Author’s Note: For many years, I have run an advice column in the Bath Daily Gazette under the pseudonym “Wife of Bath.” During my time at the paper, I have helped hundreds of men and women solve problems related to dating, work, child rearing, and much more. For consideration in your esteemed contest, I present to you one entry from my time as Wife of Bath, complete with the original letter written to me for context.
Dear Wife of Bath,
I’ve been married for just over a year, and while in many ways the marriage has been successful, there is one big, glaring issue that is keeping me from being completely happy: my husband doesn’t know what I want unless I explicitly tell him. This may not sound like a big deal, but it’s driving me crazy. For example, last month my sister was throwing a cocktail party. My husband hates parties, so he decided not to go. But I really wanted him there with me, since I can’t stand my sister’s friends and knew I would be miserable if I had to deal with them alone. I dropped plenty of blatant hints about my feelings—I talked about how horrible my sister’s friends were, how I would have no one to talk to, how I wish there would be a familiar face there with me, but he didn’t understand. I didn’t want to force him to go, since I knew that would lead to a huge argument and him sulking all night. I wanted him to get that I needed him and come of his own accord. Needless to say, I went to that party alone. And that’s just one example of an all too common issue.
What can I do to make my husband better understand my needs?
Frustrated in Somerset
Dear Frustrated in Somerset,
I’m going to start by telling you a little story.
Once upon a time, there was a man working in a big marketing company. Let’s call him Eric. Eric was known around the office as “the sleazy guy.” He wasn’t completely terrible looking, but the way he came onto his co-workers was so lecherous no one ever returned his advances. Still, nothing deterred him from trying, and one day he went too far and pinched one of the intern’s bums. The intern filed a sexual harassment suit, and Eric was called into his boss Wanda’s office. Wanda gave Eric the standard warning, telling him he’d be fired if he didn’t cut his behaviour out. She also decided to suspend him, but the way she did it was a bit unusual, and frankly, probably a bit outside of the law. Wanda told Eric that he had to figure out what women wanted most in the world. When he came back to her with the correct answer, he’d be allowed to start working again.
So Eric went around to all the women in his life, asking what their deepest desire was. Of course, all of their answers were different. His sister wanted love, his mother wanted happiness, his friend wanted money, and on and on. Finally, after a couple of weeks of this, he was approached by his sister’s friend Ashley, a homely creature who had had a crush on him for years. She shyly told him she knew the right answer, but she’d only tell him if he promised to go on a date with her. He agreed, she told him, and he ran into his boss’s office the next morning, shouting, “I know the answer! The thing women want most in the world is to be in charge of the men in their life.”
Wanda told him that he was right, and Eric got his job back.
The next day, he went on the promised date with Ashley. It went well and they got along nicely. And so, when they got back to Ashley’s flat she invited Eric inside. Eric hemmed and hawed, and Ashley soon figured out the problem.
“It’s because of my looks, isn’t it?” she asked.
Eric, deciding to be honest, nodded.
“What would you say if I told you that I can change my appearance? I can become beautiful.”
Of course, Eric didn’t believe her. But then, she changed, and all of sudden she looked like a supermodel. Before Eric could comprehend what was happening, she changed back.
“If you want, I can look like that. But, if you choose that appearance, I’ll be unfaithful and mean to you throughout our whole relationship. If, on the other hand, you decide to have me like this, I’ll be the most devoted girlfriend you could ever wish for. What will it be?”
Eric thought for a while, unsure if it was worth pursuing a relationship with those caveats. He was about to call the whole thing off, when he thought about the correct answer to the “what do women want” riddle. And, smiling, he said, “I trust your judgement. I’ll let you choose what’s best.”
Ashley smiled too, and transformed back into the supermodel. “Correct. Since you learned your lesson and let me have the authority in the relationship, I’ll be both faithful and beautiful for you.”
And they lived happily ever after.
So, my dear Frustrated in Somerset, you may be wondering what this has to do with your situation. What I’m trying to say with this story is that men don’t know what we want. They simply can’t comprehend it. As you can see, Eric could never have come up with the answer to his boss’s question on his own. He had to find out the answer from the women in his life. And then, once he had the answer, it wasn’t like he just forgot it instantaneously. He used what he learned with the homely woman-turned-supermodel, and for that, he was rewarded
with a beautiful and faithful girlfriend.
So, the best thing for you to do is stop just dropping hints and hoping your husband understands. After all, he isn’t being obtuse on purpose. For both your sakes, just tell him what you want. If you want him to go to a party, tell him to go to a party. Sure, you may get into an argument, but at least he’ll understand that it’s important to you—which he probably doesn’t now realise . And even if he still bows out of this party, he’ll know for future parties that it will be a big deal if he doesn’t go. Like the man in my little story, he’ll learn his lesson and use what he learned to make you happy. Drop the coy act and be straight with your man, and everyone will be happier in the end.
Wife of Bath