Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Is The Secret To A Happy Marriage Saying "Yes Dear"?

Is the conventional wisdom correct?

A talk show host this week reported on a new study on the secret to a happy marriage and quipped, "It's saying 'Yes dear'". But every joke has it's truth. The conventional wisdom of our society that the best way to keep a marriage going is for the man to surrender.

This strategy certainly pays big dividends during courtship, creating the illusion of compatibility. You will hear enraptured couples declare, "I have found my soul mate!" The man's perfect behavior will prompt his girlfriend to wonder aloud if he ever gets angry about anything. These "mirage men" will appear to have no boundaries. Sadly, the cost of suppressing their true feelings, goals and emotions is high. A tremendous resentment builds up over time. After the honeymoon peak of the union fades, the mirage man tires of always accommodating their partner. She will have no idea why her spouse's heart is no longer in the activities and events she seemed to enjoy so much with her during those halcyon days of courtship. The only way for him to preserve the relationship is to continue the charade and accede to her wishes. Thus he must keep saying "Yes dear", even though he feels trapped. He eventually looks to his beloved as his oppressor and often begins to live a secret life, doing the things he really enjoys behind her back.

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You hear of men like this, pretending to be devoted family men but always going on stag day golf outings or gambling trips that involve a visit to the local Gentlemen's Club or a house of ill-repute. They will enjoy lap dances and more at sleazy strip joints, willing to pretend with women the age of their daughters. They will tip toe into the house at 2AM, throw their perfume stained clothes into the washer, shower off and remove all evidence of their night out "with the boys." Yet the next morning they will readjust their halo and resume their life of the compliant "Yes dear" husband.

There are two ultimate outcomes for the men who say "Yes dear". In miserable compliant mirage relationships, the woman eventually realizes that the man deceived her into thinking he was Prince Charming and starts to detest the snivelling wimp who would do anything to please her. This is your classic hen-pecked husband we see so often on movies and television.

In "happy" compliant mirage relationships, the wife doesn't discover his deception until he either dies, a scandal is revealed (as in Tiger Woods case), or he finally snaps. She will be the last to know, even though his dual life may be well known in the community or among his business or golf buddies. In either case they share the same five stage  pattern of development  of their deceptive relationship and the same ultimate result: both partners are cheated out of a mutually satisfying and personally fulfilling companionate relationship.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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