LETTERS TO PHILIP
--On How to Treat a Woman
--By Charlie W. Shedd
This is for Philip, my son. I'm sure you'd like him right off if you met him. He'd put out his hand, turn on his million-dollar grin, & give you the feeling that he is genuinely interested in what's going on inside you.
He also loves Marilyn, his wife, & that's where I come in. A few weeks before their marriage he asked me in his best you-can't-turn-me-down style, "Dad, would you write me some letters on how to be a good husband?" So I did. Then one day he suggested that we share these letters. Like he said, "Most of the guys I know want their marriage to be extra special!" I pray they will be a help to you in your marriage.
The other day I saw an interesting plaque in one of our neighbourhood gift shops. Some clever merchant was featuring it for Father's Day. The motto read: Wherever Dad sits is the head of the table.
I hope it sells like crazy because this is one of the basic needs of every home. So, one of my first bits of advice on how to treat a woman is "Take charge!" For the good of your marriage, for the good of your children-to-be, & for the good of the nation's future I hope you'll read me loud & clear.
There are dozens of ways you might hear this: "Get control!" "Seize command!" "Run the show!" "Grab the reins!" "Call the signals!" "Stay at the helm!" "Steer your ship!" "Name the tunes!" Any variation will do provided you learn that there is a delicate line between "just enough" & "too much".
The image here is not that of a mighty potentate sitting on his throne, ruling his cowering subjects with an iron hand. A husband in charge is more like a conductor standing on his box directing a symphony. Delicate, but definite! Subdued, yet powerful!
What I am saying is that women hate dictators, despots, tyrants, & old meanies--but they respect strong leaders.
Here are some quotes from the feminine front to show you what I mean. Number one is the word of a successful lady editor.
"All day long," she says, "I make decisions. I talk with men, deal with men, compete with men. But at night I long to be all woman. It is so good to have a man who will open the door, order the meal, & give me the feeling that I can let down now."
Number two is something else. This poor soul is at the opposite end of the problem. "Can you imagine how I felt?" she asks. "We were hardly home from our honeymoon when I saw clearly that Lawrence didn't need a home, he needed a nursery. Now don't get me wrong, I know every man feels like a cry baby some days & I enjoy mothering him once in a while. But all the time? When is it my turn?"
Of course, like everything else, there are two sides to this story. Some juggernaut types may want their men to be submissive. But I also know good women who took command because somebody had to march the troops & dad was too weak to do it.
So take it from me, your wife will love you more if she knows that you know when to stand up & say, "Have no fear! Your leader is here!"
In a sense, Marilyn has elected you to the high post of leadership in her heart & to head up your family. This gives you great authority & it is a high trust.
Don't forget that the kind of authority we're talking about here is the authority of love! It seems to me that nearly every woman I know wants a man who knows how to love, with authority!
LEARN TO BE KIND!
God made women so they'll do anything in the World for you if you put them at ease about their faults, build up their strong points, & reach that high level of kindness which seems to say, "The blend is what I like. I love you for what you are en toto!" This is what the psychologists call "acceptance," & you'll find it a solid fixture in every solid marriage.
Whether your wife has sturdy legs, a "family nose," or any other physical eccentricity makes no difference. If you are going to be safe as a "take charge" guy, you better educate yourself in the art of being kind.
I use the word "educate" because most of us are naturally self-centered. Whether this comes easier for women than for men might also be open to debate. Personally, I think it's tougher for us males. But from what I have learned in my own marriage, & seen in others, there are not many questions more important than this: "Am I willing to train myself away from selfishness toward the point where I honestly care how the other person feels?"
START AT THE MIRROR!
I was especially glad for one thing you said when you asked me to write you. What you said was, "I want you to send me some letters, because I've got a lot to learn about being a good husband."
Over the years, I have known many of our gender whose attitude was, "If only she would change, things would be just dandy!"
Of course it isn't true that all the troubles will be your fault. Yet this is a fact you can count on: A wife is much more willing to face what is her fault if her husband has shown that he is willing to assume what is his responsibility.
So I am glad for your request, & the way you put it. If you keep on developing this attitude, it will be a real asset in all your relationships.
One sure mark of the "take charge" man worthy of his position is the greatness of soul that can look in the mirror & say, "Here's where we begin!"
