In a recent discussion with a group of young professional women, I think I stunned them with my very traditional view of marriage and being a wife. I think they viewed me as one of the modern women with modern views on everything. I wanted to laugh at and with them and tell them – “Don’t let the Ann Klein and Coach fool you, the fact that I don’t NEED to be a wife, doesn’t mean I don’t WANT to be a wife.” I understand what having a supportive man in your life can mean for a woman’s professional success. If it is so for us, then is doubly so for men. Women have spent so much time vying for equality with men in the professional arena, I believe that some of us might have lost our way, our true calling and our real power.
There is a saying that “behind every great man is a great woman.” I sometimes wonder why we as women forget this. We have spent so much time chasing executive jobs, money, fame, the latest Gucci, Prada and Coach purse and making sure that our man is as cash heavy as we are, that we’ve forgotten one of our primary roles. So many women take on the role of “wife” without really understanding all that it entails. In my life, I’ve seen a multitude of reasons why women have gotten married. Some have married for financial security, being knocked up, needing a green card, wanting a baby, or being lonely and afraid of growing old by themselves. But most of us still manage to say “I do” for love.
But why do some women take on this mantle of “wife” without recognizing some of the inherent roles that it entails? So in my conversation with these younger than me professional women, they asked me how did I manage to balance my marriage with my professional life. As we began to talk, I said the words that I believe stunned them. I talked about the fact that regardless of what my professional status was, my role as a wife was a totally separate entity. They asked me to explain. So I did. Here is a summary of my schpiel.
Wives are not weak people who live in the background. We are powerful forces of nature who support our men to the greatest heights of success or watch them as they plummet to the depths of failure and do nothing to stop the freefall. Our role is to bring out the best in our man, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. We stand behind them when they need to be propped up and shoved forward. We move ahead of them when they fail to see the road clearly ahead and illuminate the possibilities. And we stand beside them to support them when they ask for it, when they need it and sometimes when they don’t even know what they need or want. As I said this, I saw them look at me with new eyes. I have no idea if they believed me or if it changed their lives. I only know this is the mantra that I live by.
But why were these women so shocked? At what point did they fail to get this lesson? Which mother, grandmother, aunt or family matriarch failed to pass this on? And why would they feel that this is something that they couldn’t embrace? Why do women somehow believe that this role of wife is one of shame? It’s almost as if being a wife no longer involved doing – if not, then what is this new wife role? What really is our purpose? To simply be in a unit for the purpose of giving our children a “legal surname” and to get the tax advantages?
When did supporting your man and our marriage become a thing to be reviled? Have you ever heard the Tammy Wynette sang “Stand by your man?” Because of her southern twang – you want to believe it’s about some silly woman “stupidly” standing by her man; but read the lyrics below:
Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times, and he’ll have good times
Doing things that you don’t understand
But if you love him you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him, Oh be proud of him
‘Cause after all he’s just a man
Stand by your man, Give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely
Stand by your man, And tell the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man, Stand by your man
And show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man
WOW! This is everything it means to be a wife. BUT at the same time, these are some big scary words. Essentially, Ms Wyntette reminds us that it’s all about the “cleaving” to this person who you’ve pledged your life to – and that is one scary prospect for even the strongest of women. I remember for me the thought of engaging for a lifetime with one person and having to “deal” with all he brought to the relationship and trying to blend that with all I brought to the relationship just make me want to throw up my hands in utter despair. Ultimately, it’s about opening yourself up to the vulnerability of being a wife. But if that’s the choice you make, then encompass what it entails. It certainly ain’t easy and comes with a whole slew of annoyance, pain and aggravation, but as with every rose, there are always thorns.
Few men manage to achieve fame and fortune without the help of some women, be it their mother, grandmother, sister, best friend, wife or lover. Remember, “behind every great man is an even greater woman.” But somehow we have traded this very powerful role for instead wanting to take on equal billing with our men. Why? We already know that we are bright and talented and able to earn megabucks and get the promotions. If we’ve already accomplished this, why then do we feel that we now need to diminish our men? Let’s be honest, their egos are much more fragile than ours. If we know this, then why trample over it with steel-toed timberlands?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I fully understand that sometimes as wives we have to yank up our husbands. I get that! Not one wife hasn’t had to have a discussion with her husband behind a closed door, in the bathroom with the water running or in the car on the way to a function about either something he has done, hasn’t done or refuses to do. But why do we do this? For most ‘wives’ it’s because we have expectations of our husbands. We have expectation of greatness that we expect them to live up to. And rarely are these expectations about money. Sometimes it’s his asking for a raise at work, making sure friends stop taking him for granted, spending more time with the babies he’s fathered that may not be yours, saving more money for the kids college education or our retirement. It could be anything, but ultimately it’s about him being more than he is currently and realizing his full potential.
Now I want to make this clear and reiterate. This article is not about the no-good worthless men out there. Take those out the equation. I’m talking about good men. Those who love their wives, don’t philander, gamble their paychecks away and take their marriages and family life seriously. Yes, those. You know a few I’m sure. I know several. In the last few years, I’ve seen so many of these men diminished by the women who have married them. And while the most obvious way is to emasculate them in public, it is the more subtle forms that I give me pause and cause for distress.
It’s the women who decide to use sex as a weapon and no longer make love with and to their husbands. Not because they’ve done something wrong. Instead women use sex as a tool of manipulation and not in a good way. We know as women that we wield a specific power but to reduce our sexuality to a weapon is a poor trait in a wife. Then there are the women who’s lack of fiscal control derail most marriages into bankruptcy. Then there are the ones I abhor. The ones who are snide about the way they demean their husbands. The ones who make the back-hand double sided remarks that paint their husbands as less than worthwhile men. You know the types. The ones who are always publicly comparing their men with others and their men always end up on the losing end. Why do women do this? I always want to ask them – so what have you done to help him be better and just force them to shut up!
Now I know that all of us have dealt with some sorry ass guy at some point in our lives. And we can all talk about this sorry ass guy and what he did and why he deserves to be the butt of humanity and be treated like the scourge of the earth. But if we take the step of “wife” why does our husband now need to pay for all the things that the asswipe guy did? Now please remember, this is NOT about the deadbeats out there. That’s for a different discussion. This is about the good guys. The ones who work hard, come home, do what’s right and still get treated like trash by the women they call ‘wife.’ And trust me, this happens more than we’d like to see. Women are not the only ones who are emotionally abused. As we wield more political and economic power, women have become just as emotionally abusive as men.
So ladies if we do nothing else today, let’s remember the roles we assumed as wives. If we wish to be treated as queens, then we must then assume that our husbands are kings. And if he doesn’t treat you like the queen you are, gently remind him (well sometimes and with some men it can’t be so gentle, yes ladies I do know that) of our royal status. At a wedding I attend recently, I plagiarized some words from a former wedding where I’d been a guest. As a wife, I struggle with the whole biblical concept of “submitting” to my husband. I have no idea if I’ll ever win that battle because quite frankly I’m not trying that hard. (Confession is good for the soul). However, what I do really believe is that the husband should be the head of the household. But while the husband is the head, the wife is the neck. And what does the neck do? It provides structure, support and quite frankly, the head doesn’t do much unless the neck is engaged?
See ladies? We are necks – we have enormous power as wives. So let’s stop demeaning our men and instead encourage them to success. And for each man it’s different, if you choose to be his wife, figure him out and then set him up for success. Let us ensure that our men know that we have expectations of excellence. Let us be powerful forces in our men’s lives. Because you know what? We can actually do that for them AND still do it for ourselves. Yeah! We are that good!