My Review of Laura Doyle's "The Surrendered Wife"

I've heard so much about The Surrendered Wife, by Laura Doyle, that I finally decided to read it.

Like all self help books I have encountered there is some sense to it but this one has a few glaring areas where Ms. Doyle (or should I say Mrs?) really goes off the rails.

She makes sense when she says there's no point in trying to correct a husband's every move. If they did it to us, we'd call that verbal abuse. And it's true that while he may not do things exactly my way I could cut him a little more slack. He cooks spaghetti with the pot cover on instead of off? No one has been poisoned by his pasta yet. (Hm, Poisoned by Pasta, great title for a mystery).

I'm not opposed to letting the man deal with the checkbook and finances though I strongly disagree with Ms. Doyle that this is going to absolve the wife of any worries over finances. That is nonsense.

If the couple is going through a financially strapped time she is going to worry about the lack of money whether she is balancing the books and paying the bills or not. I can attest to that. Also she doesn't mention that even if the wife has “surrendered” control of the money, she is still going to make a lot of the everyday shopping decisions and therefore it is still on her to choose wisely when money is tight.

She advocates not giving your husband any advice or input other than to say what you want and then leave it entirely to him to solve the problem and make sure you get what you want. So when your husband says, “Where are my socks?” or “Should we invest in soy futures?” or anything of that sort, you're supposed to say, “I don't know,” or “Whatever you think.”

Now seriously, is this realistic and is this what he wants? If he's asking for your opinion, he wants to hear what it is. It seems to me that rather than be pleased that his wife is letting him take the lead, he is more likely to be annoyed and feel he has a lazy and uncooperative partner who will not at least help him or take part in decision making.

Then there's the matter of keeping your mouth shut when he takes a wrong turn, or makes some other really major error. What if the wrong turn took you hours away from a place you really needed to be? Would he truly be happy that you sat there like a Barbie doll with duct tape over your mouth and said nothing when you could have spoken up and saved him so much time and trouble?

I took a poll of various men I know and they all said that they would be most displeased if their wives sat there and kept quiet when they knew the husband was steering in the wrong direction. I'm afraid Laura Doyle is just sadly out of touch when she recommends a wife take this course of foolish inaction.

If you read The Surrendered Wife, as with any other book, take what works for you and leave the overboard nonsense behind.

Ilsa Laslow

Take the Taken In Hand tour


The Surrendered Wife - update

Well, I've started reading this again, and this time I managed to get past the notorious car thing on page 35. As I continue to read it, I can see that there are bits of it that aren't as daft as I thought.

Laura Doyle seems to be addressing women who are very controlling and bossy, which isn't really me at all, my own inclination being to just let everyone do what they want so long as they don't bother me. Complaining about how the dishwasher is loaded has always been my husband's thing rather than mine. I'm much too idle to be controlling.

She starts off by advising women to apologise for being disrespectful, if they've been criticising their husbands or telling them how to do something etc. This is largely irrelevent to me, since I am married to a man who would bite my head off if I ever told him how to do anything at all, let alone criticising him. The sort of things she describes women saying to their husbands are things I would never have dared to say to mine, ever.

However, if my husband does ask me for an opinion about something, that's a different matter, and he expects to get an intelligent answer. if I kept saying "whatever you think" (Laura Doyle's recommendation) to him when he asked me something, I fancy it would irritate him excessively.

I am quite pleased to see that Laura Doyle does think it is important that a woman should get to do what she likes and enjoy herself: Laura Doyle is not one of these women who bangs on about a woman sacrificing herself in order to please her husband. She gives sensible advice about not doing what your husband wants if it's going to make you unhappy. She says for instance "If your husband thinks you should work full-time and you would be devestated to be away from your children for so long, then don't do it. Conversely, if your husband thinks you should be a full-time mom and you know it would drive you mad to be home all the time, then don't do that either."

She insists that men want to make their wives happy and if you tell him what you want, he will try and do it for you, whatever it is. One of the examples she mentions is a woman saying "I don't want to move." Now, this is where the thing breaks down, because some things are not that simple. I could have said "I don't want to move" any time during the four months that elapsed between us putting our house on the market and actually moving, but it simply wasn't as simple as that. I knew how much my husband wanted to move, and I was both attracted and repelled by the idea of moving. Saying "I don't want to move" would not have been entirely true, and it would have bitterly disappointed my husband, though I know he would have cancelled the sale of our house immediatley if I'd said that. Things are not always as simple and as tidy as self-help books make out.

I am currently up to page 80 of this book, and so far it's quite interesting, though a lot of it is, of course, extremely daft, but there are bits of common sense among the daftness.

You Can't Force a Man to Change

Even though Laura Doyle is saying that wives have to give up the reins and let their husbands do more (all?) of the thinking, you can't force a man who dislikes doing the thinking and initiating the action to change, any more than you can turn a guy who does not wish to be the dominant partner and take you in hand into someone who will.

