The Total Woman, by Marabel Morgan: a book review

I had been wanting to read The Total Woman, by Marabel Morgan, for years. I had heard that it was like Fascinating Womanhood but much more sexy. As one who guiltily reads books like Fascinating Womanhood, by Helen Andelin, and The Surrendered Wife, by Laura Doyle, as erotic literature more than anything else, this sounded promising. Doyle and Andelin may have been silent on the subject of how extremely exciting it can be to be in an unequal relationship, but perhaps Morgan had mentioned the unmentionable.

The other day, I finally got my hands on a used copy of The Total Woman and read it. Evidently designed for housewives who are too busy ironing socks to waste time reading, it didn't take more than a few hours to read from cover to cover. I really wanted to like it, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Even the part on sex managed to be entirely unexciting.

It has some cute headings and its tone is more fun and light-hearted than Fascinating Womanhood and The Surrendered Wife, but it is so light on content that it almost makes The Surrendered Wife look deep—not an easy feat.

If you are a disorganised, frazzled Christian housewife and mother who has been snapping at her husband, bossing him about, and rejecting him sexually for years, you might find this book useful. The entire first part is about how to become more organised, and there is a large section on parenting too, because a “Total Woman” is more than just a good wife: she is an organised woman, a great housekeeper and a good mother, too. (But that's about it, as far as I can tell.)

Marabel Morgan's theory of “how to make your marriage come alive” is partly commonsense, part The Stepford Wives, and partly even more unwise than turning yourself into a Stepford wife.

The commonsense is fairly obvious stuff about not trying to change your man, and about being positive and effervescent and so on. For example, a cheery smile in the morning and an enthusiastic welcome when your husband comes home from work may make him feel good, and if he feels good, he will be nice to you, and everything will go swimmingly. That is, as long as he is the kind of man who likes that. Some people prefer zero interaction until they have had a chance to relax for half an hour after they get home from work. But you can see what the author is trying to say, even if she rather seems to assume that everyone has the same preferences.

Laura Doyle's The Surrendered Wife has often been criticised as advocating that women should turn themselves into Stepford wives, but The Total Woman seems to me much closer to advocating that. The Surrendered Wife has many faults to be sure, but it doesn't assume that a woman's only focus in life is her husband, home and children in quite the way The Total Woman seems to. I am all for women cherishing and focusing on their men, but Marabel Morgan appears to take the view that what a man wants is a woman who will make him, their home and children her whole life.

Some of the author's suggestions are excellent, but some seem positively frightening. She advises readers even to take up the same interests and hobbies as their husbands—yes, if fishing is his passion, you have to get up at 4 a.m. and go fishing with him for four hours if you want a good marriage; if he loves cars, you have to become knowledgeable about cars too; if he likes rugby, you have to learn the rules and the players and read the reports of games so you can talk enthusiastically to him about the latest player transfer. Why? Because when a husband talks about something important to him, some wives fail to engage with what their husband is saying and ask him to pass the salt.

If your husband is telling you something important to him (like what happened in the latest rugby game, or about his sighting of a “ruby-throated hummingbird nectaring at the zinnias”) obviously, asking him to pass the salt, or complaining about the neighbours' new garden furniture, is not ideal! But it doesn't follow that you should spend large amounts of precious ironing time (or whatever you like doing) teaching yourself ornithology or learning the rules of rugby, let alone going to a rugby match every Saturday, if that idea is about as appealing to you as ironing socks would be to me. It is perfectly possible to be supportive of a man and his interests without changing your entire life and dropping your own interests to do so. And how many men would really want a woman who spends so much time pursuing his interests that she has no time for her own? (On the other hand, quite a few women like rugby without having any idea what the rules are. All those big strong men bounding about and piling into each other in violent scraps—er, scrums, I mean.)

Marabel Morgan advises giving your husband a lovely home-cooked dinner every day, which you prepare in the morning after the breakfast you have cooked for the family. And don't forget to lay the table for dinner in the morning, after waving your husband off to work, and before doing all the housework necessary to keep your home spotless, and reading up on his interests.

And when your husband comes home from work, you are to greet him at the door wearing a different sexual fantasy costume every day, the aim being to signal your sexual availability and adventurousness. Now this might be a dream come true for some husbands, but not for all. The author does not seem to know what Laura Doyle knows, namely, that sometimes it is not the husband who feels sexually deprived, as seems to be assumed in this book, but the wife. In such a case, following Marabel Morgan's advice might well add more sexual pressure and put the husband off even more. He might feel manipulated or expected to perform on demand, and no good can come of that. So if you read this book, do not follow the advice mindlessly. There is so much that could be disastrous!

That is my view. If you have read the book, what do you think of it?

the boss

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Are all men idiots?

Because that's what this book, like all those others of the same ilk, seem to assume.

I mean, are there really that many men around so cretinous that they can't tell when their wives are faking an interest in something? My husband frequently comes in and shows me his latest piece of engineering work, invariably delivering a complex lecture about how he made it, what it's for etc, but it doesn't matter how hard I strive to look bright and interested, he's not fooled for a moment.
"You're not" he says "listening to a word I say, are you?" He's no fool.

On the other hand, if you do find you have an interest you can share with your husband, it is a genuine pleasure. He took me out sailing for the first time this summer, and was really thrilled to find I love it as much as he does. So was I, but my passion is genuine, not faked. I couldn't pretend well enough to fool him, even if I wanted to.

Are there really that many stupid husbands about?

Me, too!

I am SO happy to see I am not the ONLY woman who has guiltily read (thank God for EBAY!) and ordered these books on marriage.

I felt The Total Woman to be largely a ball of fluff. If you are interested enough in what your man thinks (or on this site, as we all are, from time to time) about the relationship's happiness to even read this book, you are probably more progressed than its advice can help you. It's basic, show-interest type advice. Well, DUH.

