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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Boyack's 'Practical Guide' Goes Beyond the Cliches

When my husband spotted Strangling Your Husband Is Not an Option by Merrilee Browne

Boyack at Deseret Book, he immediately plucked it off the shelf and handed it to me. The subtitle of the book is "A Practical Guide to Dramatically Improving Your Marriage." Now, before you draw any conclusions, I have to say that I have a good, solid marriage. But, since all relationships can be improved upon, I took my husband's recommendation and read the book.

After the first chapter or so, I have to say I was pretty annoyed with Sister Boyack. I had left the book by the toilet in the master bathroom, so my husband had scanned this first section as well; even he said, "Sounds like she has a 1950s mentality." Basically, the first part of the book (Chapter 2, really) concerns the "Five Don'ts of Wifehood," most of which include focusing solely on your husband (to the exclusion of other duties and interests) and making yourself attractive so that he won't cast his roving eyes elsewhere. I thought this was unrealistic and insulting to both men and women. Boyack did make some good points, but overall, I was not impressed with Chapter 2.

Luckily, I kept reading, because Boyack really did have some good thoughts and ideas. Basically, her philosophy is that wives cannot "fix" their husbands. They should quit whining about all of his faults and focus on perfecting themselves. Boyack suggests that women take care of themselves - physically, spiritually and emotionally - so that they are secure enough to allow their men to resolve problems in their own - uniquely male - ways. She says that wives' incessant nagging and criticism prove that they have no faith in their husbands, thus leading to husbands who don't believe in themselves. Sister Boyack backs up her guidelines with quotes from leading psychologists (including both the predictable - John Gray - and the surprising - Dr. Phil), LDS church leaders and the scriptures. With these heavyweights on her side and 25 years of marriage under her belt, it's hard to deny: Merrilee Browne Boyack knows what she's talking about.

Now, I'm not saying I agree with everything she says - I know my husband is not going to stray just because my gray hairs are overdue for a visit with my hair stylist - but I did extract some valuable information from Boyack's book. Of particular interest to me was the "As if" philosophy she describes and the section where she quotes Dr. Michael Gurian on how males think. I was also pleasantly surprised by the way she sidestepped the canned Sunday School answers to marital problems (pray, attend the temple together, etc.) and sought answers beyond the usual cliches. Not that she didn't beat dead horses in places, but I felt that she did have some new insight.

As far as the issues I had with the book: I thought Boyack lingered a little too long on issues I felt were not that important (honestly, does she really think husbands are going to dismiss their wives because they wear sweats once in awhile?), and didn't take enough time with the issues I found truly fascinating (the differences between how men and women solve problems). I also thought Boyack's tone got annoying at times. She was obviously trying to be upbeat and warm, but I found myself frequently irritated by her phraseology - I mean, nobody says dagnabbit.

All in all, I liked Strangling Your Husband Is Not an Option. It was quick, readable and had some valuable advice. I don't agree with all of Boyack's opinions, but I do believe that every marriage can be improved upon, and I will be incorporating some of her tips into mine. For instance, as soon as I publish this post, I'm going to call the hair salon - I have a few gray strands that need some attention!

Grade: B


  1. Gray hair is sexy . . . so are sweats!

  2. I don't know if I could have gotten past Ch2. Yuck. Good for you!

  3. I read a book that sounds similar to this, I can't remember the name, years ago. I guess you can take advice like this with a grain of salt. I mean some of it is probably pretty good, IF the man is encouraged to do the same for his wife!! Although I've always liked seeing my husband in work clothes, especially when he was in the military.

  4. I think maybe different marriages need different advice. I once dated a guy who said he didn't want his wife going without makeup or wearing sweats--I dumped him and married someone who was fine with it! I think women have enough weight on their shoulders that it shouldn't be their responsibility to keep their husband's eyes from roving--that's the husband's responsibility to be faithful to his wife. I may not be realistic, but I am stubborn! (I'm wearing sweats right now.)

  5. Chris - I'm glad I went past Chapter 2, too.

    Lisa - You hit on the biggest reason I had a problem with this book. It was all about what the wife "should" do - it made it sound like the health of the marriage was completely up to the wife. I'm sure the author didn't mean it that way, but that's the way it sounded.

    Chain - I agree - marriages are all different. Another thing this book made me realize is how great my husband is. He loves me no matter what I wear, how much weight I gain, how many grey streaks are in my hair, etc. etc. You can tell by his comment on this post ("cire"):) I agree that wives shouldn't let themselves go, per se, but I don't think men are shallow enough to go chasing after someone else just because their wives are wearing sweats and no makeup!

  6. I was given this book by a friend, and another by my LDS marriage and family therapist. I haven't read this book yet, and that's why your blog came up when I googled the reviews. I have read a book like this (Fascinating Womenhood), and I think this kind of approach treats the "symptoms" pretty well, and may even create harmony in the home, but for me simply not nagging doesn't work, and getting gussied up just to 'please' a man that I believe to be inferior for any reason is fake. I have to really believe that people are not [dumb, rude, irritating, trying to make me crazy, etc] before I will stop responding reactively and self definsively, and instead look to them with a soft heart and THEN go get out my hot pants and lipstick and plan dates for the man who deserves it. The book my therapist gave me has been amazing at helping me see the reasons behind why we all begin to [nag, fight, pick eachother apart, withdraw] and how it all has to do with our feeling of our attachment needs being met. Because of past (or current) damage to our love attachment bonds, we react instinctively with fight or flight when those 'raw spots' in us are triggered. The book really explores getting to the root of both the man and woman's attachment bond 'raw spot' triggers, and is the only thing I have read that makes me "love those that hurt me." I'm getting to know and respect why things bother my husband, or why he withdraws- or even why he needs to do different things (like zone out for an hour every night)- and that he's not doing 'those things' to hurt me. Whenever I see someone react bigger than the situation calls for, I understand better why now... this book actually makes me want to go hug people who are awful to me. It's so liberating to not be on the offence all the time. This book has enabled me to forgive, and taught me to love again. My husband has been very into it too- which is amazing because he hates self improvement books and marriage books etc. I can't really do it justice explaining it here, but read "Hold Me Tight" by Dr. Sue Johnson.


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