Friday, November 25, 2016

Marital Advice from My Grandma's Era

Photo: Wikipedia
I found an interesting old book that my Grandma, in her youth, would have been familiar with, which described the qualities of a good wife. Was there a magical formula for a long and happy marriage? In an era when arranged marriages were the norm, the consensus was that marriage was a “lottery," you either won it or you didn’t.*

Seventy years ago, this was the “practical” advice married women gave to those engaged to be married:

1.       Defend and respect one another.

2.       Don’t wear the same dress every day; change it with a bow, a belt, a new collar, a colorful scarf, or a ribbon.

3.       If you use face cream, don’t let him see you.

4.       Do not wear droopy nylons because husbands seem to have an aversion to them.

5.       Never gargle in front of him and never wear house shoes - they are too unattractive.

6.       Never serve him coffee without first combing your hair.

7.       Never talk to him until after he’s had his first cup of coffee.

8.       Don’t bother him or talk to him when he shaves. Shaving and dressing are a ritual which men like to do alone without verbal interruption.

9.       Don’t talk to him when he reads the paper and make sure his ashtray is close by. I think the Marlboro Man would have been proud of this one.

10.   Pretend to listen intently when he shares things he likes, even though they may bore you to death.

11.   Learn to cook what he likes but also what you like.

12.   Improvise fun things to do at home and always smile as if you were in public, never show anger or displeasure to him, only a happy face.

13.   Once a week, allow him to have time with his buddies as if he were single.  Don’t ask him where he goes; he will tell you when he comes back.

14.   If he has a passion, such as collecting stamps or listening to certain shows on the radio, encourage it and engage him in conversation about it.

15.   When he makes a mistake and talks about it, don’t criticize him because he may never tell you again when he makes the next mistake.

16.   Don’t be sick too often, men don’t like sickly women.

17.   When he exalts the virtues of other women, don’t get upset; he is probably doing it because he knows you are missing that virtue.

18.   When he comes home every night, give him the impression that you waited on him with love all day.

19.   Don’t talk on the phone with your family when he is at home; do that when he is at the office.

20.   Get ready for the theater half an hour before departure time – men don’t like to be late for anything.

21.   Don’t bother him with your daily housewife problems or kids when he comes back tired from the office. Have supper ready and leave him alone.

22.   Never accept dinner or party invitations without first consulting with him. He has to approve first before you RSVP.

23.   Be ready to fix whatever wardrobe item requires attention.

24.   Never, ever clean his desk or even touch it.

25.   Never give up your profession or your trade. There may come a time when the kids are gone and you will be all alone in the house, a wife without a compass.

26.   Don’t forget your old friends but create new ones in your husband’s circles.

27.   For every man, his job is his first love. The love for you is secondary. Don’t ask him all the time if he loves you. Don’t tell him you hate him when you have arguments.

28.   For women, love comes in first place while a job comes in secondary.

29.   Don’t try to give him advice all the time; he does not want to hear it.

30.   Don’t talk about money because he does not like to hear it. If you need something important or valuable, manipulate his vanity and pride.

31.   Don’t force him to have relationships with families you like.

32.   Don’t speak ill of his relatives as it is almost sure that your relatives are just as bad.

33.   Help him with well-placed hints as to what presents you wish him to buy for you.

34.   Say yes to everything but then do what you want later. Never tell him no.

Last but not least, women warned that marriage was not a subscription to eternal love. Life, even without “rosy illusions,” could be colorful enough.

*The Code of a Good Wife (pp. 24-27)




  1. Marriage to many these days is just an agreement to live together as long as each party is happy. In fact, marriage is a contract, entered into freely, to care for the other until death. Big difference!
    50/50 marriages are more likely to fail than succeed because if you aren't giving 100 per cent of yourself to the relationship you aren't holding up your end of the contract.
    This list of suggestions may sound dated, but it expresses in innocent terms a genuine intention of actually "caring" for a husband.

    I only wish I'd known this stuff sooner. It has taken me 47 years to figure it out on my own. ��

    1. So true, Chriss. Most young women today spend more time on designing and planning their perfect wedding day than they do actually making the marriage work.