I’m watching an old movie, If a Man Answers…. It’s a Sandra Dee/Bobby Darin movie from 1962. The plot of the movie is simple. Chantal (Sandra Dee) meets photographer Eugene (Bobby Darin) and the two fall in love and marry. After a few months Chantal is feeling ignored. Her mother’s advice is to use the techniques in the book How to Train Your Dog. When Eugene finds out, he’s understandably furious. Mother’s next bit of advice is to take a lover. Or, at least, to make it appear that she has. She sends long-stemmed roses to herself with no card. Mother calls periodically and, if Eugene answers, hangs up. (Hence, the title of the movie.) This, of course, gives the appearance of an affair, making him jealous. Eventually he turns the tables on her, there’s a blow-up, and then they make up. There is, of course, a happy ending.
I often encourage young women who are about to get married to watch this movie. For one thing, it’s a cute, innocent movie from the heyday of sweet romantic comedies. But, the main reason I suggest it is the good advice—the imaginary affair, but the dog training book.
After putting up a fuss at the thought of using the book, Chantal gives in and starts using the advice. Later, while talking to her mother, she realizes that she hasn’t “trained” Eugene at all. She’s trained herself. She makes their home a pleasant place for her husband. She praises him and lets him know how much he’s loved. As Mama points out, husbands sometimes leave home; pets never do. (Advice she received from her own mother.)
We often hear about how husbands stop romancing their girlfriends once they become wives. But, just as damaging is that women stop praising and expressing admiration for their boyfriends once they become husbands. A man’s greatest need in a marriage is to feel respected. Letting him know how wonderful she thinks he is is one of the best things a wife can do.
I’m not talking about empty praise. If she tells him how great he is at fixing things when he’s barely able to change a light bulb, he’s going to view that as sarcasm. She should look for the things he does to make her life better. Trust me, once she starts praising him he’ll do even more to earn more praise.
One thing I tell soon-to-be brides is that the only person they control in their marriage is themselves. They can’t make their husbands do or be anything. They can only control their own actions and reactions. It is up to them to make sure their home is a lovely, welcoming place for both their husbands and themselves.