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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
The "surrendered wife" quizzed

Women striving to be the equal of men is the root of all unhappiness and the disintegration of marriages, according to a controversial book.

In The Surrendered Wife, American author Laura Doyle, promotes the philosophy that women are happiest when they obey their husbands at all times.

She says that women should submit to sex whenever their husbands wish, and should not demand satisfaction for themselves. They should also forgive indiscretions away from home.

Laura Doyle joined us for a live forum on Thursday and answered a selection of you questions.

To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:

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Transcript


Minyanga Nkhoma, Malawi:

This is the greatest insult to women and it's regrettable indeed that it's coming from another woman. Is Laura is happy living like a doormat?


Laura Doyle:

She hasn't read my book - clearly because these are the kind of comments I get from people who just hear the title and make assumptions about what it is about. This is nothing about being a doormat or even being submissive. Surrendering just means that you acknowledge that the only person you can change is yourself. So you don't try to change your husband by telling him how to drive or what to wear or how much to drink because you know that acceptance is critical to having intimacy. If you want things to change you can always change yourself and then he will respond to you differently.


R. Hawes, UK:

Your philosophy is tantamount to a licence for men to abuse women emotionally, socially, politically and financially.


Laura Doyle:

That might be true if we were becoming doormats but it is not true in the case of surrender. It is not that you let him control you but just that you stop trying to control him and there is a big difference there.

After all there are three types of men that I mention right at the beginning of the book that you would not want to surrender with and in fact I recommend divorce from these situations. That is if the man is physically abusive; if he is actively addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling; or if he is a man who is not capable of being faithful to you - then I say out you go.

But the good news is that if you don't have one of those types then you have got a good man - not a perfect man but one that you can have a wonderful relationship with.


Newshost:

I get the feeling that this is a book written for strong women and if you are quite shy and you have a problem with confidence then this is not the right book for you. So really it is about don't overpower your man.


Laura Doyle:

Yes. It is about mostly taking the focus off him and giving up the illusion that you can control him or that if you could it would make you happy and bringing that focus back onto yourself. Instead you need to ask yourself - what is it that I want? How do I feel? What are my ideas? - and expressing all those things so that you can begin to take responsibility for your own happiness.


Newshost:

Did you write this because you were one of those strong women?


Laura Doyle:

I absolutely was very controlling when I was a newlywed in fact to the point where my husband has actually said to the barber "My wife couldn't make it today - you are on your own". This gives you an idea of what I was like.

We went from being very happy as newlyweds to about four years later we were on the brink of divorce and I was willing to do just about anything to not be divorced. So I starting read books, talking to women who had happy marriages and also went into therapy. The things that worked, I wrote down and put them into the book and the things that didn't work I threw out.


Joanne, Canada:

Women are not equal to men. We have our strengths and weaknesses, as do they. Instead of trying to turn women into men, why don't we just celebrate our differences and learn to live harmoniously!


Laura Doyle:

Absolutely, I couldn't agree with her more. I think it is a big relief to admit that men and women are different and not try to pretend that they are the same. That is why I love John Gray's book "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus" so much. It gave us all permission to acknowledge that we have different strengths and that we can celebrate and enjoy that.


Tara, Germany:

Isn't the whole point of feminism having the right to choose what we want to do in life? If some women want to be housewives, then they should go for it - what about women who want a career?


Laura Doyle:

I am right there with her - I am a feminist as well and I think that means giving women as many choices as we possibly can. I think this book is helping women move forward by acknowledging that at work you do need to be able to manage your staff and your projects to improve the bottom line but marriage is not managing your husband. So we have different goals - we want intimacy, passion, peace and loyalty and that requires different skills.


Newshost:

But you have made it very hard for yourself by using this word "surrender" - "the surrendered housewife" - it gives such a negative impression. It does sound like the doormat - lay down and surrender.


Laura Doyle:

Well some people hear it that way but I not the first to use this word in this way in fact I have read things from Marian Williamson, Sister Wendy Beckett and Carl Jung and lots of other authors that I hold in high esteem. They talk about surrender being something that we have to do every day - when you are driving in traffic you might wish the cars would move but you can't make them move - you can either sit there and honk and yell at the other drivers or you can say I can use this time to listen to books on tape or I will listen to music. I will make the most of it.


