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THE PROPER CARE & FEEDING OF HUSBANDS
Dr. Laura Schlessinger
HarperCollins
Marriage & Family Relationships
ISBN: 0060520612

WOMAN POWER: Transform Your Man, Your Marriage, Your Life
Dr. Laura Schlessinger
HarperCollins
Marriage & Family Relationships
ISBN: 0060753234

I didn't want to like THE PROPER CARE & FEEDING OF HUSBANDS.

It's not that I have anything against Dr. Laura Schlessinger, her radio program or the seven other books she's written. In fact, I've never heard her on the radio or read any of her other books, so I can't blame preconceived notions for my initial negative bent towards it.

But from its title, I had an inkling that the type of "care and feeding" Dr. Laura was referring to wasn't about preparing three well-balanced meals per day. That I can do. As I opened the front cover to begin reading, I sighed, "Yet another book about how I'm doing everything all wrong." Even my husband, after seeing the title, teasingly said, "I don't think I want to be around for this --- it could get ugly."

It's not that I'm opposed to learning how to be a "better wife," it's just that, well, I don't take kindly to being told I'm "in the wrong" especially when there's a chance that the teller might be right and I'm squarely in the "wrong" camp. Shoot the messenger, I say. Pass the peas.

But I do like this book. A lot. Somewhere between her first page and the second chapter, Dr. Laura makes too much sense for me not to like what she's saying, especially if I want my marriage to be happy, fulfilling and joyful. She is not saying we, as wives, are the cause of all marital ills, but rather that we have a lot of power to transform our husbands, our marriages and our homes. If we want to be happily married, we have to not only act like we're happy but also behave as though we're happy with those to whom we are married. In other words, "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." After twenty years of marriage and four children, I know she's right about that.

Dr. Laura writes, "Unless you've got a man with a frank mental or personality disorder (the exception, not the rule), men admittedly are putty in the hands of a woman they love." Her mantra throughout is this: Men are simple, with simple desires: to be his wife's hero, to be his wife's dream lover, to be the protector and provider for his family, to be respected, admired, and appreciated. Men live to make their women happy.

She says most women can't be happy because they're too self-centered.

"Women expect their men to 'understand' when they're not interested in sex, but when the men don't or can't perform --- watch out! And what causes this double-standard mentality? In one big hyphenated word: self-centeredness. And what is the source of this self-centeredness? I believe it's the result of the women's movement, with its condemnation of just about everything male as evil, stupid, and oppressive, and the denigration of female and male roles in families, as well as the loss of family functioning as a result of divorce, day care, dual careers, and the glorification of shacking up and unwed motherhood by choice. These are the core destructive influences that result in women not appreciating that they are perfected, as are men, when they are bonded in wedlock and have obligations to family. The result is women get married thinking largely about what their marriage and their man can do for them, and not what they can do for their men. And when there is so little emphasis on the giving, the nitpicking and pettiness chews up and spits out what could have been a good marriage."

And that's just page 3. I understand why this book received some very critical reviews. I probably would have reacted quite hostilely when my children were little and I had only a few years of marriage behind me. But perspective has a way of mellowing you out. If we're honest with ourselves --- brutally honest --- most of us will admit that Dr. Laura is right and we're wrong. One friend told me that reading this book a year or two into her marriage would have saved her a lot of heartache. I agree with that but wonder if I would have been as open to Dr. Laura's advice back then as I am now. Probably not.

This book is not about making women submissive, servile, opinion-less or weak, but rather the opposite. Dr. Laura wants women to know the power they hold over men, by realizing how much men want to please the women in their lives.

Dr. Laura uses real-life examples and real-life solutions from callers to her radio show to drive home points that really come down to this: Men react to kindness, compliments and words of appreciation. She admonishes wives to ask themselves if they are nicer to strangers than their husbands.

Her advice obviously hit home with many readers who responded positively --- so positively in fact that she wrote and published another book as its "companion" a few months later, titled WOMAN POWER: Transform Your Man, Your Marriage, Your Life. In the introduction, Dr. Laura promises "if you buy the book, read it, and do what it suggests --- you will be happier that you're married…and to him, within forty eight hours." That, dear reader, sounds like a challenge. No money-back guarantee, but I have a feeling you won't need it.

Broken up into chapters that reinforce the message in her first book, she leaves space for readers to write a response. There are more questions and more room to respond; more Questions and Answers make this "companion" more of a workbook than a marriage primer.

Near the end of the second book, as I was beginning to heave a sigh of relief that I was almost through reading and was not, at least in my opinion, as terrible a wife as I originally thought, I decided to read the following question from Dr. Laura's book to my husband: "Ask your husband for your report card: What he is happy about with respect to you, and what he would like you to change. Remember --- don't ask for the truth if you're not going to handle the truth maturely, honorably, and lovingly. Truth is, you probably tell him about his C's, D's and F's on a daily basis."

After we finished discussing his answer and I listened as "maturely" as I could, he asked, "When's Dr. Laura coming out with a sequel? Or better yet, a series?"

Don't worry, Dr. Laura. Your book missed his head when I threw it at him. And yes, I promise to begin re-reading it this afternoon.

   --- Reviewed by Diana Keough

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