Happy wife, happy life?
London - Stop me if I’ve said this before, but my wife and I came to an unspoken agreement when we went to the altar 34 years ago: when it came to decision-making, I would look after all the important matters, while she would see to the little things.
Thus, it has always been my job to decide on questions of such weighty significance as whether or not there is life elsewhere in the Universe, how do we define a just war, what are the essential characteristics of great art, is unilateral nuclear disarmament right or wrong and how different would our history have been if Neil Kinnock had won the General Election in 1992.
She, meanwhile, has had the last word on such trivial matters as where we should we live, how many children we should have, where they should they go to school, how to decorate our home, what we should eat, what pets we should own, whether we should go out or stay in, what films we should watch, where we should go on holiday, when it’s time for me to mow the lawn, get a new kitchen fitted or buy a new car... minor stuff like that, of the sort that can be safely delegated to the little woman by the man who wears the trousers.
But that’s enough leaden irony. This week, a survey commissioned by an online estate agent confirms something that will come as a surprise to very few of us - that mine is far from the only marriage or partnership in which, more often than not, it’s the woman who gets her way.
As it happens, the study was concerned only with the decision about buying a new home. But I reckon that, give or take a percentage point or two, its conclusions could apply equally to most of the other matters I’ve included above in my list of the responsibilities assumed by my wife.
Chief among the findings is that in 68 percent of cases, women have the final say over the question of which house to buy - while seven out of ten men say meekly that they were happy for their wife or partner to take the lead.
Of the wimpier members of my sex, 35 percent say they disliked the house their wives chose, but bought it all the same.
What surprises even me is that as many as a fifth of men say they agreed to buy a property on the say-so of their wives or partners, without even seeing it first.
Now, some will say it’s only to be expected that women should take more interest in choosing a home since, even in these times when so many go out to work, they are the ones who are likely to spend more time in it. But against this it can be argued that, while there is a growing number of exceptions, men still tend to be the higher earners, who put more money towards a house purchase.
In just about every area of life outside marriage, the old rule applies that he who pays the piper calls the tune. So why does it not apply when it comes to the biggest investment a man is ever likely to make?
For a rich source of explanations, I recommend the readers’ comments appended to MailOnline’s news report of the survey - and, oh, what tales of domestic drama and tension they have to tell, from every corner of the globe.
In the view of one (no prizes, I think, for guessing his sex): “Women are more likely to moan/sulk/cry if they don’t get their own way... whereas men are probably happy wherever and won’t kick up as much of a fuss anyway. All about a quiet life and as little stress/hassle as possible.”
Another reader agrees. “Happy wife, happy life,” he writes. “It’s never going to change!” - while someone else chips in bitterly: “...except for the ‘happy life’ bit.”
Meanwhile, one man takes a similarly jaundiced view of the battleground of marriage. “Nagging wife, a painful life,” he suggests. And the best-rated comment was from a woman who wrote: “Well, I suppose she picks the house she’s gonna keep in the end, anyway.”
Indeed, I have a sneaking suspicion that this woman may, in fact, be a man, while I’d bet my shirt that most of the 142 people who signalled their agreement, were men with unhappy experiences of divorce.
But if you ask me, the reason why women tend to take the lead in choosing a home, while we men are generally content to let them, goes far deeper than our love of the quiet life and their tendency to make things unpleasant for us if they don’t get their way.
After all, the male of the species can be ferociously competitive in other matters, and we can sulk with the best of them when we’re thwarted.
Look at former UK Tory minister David Mellor, making that hilariously grotesque ass of himself when he thought his taxi-driver was going the wrong way. Or look at me, after I’ve lost a game of Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble. For hours afterwards, I can make life intolerable for my wife (which is perhaps why she so often lets me win).
As to why I cared so much less about the vastly more important matter of where we should live, at this point I must strap on my tin helmet and body armour for protection from feminists’ brickbats. For my belief is that the answer lies in a fundamental difference in the psychological make-up of men and women.
Yes, of course, there are countless exceptions. But among members of homo sapiens, just as in so many other species, the general rule is surely that women are the natural nest-builders, home-makers and child-rearers.
So it’s not mere cowardice or laziness that tells us to give our womenfolk the last word on domestic and family matters. It’s the voice of our animal instincts, echoing down the centuries to us from our simian ancestors.
True, many will tell me that this is a hopelessly old-fashioned view, shared only by old buffers like me, who won’t see our sixth decade again. But I wonder.
As a wedding present to our son, Archie, and his new bride, married last month, I vowed that I would spare them any further embarrassment by writing not another word about them in the public prints. But I had a feeling that I wouldn’t keep my word - and so many kind readers have asked me how the day went that I’m going to break it right now.
Let me just say the occasion was an absolute triumph, a feast of joy and inter-familial harmony, planned in meticulous detail by my beloved new daughter-in-law, who looked ravishing in her bridal dress and sensationally expensive Jimmy Choos.
Though this was late October, even the sun obeyed her command to shine all day. Indeed, the only hiccup in the entire proceedings came when the people in charge of the music at the reception put on the wrong record as the bride and groom took their places at the top table.
She had instructed them to play a song she’d discovered called Archie, Marry Me. But when they put on something else, a flash of fire rose to her cheeks - and was it my imagination, or did I see a tear of fury welling in her eye as she said through clenched teeth: “They’re. Playing. The. Wrong. Song.”
The groom seemed to see it, too. With a look of panic, he rushed off to put things right, and soon my daughter-in-law was her serene self again.
My point is that Archie and his new wife are as modern a young couple as you could hope to meet, with views on equality that would make even Harriet Harman purr. But that ancient rule “happy wife, happy life” seems to apply to them as much as to any couple in history.
If our son knows what’s good for him - and I’m quite sure he does - he’ll stick to the important decisions on the meaning of life, and delegate everything that actually matters to his wife. - Daily Mail