Updated: 7 days ago
How are men and women supposed to relate to each other in today’s culture? Whereas the clichéd romantic comedy/Disney movie storyline still depicts the scenario “boy meets girl, boy marries girl, and they live happily ever after,” a popular female musician defiantly sings, “My name is NO. My number’s NO. My sign is NO.”
How can a woman hope to be able to answer yes to a proposal if she’s so busy saying No to an introduction?
Despite societal questions concerning gender and masculine/feminine roles, most women still hope for marriage and motherhood sometime in their lives. But too many of them follow the cultural narrative that tells them to put off marriage until they have achieved career success.
According to author and relationship coach Suzanne Venker, this misleading message damages the chances of women achieving the marriage and family they desire. Suzanne has gleaned wisdom from decades of research, her life coaching practice, and interviews with leading thought leaders in the marriage and family realm, which she’s incorporated in her seven books and hundreds of contributions to various media outlets.
The word brave comes to mind to describe Suzanne, as she boldly and publicly says things others are afraid to say. She advocates for traditional values, like placing marriage and motherhood before career, and honoring and embracing the designed differences between men and women to help marriages thrive. Married herself for 23 years, with two young adult children, Suzanne coaches couples to develop practices that will help them achieve marital success.
“The secret to lasting love rests in the masculine-feminine dance,” she posts on her site. “Once you master it, your relationship will no longer be difficult. You'll be moving with the biological tide, rather than against it.”
Suzanne is not afraid to stick to her guns despite opposition – appearing on shows like The View, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Fox and Friends. Her 2012 Fox News article, “The War on Men,” remains one of Fox’s most read op-eds in history.
In Suzanne’s latest book, How to Get Hitched (and Stay Hitched): A 12-Step Program for Marriage-Minded Women, due out in August, she offers to help “marriage-minded” women balance ever-shifting cultural expectations with the reality of a ticking biological clock.
She recently posted, “The conflict between work and family hasn't changed in the least, but what gets more attention now is women’s (a) inability to find a marriageable man and/or (b) complaint that men aren’t doing enough on the home front to make it all work.”
In our guts, her statement rings true. Haven’t we felt the tension between the messages of equality and feminism and traditional masculine/feminine roles? Suzanne doesn’t care if her message isn’t popular with the “in” crowd. How to Get Hitched is for the “marriage-minded woman,” and if that’s not you, feel free to stay in your own lane. Suzanne developed this book not just from research but from first-hand examples of the women she sees in her coaching sessions.
Suzanne plainly states that the cultural narrative has taught women to believe “flat out lies.” Her 12-step program as posed in How to Get Hitched articulates a “massive mind shift that allows women to construct lives that match who they really are and what they really want, versus what they’ve been told they should want.” She clarifies that the book is “less about finding a man and more about finding you.”
The book’s program is framed as a detox to offer women “a new roadmap” to life and to love. At the root of women’s unhappiness and frustration, Suzanne claims, is that they’ve absorbed four lies the culture tells:
1. Marriage + motherhood = jail
2. "Never depend on a man"
3. Sex is just sex
4. Career success will (and should) define you
How to Get Hitched counters these lies with 12 action steps to help a woman get married and stay married. “If you’ve been planning your life around these lies, you will fail,” she said.
Suzanne particularly disdains the trend for people to take years in young adulthood to “find themselves,” perhaps leaving behind a healthy relationship to put career first or because others deem the couple “too young.” She asks, “Do you think the guy will be just standing there waiting for you if you remove yourself from the equation? You will experience far greater growth inside a relationship than you will outside of it.”
Suzanne mentions the options for women are different than in the past in that marriage doesn’t necessarily have to result in children immediately. But she points out the very real possibility that when women follow the cultural expectation and wait to look for a man with whom to settle down and have kids once they’ve established their career, they will notice a scarcity of eligible men.