I too didn't like its obvious "we are all staying at home and have time to do this sort of thing" tone it took but I have to cut some slack because it was written in the 70's. Fascinating Womanhood, which I also own BTW, has much more detailed advice....about as useless too. The Surrendered Wife was the best reading, but even in that book there are parts that just DO NOT APPLY in many marriages, mine included. Hubby WANTS me to work and prefers I run the money, I have an investment banking background and advanced post grad work! It would be financial and social suicide if I quit working in light of how far along I can bring our family (we have kids too). I ran some of the ideas by him and he nearly fell over with disbelief!

Eh, it may have worked in 1970 to stay home, but men these days, dominant ones included, want a woman who can help pull her weight around the marketplace as well as the house. BTW, I do not do more than half the housework nor am I expected too. My husband and I both agree that when one person can make a lot more than the other by training, etc, it is stupid to relegate the other into the housekeeping role by gender. And yes, we manage to have a head of the household relationship where the roles are clearly defined.

Maybe in a perfect world if he were a dentist (like Mrs. Andelin's husband is!) I could stay home but if you are married to a working man in a two-income high tax county like ours in the big city, you better adjust your expectations accordingly if you want to stay married at all...

Statistics show there are like 105 to 110 available women to 100 available men and it sharply drops down worse for women after age 30. So ladies, you can be replaced! I wouldn't use most of the advice I read honestly to keep a husband in the under 40 crowd. Men don't like dead weight. I would like to see an updated book addressing balancing the new financial realities vs. our supposedly outdated value systems...THAT would be helpful!

Yes, there are

Yes Louise, there are that many stupid husbands around. I don't think of them as stupid though, but self-absorbed men who can't see past how everything effects them, or self-centered men who aren't paying attention because that would require effort.

Of course, I'm not objective after living too long with a man who would choose to ignore the obvious...obvious even for him.

Blue Sunset

This is Our Past

This is exactly what women were told to do in the past, Louise. Make yourself over to be what you think he will like. It's transparent and silly and it does make it seem as if men want nothing but a decorative parrot to repeat their own words and interests back at them.

Our past?

Well, yes, I know there was lot of advice of this sort handed out in books and magazine articles etc in the past, but how many women actually paid attention to it then, any more than now?

From my own childhood in the sixties, I certainly don't remember my mother or any of her friends carrying on like that, and the fact that there was so much advice being given to this effect suggests to me that there must have been a lot of women around who weren't doing those things (you don't need to advise people to do things that they're already doing).

All of these weird books, Fascinating Womanhood, The Surrendered Wife, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, this one, all recommend pretending to be submissive, girlish, interested in things you're not etc, are there really that many women about who can pretend that well. I can't do that sort of thing at all, pretending to be something I'm not. Do that many women really have the ability to fake it that well? Amazing.

Are there really that many stupid husbands about?

I disagree with you about 'showing interest'. Showing interest is not rocket science (knowing all the hard and intricate details) or loving everybody's hobby, it is a positive attitude that says 'I will like to know what makes this important to you'. Remember, body language is always loud and clear. When you have the right attitude, you become teachable. You can learn a lot and start enjoying some 'dumb' things

Fishing at 4am darling?

You're right Louise, men are not fooled for a second and we would be fools to behave as if they were. My hubby loves a programme called "This Old House with Steve and Norm", which is strictly for DIY enthusiasts. I look on with amazement/bewilderment that anyone could be so enticed with the pleasures of carpetry tools and we turn our differences into a shared joke.

He took me to watch "Chicago" for my amusement only, stating that an evening of "song, dance and jazz hands guff" was not his cup of tea. Indeed, 15 minutes after the "All that Jazz" number and I received a dig in the ribs saying "This is crap!" quite matter-of-factly but with the true genius of sarcasm.

As for fishing, I'd be the one more inclined to get up at 4am, because without working and childcare guidelines, we'd live at opposite ends of the day, and meet up somewhere in the middle. No way could the uninterested party feign fascination with conviction, as you shrewdly point out.

Fishing etc

It sounds as if you and your husband have a very healthy attitude towards each other's interests, and a sensible man will appreciate a wife who was tastes and interests of her own, and not expect her to feign interest in his. He doesn't expect me to be fascinated with programmes about steam trains and jet engines, and I don't expect him to want to watch every murder mystery that comes on, like I do.

I'm much more of a morning person than my husband is, though actually he's not much of a one for late nights either, ideally I think he would sleep about 12 hours a night if he could. neither of us cares for fishing, so that is something we have in common.

'Chicago' is one of my husband's favourite films, it's on his top 10 list, whereas I don't like it much. He doesn't expect me to love it like he does. There are some films we both like though, one of them is 'The African Queen', which we were watching together the other night. Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn had just had a spat about something, and he turned to me and said thoughtfully: "I could quite fancy Katherine Hepburn, she reminds me of you, uppitty and with lots of spirit!"


I have just read this thread

I have just read this thread and am quite humored by all of Louise's comments and find it sad that some women just seem to not realize their own worth.

Really, to suggest that a woman go out of her way to reduce herself to a servant for a man with a wandering eye is just (for me anyway) total bunk! And yes, I do think that the harder a woman tries to please a man who is prone to cheating is just breeding contempt towards her own self.

If a man has it in him to cheat then nothing that a woman sacrifices is going to stop him! But what is very interesting is that if she knows her worth and decides that he is below her standards and sets forth to seek out a man more worthy of her, that this is more apt to keep a cheater on his toes than becoming some imbecile stumbling all over herself to please him. I actually had an experience with a fiance who decided that he wanted to be with another woman who waited on him hand and foot because he liked how it felt. I responded by packing his bags and replacing him with someone who was more caring of my needs and wants and not so focused on himself. When I started dating someone else he showed up at my home in a jealous rage and I had to call the police. He tried for two years to get me back--to no avail!

And what of a man in love cooking dinner for his woman? Or cleaning the house as a surprise for her? Or running a bubble bath and bathing her? Or whatever may make her feel loved and cherished. Do some women really not get that they also are deserving of being loved like this too? Some of the most romantic, cherished, tender moments for me are not only when I am doing for my husband but also when I am on the recieving end of him taking care of me.

