Toxic wife syndrome

It's more prevalent than we thought, says the U.K.'s Telegraph.

Published March 6, 2007 9:46PM (EST)

In January, the Telegraph published an article called "From Trophy Wife to Toxic Wife," about a supposedly new breed of money-grubbing women who lure in unsuspecting men, marry them and then empty their bank accounts and ruin the men's lives.

The author, Tara Winter Wilson, got so much response from readers around the world that she has followed up her previous piece with this one, titled "Don't Fall for This Deadly Honey Trap."

The premise behind "toxic wife syndrome" is that a young woman, intent on securing a fortune for herself, will attract an innocent man -- often, Wilson points out, by wearing promiscuous clothing. Man marries her, woman immediately quits job, hires a staff of servants, and becomes a luxury-obsessed lunatic who abuses her servants, fails to take care of the children, and gives nothing back to her husband. Why can't he just divorce her? Because then she'd sue him for everything he's worth.

Or, as Wilson describes a TW, "She is the woman who gives up work as soon as she marries, ostensibly to create a stable home environment for any children that might come along, but who then employs large numbers of staff to do all the domestic work she promised to undertake, leaving her with little to do all day except shop, lunch, luxuriate. Believe me, there is no shortage of the breed and I've been inundated with horror tales about them."

In this iteration of her piece, Wilson offers a handy guide to identifying potential toxic wives, including tips like: "She will choose the most expensive item on the menu or the most expensive drink." And: "Even though she may have an impressive job, her main asset is sex. She will come on in a highly provocative manner, be wearing lots of make-up and revealing clothes. Potential toxic wives are extremely clever. Do not equate intelligence with emotional values and worth."

So here are my thoughts: It would suck if you married someone who turned out to be a money-grubbing, vapid ass. And there are definitely people out there who think of their spouses as bank accounts. But come on. Most people will not immediately change from being emotionally mature, responsible, loving and professionally engaged to devoting all of their mental energy to scheduling pedicures. And there is not, as this article makes it seem, an evil new breed of money-grubbing women, all spawned from some devious Hollywood laboratory, who are hoping, "Children of the Corn" style, to take over the world. It's also not like shallow women are the only sort of crappy spouses out there -- case in point, toxic bachelors. (Dude, they've got a whole book.)

The bottom line is this: You need know who you're getting married to before you marry them. That's your responsibility. And if you don't feel like you can figure it out yourself, check out and pass along that old New York Times article. It didn't top the most e-mailed list for nothing.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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