Now to the success part: F.W. seemed to be the only way to help my husband be human. I had discovered that behind his bravado, bold talk and strict rules was a very insecure man and a small ego—but how to reach it.
When I tried to build up his ego, as Fascinating Womanhood suggested, he would lash out at me, or suspect my motives, or ignore me completely. I had tried for eight years to please him and was still rejected at every turn.
For four months I read and re-read your book and thought it over. Finally, after talking to my sister who has similar problems, we came up with this solution. As we read F.W. we would get ideas of our husbands’ good points and strengths and of the areas they needed to be built up.
On a note pad we would write down notes to our husbands, not saying “I love you”, as we had before, but “I admire you for…”. Then would follow a specific reason or illustration of something they had done recently. These went, one at a time each day in their lunches.
A good many people have an adverse reaction to praise, especially those who really need it—the insecure individuals who can’t believe anything good about themselves. So I prepared. My husband had been 30 years building up walls against people, and I had been 8 years trying to tear them down with love and long-suffering. I let him walk all over me and obeyed his every wish and made myself sick trying to change my personality to suit him when he, himself, didn’t know what suited him. I certainly didn’t expect to build up his ego overnight!
This is how it went: The first month went by and he said, “By all means, don’t forget to put the note in my lunch,” or, “You’re such a nut,” or “You won’t be happy all day if you forget.” He would not acknowledge the fact that they had any impression on him.
Second month: He was coming home with a smile now! He had been coming home as black as thunder, giving the house a black atmosphere, patting the children on the head and then hiding in his den until supper, only to return there immediately afterwards to stay until bedtime. “You forgot the note in my lunch. Well, I’ll wait long enough for you to put it in.” He would admit it meant something to him now.
Third month: He’d let me say something nice to him without biting my head off or suspecting my motives, but his answer was still as it always had been, “Everybody knows how great I am,” or “So what else is new”? But I would giggle like a little girl and he would grin from ear to ear.
By the Sixth Month, he was letting me kiss him hello! He used to duck. He was telling me a thing or two about what went on that day! He was actually hanging around the stove saying, “Can I help”?
By then I sometimes forgot to keep enough notes written ahead of time, so I’d miss mornings or just write “I love you,” which doesn’t do much for him or his ego. The important thing was that it must build his ego. I began to see him slowly change back, so I quickly got a drawer full of notes ready again.
It has been over a year since I started this procedure. My husband is still not perfect but he does not see the messy house, or criticize me in front of his friends and parents. He occasionally offers to help and stays out of hid den to play with the children while I fix supper.
He looks hurt if I don’t rush up to him and kiss him as soon as he comes in the door.
I am still a little weak in living Fascinating Womanhood, and suspect that’s why my husband still has some hang-ups in loving me, but life is so absolutely gorgeous compared to what it was!