Rob Holman, England:

Isn't it better to do whatever you want and not what someone else wants?


Laura Doyle:

Absolutely. That is why one of the chapters in the book "Surrendered Wife" is called - Express your Desires. I make it a point to show women how to get in touch with what they want and be able to express it in a clear way without making demands, without trying to manipulate and without trying to control.


Vicky, London

What type of marriage does your book apply to? What about women (or men) in abusive relationships?


Laura Doyle:

As I said you would never surrender to a man who is physically abusive - you need to get out of a relationship like that immediately because you are not safe and you never will be.


Newshost:

Aren't you worried though that perhaps just on the surface, people are scared that that is the message?


Laura Doyle:

Perhaps people are scared that that is the message but I do expect that people are smart enough to actually read the book and then make up their own minds about what it is about and I think once they do they will quickly see that I have taken precautions to avoid advising women to stay in abusive relationships.


Michael, NZ:

Responsibility for running a household etc rests equally on both couples. She uses the "veil of submission" to hide her own laziness.


Laura Doyle:

Again this is not at all about submission. Submission has the root word "sub" in it which means below and that implies that one of you is inferior and the other one is superior. This is not about that - this is just about accepting the reality that you can't change anyone else.

It is not about giving up responsibility either - I am thinking that the questioner has not read the book and is making some assumptions there unfortunately.


Newshost:

Yes, it comes back to the title - people are making assumptions from the word "surrender", which is going to be a problem. You already think that people have read the book and know you are not coming from that angle.


Lesley, USA:

Is there going to be a sequel? The Surrendered Husband perhaps?


Laura Doyle:

One of the things I have done is that I have written about my own experience and also the experiences of hundreds of women who have taken my workshop and now thousands more who have read the book and transformed their marriages. It is from a wife's perspective. I have no experience of being a husband and I couldn't begin to advise them how to be one.

The other thing I am saying here is that women should realise that even if someone wrote a book called surrendered husbands - you couldn't make your husband read it and you couldn't make him do what it says. But you can change yourself. So here are the tools and here are the steps that you need to take in order to have the marriage you always dreamed of.


Newshost:

Let us talk about your marriage - did it change? You said that you were on the brink of divorce - did it change?


Laura Doyle:

Yes that is right. That was about eight years ago and we were on the brink of divorce and through trial and error for the next four years I developed these principles and techniques that have helped me have a very intimate, wonderful and enjoyable marriage. I feel like the man who wooed me has returned. John is very much like he was when we were first dating and I have to admit so am I now because I treat him with the respect that I had for him when we first met.


Newshost:

I hope he treats you the same.


Laura Doyle:

Absolutely. People respond to you in kind don't they? Even a sales clerk will respond to you courteously if you treat her courteously first. So I am just hoping that people will recognise that they have tremendous power to make peace in their own homes.


Newshost:

So it is an equal relationship you are saying you have?


Laura Doyle:

That is what I have now. Before I was responsible for about 95% of everything so by relinquishing a little bit of control we have come back into balance.


Jenny W, UK:

Both feminism and the new surrender theory are two extremes - can there be a middle ground?


Laura Doyle:

I am a feminist and a surrendered wife advocate and I don't think either one is extreme. I don't think by giving women choices you can ever go too far in that direction. I think women need to be able to choose whether they want to work full-time, part-time, have a family, have no family, get married, not get married and any combination therein. I don't think that surrendering is extreme at all - it is really a kind of spiritual concept of just recognising your own limitations and recognising that there are certain things that you can't change and maybe that is good.


Kathy P., USA:

I did surrender for six years. It is an enormous mistake I will never make again.


Laura Doyle:

I am positive that she didn't do the same thing as I did. She may have been a doormat and viewed that as surrendering but it is absolutely not the same.

There are five basic principles to surrendering. First you relinquish control of his life; then you respect his decisions for his life; you would practise good self-care - meaning you do at least three things a day for your own enjoyment; you have also got to practise receiving compliments graciously and finally you want to practise expressing gratitude - thanking your husband for the things he does.

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