ASK HER TO HELP YOU GROW!
One kind of praise from a husband is a real bell ringer in the heart of any wife. This is the kind that goes, "I couldn't have done it without you!" or "I owe it all to you!" One reason why this can't miss is that the female has an innate longing to be of worth to the male.
Since you started at the mirror by recognising that your part is to be a good husband, you have already put your foot on the next step up. This is where you tell your wife that you know you have faults & ask her to help you grow.
Acceptance with kindness does not mean that you must consider each other "just perfect." Remember that there are two kinds of faults to be dealt with. There are those you can never remove. These you work into your love as props to the total structure. Then there are others which can be corrected, & you mark yourselves as good stewards of life if you face these intelligently--together.
As a wise husband you initiate your family fact-finding by saying something like this: "I love your accolades, but the truth is that I do have faults. Therefore, since I respect your judgement I am soliciting your help in making me a better man."
You may have taken a long step forward when you educate your wife to be honest about your faults. When she offers various items for your improvement, I would train myself to make the first word of reply, "Thank you!" Then when you are sure you won't argue, sure you won't pout, sure you won't retaliate, you can add, "I didn't know I was doing that. You & I make a great team!"
This word "team" is another sure winner. As a matter of fact, I cannot recall a single situation in marital counselling in which either party was considering separation if they felt there was any improvement going on between them. But I can remember dozens who gave up because they knew their relationship was getting them nowhere.
There are limitless possibilities if you get your marriage moving in this direction. As we said at the beginning, a woman is so constituted that she longs to be worth something to her mate. So if you lead out by asking her to help you improve, if you receive graciously what she has to offer & thank her for it, one day she'll turn the whole thing around & ask you to help her! Why? Because she will sense that she is married to a growing man, & she will want to grow with him.
SEVEN GOALS FOR COMMUNICATION
In the consultation room I hear women complaining about many different things, but high on the list is failure to communicate. For some time now I've been gathering a collection of what I call, "Sayings of Lonesome Wives." Here is one of the best examples:
"You've heard of the great stone face? Well, I married it!"..."All I ever see of my husband at breakfast is a hand groping for his coffee behind his morning paper!"..."Would you believe it? My man can go for days on one word. To be perfectly honest, sometimes he says it twice to give it a different meaning. His total vocabulary is `Uh!' & `Uh! Uh!'"
What they are saying is that life gets downright grim married to a man who won't talk. It is true that some husbands never shut up, but for every one of those, I know several dozen who err on the silence side.
The point I want to get over today is that this is no way to treat a woman. Unless a wife is some kind of zombie, she wants to know what's going on in the mind of her loved one.
This is how your mother & I came up with a simple covenant offered here in the hope that it might be helpful.
Our Seven Goals for Communication:
1. We will aim to be "best friends." Since friendship is built on time spent together, we will have no less than one good visit daily with each other.
2. At least once each week we will go out together. A dinner, lunch, or any occasion to read each other's souls is time well spent.
3. We will make it a goal to be honest all the way. Since this requires self-honesty first, we will spend some time in healthy self-analysis.
4. As an ideal, 48 hours will be our limit to keep silent about problems or difficulties. But since absolute honesty cannot always meet a deadline, we agree to this--if we are not yet able to shape our feelings into words, we will keep trying. We will admit that we are struggling inside & ask for continued patience.
5. We will aim for total mercy & forgiveness. We may question, but we will not condemn. We will seek a spirit between us where confession is heard with tenderness.
6. We will respect each other's privacy. We will not crowd or jam the works by over-inquisitiveness.
7. Because it takes a lifetime to close all the gaps in the most perfect relationship, we will be gentle. We will love to the fullest what is given today & expectantly wait for tomorrow.
Companionship takes on added significance as the years pass. Sexual desires & the need for excitement might diminish. Money worries may subside & so could your other anxieties. But there is one thing that you must be sure is continually on the increase. This is the gradual opening of two hearts to welcome each other at the core of their beings. The surfacing of the real you is the secret to long life, inner health, & total communion.
IF YOU LIKE IT, SAY SO
There are 3 things I aim to do every day as a husband:
1. Tell her I love her.
2. Do something nice for her.
3. Pay her a compliment.
The truth is that this only sounds simple. But you try these as a regular discipline, & you will see that they "say" easier than they "do." And the toughest of these to remember may be number three.