“When I get down and deep with the 99% of my clients who are married (who are consulting with Suzanne because of marital problems) and ask, ‘Why did you get married at the time?’ they tell me they wanted a baby.” They were willing to overlook potential problems and settle for the guy who was available because they were up against the clock. “What no one talks about is that there is a dramatic negative to waiting so long to decide to get married.”
A taboo subject: premarital sex. Suzanne wonders if it is realistic to expect people to remain sexually abstinent during the decade of their 20s if they plan to postpone marriage. You can’t advise both things, she says.
“How do you want women to handle sex and relationships while they wait ten years for marriage? You’re just throwing them to the wolves. People are hooking up, living with people, collecting all kinds of heartache. You need some middle ground. You can’t simultaneously say “no premarital sex,” and “oh, by the way, don’t get married until you’re in your 30s,” she said.
Another countercultural idea: A woman does not respond to being the primary breadwinner in a marriage the way a man does, Suzanne stated. “Gender role reversal is supposed to be progressive and forward thinking. But men and women want and need different things in marriage. When the wife is the primary earner, she becomes stressed out. She becomes resentful and ultimately loses desire for her husband, and so the sex dwindles. “Nobody wants to talk about this, yet it’s the reason most of my clients’ marriages are struggling. They’re completely unbalanced.”
“Ultimately, this is about making decisions early on about what you want as a woman (that we’re not allowed to talk about) and then constructing a life accordingly.”
Suzanne tells some of her own story in her 2017 book, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage. “No expectation has been more damaging to women and to marriage than the feminist notion of equality. Notice I say the ‘feminist’ notion. That’s because a marriage can be equal, or equal enough, if you define the term differently,” Suzanne posts on her website.
“The equality you’ve been taught to embrace suggests men and women are interchangeable, and they are not. Marriage can be team oriented without both partners living identical lives.”
Suzanne helps women understand how to be a wife, which is very different from being a girlfriend. Men don’t like to fight with women. “When a woman nags or complains, a man thinks she’s looking for a fight.” One of Suzanne’s strategies is for a woman to turn a complaint into a positive statement of desire, which tells her husband what she wants as opposed to telling him what he’s doing wrong.
Suzanne recalls these messages were not the ones she was taught growing up. “It has been trial and error for me,” with a history that includes the dissolution of Suzanne’s first marriage in her early adult years.
Suzanne calls women to reclaim their femininity, which she calls “a woman’s greatest power.” Women have “thrown away their feminine gifts in how men and women are designed to work and have thus made relationships competitive rather than complementary. When a woman changes her attitude and thinking, the guy comes around because men are naturally responsive to women.”
The feminist attitude says, “Why do I have to do all the work?” The right attitude is, “Wow, I have a lot of power here.” A woman can “light up the room when she enters it, or she can drain all the energy in the room. Just being aware of how the male brain works goes a long, long way.”
Suzanne’s coaching practice is built upon the material espoused in her books. After a free 30-minute consultation to ensure a woman will be a good fit for her program, she offers a 6- or a 12-session coaching package. She also notes on her website that she’s “not a passive coach.” Suzanne offers concrete feedback, as well as practical solutions that work.
“There will be no ‘And how does that make you feel’ going on. It’s not that I don’t care how you feel. It’s that I’m passionate about getting to the root of the problem, and talking about your feelings won’t accomplish that. Adopting new behaviors will.”
An unusual feature of Suzanne’s coaching — she promotes open communication with her clients via a texting app. “They need access to me,” she said. “It allows me to help someone put changes into action in the moment.”
“My coaching is about teaching women how to be married,” she said.
At the end of the day, men and women are not wired the same. While both men and women deserve equal dignity and worth, each has a primary role for which they are better suited. This doesn’t mean there’s never any overlap or that all relationships will function in the exact same way. It just means the more people rely on their natural instincts, rather than forcing themselves into the equality box, the more successful they will be.
Women have been sold a lie that they should and could “have it all”—all at the same time. The supermom ideal isn’t sustainable in real life. Women can, however, have most of what they want out of life if they pursue it in piecemeal fashion.
And in the right order.