Henpecked, but happy!

A documentary series on heterosexual relations gives TVTimes the chance to claim how husbands are bullied by their wives

Wednesday’s third programme in the series A Slight White Paper on Love is titled “Honouring the Contract”. The programme will examine some of the eccentricities of marriage and a divorced couple will meet again for the first time to discuss what went wrong with their marriage. (Male escape mechanisms from the pressures of marriage include a New York Club where men throw crockery at female effigies and a British Henpecked Husbands’ Club.) TV Times invited
noted surgeon and wit, to cast his analytical eye at the whole subject

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 15 May 1965

HE is the man pitied by all, except his wife, who is deterred by none, least of all by the object of her nagging.

It is one of the strangest developments of the married state where the lady stands before a minister and makes declarations of loyalty and obedience to the man of her choice.

Then almost as soon as the ceremony is over and the covenant signed and sealed, starts on her life’s work of making the life of her husband as miserable as possible.

She starts upon his premarital behaviour, especially any slight straying from the paths of virtue or courteous behaviour during the period of engagement. But she was cunning enough not to complain before the final capture of her victim.

She planned to start as soon as the ceremonies were completed and even to mar the honeymoon with discordancies which the unfortunate man never expected in the idyllic days of his engagement.

The nagging generally works up in intensity — even the arrival of children does not mitigate — and very soon he gets accustomed to it.

If the psychologists are to be believed, it shatters personalities and leads on to neurosis.

A man, face blanked out, does the laundry
Some men’s work is never done!

The illogicality of it is not apparent to the lady, because, as a rule, the object of her jealousy is quite well behaved morally, otherwise he would leave her.

It may be said that he behaves himself because of his wife’s behaviour and she believes this to be so and keeps it up.

The picture of the henpecked husband walking slightly be hind his mate and listening to her remarks over her shoulder is a great gift to the cynical playwright.

Especially to French authors, who have taken great joy in this truly English spectacle, because I believe that only in England and America does this phenomenon exist and the pathetic, bedraggled figure of the henpecked husband is so well known.

The passage of the years does not ease the burden and her reproaches and recriminations do not cease when baldness, grey hair or fatness place him in a less dangerous situation vis-a-vis the opposite sex.

She seems to have no sense of the ridiculous as she continues to upbraid him when he is long past active wanderings. She will recount stories of so-and-so, who ran off with his secretary at the age of 70. No gifts, no flowers seem to be of any service in stemming the torrent of words.

Indeed, they often seem to be a stimulus to more nagging on the part of the lady, who feels they are a camouflage to cover other clandestine activities.

The really bad man, with drunkenness or immorality in» his nature, seems to escape the nagging.

The lady feels that it is hopeless to alter him and resigns herself to it and turns a blind eye to his shortcomings.

I feel that it is the good man who is henpecked. He settles down to his life in harness and becomes punch-drunk with the abuse constantly showered upon him.

He seeks the joy of his life in the company of friends outside his own home, not daring to bring them home for fear of losing them after they have witnessed him “catching it” from his wife’s tongue.

The victim sometimes comes to accept the constant abuse and will miss it when it stops. This is a great psychological mystery, because in the strife of daily malediction the husband finds a sort of happiness?

This was brought home to me once in a remarkable way. There was a wealthy, childless couple who never had a kind word for each other and had nothing in common except the front door.

The wife, whose nagging exceeded anything I have ever heard, had to have a minor operation and, while going under the anaesthetic, she died.

The husband was inconsolable and within seven days had committed suicide.

When, after years of persecution, the nagged husband gives up the struggle and leaves his troublesome partner, then the lamentation that breaks out has to be endured by all around her.

Her description of the departed husband to the Bournemouth boarding house makes one puzzled to know if there ever was such a wicked man in the world and makes one wonder why she ever married him.

I suppose that murder may enter the head of the nagged man as a way out of his desperate position.

An example is the wife thrown into the sea by her irate husband at the height of a fierce argument as to which was best to use for a certain purpose, a knife or scissors.

As the wife came up for the third and last time, the last thing the husband saw as she sank were her two fingers making a scissors movement.

The queerest thing of all is the fact that the henpecked husband may come to enjoy the nagging as much as the wife enjoys giving it—and the two are not as unhappy as they seem.


who visited Britain’s most secret society
— the Henpecked Husbands’ Club

IT’S the most secret society in Britain. For sheer “Sssh” it makes M.I.5, Mau Mau and the Mafia look like specialists in public relations. The society is the Henpecked Husbands’ Club.

For one day a year its secret meeting spells freedom for men who have reached the end of their tether; men exhausted under the weight of dog walking, dish washing and decorating.

They meet in secret to talk about their tormentors and plan and scheme for a better deal. The meeting place, changed every year to avoid detection, is nearly always in a remote part of Yorkshire, where the movement began.

“You see,” said the club’s vice president, Mr. Fred X, of Halifax, “we must have this one day away from our wives. It not only means a day without chores, it means we can swop ideas on how to make life more bearable in the next 12 months. Why, at the last meeting, I found out about instant mashed potato. An’ y’know, the missus still doesn’t suspect. She just thinks me cooking’s improved.”

The legs of four men, and a package of shopping
A quick drink before going home with the shopping

President and Mayor are resplendent in fur-trimmed regalia. The Keeper of the Peace stands by the door to look out for marauding wives. Newcomers are dealt with first. The Medical Officer (a retired chimney sweep) checks their physical condition. “Got to be sure they’re suffering from housemaid’s knee or dish pan hands.” he said.

As the day goes on, the henpecked exchange recipes and other culinary information. One or two, driven to the brink of despair by nagging wives, have been known to throw all caution to the winds and sneak out to the local pub.

The annual bolt from domestic tyranny began 70 years ago. Six Methodist ministers (all henpecked, it seems), decided to get away from it all and spent a whole day together in a disused cottage in Yorkshire’s Cragg Vale.

Soon, the local laymen got wind of the retreat. Now the club has over 70 members including an Austrian languages professor.

What is a woman’s view of the club? “It’s just an excuse for dressing up.” said a wife, “a little bit of make-believe while they wallow in their self pity. They’re just like sheep.

“They don’t seem to realise that we wives encourage them to play their silly games for one day in the year.”

Only once has the conclave been disturbed. A Yorkshire lady, particularly adept with tongue and rolling pin, discovered her hubby’s intention of joining his downtrodden brethren. She followed him to the meeting and, just as he was about to take the oath, burst in on him.

“Thar’s no ’enpecked,” she roared. “Thee can coom on ’ome.” He went.

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