I think there may be a more basic reason why many of us husbands are stingy with kind words. This is because we're people, & the average specimen of the human species is naturally inclined to be selfish. We spend most of our time thinking about number one. We are too preoccupied with our own emotional feelings. We don't have the time, take the time, or make the time to consider what it would mean to the other person if we opened our faces to say a good word.
You can believe me, every woman worth the name is an addict for masculine approval. And the best way to let her know you approve of her is to tell her. There are all kinds of other ways to get the job done, but from the feminine point of view, voicing your likes is one of the nicest.
The Bible says, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." This also goes for a woman. If you give her a lovely idea of herself, that's what she will try to become. This is why it makes so much difference what you're telling her. The time finally arrives when she accepts your estimate of her as her estimate of herself. I've seen many an ordinary-looking woman grow into a lovely thing because her husband told her she was lovely. I regret to report that I have also seen some truly gorgeous women gradually fade away because they were no longer inspired from the one source that mattered most to them.
All of which leads up to six very important words: If you like it, say so!
I know this isn't the best type of comparison, but it helps me to remember that Shadrach, our family airedale, will come clear across the yard for one pat on the head. The average wife is like that. She will come across town, across the house, across the room, across to your point of view, & across almost anything to give you her love if you offer her yours with some honest approval.
HOW TO TELL HER WHAT YOU DON'T LIKE
Let's say now that there is something you would like to change around here. You don't want to fight about it because you have a hunch that there must be some better way to handle this one.
But you have decided that you've got to get it on the table. For your own personal peace & the future of your marriage in general, the time has come to declare yourself. What do you do now?
I have a simple rule, which I pass along today as the right approach to get these little items moving. Here's the rule: Begin by telling her something you do like!
Say now she is one of those modest maidens who wants all the lights off when she disrobes for retiring. Is this the time to declare, "For Pete's sake, Marilyn, did you come over with the Puritans?" Or should you say something like this: "My dear, with a body like yours..."
There isn't a woman in the World in her right mind who would flatly reject any suggestion that might solidify her relationship with the man she loves!
NEVER QUIT COURTING
A woman will take a whole lot--people's talk, family criticism, hard work--she will put up with all this, defend her husband vehemently, & count herself lucky if she figures him for an expert in the little matters of devotion!
There are several ways you can develop this art of extra thoughtfulness. In this letter, I'm going to tell you some things I have found helpful in the hope that they may aid you as you school yourself in this direction.
For one thing, make something special of the special days. One of the happiest couples I know celebrates in some manner on the 29th of each month. That's the day they were married & they make it "theirs" by going out for dinner; or they have some little celebration at home; or he remembers her with a gift; or she does; or they both do. If this strikes you as overdoing it, you ought to hear that husband's witness. He claims that this monthly expenditure is worth every cent it costs, & all the memory effort it takes 12 times yearly.
Engagement anniversaries, first-date anniversaries, special anniversaries; remembering these & playing them up as extraordinary will be paid back many times over out of a woman's heart. A whole host of men never give these things one extra thought, although it would make them something special in her eyes if they did.
Another thing to remember is that women go for ingenuity. The little secret things between you; the games you play in your courting; the happy surprise she wasn't expecting--these tell her many things. One thing they say is that you are putting her high on your agenda, & this has to be good. You are thinking of ways to please her, & a woman will glow inside when she knows you've secretly been planning her happiness.
We have said before that you had better spend some time trying to think like a woman thinks. If you do, you will discover why all these things mean so much to her. One of the strangest bits of feminine logic going on in a woman's head is something I find hard to explain. The best way I can put it is that, although she wants to feel secure with you, she still hopes that you will keep on pursuing her even after you have won her!
I suppose this is why I have never heard one woman complain about her husband being too considerate. I am wondering if there is any woman anywhere who ever got too much affection? I doubt it. They're not made that way. All the good ones I know have an endless capacity for devotion & tenderness & the little things. Never quit courting.
HOW TO TREAT A WOMAN IN PUBLIC
1. When you enter the room, take her arm & come in smiling. If you look happy, she will, & God knows the World needs encouragement.
2. Walk proud! Act like you are thinking, "How could I be so fortunate?" If you stick out your chest, she will too. Most women look better that way.
