I’m almost sorry I did.
I was born in the early 50’s, so I never really “knew” what their version of marriage should be. Yes, my mom loved my dad. Yes, my dad suffered from PTS from World War II, something men back then didn’t talk about. Yes, my dad occasionally pulled out the Army Belt to make a point to my brothers. Yes, that wasn’t the right way to do things, but that’s how it was done.
But this article entitled, “Aweful ’50s Marriage Advice Shows What Our Mothers and Grandmothers Were Up Against,” shocked me to my core. With all the news lately about domestic violence, and perpetrators saying that’s how they were raised, gives even more insight into what our mothers and grandmothers really went through.
Taken from the Ladies’ Home Journal’s Can This Marriage Be Saved? column, here are the top lessons back then:
Lesson: A woman’s “personality” is to blame for marital problems. (April 1953)
Solution: Sylvia was advised to “change her personality and deeply rooted attitudes” against her husband, the counselor wrote, because she’d “deeply wounded his masculine pride.” Being too “fast” with boys in her past had left the 31-year-old “almost as emotionally immature as a child of four or five … driving her husband out of his home to the corner bar and into the arms of other women.” The counselor found ways to blame Sylvia in every aspect of the couple’s marital woes, from Everett’s drinking to Everett’s probable infidelity, while Everett himself merely “modified” his drinking and philandering.
Lesson: The longer you’ve been married, the more you should let domestic violence slide. (April 1954)
Solution: Apparently, Lucy was now chained to her abusive husband because she’d somehow missed her window of escape at the ripe old age of 36. “[Lucy], her child and her elderly aunt were financially dependent… Without Dan, Lucy was marooned” — safety and mental health be damned. Lucy’s husband, a man who didn’t like seeing women in pants, was even excused for considering his son a “rival” because his wife wasn’t paying him enough “badly needed praise, appreciation, admiration [and] love.”
Lesson: Wives should be able to read minds (February 1953)
Solution: the counselor chided Alice for her lack of ESP. “In cooking him expensive steaks and smothering him with excessive protestations of love,” it was explained, “she was offering him not the kind of attention he wanted and needed but the kind she wanted herself.” A good wife would have realized she was making nice dinners the family couldn’t quite afford, even though her husband wasn’t using his big boy words to express himself.
Lesson: If you don’t give your spouse enough attention, he has a fair excuse to cheat on you (May 1953)
Solution: “Of course, she herself was largely responsible for Joe’s infidelity. She practically drove her husband to find in the company of another woman a little of the praise and credit he was not receiving at home,” the counselor wrote. Amy was advised to “adopt a divergent set of values” because she was “just too busy.” Poor Joe “felt like a nobody who didn’t count” while his wife made sure they had enough income to eat.
Lesson: Never try to have it all (October 1955)
Solution: The counselor found Patrice at fault not just because of her career, but “the way she handled her career, her husband [and] her child.” Patrice, the counselor noted, “grew to womanhood hating the unalterable fact that she was doomed to be a female in a man-made world.” Luckily, she got her “true reward” in the end, “when she reduced her career to second place … she became a successful wife and a successful mother.”
You have to read the details behind each lesson. You have to.
Have fun. And quit squinching up your face every other word…