Ask Dr. Helen: Should Women Get Married?
Dr. Helen Smith's column, Should Men Get Married? caused quite a stir. Now she looks at the other side of the coin - and offers some tips for women on improving the odds of happiness if they do step up to the altar.
December 5, 2007 - 1:00 am
Columnist and blogger Don Surber emails to make an excellent suggestion:
I will suggest following up your column on “Should men marry?” with “Should women marry?”
I concur–we need equal time for women (or the men who are interested in the topic) to get a chance to let us know if they think that marriage is worth the gamble. If you had asked me in my teens or twenties if women should get married, I would have stated a resounding, “No!” But now that I am older and wiser and been married over thirteen years, I have to say from my own personal perspective, the answer would be “Yes” but only if your partner is the right person for you, and you understand what you are getting into.
There have been so many mixed messages over the years for women about marriage from feminists and others who, on one hand tell women to make their own decisions and be independent, but when they do want to be married or do something that goes against the grain of gender feminism are told that marriage is a trap and “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” This is nonsense.
Missing out on marriage because a bunch of “feminists” told you that it is the right thing to do is silly, and there is a backlash against this type of thinking now with the current crop of girls–the Millennials (those born between 1981-1999)–embracing marriage at a rapid rate. Kay Hymowitz, author of %%AMAZON=1566637090 Marriage and Caste in America%% had this to say about how young girls feel about marriage:
In fact, when it comes to families, this generation is as mushy as a Hallmark card. A Harris Interactive survey of college seniors found that 81 percent planned to marry (12 percent already had) at a mean age of 28. Ninety-one percent hope to have children-and get this: on average, they’d like to have three. The 2001 Monitoring the Future survey found 88 percent of male high school seniors and 93 percent of females believing that it is extremely or quite important to have a good marriage and family life. In a survey of college women conducted by the Institute for American Values, 83 percent said, “Being married is a very important goal for me.” Over half of the women surveyed said they would like to meet their husbands in college.
Of course, thinking you want to get married and have three kids is much different from the reality of doing so. Back to the question, “Should women get married?,” my answer is that if having a husband (and/or children) is important to a woman,then the answer is “yes” but only if you really have an understanding of what being married entails. It is not about a big engagement ring that one can show off to friends and family; it is not about a large wedding that makes a woman feel like a princess for a day; and it is not about a meal ticket or a path to a life of leisure. It is about sharing one’s life with another person, a human being, who has flaws just like you on a day to day basis and sometimes putting their needs ahead of your own. It is hard and not for the faint of heart, the selfish or the fickle. But a happy marriage is well worth the cost, for even the most introverted among us have some longing for connection with another person who cares about one’s well-being.
I will close this column with a few tips for women (and yes, there are many tips for men too, but that is another topic for another day) on things I have learned for how to have a happy marriage should you choose to go that route:
1) Encourage your husband to see friends once in a while. Just like you, men need to be with their buddies and have fun. Now, I am not talking here about carousing bars and picking up women or anything. I am talking about going out to have fun with friends, getting a beer and just feeling that he has a life outside the marriage and family.
2) Don’t call your husband continuously on his cell phone to “check up on him” when he is out with friends or others. I have noticed a negative correlation between how many times a man’s cell phone rings when he is with friends and how he feels about his marriage. No one likes to feel they are on a short leash. If a man continuously asks a woman what she is doing, when she is coming home and checks up on her non-stop, we would say he is being controlling. The same holds for women calling men. Again, I am not talking about calling your hubby up to let him know what you need from the store or tell him about an emergency etc., I am talking about calling repeatedly to ask him what he is doing or when he is coming home while he is out with friends or in business situations etc.
3) For goodness sakes, don’t write on your blog or on chat boards about the problems you are having with your relationship. I have seen a number of women do this and then wonder why their boyfriend or husband seems huffy or distant. If you have a problem, be direct and talk with him about it. Don’t spread the information to the world.
4) Finally, just try to treat the guy the way you would like to be treated and treat him like a human being with some compassion and kindness. Expect the same. Repeat as necessary.
So, what do you think, should women get married? If not, why? And if so, anyone have any tips for how women can improve their relationship with their husbands?
If you have a question you would like answered, please leave it below or email me at email@example.com. Your questions may be edited for length and clarity. Please note that your first name only or no name at all will be used to identify your question-if you want me to use your name, tell me, otherwise you will be referred to by your first name or as “a reader” etc.
Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee and blogs at drhelen.blogspot.com. This advice column is for educational and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to replace therapy or psychological treatment.