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Jewish World Review Jan. 15, 2004 / 21 Teves, 5764

Betsy Hart

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Keeping husbands happy | Wake up ladies. It's not all about you.

That could be the subtitle of uber-radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger's newest book, "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)

"Dr. Laura" says that men are fairly simple creatures. So it doesn't take a whole lot to keep most husbands, and by extension most homes, happy. Here are the basics: respect, gratitude, food, sex, some space for "guy time" — and don't nag.

As "Dr. Laura" writes that one male listener to her show told her, "A good man is hard to find, not hard to keep."

This may be the provocative, controversial talk show host's most provocative, controversial book yet — but she's absolutely right.

For many troubled marriages, here's a big part of the problem, says Dr. Laura: If we recognize that men and women are different at all, we think it's that women are so civilized, and men are just brutes.

I call it the "man bad, woman good" view of the world. If only men were more like women, how much better the world would be, right?

Wrong. Men communicate differently. If they don't break down with emotion when we think they should, it doesn't mean they're cave men. It often means they are just showing some restraint. Women regularly complain on radio shows like Dr. Laura's, on daytime talk shows, in magazines and so on that men are so "insensitive." This is consistently met with nods of knowing, superior, agreement from other women.

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Now, imagine what would happen if one were to argue that sometimes women are overly sensitive?

Well, "Dr. Laura" has made just that politically incorrect observation. But more to the point, she says our differences balance each other in a marriage — if we let them.

Let's face it. We wives say we like the sensitive stuff — until there's a mysterious bump in the house in the middle of the night and then we just know it's our husband's job to go find out what it is.

Anyway, too many women — thanks to the feminist movement — have come to believe that their husbands should be their total emotional support system. But, maybe they're just not equipped to be. So what? What happened to those great networks of women friends who used to provide a profound and necessary emotional outlet for the women of our mothers' and grandmothers' generations? Today these groups are chick cliques that typically get together to complain about, well, how the men in their lives are insensitive.

It's no accident that today two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women. Yes there are intolerable, philandering, substance-addicted or abusive husbands out there. No one is suggesting putting up with such things.

And yes, there are many husbands who just need to put more effort into being good husbands.

But I have seen women feel despondent and ill-used because their spouses can't read their minds, or respond to every emotional need or important feeling.

Yet too many of these women don't stop to wonder — what does he need? In fact, we've become such a feminized society, it's almost verboten to ask, "How can I find out what my man's needs are, and better meet them?" Somehow, say the feminists, that's oppressive.

But in her new book, Dr. Laura uses lots of anecdotes and a breezy style and delves into what makes a man tick. Most importantly, she says if we realize a good man's needs are simple and are willing to do what we can to meet them, guess what? That makes him more devoted to us and to meeting our needs. She calls it "magic."

What, exactly, is so oppressive about that?

Maybe the "magic" doesn't always work. But I'm fortunate to know many women who "get it." I recently spent a long weekend with eight or so such high school friends, most of whom have been married for a dozen or more years. Smart, accomplished women who don't think their marriages are "all about them." I noticed (again) how positively these women spoke of their husbands "behind their backs." These guys aren't perfect, whatever that means. But these men are appreciated. These are happy marriages, which I can safely say will last a lifetime.

OK, true confession: I have not followed "Dr. Laura's" advice to the letter, shall we say, but after almost 17 years of marriage (I was married when I was 12) my husband remarks that I'm "easier to be married to" than he thought I would be at the beginning. Okay, so he's a funny guy.

I like that about him. I think I'll keep him.

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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