Self-help books can either be helpful as intended or can make someone seeking help feel even more miserable then before he or she started reading. Good self-help books will give people confidence to overcome life events, but great self-help books will give non-stop encouragement and wonderful advice that will stick with people for years to come. These great self-help books cannot even really be called “self-help” but should rather be considered as “inspirational guides.” One such inspirational guide is Ramona Zabriskie’s Wife for Life in which Zabriskie encourages women to take their marriages, whether they are faltering or successful, and make them into something grand and everlasting.
In her book, Zabriskie’s main goal is to help women achieve the unbreakable bond between wives and their husbands that is portrayed in and fantasized throughout various forms of films, literature, letters, plays, etc. What makes Wife for Life so successful and so memorable is that Zabriskie does not sugarcoat anything and speaks to women about EVERYTHING. Everything in the sense of good traits to show one’s husband, bad traits to try and contain around one’s husband, how to encourage one’s husband, how to reconcile arguments with one’s husband, and so on. Honesty truly is the best policy and when someone, a wife in Zabriskie’s case, is honest to the thousands of wives she is speaking to, that honesty will stick more in their minds.
Zabriskie’s audience for her book is, obviously, women and, even more precisely, wives; however, Zabriskie does not limit her audience to just one type of wife. No, what is intriguing is that Zabriskie’s intended audience is for every woman who is or ever has been or ever wants to be a wife; for wives who have been married for decades to wives who have been married for just a few days; for wives who have found their happily-ever-after to those who feel like the love that once was is no longer there. Using first and second person narrative, she speaks directly to her reader, whoever she may be, holds her hand and encourages her throughout the book’s entirety to be the best wife she can be for her husband.
Along with speaking directly to her readers, Zabriskie has a wonderful way of telling stories. Her voice is pleasant and witty and passionate, making Wife for Life a very fun and easy book to read. She shares many stories about experiences she has had with her own husband, Dale, and any reader can tell just from Zabriskie’s words how much she loves her husband and this feature is incredibly encouraging and uplifting for wives to want to strive for a relationship like Zabriskie and her husband have. The many stories and pieces of advice Zabriskie share are not, in the slightest, overwhelming, but quite enriching. Wife for Life is a book that must be marked in and one that must be read from cover to cover; no skipping and no skimming should be allowed in order for a reader to take away the best possible experience.
While reading, some women (not all) may become defensive especially when Zabriskie focuses on women’s darker traits. One such trait Zabriskie refers to is one known as the “Crazy Lady,” a trait every woman has when emotions become too overwhelming to control. “We are especially vulnerable to the Crazy Ladies when it feels like we cannot give another ounce, trust another inch, or be brave another day. In other words: depleted. In other words: overwhelmed. In other words: feeling stressed” (Zabriskie 109–110). Traits such as the “Crazy Lady” need to be controlled and Zabriskie offers helpful advice as to how to control them, yet some women may think that nothing is wrong with them and may question why the husband isn’t doing anything to fix his emotions. This is Wife for Life and it shares how women/ wives can help their men/ husbands. If one is looking for tips for the husband, one should look for an equivalent to Husband for Life.
Zabriskie’s voice succeeds in making one’s man sound like the best man ever, as he should be in a woman’s life. “The truth — despite what the sarcastic or cynical may say — is that a husband is meant to be your castle; he should be your best and first line of defense. A loving, devoted man can serve as your greatest ally, your biggest help, your sweetest soother and most reliable problem solver. He can be both a home and a fortress” (Zabriskie 112). Now what woman would not want to hear that about her husband? Zabriskie grips her readers’ attention by telling women that the stories they have read and heard about knights and heroes are not fiction; that these same knights and heroes are their husbands and their duty as a wife is to give her knight and hero a quest and to help him achieve it.
With an overabundance of information, stories, and pieces of advice that will stick in the minds of any reader, Wife for Life is truly a transforming book. Zabriskie tells of stories of other women who she has helped through her book or through convocations and hearing these stories is very inspiring. If women put forth the practices told in this book, they are destined to have happy marriages. Granted, marriages will not dramatically transform within an hour or even a night. Zabriskie tells her readers the truth: it may take weeks, months, or even years, but as long as a wife and husband are dedicated to one another, a successful and everlasting marriage is possible. “Whenever you marry, and whatever stage you may be in now, an attitude of ‘let me add my strength to yours’ will do wonders for your relationship. Women today do not wave handkerchiefs from the bedroom balcony as their knights ride out in dawn’s light. They don’t have to wait to be rescued from an unruly band of gypsies or watch from the sidelines as he discovers gold and slays dragons. No. Today’s Wife for Life is a different breed from the maidens of the past. With her education and worldly sense, she is an indispensable asset to the two-some” (Zabriskie 218).
Originally published at www.examiner.com on October 24, 2015.