The Secret to the Marriage of Ronnie and Nancy

by Steven Rhoads, June 10, 2004

Romance novels make up about forty percent of all mass-market paperback sales. Bookstores feature sections with titles like Finding, Catching and Keeping the Love of Your Life. The women who buy these books, married and unmarried, dream about having a love like Ronnie and Nancy’s.

When separated from Nancy for more than a few days, Ronnie became blue. He called himself “the most married man in the world”—a guy lucky enough to be encased in “an adolescent’s dream of what a marriage should be.” He said that Valentine’s days were for those of ordinary luck; he had a “Valentine’s life” which began on the day they were married. Every night when they were together he would put a blanket on her shoulder before they went to sleep.

Every woman wants to be cherished by the man she loves. Nancy found the secret. For starters, she adored him. She trusted and admired him. Men kind of like the ego boost.

After Patti was born, she quit her job. Ronnie didn’t ask her to; she just did it. Ronnie admired her nurturing side—the photos of Nancy in a hospital holding an abandoned child who responds to her attention with adoring eyes. He said that within two days in a hotel room, Nancy would start nesting—making the room into a home. She knew how important it was to give him a real home. She made sure that at the end of every day he could put the problems behind him and “come home to his peaceful life with the children and me.”

Wise in the ways of love, Nancy found the answer to commitment phobia. Ronnie was an uncertain wooer at first. After they’d dated for too long, she announced one evening that she thought she’d call her agent about getting a play in New York. Ronnie proposed soon afterwards.

By quitting her job and creating a nest, Nancy gave Ronnie a model of devotion. Men need such models. When young, they are more into machines and sports than relationships, more into sex than love.

Non-working wives report more satisfaction with the love and affection they receive from their husbands than working wives do. Wives’ careers, especially those with long work hours, increase husbands’ depression and reduce their self esteem and satisfaction with job, marriage and life in general. There is no difference in these reactions between men with nontraditional sex role attitudes and other men.

It might be thought that if mom gets a full time job, dad will inevitably do more childcare and become better bonded with his kids. Fathers in dual-earner families do watch children more often than do fathers providing the family’s only income, but they fight more with their wives and are less happy in marriage. And multiple studies show that dads are at risk for weak bonds with their children when moms work full time or nearly full time in the first year of an infant’s life. To be able to love fully themselves, dads seem to need a model of love and devotion.

“But what about my career?” asks the modern woman. She might ask herself how important it seems to her. For most women a career isn’t a leading source of self-fulfillment. One 1997 national survey of women by the Pew Research Center found that 93 percent of mothers regard their children as a source of happiness all or most of the time; 90 percent say the same about their marriage. Meanwhile, only 60 percent of working women find their careers a source of happiness all or most of the time. On a 10-point scale, 86 percent of mothers rate their children a 10 for their importance to personal happiness; just 30 percent of employed women rate their job as a 10. Even unmarried, childless women are more than five times as likely to put personal relationships with mothers or friends at the top of their list as they are to put careers there.

A woman who takes depositions at 6:00 p.m. makes neither herself nor her husband happier. Stressed beyond reason, the woman is torn between her concern for her children and her desire to do her job well. Husbands see the anguish and at some primal level, an overstressed wife tells her husband that he is failing at being a good protector and provider. If women who are mothers, modern or not, want a happy marriage, they had better create for themselves a life that is not frazzled or their husbands will be as unhappy as they are.

Nancy made sure that Ronnie saw her at peace in a loving home. She thus reassured him and made possible his love for her.

© 2004 Steven E. Rhoads
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