Wendyl Nissen
Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: That fussing can be the difference between life and death

Rannulph Fiennes - British explorer and author admits 'I was saved on Everest by wife's pestering'.
Rannulph Fiennes - British explorer and author admits 'I was saved on Everest by wife's pestering'.

Being a supportive wife can have many connotations. For the purposes of this column it is the year-long experiment I have undertaken to support my husband in matters of the heart and home - to make his life easier by cleaning up a bit and cooking a bit more.

For other supportive wives - and I've been one of these too - it is financially supporting their husbands and families. Going out to work every day while your husband stays at home is something more women are doing every day.

But there is also the wife who supports her husband, even when she knows he has a death wish.

At the weekend I saw this Sunday Times headline - "Ranulph Fiennes: I was saved on Everest by wife's pestering".

Ranulph, who had survived a triple bypass and cancer before attempting Everest, unsurprisingly had another heart attack on the mountain.

No one saw it coming, except his wife, Louise.

Thanks to Louise's insistence that he carry life-saving medication he managed to survive long enough to get medical help.

"Why would you marry such a man?" I asked my husband.

"Kiwi women do it all the time, we are a nation of risk-takers," he said, tapping away on his laptop, unaware of his blatant attempt to place himself in the "outdoorsy man who climbs big things" basket.

What must it feel like to be Louise, waving off her man on yet another adventure knowing there is an extremely high chance he won't return? At its base is the support, the fact that you pack his bags and put the right life-saving medication in his first aid kit, then wave him off with a brave smile.

But then what do you do? Escape into a world of your own for a few months, refusing to watch TV or listen to the radio in case word comes through of your husband's demise? Spend your time knitting socks for his next adventure or keep busy by downing bottles of chardonnay?

In New Zealand we have our fair share of adventurers and the wives who go with them. And I'm sure they, too, are pesterers.

"Do look after yourself, don't take any risks and come back alive," could be seen as a pester, but I think it's a very sane thing to say.

Women are so often told not to nag. "Get off my case, will you?" men moan.

But in defence of supportive wives everywhere, we are just stating the bleeding obvious which is "come home alive".

We wouldn't have to do this if we weren't married to men who think they have the adventurous spirit but are woefully under-equipped for the task.

These are the men who take the kids fishing in a boat on the Manukau Harbour without a life jacket between them. The men who decide to go hunting and end up shooting tourists cleaning their teeth.

Then there are the men who climb the roof to clear the guttering and fall off, chop firewood and take off a few fingers, drive cars fast and crash.

It may be argued that the average lifespan of Kiwi males would be drastically reduced if they didn't have wives and their pester power.

Wives who pester are keeping our men alive.

Thankfully, this supportive wife has never had to pester. She managed to marry a man who is so comfortable in his own skin that he's quite happy to pay someone to do the gutters, gratefully accepts game shot by someone else, never drives over the speed limit and gets his exercise and adrenalin rush at the gym rather than climbing mountains.

- NZ Herald

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