Don't stay with a cheating spouse

I so agree with the writer above. My husband cheated on me 30 years. Lost jobs due to infidelity. I had to work to make sure our family had bread on the table. I was Catholic and did not believe in divorce. No more. I am single and living in a little apartment and happier than I have even been in my life. Happiness comes from within.

It wouldn't hurt you to take an interest

It wouldn't hurt you women to take an interest in a Man's interests. If you ask me, your all a bunch of man-hating feminists that wouldn't know how to look after a Man if youre life depended on it.


I seriously doubt that a "man-hating feminist" would spend much
time at this site. "Taken In Hand" is about fostering healthy relationships, not destroying them through hostility or phoniness.


Re: It Wouldn't Hurt

Thank you for your refreshingly different point of view...

Nonsensical though it is.

There's nothing wrong with taking seriously a man's interests and trying to find out a bit about them, but sometimes they just aren't compatible with ours. And a man with a brain will know when her eyes are glazing over as he waxes eloquent about something in which she has no interest. The solution of course is to talk about things you are both interested in.

But in books like this, women are being told that if the man likes football, she's supposed to turn herself into an authority on football. If he's into motorcycles she should learn to fix them. Etc. This is ridiculous, as if women had no prior lives, thoughts, interests or hobbies before the sacred Person with a Penis came along to fill their minds. And yet, the advice used to be pushed at us, at teenage girls especially.

Yes, it was, Louise, maybe not as much in the UK, I can't say as to that. But here is a clear example: Seventeen used to run a little photo feature on some hot "hunk of the month." Included in the facts about him (height, weight, city of residence, occupation or school, hobbies) was "what kind of girl interests me." The subtle message was, if you want this guy to like you, go out and study up how to become the type he says he likes. If he's scholarly, wear granny glasses and carry a book. If he's a hippie, bell bottom pants and love beads are required. And so on.

I think rather than follow Marabel Morgan's smarmy and outdated advice, if two people want to keep things interesting and have lots to talk about, join an organization together and work together on a project that serves humanity. Surprise, you'll both know exactly what the other is talking about and you'll never run out of material. Plus, the world benefits!

Re: It wouldn't hurt you to take an interest

Why is it that whenever someone posts something anonymously on a website that is incredibly hostile, they can never spell or use proper punctuation?

I thought the most hostile th

I thought the most hostile thing in this discussion was the assertion than housewives are dead weight and we won't be able to keep our husbands.

The most hostile thing

Housewives are definitely not dead weight and it's not so hard to hang onto a husband if you know how to treat him right.

This doesn't mean kissing his butt all the time...unless that turns him on! <evil grin>

My husband calls me up several times a day just to hear my voice. This is after 17 years of marriage. I'm not submitted, I'm not obedient, I'm me and he loves me for who I am.

As for being replaced, if you get a man away from his wife, what you've gotten is a man who cheats on his wife.

Knowhow And Desire

It doesn't really matter if a woman knows how to please her man. What
really matters is simply her desire to do so. If she really *wants*
to, she will learn how to do so.

And as for cheating, a man who is really happy with his woman won't
even consider it.


Man-Hating Feminists

These women are being surprisingly tolerant of some horrid sexist books! The reason I cannot read _The Total Woman_ for more than a paragraph or so is that it is not a harmless book. Women to this day are told they have to be attractive to be valuable, that their sex appeal and youth define them. Women are pitted against each other to find a man in order to survive, if not monetarily, at least socially. The reason I find _Total Woman_ so troubling is that even men such as my husband find her message wonderful and wish I would comply!

Whatever happened to Marabel Morgan? Did her husband swap her in for a woman who looked better in a negligee?

My advice: Marry a liberal man who will view you as an equal. He may cheat on you, but at least you can have a reasonable conversation, and work out differences with the assumption that you both have a brain.

Man Haters....

Taken-in-Hand has not read,
much less understand that "Men are from Mars,
Women are from Venus."

Apparently this person is secretly filled with self-loathing and with such low self-esteem that even a cheating hubby is acceptable !

(Why do liberals even ADMIT they have NO moral values ?)

after a conversation with her man about such an event of infidelity, will only discover that, indeed, Men ARE wired in a certain way and that she will, in the end, NEED to know the wisdom contained within "Total Woman !!"
continued rebellion against it can only be her MALE EGO oozing out !
R i c h

I'd rather be single

A Taken In Hand reader said:

My advice: Marry a liberal man who will view you as an equal. He may cheat on you, but at least you can have a reasonable conversation, and work out differences with the assumption that you both have a brain.

I'd rather be single than do the above. There is absolutely NOTHING AT ALL I find sexually or romantically appealing about a politically liberal, "egalitarian" man. NOTHING.

Wow. I don't recall EVER seei

Wow. I don't recall EVER seeing this much stereotyping going on here, let alone all in one thread.

Where to start?

1) I'm a housewife. I started out to be something else, but my body had other ideas. Because of my chronic fatigue, I'm virtually unemployable outside the home. Physically, I can't tolerate the stress; emotionally, I've been home so long now that I'm not sure I could manage a middle-age re-entry even if it were possible. So my degree from a top university gathers dust on the basement wall—and my professional choices have been reduced to one. I'm an accidental homemaker. But as long as I'm here, I might as well make the best of it, and do it as well as I can.

What we didn't expect when I quit working ten years ago is that we ended up having more money—a LOT more money—than we had when I was out working. I'm home to shop and cook. I have time to bargain-hunt. I'm not spending money on clothes, lunches, child care, pre-made dinners, household help. We don't need expensive vacations to unwind, because *both* our lives are much less stressful. If he needs to work late or travel, we've got the flexibility on the home front to accomodate that without creating a child-care crisis.

