Sitcom Wives


It’s all about you.

Or so many popular sitcoms would have women think.

Since the early 90s I have puzzled over why so many wife-mother figures on TV nag, nitpick, and otherwise treat their husbands like they’re mindless little boys in need of constant correction. The leading ladies on Home Improvement, King of Queens, and both the wife and the grandmother on Everybody Loves Raymond come to mind, for example.

Even if those guys were certifiable idiots, would merciless henpecking ever help them be better men?

What is attractive about a woman with a sense of entitlement who constantly criticizes their family members? Is there something appealing about women who tear apart their loved ones instead of building them up? Haven’t some guys already gotten enough of that from their overbearing, overly involved mothers?

I’ve never figured out why that behavior is portrayed as normal in the media. Maybe it’s because everyone knows someone like that and our society has gradually accepted it. Perhaps passive-aggressive behavior has become so mainstream that people live with this garbage instead of asserting themselves and calling others on it.

This phenomenon seems to have entered a whole new level of insanity in recent years as the Mrs. Potatoheads of the world have hit the airwaves (the “real” housewives with interchangeable plastic parts). I’m disgusted with what seems to be an epidemic of narcissism in our society anyway, but the continuing evolution of this “me me me, lavish retail goods and services on me” attitude in the media concerns me.

Women should be #1 in their men’s lives. Period. Women should be treated like ladies and respected. Always. Their strength, intelligence, and beauty should be appreciated and each woman’s uniqueness should be embraced. This is how God intended it.

But I’m baffled as to why women take it farther than this—such as when women act as if they have a right to receive expensive jewelry on special occasions, or think that because they’re a woman, they should never have to take the garbage out. It really bugs me when people enter a relationship with preconceived notions about who does what rather than negotiating those roles.

Recently I channel surfed into some two-bit reality show in which a young couple was choosing an engagement ring in a jewelry store. What happened is a great example of this “I’m a woman, therefore you do my bidding” attitude. I could not believe the badgered young man trying to buy his fiancée something special was taking the abuse. I hoped that he was giving some serious thought to what he was getting into.

Without consulting her fiancée, the young woman point blank asked the jeweler, “what’s the most expensive ring you have in the store?” You could see her fiancée falter but he didn’t say no. The jeweler pointed her to a $30,000 ring. When she sensed her fiancée’s hesitation, she threw a fit. She berated him and repeatedly asked, “aren’t I good enough? ” He looked like he was going to pass out.

$30,000?! I could buy a new car. Or a new house. I might even be able to win Captain Picard’s chair on EBay (if someone hasn’t already). I’d be afraid of getting mugged if I wore something like that. No wonder the poor guy was hesitating, even if he had the money. She felt OWED.

At that moment, even if this were an improper response, my Shallow Hal vision kicked on, and I saw that woman as a space alien with writhing tentacles and drool-drenched fangs. It was ugly. She seemed to have no respect for the man she was about to marry. I wanted the show to reach a commercial break and find out that I was actually watching Punk’d.

According to Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, a must-read for every man and woman on the planet, receiving nice gifts is tremendously meaningful to some people. But DEMANDING spendy presents? EXPECTING your partner to take out a second mortgage so you can dazzle your friends with bling? That’s different. You’re taking the joy right out of your partner’s generosity if you believe these things should just fall into your lap.

Same with the nasty, catty criticisms I so often hear from TV women. Neither men nor women have some inalienable right to control their partner’s lives as if they are a puppet created to do their bidding. There is no manual I’m aware of that says you have to cut your mate into small pieces to get your way or get their attention. What kind of example are you setting for your children when you do that?

If you live to subjugate your partner, you might as well buy them a fez hat and cymbals so they can dance on demand. You are not appreciating your partner as a person, but as a possession, if you treat what you have together as a dictatorship instead of a partnership.

Unless you sincerely enjoy being a doormat and want to forever be bossed around by the playground bully, I don’t see the fun in this. You’re also showing your kids that they too can grow up to be prisoners of passivity or moguls of manipulation.

This verbal sniping I’m talking about is different from legitimate criticism. Healthy couples have to bring issues to each others’ attention to work them out. It is incumbent on everyone to speak up when they’re not being treated right. There are—absolutely– limits to what we should tolerate. These things can be resolved respectfully and without making each other feel small or incompetent.

That seems to be the missing link in all of this—respect. People need to respect each other. Just as women need to be respected, so should they respect their husbands. It goes both ways.

Whoa, I could just feel the collective cringe among some of my readers when I said that. How old-fashioned of me. How archaic. (Jar Jar Binks voice: “how rude!”)

But it’s true. Nothing speaks more loudly to a man than respect. Emerson Eggerichs, author of the best-selling Love and Respect, says, “For men, love is like food, and respect like water. Respect is the key to motivating a husband.” He points out that even if your husband doesn’t deserve respect, you can still speak to him respectfully, without screaming at him or telling him what a ______ _______ ________ he’s acting like.

Oh, I know, easier said than done. Sometimes we feel like nothing will get through unless we put on our diva act and pump up the volume. We can go off into talk to the hand land in 0.7 seconds flat.

But why? Why are we even tempted to swell up like Ursula the spiky-haired sea witch and rain down hellfire and brimstone so that the lawn gets mowed at the exact hour that the fourth shadow of the fifth moon of Uranus falls upon the northernmost blades of the eastern lawn? Will Baja California really break off from the mainland if the guest room toilet seat is not immediately returned to its original, microbe-free, horizontal starting position?

Maybe some women model behavior they picked up from their control freak mothers. Perhaps we’re indulging our self-serving human nature. Maybe we think we’re being helpful when we’re actually being obnoxious. And maybe we’re fighting back against verbal abuse (which, if done disrespectfully, just perpetuates the dysfunction).

But it could also be a horrible behavior we’ve picked up over the last couple of decades of overexposure to the disrespect-spewing one-eyed monster perched on its wooden Ikea-throne in the living room.

Thanks for reading. And I hope my friends call me on it if they ever catch me acting like a Marie Barone after writing this. Hypocrisy stinks worse than liverwurst and has a shelf life longer than a radioactive Twinkie.


Men want the same thing from their underwear that they want from women: a little bit of support, and a little bit of freedom. -Jerry Seinfeld

©2010 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

Seriously, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s