Published by sylvia on 26 Mar 2009
Picture this: You are a woman who has chosen to stay home with your baby and toddler. After a bad day of whiny children, telemarketers, and dropping a container of eggs on the floor, your husband walks in the door. Immediately aware of your stress, his handsome eyes crinkle in concern, he drops his briefcase, picks up a child in each arm, and tells you to go relax; in face, he suggests a long hot bath and a glass of your favorite white wine (which he happened to pick up on the way home).
Or picture this: you are a woman who is balancing both children and a career. Your husband drops the little ones off at a good daycare in the morning, and you pick them up on the way home. Late one afternoon, your office phone rings. You’ve been bawled out by your boss and found out your favorite co-worker is leaving, so when Caller ID shows your husband, you wonder what is up. As soon as you say hello, he asks what is wrong; you tell him. He admits he was calling to say he had a late meeting, but you are more important. He’ll cancel the meeting, pick up the kids and the babysitter (who will be available on no notice – this IS a fantasy, after all) and then take you out to a nice relaxing dinner. You know you will be the envy of every woman at the restaurant, with such a gorgeous, attentive husband.
Ever had something like this happen to you? Me neither. Yet this is the “hero” of hundreds of books every year in the most popular genre in bookselling: romance novels.
Frankly, I blame them (partially) for the spiraling divorce rate. When a woman has spent a few hours with an incredibly handsome man watching for her every whim (and, in imagination, she is utterly beautiful as well), and comes back to an average-looking man who wants his dinner and is eager to complain about HIS day, it’s a shock. If he has the bad taste to complain about the kids as well as fail to notice her stress, you have a recipe for disaster.
But few husbands are mind-readers. I happen to have chosen a pretty good one. He likes to come home to his family, proudly introduces me as his wife (and I’m no raving beauty either), brags on our children but takes on his share of the work. He believes in fidelity, trusts as well as remains trustworthy. I had a shopping list of characteristics I HAD to have in a husband, and he had all of them. But he can be totally oblivious of my feelings. Once he did something on a trip that left me fuming, but he didn’t hear my anger in a long 10-minute phone call. My father happened to call a few minutes later, and as soon as I said hello he asked what was wrong.
The answer, of course, is communication. Both partners need to discuss their feelings and desires, and not just in bed. But women who have absorbed the idea of the man who mysteriously detects their feelings are offended by a real man who is focused on his own.
My daughter is almost 20 and has never dated, and I’m glad. We agree that dating is to find your potential husband, and she is not even interested in marriage at this point in her life. Meanwhile, I’ve tried to point out her father as an example of a good husband, and discussed the unreality of romance novels. (She seems to prefer fantasy, anyway.) She’s sensible, and I hope when she starts to think about marriage, she’ll remember not the handsome, hunky hero of a romantic fairy tale, but a real man who took care of me when I was sick and remembered to buy my third-favorite chocolate truffles for Valentine’s Day. (My favorite chocolates are Teuscher, $60/box. My second favorite are Godiva, still too expensive for our budget. My third favorite are Lindt, about $3.50 at Wal-Mart so I can enjoy them with a clear conscience.) And I hope she’ll find as devoted a husband as I have been blessed with. And I hope she’ll appreciate him, while less sensible women wistfully remember dashing, mind-reading men who never existed.
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