In a way by refusing to answer when he asks your opinion, you ARE forcing him to change, and this is right back to the controlling behavior she deplores. I find these paradoxes all over. Here again is an example of "topping from the bottom" especially in those first six months when she advises wives not to say what they are about.

I do try to control my urge to tell him what to do and how to do it, but frankly I am up against a situation where if he isn't advised he won't take action. Not every man "naturally" longs to be the leader. And he was born in 1952, that heyday of the dominant male (according to people too young to remember the reality).

The fact is, his Mom was the dominant partner in his parents' marriage and his father was not a leader but was more passive. (I don't think submissive is quite the right word). And this was the case in more homes than people who dreamily look back on the "traditional fifties" can imagine. So he has an image in his mind of that, not of "Father knows best."

I really think it has more to do with what you grew up with and whether your parents were happy with the arrangement they had, rather than the propensity of males to rule and females to follow. I could sit back from now till eternity and say, for instance, I want the bugs out of our house (we have a terrible problem, this is one of the bad years and the exterminator's poison was totally ineffective), but he will never lift a finger to do something about it unless I take the action first. And if I sit back and let the bugs roost everywhere, Laura Doyle might say, "so what?" and that it is more important to keep harmony in the marriage, but no, some things are too serious to just blow off the way she does.

So while there are indeed grains of truth especially for women who unnecessarily control their husbands, she's off target for many women who have to take the lead lest some pretty serious consequences result that no one will be happy with.

Reading further

Delving deeper into the Laura Doyle philosophy, I read the chapter on finances. Again we have this business about fretting over who pays the bills, etc. Again, I find myself wondering why on earth they don't just pay all their bills by direct debit, so that neither has to worry about paying them. It's what the bloody bank is there for, to look after the money for you, why not let them? Otherwise why bother having a bank account at all, you might as well keep your money in an old sock under the mattress.

She even thinks you shouldn't worry if the electricity is cut off because he hasn't paid the bill, she admonishes herself for being so wicked as to have paid the bill when this happened to her. Instead, she should have trusted her husband to get around to paying the bill when he thought of it, and meanwhile, apparently, do without electricity entirely. I think this is total rubbish. Of course you're going to worry if something gets cut off, why wouldn't you? There's such a thing as being too laid-back, to my mind. Get that direct debit sorted out forthwith, would be my advice to Ms Doyle.

Then she says that handing over control of your finances to your husband will make him more generous, and you'll be showered with gifts etc. That may work if your husband is a naturally generous man to start with. Mine, as it happens, is, but some women are married to tight bastards. I remember reading a review of a TV programme about a couple where the husband had total control of all the money, even when his wife worked he kept it all and wouldn't let her spend anything on what he described as "women's fripperies". after she gave up work when they had a baby it got even worse. If you're married to a tight bastard he'll stay that way, no matter how much you surrender, in my opinion.

I think the section on finances is complete twaddle, but I'll say something for Laura Doyle: at least she isn't one of these tiresome women who bang on about the evils of feminism, and how wonderful it was when all women knew their place etc. She believes in equality in the workplace, and she says "feminism has also given up an even greater prospect for intimacy because we now have the ability to choose vulnerability and trust, rather than being forced into it economically or socially."

I'll drink to that.


In the U.S., there is the question of the law. The way the law is written, if the husband dies with unpaid bills, the responsibility to pay them gets passed on to the wife; in other words, she becomes responsible for paying the bills. That is what happened to Edie Adams, she had to work her butt off to pay all the debts her husband, Ernie Kovaks, had left behind.

But there is more, if the husband and wife share the accounts and the husband is not paying the bills, his wife's credit rating will also be ruined. Her FICO score will drop, even though she is not the one who agreed to pay the bills and then didn't. If they share a credit card, even if the husband makes all the charges and the wife makes none, her FICO score will also drop if the card is unpaid, and there is nothing she can do about it. Her credit willo be ruined.


Generosity and control of the finances

Louise wrote:

If you're married to a tight bastard he'll stay that way, no matter how much you surrender, in my opinion.

In our case, when I read The Surrendered Wife, I was actually much more surrendered on most issues than she recommends in the book. The one thing I was still doing was the finances. One of the reasons I was reluctant to give them to him to control was because he is rather thrifty (I don't want to use the term "tight bastard", as that seems a bit derogatory, LOL). He does not make a purchase for himself unless he has made quite sure that he really needs it and that there is no chance of him getting it some other way. Example: he has been wanting some moderately expensive sporting equipment but has been putting off the purchase because his birthday is coming up next month. He started talking about this in about June!

I thought that he would want my spending habits to match his. His reactions to my purchasing things in the past supported this idea.

It turns out, however, that much of his resistance to buying things stemmed from simply not knowing how much money we had and where it was going. Now he is very generous and hardly ever say no to anything. He does have very definite ideas about what should be bought with our money and what should be bought with "discretionary funds" but we mostly agree on those and when we don't I am usually the more strict on that one. He is still pretty tight with himself, just not with me. He just doesn't like to buy himself things.

Oh, and we don't pay our bills by direct debit because my husband likes to have a paper trail in case there is a dispute about whether something got paid or not.

