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The “Superior Wife Syndrome”

In the end, it's not a big deal if my husband does things differently than I would.
By Barbara Rainey

On a recent Monday morning, I had turned on the Today Show to catch our local news and weather on the half hour. As I listened from the kitchen, I heard one of the hosts introduce an author with new research on wives. The title of her book is The Superior Wife Syndrome. When I heard the intro, I grabbed my notepad and sat down to hear about the latest syndrome to afflict our population. I was ready to critique.

But as I listened, I found myself agreeing with some of what she said, though I wouldn't go so far as to label it a syndrome. The author, Carin Rubenstein, has discovered that millions of wives think they do everything better than their husbands. They feel they are more responsible, more capable, and, in a word, superior. Hmmm, I thought. Sounds a little more like pride to me.

There is truth to this research. Beginning in the 1960s, women have been instructed to do it all. We've been told we can work full time and raise kids at the same time, all with great success. Many have gone so far as to say we don't need men. 

This temptation to exalt ourselves over our men is as old as the earth. I find myself dealing with this attitude more than I'd care to admit. I load the dishwasher more efficiently than he, I fold the clothes better than he, and I pack the car much more neatly than his haphazard preference of just throwing it all in and slamming the door to keep it from falling out.

And when I focus on how much better I am in certain tasks and responsibilities, I can quickly move to feeling superior. In addition, I'm learning this is much more of a temptation in the empty nest. When we had kids, my corrective measures were directed more at them and less at my husband. Now, he is the sole focus of my rehabilitation and retraining efforts.  

Poor man.

To cure the syndrome, Rubenstein gave three tips. They're not new, but they are good to remember, because they are timeless:

First, ask for help. He can't read your mind.  

Second, educate him with logic, not emotional outbursts.  

And third, be willing to settle for less

I would add a fourth tip: Let him be who he is, as my husband would say. 

And he is so right, because there is more than one way to do a task. My way isn't always right, and his isn't always wrong. Most of our conflicts aren't about right and wrong in the first place, but about personal preferences for how something is accomplished. In the end it's not a big deal either way. Certainly not worth the damage to your marriage and to your man that an attitude of superiority will cause. 

Copyright © 2009 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author: Barbara Rainey

Barbara Rainey is a wife, mother of six adult children (plus three sons-in-law and two daughters-in-law), and "Mimi" to nineteen grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1971. She and her husband, Dennis, whom she married in 1972, are co-founders of FamilyLife, a ministry of Cru that is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Barbara has published articles on family-related topics and is the author of Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember and When Christmas Came.  She speaks at FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences and is a frequent guest on FamilyLife Today®, a nationally syndicated, daily radio program.  She and Dennis are the coauthors of several books, including Growing a Spiritually Strong Family, Starting Your Marriage Right, Moments Together for Couples, The New Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem, Parenting Today's Adolescent, Rekindling the Romance, and Moments with You. She co-authored A Mother's Legacy with her daughter, Ashley Rainey Escue and joined Dennis and their children Rebecca and Samuel on the book So You're About To Be A Teenager. Barbara has also co-authored Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest, with close friend Susan Yates, and A Symphony in the Dark, written with her daughter, Rebecca Rainey Mutz. And Barbara has written a series focusing on character traits for families, including the titles Growing Together in Gratitude, Growing Together in Courage, Growing Together in Forgiveness, and Growing Together in Truth.

Having faithfully served alongside Dennis for more than 30 years, both in ministry and at home, Barbara has recently launched a new endeavor called Ever Thine Home™.  This new line of products, including Christ centered ornaments for Christmas, teaching tools for Lent and Easter, and beautiful additions for your home for thanksgiving and year round makes it easy to express faith at home in a way that is both biblical and beautiful.  Her heart for Ever Thine Home is based on the familiar Old Testament instruction:

"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:9, ESV)

You can read more about Barbara's work at

Find Barbara online on:
Twitter @BarbaraRainey and Facebook



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