Monday, June 2, 2008

Enter the Queen

My wife and I have a favorite line from the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It’s the one where the mother, Maria Portokalos (played by Lainie Kazan), tells daughter Toula on the night before her wedding, “The man may be the head of the family, but the wife is the neck. And she can turn him any way she wants.”

This always gets a laugh—and, no doubt, resonates as “That’s so true!” with most audiences. Haven’t we all known for years that wives really run marriages and families? That they just allow husbands, because of their fragile male egos (like Michael Constantine’s as Gus in the picture), to pretend to be calling the shots?

But that traditional masquerade is less and less seen in female-led relationships and wife-led marriages. More and more of these wives are dropping the power-behind-the-throne game and openly assuming command. They are issuing edicts in their own names and having their male consorts stand beside, or a little behind, the throne chair now reserved for the Queen.

It’s about time, don’t you think?

I have been among those wife-led husbands who dream about acknowledging my wife’s primacy in public. As if that were some far-off goal on the long FLR road ahead. But if I stop and tote up all the ways in which it is already true, it’s obvious that the fait is certainly accompli.

My wife is the head and neck, commanding the orb and scepter of power. Openly so. A few examples should make the case:

1) She pays all the bills when we got out. At restaurants (from fast-food on up), she consults with the kids and me, but has final say on what we can order, from the standpoint of cost, portion-size and what’s good for us. It’s gotten so that I hardly glance at servers, and they instantly adjust to focus all their attention on my wife. I suspect it’s a pattern they are seeing more and more often in couples and families.

2) Ditto when we are on the road — go to a motel or hotel or rent a car, or go to any public attraction where we have to pay. I stand around with the kids while Mom makes all arrangements, especially checking in or checking out at motels. In fact, she often goes in alone, or, if we’re with her family, most of whom are female, with another woman, while I wait in the car. (By the way, I never complain about any arrangement, motel room, restaurant table, etc.)

3) When we bought our house, and when we went through subsequent refinancings, again, she did all the talking and deciding. More often than not, she used “I” rather than “we.” The house would be exclusively in her name except that our real-estate guy reminded her that ours was a community property state and that the financing would go better with us both on the dotted line. But when negotations were in progress, I kept silent unless asked.

And yet, I gripe because on many documents she has me sign above her! It’s the same when she tells me to sit at the head of the table when we have company (not always, but often). We still play those charades. But I dare not push her on those small symbolic displays. It’s up to her.

And I can be patient. Because we have definitely come a long way down the wife-led path. It was not always thus with us. We were, at the outset, very 50-50. The percentages today are, what, 75-25, 80-20, or even more, in her favor? These days my vote is purely ceremonial, like in the House of Lords.

One might wonder, How much more subservient could I be? Do I want to be?

But there are ways in which I could certainly enhance my wife's power and prestige. Without pushing her or “topping from the bottom” or wearing one of those “She’s the Boss” shirts or aprons favored by many husbands in FLRs.

I could significantly advance the public aspect of our FLR, I think, simply by following this excellent advice from Au876, a devoted husband who showed the way to me and many others:

“In public and around your friends, one of the best ways to ‘continue the relationship’ is to take the offense. Don't wait for her to tell you what to do. If she has to do that, people see it as her bossing you around. Jump right in and ‘offer’ to do this or that or just do it. Treat her like she is the most important and most special person in the world (after all, she is) and you WANT to do these things for her. Do them because you are showing RESPECT for her and it won't come across as being submissive. Her female friends will be jealous of her. Your wife will glow in that and appreciate the way you behave in front of her or your friends.

”There is a tendency among men to put down their wife in public. The exact opposite should be the case. Anyone who has a wife they can love, adore and worship is lucky. I consider myself extremely lucky.”

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