Romance they say, is the language of love, a great ego booster which is ideally expressed in a marriage relationship. Touch, words of affection, shared moments create an emotional intimacy that sets in motion chemical reactions in the brain. A rise of dopamine and nor-epinephrine brings a blush to the cheeks and a euphoric excitement in the mind.
Unfortunately in most marriages, Romance quickly dies away within a few months, and couples begin to take each other for granted.
It may come as a surprise to many that though there are various causes for lack of self esteem, studies reveal that the majority of women who come for counseling, attribute it to the lack of ‘romantic love’ in marriage.
“Romantic love?” I can see the masculine hackles rising, “Not that ‘Mills & Boon’ stuff which fairy tales are made of.”
At best, romance is a temporary preoccupation during courtship or the honeymoon. Then the marriage settles down to what it actually is – a blatant business arrangement between bread winner and home maker, with the exchange of sexual privileges. No wonder then that just as soon as they are economically stable, the number of women opting out of an unfulfilling union and preferring to go it alone, is increasing.
Because of the gradual collapse of the institution of marriage, frightening changes in morals and human values are threatening to overcome the world. Some introspection and damage control is therefore in order. Many times it is mere ignorance or thoughtlessness on the part of man that consigns his wife to a lifetime of frustration and low self esteem. Men fail to realize the fact that the needs of men and women differ.
What is ‘Romantic Love?” It is the element of candour, and a love that is not ashamed to express itself in words, gestures and deeds. The slim volume “Song of Solomon” belonging to the ancient literature of Israel, is the love song of King Solomon and the shepherdess he hankers after. It is so beautiful in its unselfconsciousness, its clarity of expression and confession of love, that it could be called a good handbook of romantic love.
Being a housewife can be awfully difficult. The frustrations, loneliness and recurring tensions far outweigh the joy of home, husband and children. It is a thankless occupation with no fixed hours of work, no casual or privilege leave, no retirement age. So it is up to the husband to ensure that his wife gets the minimum perks she expects.
Even the best of mothers and the most devoted of wives feels exhausted at the end of the day. Chores and children’s demands are never ending. Her own needs, her hobbies, her friends are all forgotten in a desperate attempt to cram things into her 24-hour schedule.
Perhaps the poet who wrote,
“What is this life but full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare,”
had the housewife in mind when he wrote it. And when at the end of the day the husband comes home and says, “What are you so tired about? You laze around all day, while I work my butt off in the office,” the desire to clobber the unfeeling sod comes naturally.
Why has depression become so pervasive among housewives? It is mostly due to changing social trends. Economically independent women, or those who perform the incredible feat of holding a job and simultaneously running an efficient home, are in the news as achievers. Mere housewives are downgraded. They are spoken of in condescending terms. Disrespect and ridicule are often inherent in comments made by professionals. Their achievements as home-makers are dismissed as demeaning servitude to men and tradition.
The bias towards beauty has also contributed in a big way to lower the self esteem of many women. Flawless skin, svelte figures, clever makeup, expensive dinner wear are what makes news. Beauty has eclipsed intelligence. It makes ordinary women feel ugly and flawed.
If these feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem are to be overcome, the housewife needs help from those who love her, mainly her husband. A man usually derives satisfaction from his profession and status, his productivity and finance, his interaction with peers, and the appreciation and respect he receives from colleagues.
But a wife, who expends all her energy and youth in becoming a good homemaker, an exemplary mother, and a loving wife, has no recourse to such respect or appreciation. The man in her life must therefore bring meaning to it. She expects him to appreciate and cherish her. She plods through the day knowing that at the end of it, she can eagerly reach out to him for a sign that he has missed her during his absence, and that his life seems incomplete when he is away from her.
Expressing love verbally or conveying it through a look or a touch, is a way of showing how much you care, and makes for romantic bonding. Remembering her birthday, bringing an unexpected gift, or planning a special outing for two, are gestures that prop up a woman’s self esteem. Men take it for granted that their wives know they love them.
What men need to know is that verbal expressions are like aphrodisiacs, heightening romance and passion. There is nothing unmanly in disclosing one’s feelings through expression of tender thoughts or endearments. Rather than appearing maudlin, it would emphasize one’s humanity. And unless a man begins to understand this need of a woman, she will not feel free to express herself for fear of rejection.
How important it is to make one’s wife a precious partner instead of a permanent project! What an achievement that would be if by changing one’s perspective and behaviour, it can bring happiness and confidence to one who is glibly called ‘the better half.’
Most men go through life holding on to misconceptions. A housewife’s life is not enviable nor are her household chores easy. At best they are repetitive, boring and utterly uninspiring. Many women if given the choice would prefer to work outside the home. Children those sweet innocent cherubs, are indefatigable bundles of energy. They claim full attention and monopolize and isolate their mothers. How many mothers have time to laze around, watch TV or attend ‘kitty parties?’ If they do so it must be at the expense of their house work.
Housework is more stressful than office work. It could be so enervating physically, mentally and emotionally that it can drive a woman to desperation. The best way for a man to estimate the value of his housebound wife is to swap roles for a day or two. Most men who have done so are unanimous in their praise for their wives.
There is no denying it, women are sentimental creatures. Good husbands who are mindful of their wives’ needs must reach within themselves, and rediscover the joy of romance. Communication enriches marriage. The process of discovering each other must endure throughout life. Husbands who are expressive and make it a point to say “I love you” at least once a day, have discovered what it takes to keep a marriage happy. Romance is the magic word. It can put self esteem back into the life of a housewife who considers herself a non-entity.
“Love is the one business in which it pays to be a spendthrift,” says France Crane.
Appreciation of her looks, her cooking expertise, her care of the kids, will make her bloom and perhaps bring out other qualities. An understanding husband is sensitive to her moods, her needs, her tears. He will show extra love and understanding when she’s going through a bad patch. He’ll spend quality time with her, and not only listen but demonstrate his affection through symbolic and verbal communication.
So all husbands take heed. Don’t let romance die in your marriage. It will keep you “forever warm, forever panting, and forever young.”