Most interestingly, in the five years after I quit working for good, my husband's income more than doubled. A few years back, we actually found an article in Business Week that said that this is pretty typical of couples in which one partner stays home. The working partner can be more relaxed, focused, and productive on the job; and the hours spent at home are more restful and refreshing as well. In most cases, according to the article, this translates into promotions and bigger paychecks. It certainly did for us.

So please stop with this "housewives are parasites" crap. We do what we do for a wide range of reasons; and there often is a financial upside to it, even if it doesn't come in the form of paychecks. I'm a feminist, and I cannot believe that work-for-hire wives are still running this trip on those of us whose work is unpaid. After all these years...for shame.

2) Nobody who's ever seen my Big Guy would dare call him a wimp (six feet, 50" chest, gun owner, former martial arts instructor, knows 75 ways to kill you with his bare hands). And I'm a pretty feminine-type girly girl, makeup and high heels and the whole nine yards (I'll take mine in silk charmeuse, thanks). As you might expect, are a committed Taken In Hand couple.

What you may not expect is that we are both flaming political and religious liberals. So, please, let's not assume that every lady who likes manly men—nor every manly man—is a conservative. It's not remotely true. Not remotely.

3) I enjoyed Louise's comment about engineers—and think this is a subset of men that is greatly misunderstood. I come from a large family of Scots engineers (Grandpa was a rocket scientist, a real one), and deliberately set out to marry one. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it...and I figured that at least I knew where to start.

Here's what I've learned. Engineers are devoted husbands—but they almost never say, "I love you." At least, they don't use those words. What they say instead is, "Can I fix that for you?" (or "I fixed that for you!"). An engineer in love will quietly wander around finding ways to make your life better—and get all cute and geeky and excited when he finds new ways to do that.

When you're sitting on the back porch one evening, waving away mosquitoes—and wake up the next morning to find that he's already been to the hardware store and come home with the biggest, most obnoxious bug zapper they sell—that's an engineer saying "I love you." When he spends all Sunday afternoon re-programming six TV remotes into one big Super Remote that you will never figure out how to use, that's an engineer saying, "I love you." When you come home from a shopping day to find out that he's backed up your hard drive, upgraded all your software, and added a dozen new programs (exactly two of which you will ever learn to use), that's an engineer saying "I love you."

You just need to learn how to hear it. Once you start listening for it, though, you realize they're saying it all the time. And Ms. Morgan notwithstanding, engineer husbands don't need you to get a BSEE, read Scientific American, or take a class in C++ to value you as a companion. They only need to know that their efforts have made you happy. An engineer who is being gratefully hailed as a hero by his lady love for finding a good solution to some petty annoyance—no matter how small—is as contented a man as you will ever see.

They don't like stupid women, though. I remember reading "Fascinating Womanhood" in my teens, and howling at her suggestion that women act incompetent to get men to take back their rightful role. One suggestion was to hang a Dixie paper cup dispenser on the wall upside down, so he'd think you were adorable and pitiful and never force you to handle that nasty screwdriver again.

I could just imagine the engineers in my clan if one of us had tried this. They fancied that they married smart women, and we would have never have heard the end of it as long as we lived. (For the record, BTW: My uncles and cousins, engineers all, are politically center to liberal. All of them are very masculine men—college athletes, soldiers, sportsmen, pillars of their churches and communities. And not one of them has ever cheated on the women they married, not for generations going back.)

But I ramble. It's a chewy thread, but this stereotyping stuff keeps getting caught in my teeth.

Stupid women

I totally agree that to suggest that women act stupid is highly offensive, but personally I am, without trying, technically incompetent, and my husband would never trust me to do anything of a practical fixing-it nature around the house (I can just about manage to unscrew the battery compartments in my sons' toys, that's about as far as it goes for me). I'm not sure whether he considers me stupid or not, I've never been entirely certain. I sometimes wonder if he would prefer someone more capable and efficient than I am, but as he still frequently remarks how lucky he is to have got me to marry him, I suppose whatever other qualities I have that he likes make up for my lack of efficiency on the home front.

I have always admired the way my husband can fix absolutley anything, and build absolutely anything. since we recently moved house, for instance, he has been kept busy building shelves to accomodate my vast collection of books, and large numbers of useless objects that I have accumulated over the years. I rate this more highly than saying 'I love you', but actually my husband has always said that quite a lot. I've never said it as often as he does, but these days I make more of an effort to say it, and to be more openly demonstrative. It is still something of an effort, since expressing affection is not something I do easily except to the children, but it comes more easily with practice.

On Being Liberal


Political liberalism and personal (lifestyle) liberalism are two entirely different things, yet some (certainly not all) of the posters to this thread seem to be ignorant to this fact. They often intersect, as in when a person is both politically and personally liberal. One cannot assume, however, that this is always the case, and just because you know that someone is one or the other does not in any way imply that they are both.

When another poster suggested that women marry liberal men, she most likely was not suggesting that you check your prospective husband's voter registration card, but rather to find someone who would treat you like an equal. This did not stop someone else's reply condemning political liberals as devoid of all moral character. This is my case in point. One person advocates personal liberalism while another retorts by attacking their supposed political liberalism. Sad, truly sad.

I have found it quite interesting in my personal life to find that a great majority of people who have a declared stance in their political life (be it liberal or conservative) are often quite the opposite in their personal lives. It is not hypocrisy, because the two are not tied together. For example, my husband and I are quite politically liberal, yet our personal lives are extremely conservative (we have a very happy Taken In Hand marriage). I know many political conservatives who live quite liberal personal lives. This dichotomy cuts across race, class, and gender lines, as I have friends, family, and coworkers from many different social groups.

I hope that other readers will reconsider their own conceptions of what "liberal" really means the next time they are presented with a discussion such as this one.

engineer love

Aurora, you have soooo pegged my engineer husband! :-)

Are you serious!!!!! Did yo

Are you serious!!!!! Did you say "He may cheat on you, "!!!
Beyond that, I dont want to listen to anything else you said. For crying out loud, your OWN husband is obviously needy of something—hence he agrees with Total woman!!!

An excellent wife?

