Surrendered to what?

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.  

Follow me on Instagram @happilyeverbonnie for more of my story.

My Story

When I met Claudio, I knew he was the funniest, intellectual, good-hearted, interesting, caring man I’d ever know.  I was over the moon when I started to realize he felt the same way about me.  In those first months, complete strangers would stop and congratulate us on our over-the-top, completely obvious infatuation with each other. At a community dance party, we had the whole dance floor make a huge circle around us. We were legendary.

But both of us are headstrong with hot tempers. We saw a marriage counselor within a year of being wed. Some things got better and we started planning for our first child, but life got more stressful; we argued even more. I was never getting what I wanted. I thought his ideas were short-sighted and childish. I was doing all the housework, I was earning most of the money, I was carrying the baby, I was doing everything! And I was getting resentful. 

After our baby was born, things got way worse. I had postpartum depression and felt like my life had been ripped away. All the affection, fun, and intimacy was gone from our lives. The resentment was palpable and it went both ways.  I felt like he didn’t care about me, he didn’t want anything to do with me. Every part of me hurt for what I used to have. 

With no light at the end of the tunnel, I filed for divorce.  During our separation, I saw all that I was at risk of losing: a loving family unit, and a working homestead where we would grow our own food, raise animals, and have lazy days in the warmth of the sun or cozy nights by the fire– dreams that Claudio and I had once dreamed up, long ago, together. After a few weeks of being separated, I realized I hadn’t picked the wrong man to marry. Claudio was my person. I loved him so much, despite feeling so hurt and rejected by him. Furthermore, our our son needed him. He missed Papa, and I told him I did too.

While we were separated, we found out I was pregnant. The promise of another child was what I wanted but I was afraid of what our life would look like. Claudio asked me if I would delay our divorce plans until after the birth of our daughter; I remember him on his knees, quietly weeping and holding my belly. I was relieved and hopeful, but fearful it would be short-lived.

He moved back in, as did our old dynamic. Our daughter was born and I was fearful that he would leave me at any moment, but I did my best to get more sleep and to take better care of myself. Luckily our daughter was happy and slept easier. She was a blessing that lit up his heart and was easy to love for both of us. But I was still angry and would rage when he would say hurtful things to me in tense moments. 

I screamed a lot in my car. Then I finally prayed, which was unusual, me being an atheist. I was lost and wanted to be better, to do better. All of my dreams and the happiness of my children depended on it. I knew what it felt like to lose it all and I didn’t want to go back there. 

I found the Empowered Wife by Laura after a series of searches online, and it immediately resonated. This was the instruction manual I was looking for! I had been doing all the wrong things and buying into a whole lot of bad advice. My prayers were answered when I read that book. 

When I first used the phrase “whatever you think,” I think he nearly fell over. I shifted my perspective: instead of blaming him for everything, I saw myself as a victim of my own impossibly high standards. I made my own happiness a priority over daily minutiae that previously consumed my attention. I made a practice of receiving every gift he gives with grace. I had no idea that I was rejecting him every time I told him no to an offer or gift; he loves to give, and I was depriving him of the joy and satisfaction of that generosity. I stopped oversharing in the name of “helping” and “communicating,” which I was using as a cover for criticism and control. I let him lead and he started doing more. Our relationship is better than I ever thought possible, and it is a joy to support him in building a beautiful life for all of us. I still have hard days, but instead of being at their mercy, I turn to my friends and the things that bring me joy. I get coaching. I fix me. I’m not waiting for him to do it for me anymore. 

My dreams are alive in front of me: my children play in the field that we will soon turn into a garden, we have our long lazy days in the sun and warm cozy nights by the fire, we dance in the kitchen and sing old country duets in the car. We have dinner together most nights, where we talk about how wonderful it is to be together. We stay up late just to be in each other’s company.  We are rich in love and laughter and fun, and my heart overflows with gratitude.

I feel so much freer now. Relationships across all areas of my life make more sense. It’s clear to me what my responsibility is and when I need to step back. I had no idea a life of joy and love could be so easy, and I feel called to share these tools with other women so they too can enjoy such happiness and freedom.