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Tuesday, 27 March, 2001, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Taming the shrew, US-style
Laura Doyle
Laura Doyle says she's no longer a disrespectful shrew
By BBC News Online's Tim Masters

The word's "love, honour and obey" may have gone out of fashion in the wedding ceremony, but they're back with a vengeance in a controversial new self-help book.


The Surrendered Wife simply acknowledges that a wife can't change anyone besides herself

Laura Doyle
The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle is creating a storm of publicity over its advice that the secret to a happy marriage is that wives should "surrender" to their husbands.

The book, which has just gone on sale in the UK, advises wives to

  • stop criticising her husband's faults
  • respect his thinking
  • express what she wants without trying to control him
  • rely on him to handle household finances

Self-help books are nothing new, but they are big business.

John Gray's best-seller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus attempted to tackle the perennial problems between the sexes and spawned several sequels.

The surrendered wife - book cover
Laura Doyle's self-help bible
Prior to writing The Surrendered Wife, Laura Doyle worked as a marketing copywriter - so she knows all about how to get herself noticed.

But her views have been criticised for wanting to take the role of women in the 21st century back to the 1950s.

"The Surrendered Wife is based on my experience of changing from a controlling, disrespectful shrew to a respectful, trusting wife," says Doyle on her pink-themed website.

She even offers bookings for one-to-one 30 minute phone sessions at $50 a time (35, although the call itself is free). One-hour office visits come at $90 (63) a throw.

And women from California to Virginia are joining weekly "Surrendered Circles" in homes, churches and inernet chat rooms.

Change

"The Surrendered Wife simply acknowledges that a wife can't change anyone besides herself," Doyle told the BBC.

"She doesn't tell her husband how to drive or what to wear. This is nothing about being submissive or subservient."

John Doyle
John Doyle: Firm hand on the purse strings
Doyle denies she's trying to turn the clock back.

"As a feminist I want women to have more choices, and I think that we need to be able to manage our projects and staff at work, but marriage is not about managing our husband."

Her husband John looks understandably pleased at this state of affairs.

"It's more about being equal than one person dominating another," he says.

He also benefits from his wife's book royalties.

"I put all the money in our joint account and John manages it all," says Laura Doyle.

Presumably this is one method of avoiding what the book describes as Needless Emotional Turmoil (NET for short).

Helping yourself

Self-help books have their place, but should be used as springboards to help people think about difficult issues, says Relate couple counsellor and therapist Julia Cole.


At the end of the day it's about personal feelings

Julia Coles, Relate
"People shouldn't follow every word religiously," says Ms Cole, who has 15 years' experience in the field. "At the end of the day it's about personal feelings."

She says some self-help books tend to have a white middle-class appeal and take no account of different cultures or personal situations.

"They are one-minute wonders. It's a bit like going on a diet - stick to it for a week but soon life seeps in and we start eating chocolate again."

Ms Cole, herself the author of several self-help books, notes the trend that it's always the women in a relationship who are being told to change - not the men.

"Maybe I should write The Surrendered Husband," she adds.

Ironic

If proof were needed that self-help books don't always work, consider the case of Ellen Fein, co-author of The Rules - a book that teaches women how to get a husband by playing hard to get.

She's divorcing her husband of 15 years.

The announcement comes just three months before the release of the third book in the series, which Fein co-wrote with Sherrie Schneider.

The Rules III: Time-Tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work will contain a paragraph stating that Ms Fein and her husband are splitting up.

Ms Schneider is still married.

Even if The Surrendered Wife doesn't appeal, here's an alternative reading list:

  • The Beautiful Side of Submission : Authority and Submission in Balance by Lela Johnson
  • 10 Smart Moves for Women Who Want to Succeed in Love and Life by Dianna Booher
  • 100 Reasons to Keep Him/100 Reasons to Dump Him by Sharon Naylor
  • The Exemplary Husband : A Biblical Perspective by Stuart Scott
  • Liberated Through Submission by PB Wilson, Bunny Wilson
  • Me? Obey Him? : The Obedient Wife and God's Way of Happiness and Blessing in the Home by Elizabeth Rice Handford

Happy reading.

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Talking PointTALKING POINT
New feminism?
Should women "surrender"?
See also:

27 Mar 01 | Talking Point
Should women "surrender"?
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