3. Say something nice when you introduce her, I mean about her. This is good practice & it lifts her spirits. If you make her feel good, you feel good also.
4. When you sit down to dinner, hold her chair! Then pat her on the shoulder & smile. Keep smiling till she looks up. She'll soon catch on & it becomes a ritual. This is a very good thing.
5. When the conversation lags, ask her a question! Be sure you choose one she can answer. Make it one of her favourite subjects, & always wait for her reply. Never forget, smart people make others feel smart.
6. Never, & I mean never, fuss over little points in her story. Who cares whether the roses were true pink or only a faded red? If she is all wrong, somebody else can set her straight. But not you.
7. After dinner, if you get separated, look her up once in a while. Be sure she is pleasantly situated. Tell her you missed her & ask if she's all right.
8. When you are ready to go, hold her coat, take her arm, & open the car door for her! Not many men do this & she knows it. This makes her somebody special.
9. On the way home, take her hand & tell her how proud you were to have her along. A very good procedure. It pays off later!
10. Sometime when you are with her mother alone, tell her how much you appreciate her daughter. No woman alive could keep this to herself, & nothing does more for your wife than a compliment coming in sideways!
A HALF-DOZEN "NEVERS"
"Never say never again" are the words of a song too old for you to remember, but before we leave the "how-not-to" theme, I'm going to say "never" an even half-dozen times!
So here we go with "A Half-Dozen Nevers," which I wish somebody had told me for my first years as a husband.
1. Never point in derision to something she can't change. Like we have said before, it's a smart man who decides some things once & for all. One such should be his personal decision never to throw up to his woman the things she can do nothing about, such as any physical imperfections.
The dictionary says that sadism is "cruel abuse of others," & there is nothing more cruel than hurling hurtful words about things which can never be changed.
2. Never criticise her in public. You may have noticed that certain couples make a sinister little game of slapping at each other when they are in the presence of others. Here are a few sample swats I've heard lately: Husband: "Thanks for inviting us over. This is such a welcome change from TV dinners!"...Wife: "Why doesn't John fix it?--That'll be the day. He doesn't know a saw from a sawhorse."
This trotting out each other's weaknesses beyond your own door is always in poor taste. It is acutely embarrassing to innocent bystanders; it indicates that you have not been surfacing your rancor in an intelligent way at home; & the only thing it can possibly produce between you is a desire to get even.
3. Never compare her unfavourably with other women. I remember one little wife who married a widower. He was a good catch & she was glad to get him. But she got one thing she didn't like & that's why she came to see me. "What happened," she said, "was that after we left the marriage ceremony, his ex-wife seemed to come alive & I'm right up to here with her. I know how she cooked, how she looked, how she walked, how she talked. In fact," she concluded, "I don't think it's going to work unless we can get his mind off the past!"
We couldn't! I regret to report this poor man never learned that you cannot win one woman by repeated recitation of another woman's merits.
I have known too many men who have never been told, or else they've forgotten, that you can never reshape one woman by constant comparison with another.
4. Never drop a delayed bomb. These come in several types, & some of them are lethal. What I have in mind here is things like this:
Suddenly telling her you don't like something she's been doing a long time. To give a woman the idea that she has been displeasing you all these years without your saying one word can be a somewhat shattering experience. If she thinks at all, she's going to be asking, "What else doesn't he like?" It makes her nervous. It shakes her confidence in herself, in you, & in the future. Of course, if you just now realised that you don't like it, that's something else. But even here, there is a right & wrong way to get your point across, & you'd better be sure you learn the difference.
5. Never go away when she is crying. This goes for when she's weeping inside & you know it; or when her eyes are only slightly misty; or when she cries up a river.
Whether you caused it, or somebody else did, makes no difference. Tears are a time for tenderness & there is only one move to make here. That is to draw her close & tell her you're sorry.
6. Never lay a hand on her except in love.
If you ever catch yourself saying, "Women, I can't understand them!" don't forget to add, "Thank God!" This is one of the things that makes marriage so much fun.
I have told you a number of places where you can depend on your wife's reactions. But another sure thing is that she will love you more if you learn how to handle her when she isn't dependable.