She even thinks you shouldn't worry if the electricity is cut off because he hasn't paid the bill, she admonishes herself for being so wicked as to have paid the bill when this happened to her.

I think this is another one of her strategies to keep the woman from stepping back into control. I think these may apply if you are using her system by which you sort of secretly give a man control and hope that he finds that he likes it (I have to admit I find this a bit dodgy, but more on that later). I think the thing about consciously not giving your opinion unless it specifically deals with your own wants is another of these strategies. I guess you might need these if your husband was one of those men who thinks he doesn't want control of the relationship because people have told him that in control equals controlling. Maybe, until they get used to it, the woman has to refuse to take control back. Some of the surrendered wives that I have talked to seem to be in this situation. After a while their husbands get used to being in charge and this stops.

I do think this is a bit unnecessary with a man who is already in a Taken In Hand relationship (which is where we were when I read TSW). So when my husband asked me where the new books of checks were or when certain bills were due or which bills came in the mail, he was not trying to covertly give me back control, he was asking for the information. (He, in fact, had *told me* that he would be doing the finances and wouldn't give back the checkbook when I offered to take it back.) If I had airily said, "Oh, I don't know. I'm sure you will figure it out." he would have known I was lying and I would have ended up more sore than surrendered, I promise you. =)

I guess some of it does sound a bit moronic, especially if your husband has no problem with being in charge. But from the perspective of many mainstream American marriages, this is the only way to talk about male-led relationships and meet with any kind of acceptance. I think it is rather sad personally.


"The moment that I looked into your eyes, you owned me."
-Kenny Chesney

Men and money

The man in this programme I read the review of was nothing like your husband though. He knew exactly how much money they had and he wasn't letting his wife have ANY of it. I didn't actually see the programme and I'm jolly glad I didn't because it would probably have enraged me beyond endurance, just reading the review was bad enough. It was part of a series about how different couples handled their finances.

I read somewhere recently that in Japan it is very common for housewives to have complete control of the family budget, their husbands have their salaries paid directly into the wives' bank accounts and the wives handle all the bills, budgetting, etc, and give their husbands an allowance. Very un-Surrendered

wrong turns

I read this book and i'm somewhat of an experimental person so I tried some of the techniques. It did actually wake me up to a couple of areas in which I was controlling and bossy about things that he could very well take care of and did not want my opinion about.

But a funny thing...

We're on the way to the movie theater one afternoon and he starts to pass the exit that would be the closest to get there. I started to say something, then thought, "well, according to that book (and I do think there is a very specific example of letting your husband drive the wrong way, no?) I'm just supposed to sit here cuz he's a grown man and he can figure it out, blah, blah, blah." so after a couple of minutes he turns to me, says, "hey, I passed the exit, didn't i?" I say, reluctantly, "well, yeah." he's incredulous. like, "what?! you knew I passed it? did you know before I passed it?" I admitted that I did but I just thought he could handle it. he's like, "that's the craziest thing I've ever heard. Why would you sit there and let me pass the exit?" case in point.

Comment on "Wrong Turns"

Your comment made me laugh out loud, I can attest to your experience. I must admit, when I first purchased the book, I wanted to throw it out of the window when I read the first page, even before I finished Chapter 1, Page 1. However, I started experiencing challenges in my marriage and when I looked for a "self help" book online, there it was staring back at me from my book shelf. Now that I have read the book in its entirety, I have practiced some of the principles therein and they really do work, if given a chance. However, nothing is absolute: you can't put a blanket solution over everyone's problem when it comes to marriage. Adjustments have be made here and there. Also, I found myself having to make other adjustments, as family and cultural difference play a key role in the approach/outcome as well.

For those who liked the book and walked away with a fresh and different perspective on marriage, then fine. For those who differ in opinion, fine too. To each her own.

Take Care!

pick and choose

I picked it up at the library and read it in its entirety awhile back when I was first realizing what a control freak I can be. There were parts that really make sense and other that don't for my relationship. I think I gained more from the overall theme and flavor than from the specific details. Since reading it, though, I find points from it coming to mind when encountering certain situations and realizing the value in handling them the Surrendered Wife way. In the end, I bought my own copy and am looking forward to finding time to flip through once again.

I finished it

This time I managed to get through The Surrendered Wife to the end. I am prepared to admit that although most of it is pretty silly, there is the occasional flash of common sense here and there. I suppose if you are a woman who has habitually tried to control every aspect of your husband's life, and if you have a husband who is daft enough to let you, then this book might be helpful to you.

If, however, you are not married to a man who is a complete pushover and incapable of asserting himself, then you may, like me, find most of it irrelevent. Much of the book is taken up with telling me not to do things that I never used to do anyway.

And whether you are a controlling person or not, I still think not telling your husband when he's taken a wrong turning is damned silly.

That's it. I am positively not going to read any more self-help books ever. I probably only have another 30 or 40 years to live at the most, and I absolutely refuse to spend any more of the time I have left reading this sort of thing. Life is too short.