I have not read either of the books mentioned, The Surrendered Wife or The Total Woman, by Marabel Morgan. I did read a large part of The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Laura Schlessinger, standing in a book store while my wife was shopping elsewhere. (The fact that she was shopping may explain why I was able to read more than half the book, but that is another matter lol) As a man and a husband I certainly would not want my wife to make herself into something that she wasn't in order to gain my approval. There is a lot to say for genuine expressions of love. These books may be well intended, but as already said by the respondents, their husbands do not want them to be something they are not or to do things for them because some book tells them they should.

Still, all of this well intended advice does point to something that must resonate with both women and men. Why else would anyone take the time to read such books? The boss wrote:

I am all for women cherishing and focusing on their men

Having said this, I am curious to know in a practical way what that really means. How does a woman cherish her man? Although The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Laura Schlessinger, lacks real depth, it does make a valid point. I know of many men who would love it if their wives would on a regular basis treat them to a home cooked meal, a back massage, or a great night of sex. They don't feel cherished. Dr. Laura's simple (simplistic?) thesis is that if wives did these kind of things more often their hubands would be more attentive to her needs and desires which would make for a happier marriage.

Too many generalizations

It's so much easier to just generalize about a subject like marriage and put everything in a pretty, new, shiny labeled container. This is not, however, how this should work. As a young working woman who likes her work AND likes to cook homecooked meals whose husband loves her and WANTS HER TO WORK, I find the concept of books like this ridiculous. If somebody doesn't have the common sense to know that listening to her husband is important, they're just idiots. ("Know" doesn't always translate into "do" of course, which can result in marriage problems.) But generalizing that the key to a happy marriage is following some sort of rules outside of the common sense respect and affection you should show your partner, as determined by paying attention to individual preferences for touch, etc. Not ALL men want SAHM/SAHW who devote their existence to domestic responsibilities and spending time making themselves a clone of them, only with lipstick, a fit feminine physique and that just right "adventurous" evening-greeting-lingerie-outfit. Every marriage situation is different and must be treated like this.

Total Woman review

I think many women on this thread are missing the point of 'Total Woman' by Marabel Morgan. She explained how she was dissatisfied with her marriage after having high expectations before she got married, clearly, she had a 'picture' of her ideal marriage and what did she do to make the situation better? She read and researched books she could find on Psychology, marriage etc, acted on the new truths she acquired from these books and the Bible and put her ideas in a book. If you don't agree with her ideas or feel they are outdated, why don't you come up with some of yours, put them in a book format & have the rest of us read it.
Also, she wrote the book in a xtian context and what's the Bible's instruction to wives? The Bible says 'wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord'—Ephesians 5:22. Some of the dictionary definitions of 'to submit' are
1) to yield (oneself), as to the will of another person, a superior force, etc
2) to defer or accede (to the decision, etc., of another)
The real truth is that even though we're in a more challenging situation nowadays because many of us are working mothers, sole/joint breadwinners in our family, we're still meant to submit. If you don't agree with Marabel's suggestions, keep searching, keep studying and hopefully, you'll stumble on the secrets you're looking for :-)

Should Come With Warning

This is very interesting line of thought. I was given that book "Total Woman" by a foster mother who thought it could teach me how to catch a man. She told me that any woman could make any man happy as long as she followed that formula.

What did I know I was maybe 13 or 14, so I read the book and thought I would have a happy life find a man get married have babies and live the "perfect" life.

4 Divorces later the reality of the brainwashing wears off and I realize that I:

1. Don't have to settle for any man
2. Don't have to try to make him happy
3. Some men don't want to be happy they just want you to be unhappy.

So teach your daughters common sense and pray for a better batch of self help books!

Any woman, any man

I think your foster mother was gravely mistaken if she imagined that the 'Total Woman' formula would please all men.

I think the important things to consider when reading any of these self-help books are "Will it make me happy to spend the rest of my life behaving like this? Can I do this for a lifetime without going mental? Do I really want a man who wants me to behave like this?"

The last question would be the crucial one for me. A man who would actually be gratified by me behaving in the fashion recommended by the 'Total Woman' book, is a man I would want to strenuously avoid. Do you want a 'Total Woman' type man, or a 'Fascinating Womanhood' type man, or a 'Surrendered Wife' type man? Think carefully before you embark on a project that may get you a man that you really don't want to spend the rest of your life with.


What if I just don't wanna?

What happens when I just don't want to do the things in this book anymore? What If I get tired of lying to myself and lying to my husband pretending he's the most fantastic breadwinner in the world? He may be the most fantastic guy, but fiscally, he's no Bill Gates. Speaking of which, do you suppose Melinda Gates feels she has no other purpose than to make her man happy, or are there other things she feels called to work for?

What's the issue?

Interesting there seem to be no male comments to this thread.

As a woman, I must ask, what is so wrong about being pleasant and cheerful to your husband in the a.m. and after work? What is so wrong with devoting yourself to caring for your family? Did your mothers do that for you? Did your household not run more smoothly knowing Mom was in control of it? What is so wrong with taking an interest in your partner's hobbies? Did you not join together with him for the rest of your life and want to share interests? How do you keep your mind open to learning and sharing mutual discoveries if you don't try what interests him? Is it so hard, or are you too good for that? I don't understand.

You ladies who oppose these ideas and think of them to be offensive to your esteem, should really think further.

When you are an old, old woman, what do you want to have been loved, remembered and respected for?

Western culture has changed since this book was written. Yet, the ladies who are two generations or so ahead of me (and probably you) lived their lives this way. And they tend to be the reasons why Hallmark writes the "I Love You, I Need You" greeting cards for their husbands to buy for them, and buy they do.

Old fashioned romance, ladies, what do you think it's all about? Oh, maybe it's just about us? Maybe we're supposed to be tended to and catered to by the men, huh? Yeah, well, we all need a bit of that. Look deeper in to the kind of women you want to grow through the years as and be remembered for.

