BRING­ING OUT THE BEST IN HIM...

How women try to im­prove their part­ners sub­con­sciously, or oth­er­wise

Essentials (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

The say­ing goes ‘ be­hind ev­ery great man is a great woman’. Of­fer­ing a few ‘point­ers’ along the way is all just part of the job, right? Since they wed in May last year, it cer­tainly seems this is how Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are ap­proach­ing mar­ried life. Once known to be a bit of a ‘party boy’, all that ap­pears to have changed – and that was be­fore he even said the words, ‘ I do’...

Be­fore the wed­ding, Harry was spot­ted in the gym and was said to be fol­low­ing a strict diet – a change that Meghan is thought to have en­cour­aged. The Duchess of Sus­sex also re­port­edly per­suaded her hus­band to quit smok­ing and vet­ted his friend­ship cir­cle.

And she’s not the only royal wife steer­ing her man. The Duchess of Cam­bridge once ad­mit­ted she was ‘filled with hor­ror’ by Wil­liam’s mo­tor­bike – and, not long af­ter, the fu­ture king ad­mit­ted his hobby was on the back-burner.

Like most wives, both women have their hus­bands’ best in­ter­ests at heart. Let’s not for­get, Wil­liam and Harry had to grow up in the spot­light with­out a mother fig­ure to keep them in check, so are no doubt glad to have fe­male guid­ance. But ex­actly how much should a woman in­flu­ence her man’s be­hav­iour?

‘Some might think it’s a bit over­bear­ing’

Tess Stim­son, 47, is a writer and lives with her hus­band, Erik, 48. Re­cently, my hus­band, Erik, and I were hav­ing lunch at a restau­rant when his cell­phone rang, and I saw the name of his friend, Andy*, show up on the screen. But in­stead of tak­ing the call, Erik qui­etly si­lenced his phone and slipped it back in his jeans pocket.

I smiled at him ap­prov­ingly. It’s taken 17 years of mar­riage, but I’ve fi­nally man­aged to nudge Andy out of my hus­band’s life. I’ve noth­ing against him per­son­ally, but he’s part of Erik’s past and, quite frankly, I’d pre­fer it stayed that way. They’ve been friends since school, and got into all sorts of scrapes, throw­ing wild par­ties and paint­ing the town red. They were even ar­rested once.

Andy’s been di­vorced twice and is a heavy drinker. He’s look­ing for a wing­man when he goes out on the prowl, and I’d just rather it wasn’t my hus­band. I know some peo­ple will think that makes me over­bear­ing, but any sen­si­ble wife would do the same. Of course I trust Erik, but why put temp­ta­tion in his way? I’ve never laid down the law with my hus­band, but have gen­tly guided him in the right di­rec­tion. It’s for his own good.

When we met at a friend’s wed­ding in April 2001, we were both in our early thir­ties. Then Erik smoked a pack of Camel cig­a­rettes a day, and drank more than 15 cups of cof­fee. His diet was ter­ri­ble, and even though he was good-look­ing and fit, if he’d car­ried on the way he was, he wouldn’t have stayed that way. He once ate 12 dough­nuts in a sin­gle sit­ting!

MAK­ING CHANGES

His mother had been try­ing to get him to stop smok­ing for years, but, of course, Andy en­cour­aged it be­cause he smoked, as well. To be­gin with, Erik wouldn’t quit even for me, but then in De­cem­ber 2001, I got preg­nant with our daugh­ter, Lily, and he re­alised he had to stop for her sake. What works when you’re young, free and sin­gle isn’t quite as cool when you have a fam­ily and all kinds of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. You can’t just quit your job if you are bored, or up sticks to go and live over­seas on a whim. To be fair, Erik re­alised that, too. He was ready

I’ve never laid down the law but I’ve guided him in the right di­rec­tion

to grow up when we met – it was just a ques­tion of me giv­ing him that nudge.

WHAT HAP­PENED NEXT

When my sons, Henry, now 24, and Matt, 21, joined the school soc­cer and cross- coun­try teams, it in­spired Erik to get into shape so he could train with them. He changed his diet, switch­ing the sugar and carbs for kale and bar­ley.

I gave his dress sense a lit­tle tweak, too, get­ting him to ditch the ugly cargo shorts for on-trend jeans and stylish shirts. Most men se­cretly love a bit of gen­tle moth­er­ing from their wives – it makes them feel loved and cared for.

You can tell Prince Harry is thriv­ing un­der Meghan’s so­lic­i­tous care. On my wed­ding day, my mother gave me a witty fridge mag­net with the def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage as ‘Aisle Al­tar Hymn’. I’ll ad­mit I’ve al­tered him a bit over the years, but as Erik him­self would agree, only for the bet­ter.