Psychologists tell us that the best climate for healthy growth is one in which we can express the entire range of our feelings. It should be an aim of your marriage to develop your relationship until you can each say what you feel like saying, do what you feel like doing, & be what you feel like being.
But don't hurry it. The total liberty to exercise one's numerous selves without restraint is another of those things you should put with your long-range goals. Unless you go at this right, you might possibly tear up so much during the first twelve months it would take that many years to put it back together.
FORGIVE & FORGET!
There is an all-important consideration in "fighting the good fight." This is the offering of apologies, the request for forgiveness, & the assurance that you will do your best to forget.
These things are especially important for husbands because the words, "I'm sorry" & the language of forgiveness seem more difficult for men than women. One poor wife told me recently, "My husband's idea of settling a quarrel is to give me the cold shoulder until I say, `You were all right! It was my fault completely!' The truth is," she went on, "I've just about had it! He thinks that he & God are the only perfect beings, & he may even have some questions about God!"
Remember too that the measurement of bigness in a man is determined from the spot where he can unbend in true humility to pay his honest debts with these five words: "I was wrong. Forgive me."
But suppose it was all her fault. She really did it this time. Now what will you do? One thing you can do is to give her an opening. How about saying, "I'm sorry we've having trouble. I don't like it this way. Let's stick together, what do you say?" What she will probably say is, "Well, I was a little bit foolish myself." A woman never forgets things like this. You have opened the gate where she can come through to set the matter straight. She'll love you forever for that.
This movement-to-get-things-settled is always much more important than who started it. Tell yourself that pointing up the origin doesn't matter nearly as much as how to make things right once more. If you keep this goal before you, the day will come when you'll be stumbling over each other as though there were a prize for the person who got there first to restore the relationship.
Another test of how mature you both are is your ability to forget what you've forgiven. Or, if the offense was one of those devastating things no normal person could possibly forget, then can you put it where it belongs? Even better, can you work it into the fabric of your love to make your marriage more of a blessing to you both? To be a good husband you must work at never forgetting some things while you work at never remembering others.
What I want you to see in this letter is that it takes a long time to bring a woman to her full glory sexually. The trouble with so many men is that they expect sex to be "out of this World" immediately. But sex at its greatest is something you create by careful attention as the years pass.
A good starting place is to remember that female responses are generally much slower than male. Let's get specific. If you are a normal husband, you will be thinking about sex a great deal more than your wife. For instance, you are reading this story in which the author uses some bedroom scene to convey the message. Immediately, you begin living with the characters. Marilyn, reading the same description thinks, "How nice!" or "How repulsive!" or "I wonder who will inherit Aunt Phoebe's millions?"
The same thing applies to pictures. Those gorgeous nudes & near-nudes all over the place these days may drive us wild with desire. All the while our mate, reacting like a true woman, might be thinking, "Such a ridiculous hairdo!"
It isn't that sex is less important for her. In fact, the paradox is that it may be more so. We see it as a momentary blast, a great, exciting release. For her, it's an all-inclusive relationship that takes in much more than what happens in the act itself.
In one sense, everything we have been saying in our previous letters represents sex for a woman: Kindness, compliments, how you treat her in public, whether you noticed her new blouse, that telephone call from you this morning, some unexpected gift you bought her, the way you treat the children, whether you let her be herself--all these are a part of her sex life! For you it may be a biological matter of the moment. For her it's more likely to be the total union of two lives culminating right now in full expression of their belonging.
In other words, if you are typically male, sex is likely to be a dominant feature of your attitude toward marriage. Sure, there are other nice things, yet all roads lead to sex. But for her, marriage is more a totality of relationships, one expression of which is the sex act. This understanding is important for your long-range thinking. Treating her right sexually is partially a matter of re-educating your mind to understand hers.
For a woman, quality matters more than quantity. Not so for you, especially during your early days as a husband. You're making up for lost time. You have a great reserve of pent-up feeling. During your early days together, & perhaps for a long time, you'll have trouble holding yourself back. But the day should come when your mind turns to how rather than how often, & that will be the day you begin moving your marriage towards long-range improvement.
There are several "timing" secrets I have observed among the experts. One is that they are willing to let half pleasure go for full pleasure later. They know that even in the best marriages there will be ups & downs. Sometimes all a wife wants is to be left alone. So? So the wise lover learns to control his exuberance while the fool proceeds full steam ahead.
