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The Compliant Spouse
Chances are, you know one. He’s usually not yours, but some other seemingly fortunate wife’s husband. They do everything together; they share common ideals. They’re the couple that says that they rarely argue. When a disagreement comes up, they talk it out and they come to a compromise. And they live happily ever after.
And you think, “If only I found my perfect match, I wouldn’t have marital problems.” While I’ll readily admit, there are bad matches, good matches, better matches and best matches in marriage, many smooth-sailing marriages usually have one thing that makes them oh, so easy: a compliant spouse.
A compliant spouse—husband or wife—is content to let the other spouse lead the way and make the decisions. He or she isn’t necessarily a doormat, but he usually wants to keep the peace more than have his way. Often times, he’ll suggest ideas but if his spouse shoots them down, he’ll just shrug his shoulders and go with the flow. There isn’t much true “compromise” going on: He just gives in. He takes direction well, and completes his honey-to list when asked. Leaving decisions to his mate allows him freedom to pursue other interests while relieving him of weightier responsibilities, too.
Is a compliant spouse the perfect spouse?
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard women swoon over someone’s compliant spouse. And I guess I have to admit, I have done it, too. When your own husband has an irksome bull-headed streak, a complaint spouse sounds terrific. But do you really want a compliant spouse? The reality has its drawbacks:
*All the responsibility falls upon your shoulders.
Everyone knows who wear the proverbial pants in the family. You’ll have to take the fall for unpopular decisions or bad news that comes from you and your husband. Let’s face it: We all like to conveniently have our spouses to blame for something we want to opt out of, like a child’s party or weekend with the in-laws.
And you’ll usually end up making all decisions, from major to irritatingly tedious. “Can you please just tell me where you want to go for dinner tonight?” “I don’t care what brand of shaving cream you get!”
*Compliance is boring. It’s nice when a spouse brings his own ideas into the mix. It’s exciting to hear, “I have a better idea.”
*Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Now and then, a little giving in—for you—is good for the soul. It takes humility and love to be able to back down and let the other person get what he wants, even when it isn’t what you want at all. If you’re used to getting your way, be sure you aren’t turning into a total dictator or a spoiled brat—unless he likes it that way.
*Some compliant spouses give in but hold resentments.
These are the spouses that suddenly up and leave after long years of marriage, to everyone’s shock and surprise. They were quietly compliant but not happily so. In fact, a lot of men use passive-aggressive tactics to get back at their wives through procrastination, lateness and feigning illness to withhold s*x.
"I'm sick and tired of her making all the rules," wrote Bob (not his real name) in an online forum. "S*x is the only thing that she can't control. I can't stand to make love to her because I'm so angry at her all the time, but I don't want to rock the boat with the family. I'd rather look at p*rn*graphy."
Frequently, a wife will turn her husband into a compliant spouse, and then lose respect for him. It’s no wonder why husbands complain that they can’t figure out what their wives want! Most wives want a delicate balance between a man and a manservant. I suppose it’s akin to that old men’s adage of wanting a cook in the kitchen, a lady in the parlor and a wh*re in the bedroom. Women have their own sexist desires: We want an obedient caretaker around the house, a tycoon at the office and a he-man in the bedroom. And ya, and one who cares about starving children and saving the planet and promoting world peace while he’s at it. Sensitive but manly. One without the other just doesn’t work as well.
In my personal circle of friends and family, there are good examples of the compliant spouse syndrome. Their marriages are intact, of course. Of them, two are mutually content, one holds in resentments, while the other three wives have lost all respect for their mates. Their relationships have turned into mother-child interactions, and that is a topic for another article.
If you have a compliant spouse, be sure to address his or her desires. Solicit his or her opinions and take them. If you keep dismissing his ideas, choices and opinions, for whatever reason however logical, he will stop offering them. Appreciate that your marital road is smoother than most, but give credit to the one who paves that way.
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