Are you a Stepford Wife? Are you familiar with the term or is it a new one to you? Sometimes I think that despite all our apparent advances in terms of choices, too many of us women are still dominated by their male partners. Why do we allow that to happen? If we have fallen into that pattern, is it possible to change things? I asked Naomi to share her experiences of moving on after facing her own Stepford Wife scenario.
“2004 was the year of the Frank Oz blockbuster the Stepford Wives. Since then the term ‘a Stepford wife’ has become synonymous with bland subservient females who are dominated by their male partners.
That was then and this is 2019. Have we moved on? Are we a new breed of enlightened #metoo women that stand up to the boys?
A wake-up call
I write as a wife who has needed to face her own Stepford demons. 8 years and 3 children into marriage I collapsed after a virus I was too depleted to fight back became labyrinthitis. During my 4 week convalesce in bed I concluded that I was not valuing my own well being enough and that I had inadvertently adopted the ‘my needs come last’ approach to family life.
It came as a big shock. I was (and still am) a feminist raising strong daughters. We read Goodnight Rebel Girls at bedtime and wrestle in the front room until we have scrapes and bruises. But I knew deep down that another story was being told.
About the same time as the collapse we signed up for some marriage counselling. It’s hard to have a deep sensual intimacy in your marriage when you are run ragged looking after everyone’s needs and we were struggling to stay in love. The first question our therapist asked was to help us identify the script fits in our partnership. She explained that subconsciously we were looking to replicate the familiar environment of our upbringing and our choice of marriage partner revealed that story. It was sounding very familiar to me from my post-collapse revelation. I had chosen a man who (is wonderful) but would reinforce all my ideals of the dominant male and the submissive female. I didn’t speak my mind at home and I kept my real emotions locked up inside. It was an exhausting way to live and my body and our marriage were creaking under the strain.
The solution for me was not to look at my present relationship (although therapy has been brilliant for us) but to look at my history and experiences. And to go even further back than that and look at my parents and their parents and the narrative I was born into. As it turns out there are more than just a couple of Stepford wives in my family line.
The drama that was unfolding in our lives needed a deep clean solution. The input of wise professionals and a whole pile of books has helped us to re-configure our marriage and our internal scripts. Most significantly during the process, I owned how my behaviour had contributed to the dynamic and how the hidden expectations I carried played into the behaviours I was railing against. That contradiction was hard to handle but I see now how the hidden agendas are the powerful ones we often fail to address.
Moving forwards positively
Real change for women as individuals and our society as a whole needs to be whole-person change. It needs to take into account the subconscious lives we all lead. Subconscious change takes time and lots of patience. I am encouraged by how much more available good, professional help is. Online tools and resources, podcast, audio books and films continue to drip feed the message that radical change needs deep healing and deep healing takes time.”
Could you be a Stepford wife?