Confession: I am in need of a refresher course in this. We are going through a stressful situation right now (a few, actually) and when that happens I tend to revert to my former shrewish ways more than I like to admit. Nothing too severe but I definitely see my inner Katharina rearing her ugly head. I sat down and gave some real thought to the 5 basic things that self-tame the inner shrew, things that make for a good foundation and that one can implement right at this very second. This is what I came up with and have tacked above my desk as a reminder:
- Repeat after me: “Yes, dear” and smile, smile, smile. (or “Yes, Sir”, “Of course, dear”, etc.Whatever gets the point across) Be agreeable. Not mindless, not without an independent thought in your head or any emotion but ‘chipper’, but agreeable. Pleasant. Willing to follow his lead without complaint. That last bit is key. It’s easy to mutter a “Yes, dear” and be overall bitchy about it, to not mean it in the least. It’s easy to be sarcastic about it, too. When you say “Yes, dear” or the equivalent you need to mean it with all sincerity. “Yes, dear” is way more than just words. You have to internalize that he is the boss; that’s what “Yes, dear” really means. But even if you can’t say “Yes, dear” without edge to your voice at first I want you to say it anyway. Keep saying it until you believe it, until you believe in it. “Whatever you think is best, love.” said through gritted teeth is perhaps the most important way you’ll ever say it.
- “No” isn’t in your vocabulary anymore. When it comes to your man, that is. This is similar to the above but not the same. It also exists outside the bedroom but is important in the bedroom as well (if not more so). Stop saying no. He wants you to wear the blue dress to dinner not the red, he asks if Joe from work can come to dinner, he’s in the mood… No is near completely off the table. I say “near” because there are, of course, legitimate reasons to say “no”. For example, Joe can’t come to dinner because the plumbing has backed up into the house in every room. But I challenge you to not say a “no” but rather communicate the reason why and express your disappointment in having to say no. “I can’t manage sex tonight with this flu. I’m so disappointed but I really should rest.” And maybe try and find an alternative “Why don’t we take Joe and the family out for dinner and let the plumbers do their work?” or take a rain-check “But I promise to do that thing you love just as soon as I beat this bug.” (now’s a perfect time to employ the “naughty grin”).
- Butt-out. You’re not his mother quit inserting your opinion into his personal life (as in his work or social life). What he wears, who he talks to, how he manages drama at work, etc, is just none of your business. If he asks your opinion that’s a different matter but even then tread lightly. As far as you are concerned none of that is in your purview (because it’s really not and we have got to accept that). Just leave it alone and let him do what he needs to do his own way. So the next time you see him packing his lunch “wrong” keep walking to the cupboard to get your coffee mug without a comment, sigh, or questioning/condemning glance. Also, remind yourself that he isn’t doing anything wrong simply because he isn’t doing it the way you would.
- You now live to please him. This influences how you dress, what you serve for dinner (breakfast, lunch, dessert… you get the point), how you act in the bedroom, what you watch on TV, how you greet him when he comes home from work, your nail color, everything. When it comes to you and your home the first question you ask yourself before making any decision is “What does [the man] like?”. This includes not wearing things he doesn’t like on you (if your man really doesn’t like you in jeans how many pairs of jeans do you have in the closet? Zero is the correct answer), picking colors to wear he does like on you (he always compliments you in lighter hues so fill your wardrobe with them. Not exclusively necessarily but enough to show you value his opinion), making sure he has his favorite meals on the table a few times a week (conversely not making things again he doesn’t like), greeting him at the door with physical affection a warm smile and maybe a cold beer, decorating the home with things he likes and making sure your own style of home decor compliments that, etc.
- Praise him. A lot. Show how grateful you are to him. Not in some worshiping way; don’t construct a shrine to him and light candles at his feet (unless you’re into that sort of thing. No judgement) but make a point of saying “thank you” and telling him how awesome he is at his job, fixing that car, that thing he does in bed, etc. This is really helpful when you are upset with him. Still stewing over how he made his lunch “wrong” this morning? Pick something you are thankful for that he does and write him a love note expressing that to place in his lunch when he isn’t looking.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
You’re going to fail. Like all of the time. Just get back on the horse like nothing happened. Don’t stew, don’t think that it makes you a failure at the whole thing, don’t talk yourself into giving up. Know that you are going to fail and strive to fail less not not fail at all. Striving for the impossible sets one up for overall failure. You’re going to fail. Make peace with that right now.
He’s probably not going to buy it at first. It may take a while for him to trust that you aren’t the shrew you once were. Don’t expect him to change to suit the new you right away. This could take a while. He needs to feel safe with being The Boss before he can actually be that and you’ve got a lot to prove.
It’s going to kill you. You’re going to hate it a lot and then less until finally it’ll be completely normal to you. Remember- it’s killing you because it’s killing you. You are killing The Shrew. She’s going to be resentful and fight back but don’t you dare stop hitting her over the head with the shovel. The more you feel her fighting the bigger you smile and the more pronounced your “Yes, dear”s need to be.
Keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t make excuses to stop. Just keep going.