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Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 2000/ 4 Shevat, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Who funds these studies!? --
SCIENCE CONTINUES to get smarter. Not long ago, science told us that babies need cooing and cuddling with their parents. We knew that. Shortly thereafter, science told us that divorce is bad for kids. We knew that. Now science tells us the secret to happy marriages. Not counseling, not skimpy nightclothes. The key, according to a recent scientific study is to let the wife have her way.

Ha! We knew that!

All these decades of trying to figure out the mystery behind happy couples, the millions spent on research, the billions spent on magazines that promised to give it all away. And now psychologists say the answer is for husbands to do what their wives want.

I'm not sure you're appreciating the full import of this new information. We do everything in this country based on the latest scientific developments. They tell us eggs cause high cholesterol, we don't eat eggs. They tell us smoking causes lung cancer, we stop smoking. They tell us wine causes breast cancer, we quit. OK, so we pretend to quit drinking wine. So who's perfect?

For years, the word from the psychological community was that successful marriages depended on "active listening." An active listener hears not what the person is saying, but what the person means by what she's saying. Such as, when your wife says, "Do what you want," she really means, "You'll pay for this later." Or, when she asks "Do I look fat?" she really means, "Tell me I'm beautiful." Most important, when she says, "You have to learn to communicate," she means, "Just agree with me."

And you should, say the experts. It's easier in the long run. Besides, active listening is unnatural, says one of the study's authors, psychologist John Gottman of the University of Washington. "Asking that of couples is like requiring emotional gymnastics."

Gottman and colleagues followed and studied 130 newly married couples for six years to try to predict which marriages would succeed or fail. It turned out that couples who employed active listening had no greater success rate than couples who stomped out of rooms and slammed doors. Gottman and colleagues say they were shocked. All those years of marital counseling around the premise of active listening - wasted. Instead, the marriages that worked had one thing in common - men gave in to their wives.

The potential repercussions of this highly advanced, incredibly revolutionary research is astonishing to consider. Were men to surrender to their wives' wishes, we'd have no more arguments. No more divorces. No more damaged children. No more custody battles. No more domestic violence. No more Promise Keepers. No more Million Man Marches. No more men's movement. No more women's movement.

Men could end the gender wars once and for all with two little words: "Yes, dear." I realize this new method of communication is going to be difficult for men who have relied on brute strength and bullying tactics to get their way. It's going to be tough, too, for women who actually enjoy fighting with their spouses. You know who you are.

There's one more hitch. As you might have guessed, getting to "yes, dear," is, alas, a two-way street. The study also found the men who gave into their wives had - you're not going to believe this - nice wives.

Which is to say, men surrendered to their women not because they're wimps, but because their wives were beguiling. If the women had a complaint, they couched it in gentle, soothing, even humorous ways. Instead of saying, "Why can't you ever hang up your %$#@& towel, you #$%^&!" they said something like, "Darling, let's make love 101 new ways while we hang up your towels, which are always on the floor, where I'd like to be with you right now."

You want a happy marriage, guys? Learn to communicate --- if you know what I mean.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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