‘I don’t con­sider track­ing his phone to be stalk­ing’

Sam Rehrl, 28, is an em­bry­ol­o­gist and lives in Pre­to­ria with her hus­band Roland, 30.

Watch­ing Roland stare down the road as a stranger drove away on his mo­tor­cy­cle in Septem­ber last year was prob­a­bly the most re­lieved I’ve felt in my life. But it was prob­a­bly also one of the sad­dest days of Roland’s life.

I never thought that I would have a prob­lem with Roland’s mo­tor­bike and his fre­quent trav­els on it. I’d known him for 10 years be­fore we got mar­ried and he’s al­ways been a big mo­tor­bike fan. In fact, I was all for long rides on the back of it in my early twen­ties. His pas­sion for his two-wheel ride only grew over the years, and in 2011 he started a mo­tor­cy­cle club in our area.

MAK­ING CHANGES

We got mar­ried in 2017 and al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter we said our ‘ I dos’ my at­ti­tude to­wards his risky hobby changed. I started feel­ing un­easy with the fact that he was a ‘ biker’; the thought of los­ing him in an ac­ci­dent put me in a state of panic. I tried to be fair and re­minded my­self that be­ing on a mo­tor­cy­cle was part of my hus­band’s life, but af­ter count­less sleep­less nights I found the courage to tell him how I felt.

I think it came as a shock to Roland – I’d never had a prob­lem with his hobby be­fore so he tried to calm my fears and told me

I had noth­ing to worry about. Real­is­ing that I was un­likely to get the out­come I wanted,

I tried to let it go, but I stopped go­ing on the bike with him.

I felt my heart catch in my throat ev­ery time he sped off and I knew I couldn’t keep quiet about my con­cerns any longer. While I wanted him to give up rid­ing his bike en­tirely, that wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen. In­stead, we talked at length about find­ing an ar­range­ment that both of us could live with. It wasn’t an easy dis­cus­sion to have – in fact, it ended up be­ing a se­ries of con­ver­sa­tions tak­ing place over a few months – and I had to do some per­suad­ing, but Roland fi­nally agreed to my sug­ges­tion of writ­ing up a con­tract. I put down my stip­u­la­tions and he swore to abide by all the terms and con­di­tions the con­tract set out.

WHAT HAP­PENED NEXT

The rules of the con­tract were as fol­lows: he wasn’t al­lowed to use the mo­tor­bike for com­mut­ing to and from work, he could only ride if both of us agreed it was safe to do so (re­gard­less of whether I was join­ing him or not), he’d sell the bike if we were un­der fi­nan­cial stress and, most im­por­tantly, I was al­lowed to track his move­ments via his cell­phone GPS, and he wouldn’t con­sider it to be over­bear­ing or stalker-ish. The last clause in our agree­ment was that the bike would be sold as soon as we de­cided to start a fam­ily.

Ev­ery­thing we agreed on was writ­ten down on a piece of pa­per, which I stuck on the fridge. I still think they were rea­son­able re­quests, and Roland kept to his word and never de­vi­ated from the con­tract.

A few months later, in Au­gust last year, Roland and I both ex­pe­ri­enced a chilling wake-up call. One of our friends was thrown from his mo­tor­cy­cle in an ac­ci­dent. We were the first ones on the scene and ac­com­pa­nied him to hos­pi­tal, where we stayed un­til the doc­tors as­sured us our friend would be OK.

On the drive home from the hos­pi­tal, all the con­cerns I’d raised in the past about the dan­gers of mo­tor­bik­ing sud­denly be­came a re­al­ity for Roland.

That evening he put his bike up for sale and, within a month, it was gone. By Novem­ber he had also re­signed as pres­i­dent of the mo­tor­cy­cle club. We had a burn­ing cer­e­mony for the con­tract, and Roland hasn’t been on a bike since. Although I’m happy that he gave up his hobby for the sake of our fu­ture to­gether – and that he did come to ap­pre­ci­ate my not-so- gen­tle nudge – I do feel guilty and sad for him that he lost the hobby he so deeply loved.

When he looks at his friends rid­ing or iden­ti­fies ran­dom bikes in the park­ing lot, the look of long­ing on his face makes my heart ache. But, now I can sleep more soundly know­ing that he doesn’t have a mo­tor­bike any­more. Yes, I did ask him to get rid of some­thing that was a large part of his life, but it was for all the right rea­sons – his safety, and the peace of mind that I need be­fore we start a fam­ily.

We drew up a con­tract with Ts & Cs he’d abide by

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