The day that I screamed so hard I thought I’d never sing again, I prayed to whatever was up there to teach me how to be a better wife because I couldn’t go on like this. I was depressed, anxious, and furious pretty much all the time. I first thought that I could pretend my way to the life I wanted. I could be Stepford wife and never show my emotions and just look beautiful and be pleasant. I laughed and cried, at least half-crazed, as I poured myself back into the laundry.
That night I started googling. How to be a Stepford wife, how to be a good wife. The top result on Amazon was The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. It had thousands of excellent reviews, which is extremely uncommon for relationship books. I poured over the comments seeing that these women had transformed their lives. But I couldn’t get over the title. I googled it and found some article about a woman who let her husband decide how she got her hair cut. I was freaked. I couldn’t do that. How could I? But I was still desperate. I went back to Amazon and found The Empowered Wife by the same author. Thousands more positive reviews came up. The audiobook was $10 so I said why not? I started reading it and it resonated immediately. I had been doing all the wrong things. I’d been taking advice from everyone who had a failing relationship. I’d sunk thousands of dollars into counseling that just drove us to divorce filing. (We didn’t go through with it, thank heavens, but that’s another story.) I can’t believe all the stupid things that I was doing that were draining the intimacy from my relationship every. single. day. I started making changes immediately. I didn’t really understand all of it, but I was desperate for something different after nine years of fighting. I fought with my husband for NINE YEARS before I found this book. I was disrespecting him around every corner. I thought I was being helpful, but I was constantly undermining him. I was rejecting his gifts, I thought I was being low maintenance! Everything I was doing was setting up for a losing battle. Why were we even having battles anyway?! I’m happy to report that we don’t have them anymore. Phew.
Anyway, reading the book was a huge success. I struggled a lot to implement the skills I had learned. I still had a lot of anger and a lot of old baggage hanging around. I also kept asking myself if this technique made me less of a feminist. If because I stopped arguing and stopped sharing my opinion when it wasn’t asked for, was I now a regressive woman back-peddling my way into the 1800s? It sounds super silly now because that’s one hundred percent not how this works, but I really did grapple with those feelings and thoughts. I finished the book. I started to read it again. I wondered if I would just be re-reading this same book for the rest of my life, which I guess was fine, but I really wanted more. I wanted to know more. I wanted to do more. I wanted to be able to talk with other women about it. I joined the mailing list and the Facebook group.
One day I got an email about the coaching program and I wanted to do it. I expressed my desire to become a Laura Doyle Certified Relationship Coach to my husband and my dad and they were both supportive. I did it. I did the coaching program, graduated, and certified and that’s how I got here. When I was in the coaching program, there was a requirement to read all of Laura’s books, including The Surrendered Wife. I was anxious to read it, knowing that it couldn’t be so bad by this point. I had met Laura via Zoom and I trust her with everything I’ve got. I dove in.
She graciously defines “surrendering” for all of us skeptics right away. It’s not surrendering in the sense of giving up the fight, (but it also kind of is…if you think about.) It’s about surrendering inappropriate control of others and things outside of your own personal responsibility. It’s putting your favorite song and having a dance party while you are stuck in traffic. It’s not having to be the boss all the time. It’s being comfortable with playing a supporting role when it’s appropriate. It’s about having faith that everything is going to work out and trying to control it is a futile move. It’s much more simple than being a controlling person. It’s much more liberating than anything I’ve ever felt. Feeling cradled by what we are given and knowing that we don’t have the power to change anything other than ourselves, it’s immensely freeing. I’m not surrendered to my husband. I’m surrendered to everything around me.
Laura talks about the idea of staying on one’s paper. Remember when you were in grade school and you had your paper and everyone else had theirs? It would be pretty rude to worry about what was going on your neighbor’s paper, don’t you think? Well, that’s what I was doing! ALL THE TIME! I was all over Claudio’s paper. Was he mad at me? How could he do that? Why would he prioritize that? If only he would just do things my way! Jeez. How rude was that? Controlling and weird. Turns out I had some pretty serious lack of trust issues that I didn’t even know about.
I chose my husband. I think he’s the most amazing man on the planet. I am so so so grateful he wanted to marry me. I started to let him lead on projects where he knew more than me. I only shared my opinion when he asked for it and when I didn’t have one I said, “whatever you think.” I stopped offering my often self-indulgent advice and he sought me out more and more. Soon we were laughing and cuddling on the couch again.
He wants to be my husband. Everything I was doing was preventing him from being the best husband he could be and it was throwing everything off balance. We went from the precipice of destroying our family and our mutual hopes and dreams to living them in less than a year thanks to those skills. The last time we fought was several months ago. I never want to do it again. I just gotta keep it together and keep going. It gets easier and easier every day.
And guess what? I pick out my own haircuts. I’m definitely not a Stepford wife. I get what I want most of the time. I have more time to myself, more energy to do what I want, and I’m a way better mom.
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