BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN HIM...
How women try to improve their partners subconsciously, or otherwise
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!
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.
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