"The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands" by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

My friend Miranda wrote about how this book transformed her marriage. I would have put a link to that post on her blog, but it seems to have been deleted or something. Sorry, Miranda!

Well, she raved about it, and said that reading it and putting into place the principles expressed in it was the sole thing that saved her marriage. I was like, "Whoah, you guys are happy - I didn't even know that at one point you would need a book like this!" She's a person I trust, so I decided to go ahead and read it.

I was not able to read the whole thing, but not for the reason why I usually stop reading a book. And I found it really obnoxious just now, when looking on Amazon, that the number one most helpful review of the book only very begrudgingly admitted that the ideas in the book are right and can help a marriage.

So, first the ideas, then why I stopped reading it.

The thesis of the book is: Men are simpler than women. If husbands' needs get met, they will be happy and therefore they will naturally meet the needs of their wives. Husbands' needs are food, sex, and appreciation. The main reason women of today fail to meet their husbands' needs is because of the evil feminist movement.

Instead of gently nudging women into believing her, Dr. Laura is extremely blunt and uses a hammer-over-the-head approach with tons of examples (like from callers to her show, or emails), and even more absolutes: "You will get divorced if..." So, it's not a feel-good book in any way whatsoever. And if you know anything about Dr. Laura, that's the way she is on her show, too. She doesn't tend to focus on the exceptions to the rule in psychiatry; she prefers to be blunt and assume most people are sane. I suppose that is a good assumption.

Reading this book was the first time I had ever read any negative commentary about the "feminist movement". I've read a few books with obvious pro-women's-lib undertones, but most just assume that "the feminist movement" happened and everything now is "normal" and "the way things should be." I've found the books that are more blatantly pro-feminism do not sit well with me, but I hadn't ever been able to articulate quite why. Recently I checked out a feminist book about breastfeeding. It was a collection of really wordy hard-to-sift-through-and-get-the-main-point essays whose main idea was always, "Women have it hard because..." I think that sums up why feminist literature is annoying for me to read. Actually, the first book on pregnancy I ever read was totally feminist, and not in a good way. It was like, "Pregnancy sucks because..." I guess I just prefer to not read laundry lists of complaints about life when there is no real solution proposed (besides the impossible change-your-gender).

In High School I truly thought I believed women should do whatever they want when they want. Now, as a married adult with a baby, I believe that ideally women should do what will be best for their family, which in the case of having small children is almost always to stay at home and raise them. I don't believe that it's possible for women to do whatever they want when they want. I do believe women can do whatever they want within reason, in a long-run time frame. You can't "have it all" at the same time. You might be able to "have it all" at different times, over a long period of time. In the end, it's not about "having it all", it's about doing what's right and best for you and your family. 

It was really refreshing to read her opinion of why the women's lib movement did more harm than good because it articulated into words things I had felt and known to be true. Like how pressure for women to work and have careers (by the feminist movement) has been very harmful to the home. And how women now feel entitled to do whatever they want, which any toddler knows is not going to be allowed. Feminism has created generations of selfish, man-hating women. Feminism causes women to blame men for many of their problems.

I'm glad she wrote this book because it has been a huge force for good. Her main goal was to remind women that marriage is about serving your spouse. Her audience was wives who feel under served, who want to take an active role in changing their marriage. I think that philosophy is based on sound psychology; you can't change other people, you can only change yourself. Apparently, this book has saved hundreds of thousands of marriages. Even if it was just Miranda's, I think it was worth it for her to write this book.

Dr. Laura makes a big deal about staying home and making the house a "home". She makes a big deal out of home-cooked meals; a much bigger deal than I've ever heard anywhere else, outside maybe some General Authorities' talks. She makes a huge deal about caring about your husbands' feelings (duh) and needs (duh) and thoughts (duh).

And if you actually read the book, she isn't saying that wives should become sex objects to their husbands. She does say that they should put in an effort to being sexy, though. She says husbands totally love and appreciate it when their wives try to dress up for them, and make them feel manly. I don't think anybody who has a husband can argue with that!

Now, why I couldn't finish it.

This book was not written for me. I am a stay at home mom who already does the things Dr. Laura says will make a happy marriage. But I felt guilty anyway when I read example after example of how couples ended up in divorce because the wife failed to care for her husband. This is not a great book to read when the stresses of pregnancy sometimes prevent you from making the perfect dinner, or being perfectly sexy, or whatever. This is not a great book to read if you are a perfectionist like me who is already very self-critical, and already understands that marriage is about serving your spouse.

I felt much better after talking to one of my friends, who said, "Oh yeah, well, you just have to remember that Dr. Laura is totally a womanizer; like she says that if women make an effort, men will just naturally serve their wives like they should but the truth is that both husbands and wives have to make an effort." I think this is true. I guess Dr. Laura believes that since men are simple, it is easier for them to serve their wives if they are being served. But that is a huge assumption, no? I guess in Dr. Laura's defense, the book was really written for wives.

And here's the other thing my friend said, which Danny thinks she is completely right about: "Plus, men should never read that book. It will just inflate their egos and make them think they can do whatever they want." Danny and I read a chapter or two together, and he totally agrees that the effect the book would have on males is not positive. I think that's probably why she went on to write the sequel, "The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage."

So I didn't finish it, but I do recommend it, if you can stomach Dr. Laura's style. You have to remember that she is a horrible listener. She listens to her callers for about 2 seconds before assessing their situations, and that is annoying. I don't see why anybody would ever call her thinking they would get sympathy. She mostly ends up making fun of her callers. And sometimes they totally deserve it. And if the end result of all of her work - the radio show, the books, etc. is to help people transform their marriages into a relationship that works, I am totally for it. Just don't read it when you're pregnant, and don't forget that you are most likely not nearly as stupid as most of the people in the examples she gives.


  1. Thanks for the book review. I have been thinking about buying it for my wife . Thanks for the feedback on not having the males read it. I will keep that in mind and not read it myself.

    Nice job on the blog.

  2. Hi Kate,

    I have found Dr. Laura's book quite helpful (PCFH). I also give it out as gifts, to men and women alike. Many men have found the book 'spot on' and that it articulates things that they have a hard time articulating about their relationships with their wives. (She opens the book that this is to be applied to good men, not bad men - you know addictions, abuse, and affairs.)

    As for your belief that Dr. Laura cuts to the chase, yes she does and I find that refreshing. If you've heard
    other programs you hear people wander all over the place
    for sometimes up to 30 minutes. Dr. Laura hones in on things like a surgeon.

    It's been a helpful way for me to learn how to hone in and summarize a problem.

    My very liberal friends call me and tell me that I give the best advice of our entire group of friends. Little do they know it's from the woman they love to hate, Dr. Laura!



Add a comment!