As for the last writer who asked what to do when she no longer feels like doing these good things, you caught my attention for I've often wondered the same. But marriage isn't a gig that you can grow tired of. The commitment is lasting, binding. You're not to be a step stool, of course, but you gave your vow to love and I would hope honor your mate and if all is well within your relationship and you keep your focus on love, it isn't so hard to keep at it. What could be more important then love and sharing yours with the one you love? And when I write "you", please know I mean you, me, all of us ladies who gave our vow in marriage.

Being remembered

Well, some women may be loved, respected, and remembered, for having interests and personalities of their own, rather than simply being devoted slaves of their husbands and families. When I think of my mother, as I often do, it is of her individual qualities that made her an interesting (if sometimes alarming) person to be around. And if my children remember me, i would rather they remembered me as an individual too.

As for sharing your husband's interests, well no, frankly I don't think you should try to share his interests unless he is interested in seomthing that really interests you. I do enjoy sailing, which is one of my husband's interests. But i don't want to spend hours out in the workshop doing metalwork, and I don't think he wants me to be doing that either, since he knows I don't really want to.

I want to be remembered for being me.


All you women hating on this book are self centered brats! All you guys sound like is me me me. Well part of love is putting the other person's interests above your own. This means it is not about you you you! The more love and affection you pour out on your man the more he will treat you like his woman!

As far as all the bashing of stay at home moms, you are barking up the wrong tree! Why do you think teen violence, abortion, pregnancy, suicide etc is up? Because mom and dad are out working all of the time so we can have a what appears to be perfect life with three cars, best house, nicest clothes and a big fat credit card bill. At the end of the day though when the doors are closed your family is messed up, your marriage is in the ditch and your kids are being raised by the television/daycare. I am a stay at home mom of my two loving children and I am my husbands wife. We have a wonderful full filling marriage. We don't have the best house money can buy nor clothes nor car. BUT they are all paid for and we have more love than money can buy. Our children are our legacy in life not stuff, but we put more time in having the best stuff then the most loved children. What is wrong with this picture???

Granted this book is old. Did you ever think about how much lower the divorce rate was then? Maybe instead of women trying to prove we are better then our men and "too good" to submit to him MAYBE just MAYBE we need to say wow what we are doing as a country isn't working. It is time for woment to swallow the pride and love your man like you should!

Am I the only one angered at all of these feminists on this stinking page???

Love and affection

Yes, but it should be possible to show love and affection to a man without submerging your whole personality in his. some of the things this book suggests, like pretending you share his interests when you don't are, I think, insulting to both men and women, insulting to women for implying that she doesn't need to have any interests of her own, and insulting to the man for suggesting that he is too stupid to know when his wife is faking any interest.

And I have to disagree with you on the point that the more lvoe and affection you pour out on a man, the more he will 'treat you as his woman'. Although this is a somewhat vague phrase, I take it that by this you mean he will treat you well. Well, that doesn't necessarily happen. I have lately been spending quite a lot of time on a site called yahoo! answers, and on the marriage and divorce section there are quite frequently plaintive questions posed by women who do absolutely everything for their husbands, wait on them hand and foot, give them everything they want and get NOTHING in return. Total abject submission is not necessarily the way to a man's heart.

The stay-at-home wife thing is, in my opinion, an entirely seperate issue from Taken In Hand. There are lots of stay-at-home wives who are not at all submissive to their husbands. My late mother, for example. Of all the adjectives in the english language, 'submissive' was probably the least suitable one you could pick to describe her. And there are plenty of career women who are in Taken In Hand relationships. I am quite happy being a stay-at-home mother myself, but it is something that doesn't suit everyone. And it has nothing to do with our Taken In Hand relationship, I was a stay-at-home wife for 18 years before I thought of trying Taken In Hand.

I believe that the higher divorce rate is because divorce is easier to obtain now, and no longer carries a social stigma. I don't know whether this would change if more women were stay-at-home wives, I don't know whether couples where the wife stays at home are less likely to divorce than those where the wife works. Has any research been done into this?



> part of love is putting the other person's interests
> above your own.
> It is time for women to swallow the pride and love your
> man like you should

Well, if you love somebody you are able sometimes to put the interests of that person above your own—when it is really necessary. But doing so all the time? What's good in it? If loving somebody means that you have to forgo your own interests, what's good in it? From my point of view such love looks like addiction, not like the way to live a happy and fulfilled life.

And by the way, do you think that your "love is putting the other person's interests above your own" is true only for women? From my point of view the situation is rather symmetrical. If woman "should" forgo her own interests, so "should" her man. And they will begin to squabble because of the unhappiness that arises from all those should's and should not's, because if you want to be happy you'd better attend to your own interests rather then trying to prove that your love is "true" and "real". Loving the right person does not contradict your overall interests, only loving wrong person does.

As for pride, of course excessive pride (inflated ego) can be a problem. But this is true for men and women alike. And I don't think that "swallowing the pride" in the name of love is a cure; on the contrary, it is likely to result in the development of the feeling of one's superrighteousness, whether this feeling is obvious to those around or not. Human beings can't live bearable life without pride any more than they can live without love, anger, joy or fear.


I see that I have really upset you all. I am sorry for it taking so long for me to respond, but I have been extra busy here lately. I want to first disclose that my faith comes first in my marriage. (That is why I am fixing to say what I am) I make it to daily live by the following verse from 1 Corinthians 13

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

What a complete definition of love. I am not saying that I am perfect of all of the above definition, but everyday I try my best to remember what this verse says to love our husband as. I don't think that if you love your hubby in this way you loose yourself. When you start truely loving your husband without expecting or looking for anything in return that is when your marriage will truely flourish. Love is something more than a feeling it is something that you have to do daily with your husband.

When I speak of pride I am saying less that it is all about me in my marriage and start saying it is about how I can best change to be a better mate for my honey. You can not change your husband, no yelling, nagging, or anything you can do will change him. What will change him is how you treat him and the heart (attitude) you have while doing it.

