Paul Coates — Confidential File, April 30, 1959


Murdering Your Wife a High Misdemeanor

What Makes Man a Wife Murderer?


makes men murder their wives? Perhaps you don't think the matter is
especially pertinent to you personally, but let's talk about it anyway.
After you finish reading, you can always draw your own conclusions.

usually taken for granted that such husbands are either insane or such
dyed-in-the-wool criminals that they deserve to be executed.

their unfortunate wives were dutiful, loving women who stood by their
husbands through all their troubles and tried to make men of them. And
for all this, the wives were repaid for their sacrifices by finally
being strangled or bludgeoned to death.

That's the common story
and it's sometimes true. Psychiatrists, however, wondered whether it
was the whole story. Two of them decided to try to find out.

Dr. Jacob Morgenstern and Dr. Albert A. Kurland,
both with the state of Maryland, began to study the wife murderers and
the wives they murdered. The psychiatrists sought out the relatives,
the friends and neighbors of the victims to testify.

Most of
these wives, they found, seemed at first sight to be admirable women
who were putting up with unreliable, brutal, violent, or irrational

Further study, however, revealed that the husbands
weren't like that before they married. Prior to their marriages, they
had led sober and normal lives.

There were certainly great
weaknesses in their personalities, but these might have been kept from
coming to the surface if the marriages had been different. Indeed, the
psychiatrists decided in these cases the husbands and wives were pretty
well suited to each other.

They simply didn't know how to manage their marriages.

In many instances, the wives would depend on nagging instead of using [illegible]
methods to repair [illegible]. They [illegible] … resented this, the
more martyred the wives became. Still the wives kept after the
husbands. The men would resort to drink; the women would become
increasingly frigid and hostile.

Things went from bad to worse.
Feeling themselves to be failures, the husbands struck back at their
wives by impulsively asserting their own power. And the net result
would be swift and violent murder.

This may be an oversimplified picture of what these psychiatrists found and it may not apply to your marriage.

the general conclusion of these psychiatrists applies to every
marriage, namely, that when a marriage isn't going well, the couple
should find a competent marriage counselor and get help in heading in
the right direction and staying on the right track.

In a large
number of cases, such a procedure could prevent divorce; sometimes it
could even prevent murder. At least, that's what the two psychiatrists
had to say. As I mentioned earlier in the column, you must draw your
own conclusion.

In the meantime, I'll be glad to supply any
reader with the name of a thoroughly competent marriage counselor near
the reader's home. To get this information, simply send your request to
me, c/o The Mirror News, Los Angeles, but please enclose a stamped
return envelope.

Dr. Paul Popenoe, a colleague of mine whose wisdom appears regularly in
the family section of this newspaper, has gone and done it.

yesterday's editions he trod boldly on a topic which has been banned
from respectable parlour conversation since as long as I can remember.

shows how keen my memory is. My family never even had a parlour. (And,
if they did have one, they would have spelled it parlor, not parlour.
They weren't folks to put on airs.)

In his usual breezy, frank, intimate manner of expression, the doctor discussed the pros and cons of murdering one's wife.

an article headed "What Makes a Man Murder His Wife?" he began by
pointing out that the questions is vital to every one of us.

"Perhaps you don't think the matter is especially pertinent to you personally," he prefaced his observations. But then he added, ominously:

"After you finish reading this article, then you can draw your own conclusions."

I was almost afraid to read on. But I did.

point, as I get it, is that maybe my marriage, or your marriage, has
had the symptoms all along and we've just overlooked them. Taken no
positive action, if you know what I mean.

And don't give me that high-and-mighty look. You know what I mean.

The basic symptom, according to the doctor, is a nagging wife.

study made by two psychiatrists whom he quoted revealed that most men
who rub out their spouses were sober, likable individuals before they
took the vows.

Average Joes just like you an me.

were certain great weaknesses in their personality," he admitted, "but
these might have been kept from coming to the surface if the marriages
had been different."

Trouble was, the wives simply didn't know
how to manage their husbands. Instead of using constructive methods to
improve them, they nagged.

Day in, day out.

Until finally, PFFT! No wife.

When I got that far along in Dr. Popenoe's frank discussion, I began to realize that he was performing a perilous but necessary public service.

If those were the only symptoms, it's time people were made aware.

my personal case, fortunately, there's no problem. I'm not the type of
man who lies around the house and lets his wife nag him.

In fact, I seldom go home.

But you. I'm worried about you. Any one of you is liable to have a murder rap hanging over you head tomorrow.

And this thing could spread into a very unpleasant epidemic.

Dr. Popenoe obviously deserves our thanks for bringing this touchy matter into the open.

How You Can Beat the Rap

he's gone a step further. He also points out that not all husbands with
nagging wives end up doing time. Some just slip out and drive to Reno.
It's up to each reader to figure out his own solution.

But while you're thinking it over, Dr. Popenoe
generously offers to supply you with the name of a thoroughly competent
marriage counselor near your home. Write care of The Mirror News and
enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

And if that doesn't
work, get in touch with me. I know a guy who knows a guy from out of
town who works fast and clean and cheap and keeps his mouth shut.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Columnists, Paul Coates. Bookmark the permalink.

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