Another thing a wise husband knows is that nobody gets the same results every time. Maybe this particular session was something less than a wow. What does he do now? He refuses to panic. He tells himself that there will be high-voltage days & nights to come.
Here is another thing the good lover knows. He is aware that he can warm his woman with words before he even lays a hand on her.
I am not talking here about the fact that you must let each other know what you like & don't like sexually; the things you are feeling; the thoughts you are thinking. What I would like to convey is the stimulating power of language properly used as a part of good foreplay in sex.
I once asked a group of women to write down their thoughts on compliments. Some amazing things turned up. I suppose it was because they were doing this anonymously, but several included their favourite phrases of praise from the bedroom.
One woman wrote: "I think the little secret compliments you have together mean more to a woman than anything else. I love those intimate assurances that I have been thrilling to my husband!"
These assurances are terribly important to a woman. Not only does she want to feel that she is fulfilling the basic female function of pleasing her mate, but she loves to know that he will be carrying lovely memories to feed back into his thoughts.
Before I sign off, let me remind you again what we've taught you at home as the basic fact about sex. This is that sex is a gift of God & there is absolutely nothing negative about it when it's right.
I wish you the best. If you do give it your best, beginning right now, & stay with it carefully, the time will come when you will know what the Bible means when it says, "Male & female created He them...& God saw everything that He had made, &, behold, it was very good."
"EXCEPT THE LORD BUILD THE HOUSE"
Most ministers these days spend hours counseling with couples in some kind of trouble. You can take my word for it, those of us who deal with marital difficulties hear everything imaginable & some things you would hardly believe. To show you what I mean, here are a few common & not-so-common quotes from my study-notebook:
"He won't talk."..."She never shuts up."..."His folks never come over."..."Hers won't go away."..."He drinks too much."..."She over-eats."..."His manners are atrocious."..."She thinks she's Lady Astor."..."He thinks every move I make is a sex move."..."The only thing she makes is excuses."..."He needs a psychiatrist."..."She's obviously off her rocker!"
I could go on like this for hours. Sometimes their problems are trivial. Others are rather simple. With adjustments here & there, these breaks are easily mended. But then there are those in which matters have gone too far. There is little to do but weep now. These gaps are dreadfully wide & can anyone close this fissure?
Because this is how it is, I have come to believe that my part as third person at the altar is to say something loud & clear before we get there. I am done marrying couples who want a big church wedding only because that's how they always dreamed it, or because some member of the family is sentimental, or because everybody who is anybody does it like this. From here on in, I intend to say at rehearsal:
"Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it! Tomorrow this wedding begins with the words, `Dearly beloved, we are assembled here in the presence of God to join this man & this woman in holy wedlock, which is instituted of God.' Don't ever forget it. This is no fashion show, nor a gathering of high society, nor a tip of tradition's hat before we adjourn for cocktails. We are coming together to establish a new home where the Lord can accomplish His purpose & establish His plan."
Of course there will be those who wonder, "What's bugging him?" If anyone should voice the question, I could tell them what's bugging me. It is the steady parade of those who come with the broken pieces & broken vows & broken hearts.
This is why I spend considerable time in marriage consultation talking about prayer. In my opinion nothing, & I mean absolutely nothing, matters more than this: Can these two children of God accept the fact that He made them & brought them together to create something not first for themselves but first for Him? And if they can believe this, then the next question is: "Will you open the channels daily for His Spirit to touch your spirits & His Love to come into your home?"
I have seen marriages that looked for all the World like they were shattered beyond any earthly power to put them back together. And they were. But some of these are still going on & going greater than ever because they learned to pray. This is a fact. I have never known one couple who prayed together honestly & desperately for the Lord's miracle-working power in their lives who didn't find their marriage moving toward deeper understanding, growing inner joy, & a finer, fuller love.
We wish you smooth sailing, calm waters, bon voyage. May fortune smile. May you have good luck.
All these we want for you & Marilyn, plus every other happy hope the human mind could possibly concoct. But if, as so often is true, we would need to limit our wishes, then the one great wish we have for you is that you may learn to be open to Divine Love.
Actually the truth is that God never quits loving. He's there 100% of the time, knocking, waiting, hoping. Those who have experienced this can tell you there is no greater Love.