I understand some of you don't think all moms should be at home with their babies, but I completely disagree. I think that a place for a baby is with its mommy. Nobody can love that baby like you can. Each child is a miracle. I don't want to miss any of those first years of my babies' lives (nor have I). I am my husband's wife first and foremost. Then I am my kids' mom. When your kids go into school that is when you can go get a job of your choice. I am trying to say there needs to be more emphasis on the family.

As women we are the "glue" for our home. We set the stage of a loving welcoming peacful place or a place of strife. I want to know that when my husband goes out into the world he is totally happy with what he has at home. And I will add that at my husband's jobs the guys look at porn and hit on girls constantly, and my husband's eyes are only on me because he knows he is king of my heart. Not only is he the King but I treat him like one, and because I do he treats me like his queen.

How many women can say that?

Re; Love

You evidently believe in the theory that if you pour out enough love on someone, they will love you in return. Well, I'm sorry, but it doesn't always work like that. It simply doesn't. The world is full of people who pour out love and devotion on their spouses and get sweet F.A. back. Love is not the answer to everything. Mutual understanding is required, and a certain degree of give and take on both sides, not just the wife's.

As for yelling and nagging not being the answer, well I would agree with that. My husband nagged and yelled at me for years and it never had any effect on me. We manage a lot better now, due to some adjustments to our relationship that resulted from me discovering this site. It had to be a two-way thing though, I couldn't change my ways without him changing his a bit as well. And it required communication.

But I simply do not believe that submerging your personality in your husband's (as The Total Woman suggests) is the answer to everything. Some men enjoy being with a woman with a mind of her own. Some men find it stimulating (my husband appears to anyway). Pretending to like things that you don't like is not, in my view, a good route to take. And a person who is totally unselfish and never thinks of themselves can get on your nerves after a bit, I know it would irritate me if my husband was perpetually self-sacrificing.

As for mothers being at home with their babies, well yes, I think that is a good thing, but I am not sure I agree with you about a woman being able to go out and get a job once the children are in school. That assumes that you have an earning capacity that will cover the cost of childcare when your children are not in school, which is not the case for all of us. Very few people have jobs that fit in exactly with their child's school hours, and you are still left with the question of what to do with them after school, and in the holidays. After-school care for my two sons, should I get a job with regular office hours, would cost about £60 (120 US dollars) a week, and that still leaves me with the problem of what to do with them in the holidays. Wouldn't leave me with a lot out of anything I could earn. Plus would be extremely stressful, constantly worrying about whether they are all right etc.

I can't say I care much for your translation of corinthians 1, chapter 13. I much prefer the St. james's version:

'Charity suffereth long, and is kind: charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, edureth all things.
Charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail: whther there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.'



"Love conquers all". I stand by that.

Staying home with kids! You sound like you are an amazing mother to say that you would hate to leave them that is really very sweet of you. As far as working the hours that work with their school you pick a job that will work with what you need. Be it in a florist, gift shop whatever. Once they are older and can go home on their own then pursue a career. I know that not all people will do this. I wish they would though.

Interests: My husband is a avid hunter, fisherman, all outdoors. Do I suitup and go out with him? HECK NO! I am a girly girl all of the way. I would hate to do any of those things. All I think we should do as wives is show interest when he comes in and tells us about the great time he had. I don't expect him to help me decorate or shop with me. I appreciate it when he acts interested in what I am. Even when he isn't to just smile and nod. This is something that keeps communication flowing in your marriage. That is all that I am saying......

Are we getting on level terms here?

Total Woman

I read Total Woman back in the early to mid 70s when it first came out. In my opinion, it was Total Tripe then and it's Total Tripe now.

That said, I think the book is more about fear than anything. That was a time of free love and old school women seemed to be searching for a way to keep their husbands from straying, cheating, and ultimately abandoning them.

Women often don't get equal pay in this day and age, but in the 1970s, the battle for equal pay was still in it's infancy. Single women who worked could hardly make ends meet. Divorced woman (Heaven forefend!) with children were not only regarded suspiciously and often with hostility by other women (boldly by men), but had to completely change their lifestyles. Often, they'd go from having a nice house of their own to a cheap apartment. In those days, women whose husbands were mid-life crisis age often didn't work or know how to drive a car. So they were especially vulnerable.

Anyone who's been acquainted with or involved with a man who decides he wants to stray should know that his wife can never do anything to dissuade him. He will find fault with everything she does until he finds the justification he needs to leave her or at least stray. And it doesn't matter how perfect she is. That kind of man is impossible to please. The harder she tries to please him, the more contempt he'll feel for her.

The need to be 'taken in hand' or controlled or dominated or put in a place is a puzzling concept. A woman's place is where SHE chooses it to be. Not where an authoritarian man thinks it should be.

If her choice is on her knees at his feet or at the receiving end of a cat-o-nine tails, so be it. As long as it's HER CHOICE

Matilda's comment

Matilda's comment regarding a woman's place in a marriage being where SHE chooses it to be is exactly right. My husband and I are political liberals who have chosen a conservative and traditional kind of marriage. But because my husband is politically and personally that "he believes women to be intelligent and equal"...I am comfortable in having consciously chosen a subordinate role to him in our marriage.

The fact that I made the choice clearly implies that I can choose again...and differently...if I find a reason to do so. I take a subordinate role (which does not mean I am a subordinate person!) because it suits me, it works for me, it works for my husband, and it works for our marriage. When it no longer works, I have the option to re-choose. Knowing I have that option keeps my husband on his toes!

I've been married before and I find this marriage to be among the most tranquil times in my life. My stress load is virtually nil, I live my life as my authentic self rather as the person I had to be in order to succeed and survive, and I actually get a lot of pleasure out of taking care of my husband and our home.

The secret to having this work, I think, was in choosing a trustworthy, emotionally mature man who genuinely respects women, has no doubt that my brain is intact and fully functioning, but who simply prefers the leadership role in marriage...and this allowed me to choose and relax into the much less stressful subordinate role. I chose it and I'm happy with it...but I can UNchoose it anytime I want!

