Tiger wives are very much like tiger mums, except it’s their husbands who are the targets of their nagging and nitpicking. They say they’re motivated by a desire to help their husbands become better men. But while tiger types are fierce and forceful, they are also loving, protective
and selfless towards their group. This is how many tiger wives see themselves.
“Tiger wives are proactive. They genuinely want to help their husbands, so they’re tougher and more unrelenting,” explains drama teacher Pauline Foo, 29, who’s been married for two years. “The point is not to turn him into something he’s not – it’s about helping him improve and uncovering his potential.”
Three Singaporean women share how being a tiger wife in some situations have helped their men. Plus, expert tips on how to do it right.
his career is in the doldrums
After Lydia’s* husband of 12 years, Mark*, was retrenched, he fell into depression and began drinking heavily. “He wasn’t trying hard enough with his job search – he just stopped after about a year, so I sat him down and told him he needed to step up as a man and husband,” says the 35-year-old journalist. And so, three years ago, she stepped up and intervened. “I told him that he was letting our five-year-old daughter down and setting a bad example for her. I also dragged
him to a counsellor to seek help for his alcohol dependence. I knew the soft approach wouldn’t work with Mark. I had to pull him out of the bad state he was in.” Initially, Mark protested Lydia’s tough approach, telling her that he could look for a job and get out of depression himself. But when she said she was only doing it because she loved him, he agreed to see a counsellor.
Now, Mark is sober and happily employed, and credits his wife for his transformation. “She kicked my butt when I needed it,” he says. “I needed that to see how bad my life was, and how
much worse it would get if I didn’t act fast. She was hard on me but I’m thriving now because of that.”
DO issue an ultimatum if necessary
Be supportive, but let him know how vital it is for him to do something about his situation. You could say: “I love you deeply, but I can’t stand here and watch you put your life in danger. I will do everything I can to support you in getting help, but I will leave you if you don’t.”
DON’T wait too long to take charge
Early intervention is necessary if you think your husband could become alcohol-dependent or depressive. In Lydia’s case, her child’s and husband’s lives could have been in danger.
his appearance needs work
Sophia Lim, 40, says she’s always giving her husband a hard time about his weight. “Randall* lost about 20kg just before we got married 10 years ago because, then, he cared about his looks.Thereafter, on the few occasions that he’s put on a couple of kilos, I’ve always taken action because I don’t want an overweight, unhealthy husband,” says the straight-talking lecturer. By “action”, Sophia means putting her hubby on a strict low-calorie diet, forcing him to jog and swim with her before dawn, and reprimanding him severely when he cheats on his diet. “I’m like a boot-camp leader. If he wants to eat junk food or if he pokes around in the fridge late at night, he won’t hear the end of it from me,” she reveals. “I’ll say things like, ‘Do you know how many calories that thing contains?’ and ‘Don’t you dare even think about breaking your diet’.”
Sophia isn’t worried that Randall will resent her. He has admitted that he needs to be motivated to lose weight, and has even told her that he appreciates her keeping him in line. “The soft approach doesn’t work with Randall. He needs to be told what to do.”
DO make it about him
Consult your husband about the changes you think he should make. In Sophia’s case, she could ask him what types of exercise he enjoys, or what healthy foods he likes eating. By doing so, your husband will be personally motivated to change.
DON’T talk down to him
It could make your husband feel resentful about you taking charge. The wife might also get tired of having to be the enforcer, day after day.
When Lucy*, 36, noticed that her husband, Anthony*, began splurging after he got a raise, she worried that he would fritter away his savings. So she began monitoring his expenditure and asked him to report his monthly savings to her. Anthony, 36, a software engineer, admits he is a spendthrift and that he doesn’t mind Lucy keeping an eye on his spending. But he doesn’t like it when she makes him look hopeless in front of their children.
“Whenever we go out, she reprimands me if I want to buy something by saying things like, ‘I’m not letting you spend money on that’ and ‘You need to think before you spend’. If I’ve bought something, she demands to know how much it cost and then calls me financially irresponsible and stubborn,” says the father of two kids, aged four and six.
“I don’t mind her going draconian on me but I’ve told her that I don’t like her talking about my spending in front of the kids, but sometimes she forgets. I do worry about how my kids see me.”
DO think “we”, not “you”
In shared areas and responsibilities like money, changes are better made together, instead of you setting the rules for your husband. For example, Lucy and her husband could sit down every month and plan their expenditure in detail. As part of the discussion, she can raise concerns about his spending.
DON’T embarrass him
You shouldn’t berate your husband openly, especially in front of your children or friends. If you have to criticise or nag him, always do it in private.
*Names have been changed.
This story first appeared on Herworld print edition, 2013 May edition.