What Kind of Wife Are You?
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12th Sep 2012, 12:33 AM #1
What Kind of Wife Are You?
What Kind of Wife Are You?
Every woman has a different approach to marriage, says Scott Haltzman, MD, a professor at Brown University and the author of several booksr. Whether you’re more take-charge or easygoing, bossy or nurturing, experts say that you can make a marriage work by recognizing your strengths and weaknesses. Below are the most common wife types. Which are you?
If he has a need, you meet it. You make him chicken soup when he’s sick. You tuck love notes in his bagged lunches and do the dishes most nights because he seems too tired—after all, you reason, his job is more stressful than yours and he needs some down time. “These are women who are driven by a fundamental need to maintain peace,” he says. “The only problem is that when women like this crash, they crash hard.”
The Mothering Wife
You make his breakfast in the morning, manage his social calendar, remind him to take his medication and lay out his clothes for work each morning (no white socks with slacks!). And why wouldn’t you do these things? You love him and you want him to be well taken care of—and to eat his vegetables!
If you have a tendency to mother your husband, you’re not alone. According to Haltzman, lots of women do it, and men, for the most part, don’t complain. “Men like being taken care of,” he says. “It can give him a sense of feeling loved. It can also reduce anxiety about whether his needs are being met. You make his doctor’s appointments and you put his medication out for him in the morning, so you don’t have to worry about his health.”
But, this wife style can come with some concerns. “You could be fostering a sense of dependency that your husband may end up taking for granted,” he warns. “The biggest concern is that it can start to create feelings of resentment. The wife starts to feel like the husband is just another child to take care of, and the husband can start to feel like he isn’t respected.” And, let’s face it, he adds, “No man wants to be married to his mother.”
The “Little Girl” Wife
This style, says Haltzman, is characterized by a woman’s inability to do much of anything on her own. She’s the damsel in distress—the wife who can’t change a lightbulb, figure out how to program the DVR or pay the credit card bill without her husband’s help. She feels as if she must run all decisions by her husband, and she frequently leans on him for guidance and direction in the way a little girl might lean on her father.
“This dynamic can appeal to a man’s desire to be the leader, the provider,” says Haltzman. “He can feel reinforced by having someone who values his skills, and she can be reinforced by allowing him to absorb a lot of the stress.”
But while a scenario like this can work in the beginning of a relationship, it’s hard to sustain it over time, and it can become problematic, he says, fostering loss of respect and resentment. And, he says, “it may feel good at first to have someone in the driver’s seat, but after a few years you’re going to want to take over the wheel every now and then.”
How to make a change?
It can be helpful to identify the root cause of this behavior, adds Dr. Parrott. “Look at what’s going on beneath the surface,” he says. Women who were neglected or who didn’t get adequate attention during their childhood can sometimes fall into these roles.
The Bossy Wife
Do you write your husband to-do lists? Get on his case about helping around the house? Restrict his golfing dates and tell him who he can hang out with and who he can’t? Don’t be too embarrassed; Haltzman says your wife style is actually quite typical. “This tends to be what the majority of American households fall into, the woman taking charge of aspects of the home life, and sometimes the husband,” he adds.
A little bossiness is fine, he says. “We men really don’t mind Honey Do lists.” But, when bossing borders on controlling, you might consider changing your ways. “Men like to joke about the ball-and-chain, but this behavior robs men of independence and leads to a weaker connection between a husband and wife,” continues Haltzman. “When you try to control his agenda, he can start to feel as though you’re taking away an important part of his manhood: choice.” Plus, he adds, taking off the drill sergeant hat once in a while can improve your sex life. “Men want women with at least some sense of vulnerability—this adds to sexual attractiveness.”
Your husband doesn’t do laundry (remember the time he washed lights with darks—in hot water?), he is a deer in the headlights at the grocery store and the last time he cooked was…back in college—and it was boxed macaroni and cheese. So you step up to the plate…and do it all.
But, superwife can quickly turn into super-burned-out wife. In fact, according to recent research, women often suffer from lack of sleep when they try to do it all. “This can get exhausting for the woman,” says Haltzman. “She may feel taken for granted and unappreciated, which can lead to unhappiness and a breakdown of communication between her and her husband.”
If this sounds like you, the advice isn’t to stop doing, but to start asking. Sit down with your husband, advises Haltzman, and make a list of the things he can help you with. But remember, he may not load the dishwasher or wash the kids’ hair the way you do. “Women who are truly happy are those who learn to use their husbands as a resource, not an impediment to their happiness,” he adds.
The Husband-Centered Wife
Recently, Kristin Armstrong famously admitted that her failed marriage to legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong may have been due, in part, to her own faltering sense of self and personal purpose. Looking back, she says, she was too focused on her husband. “Marriage has the potential to erode the very fiber of your identity,” she said in a Glamour magazine article in 2006. “If you aren't careful, it can tempt you to become a ‘yes woman.’”
“These wives view themselves as being participants in their husbands’ successes,” says Haltzman. Cheering on your husband is great, but just don’t lose your sense of self in the process, he cautions. “This model can get dangerous when a wife focuses so much on her husband that she loses her personality, her sense of self,” he says. By making his career and aspirations the focus, “there’s a chance, at some point in the marriage, that you’re going to feel that you lost out on something of your own.”
Haltzman’s advice? Shake things up. “It’s OK to do things that don’t make him happy,” he says. Whether it’s taking a yoga class at 6 pm—which means he has to make dinner for the kids—or bowing out of his company’s holiday party because it conflicts with plans you already made, Haltzman says husband-centered wives shouldn’t be afraid to put “me” back into the equation. And, it might even strengthen your marriage (and sex life). “It’s part of emotional growth,” he continues. “Women can make us better men, but not by doing everything we want.”
The Kid-Centered Wife
It’s no myth that becoming parents can add stress to a marriage. In fact, a major eight-year study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M and the University of Denver found that as many as 90 percent of couples experience a decrease in marital satisfaction after having children. The common thing that happens, says Dr. Parrott, is for a woman to go from loving wife to devoted mommy. The only problem, he adds, is that sometimes she forgets to make room for her husband too.
While no one would suggest that being devoted to your children is a bad thing, don’t do it at the risk of your relationship, says Dr. Parrott. “Wives who take this approach care greatly for their children and are wonderful mothers,” he continues, “but don’t forget to tune into your husband’s needs too.”
How to get back to the way you were? Take Dr. Parrott’s advice: “Don’t just talk about it, show him that you want to make a change,” he says. “Take the initiative to plan a date night, a shared activity. Go do something fun together like you did before you had kids. Guys want a playmate; they don’t want to talk. This will speak volumes to your husband.”