Probably I don't understand something

To the writer of this article:

I understand why an intelligent woman with a lot of interests of her own doesn't want to spend too much time and effort on learning something she doesn't find particularly interesting, or on ironing socks for that matter. But I definitely don't understand your attitude towards male control (or power, or authority, or whatever you prefer to call it). It looks so contradictory, at least from my point of view.

On the one hand you write that you want to be controlled. On the other hand you write that you want to live your own life, to pursue your own interests, to do what you want to do. That is, you want to be free. How is it possible to be controlled and to be free at the same time? How can you or your man (or anyone else for that matter) know that he controls you unless he hurts you, frustrates your intentions and desires, makes you do what you don't want to do or feel what you don't want to feel? Did I miss something?

I understand why an intellige

I understand why an intelligent woman with a lot of interests of her own doesn't want to spend too much time and effort on learning something she doesn't find particularly interesting, or on ironing socks for that matter.

What I meant was not that it is never a good idea to become interested in one's husband's interests, but that feigning an interest—and spending a lot of time doing what it takes to feign that interest—is unlikely to be good either for the woman or for her husband. It might be that she naturally becomes interested in something that her husband is passionate about. It might also be that in supporting him in his interests, something that once was uninteresting to her becomes interesting. But to spend hours memorising the names of the rugby players and teams when that is of no interest whatsoever to you, I think, may not be the best use of your time. Especially if you have many, many socks to iron. ;-)

But I definitely don't understand your attitude towards male control (or power, or authority, or whatever you prefer to call it). It looks so contradictory, at least from my point of view.

I am slightly mystified by this comment. What attitude are you referring to? And what did I say that gave you this impression?

On the one hand you write that you want to be controlled.


On the other hand you write that you want to live your own life, to pursue your own interests, to do what you want to do.

Where did I say that? What exactly did I say? I have re-read my article and can't see quite where you got this idea.

My point was not that I want to do those things; the point I was attempting to make (evidently not very well!) was that it is a mistake—not necessarily good either for you or for your man—to drop everything in your life except your man and his interests. It is a mistake in part because he himself might not appreciate it—after all, he married you because you were interesting to him as you were, not with the hope that you might change into someone whose whole life revolves around him. It is also a mistake because it is risky psychologically. It might not be healthy for you.

My point was not that if you are the kind of person who never had any interests or life in the first place, you should force yourself to get a life and get some interests even if it kills you, and even if you are happy as you are, and your husband is happy with you exactly as you are. I am not saying that. Indeed, the most beautiful relationship I have ever seen is that of my grandparents, and my grandmother's life revolved around her husband and family, and she was the happiest person I have ever known. (OTOH, she did not do what Marabel Morgan suggested and try to learn things that my grandfather was interested in: he was an extremely bright intellectual; she wasn't.)

That is, you want to be free. How is it possible to be controlled and to be free at the same time?

Actually I wouldn't say I want to be free; if anything, I'd say I want to be unfree—at least, that is a feeling I enjoy. If I were living in a place where women had no freedom I would hate it and would try to escape. Nevertheless, in some sense I want to be unfree, to have no choice. So... again, I am not sure what makes you think I want something different.

How can you or your man (or anyone else for that matter) know that he controls you unless he hurts you, frustrates your intentions and desires, makes you do what you don't want to do or feel what you don't want to feel? Did I miss something?

Goodness! Yes you did miss something. No, it does not have to mean that he hurts you. See Does it have to hurt to be Taken In Hand? And since it is your intention and desire to be taken in hand, in what sense is the husband frustrating your intentions and desires. He is, on the contrary, giving you exactly what you want. If the woman does not want to be in a Taken In Hand relationship, it is not a Taken In Hand relationship but abuse. If you want to be controlled, taken in hand, unfree, etc., then the husband who does all that for you is not in any way doing the same to you as an abusive man is doing to his wife when he controls her, beats her, and so on. If you want it, your husband is not in fact taking away your freedom.

The book under discussion is not about any of this. It is telling women what they should do for their husbands and marriages. It is nothing to do with husbands being in control or taking their spouse in hand. My comments about the book were merely to question some (though by no means all) of its advice. The advice, as I said, fails to take into account the fact that men are individuals with individual preferences. If you do everything the writer advises with the wrong man, the results could be a disaster. While some couples may love things exactly the way the author advocates, many others (including the husbands) would hate what she suggests. My comments were not about my own preferences (well, unless you count the bit about ironing socks).

> if anything, I'd say I want

> if anything, I'd say I want to be unfree—at least,
> that is a feeling I enjoy

Excuse me for a personal question, but what's in it for you? What does it mean to you? What's its appeal?

On being unfree

> if anything, I'd say I want to be unfree—at least,
> that is a feeling I enjoy

Ok, the boss, let me try again.

You seem to be a very intelligent and knowledgeable about many things, from psychology to the details of Internet protocols and services. Probably, to achieve this one needs a lot of time to read and to think, a lot of freedom to put one's efforts into something one likes and to associate with people one is interested in. I find it hard to imagine how you can have this freedom, how you can have that amount of time and energy for your own pursuits if your life is controlled by someone else. Are not you afraid that being controlled would interfere with your personal growth? Do you enjoy just the FEELING of being controlled from time to time, while in reality you are rather independent person? Did I miss something?

Re: The Total Woman

I like the book not because I agree with all her advice to wives but because she cares about her husband and is making the effort to have a good marriage. Too many don't do that.

Are you serious?

After being married only several months to a man who claimed that we were in this together handed me the book and told me to read it (1974). Not having heard of the book I read it. I thought he had given it to me as a joke but he was dead serious and thought this is how I should live my life and to be his servant.

This began my journey into hell. I was an educated woman with a Master's degree, but my marriage was a disaster. What this book and like thinkers advocate is that woman enable self centered megalomaniacs to brain wash and control every aspect of their life to the point that they are a non person.

The day my husband handed me "The Total Woman" I should have had the marriage annulled.