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Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Flashback: "The Good Wife"


Thursday, August 24, 2006


I received an email from a good friend. It was supposedly an article from Good Housekeeping Magazine from 1955 entitled "The Good Wife's Guide." While of questionable origin, it is interesting to reflect on. It was comprised of 18 bullet points, the main gist of each one being how to treat your man to keep him happy. We've come a long way since 1955. Some of those changes have been good, but in my opinion, not all.

GOOD CHANGES I almost have to laugh reading bullet #18, "A good wife always knows her place." Are we pack animals? I come in right after Larry? I could make some semi-nasty comments on "position," but I'll refrain here. My grandma used to say that the man is the head of the household, but his wife is the neck, and the neck turns the head. It's by no means an original, but leads me to believe that even in 1955, women had different ideas about their place.

Bullet #17: "Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him." Hello? I guess I'd be raving mad at this one also were I not busting a seam from laughter. When Larry was going back and forth with the grad school question, he always wanted my opinion. I never felt it was my place to give one because I was not the one having to attend school and do the work, and it was determining his profession, not mine. From Larry's point of view, although he is the one working, he's doing it on behalf of us as a couple and a family, and therefore didn't feel right about making that major a decision with out my input and mutual agreement. We have indeed come a long way.

UNFORTUNATE CHANGES If this were slightly altered, the same article could be called "The Good Spouse," and the information would be invaluable. I suppose it could be argued that it is precisely because if the one-sidedness of the suggestions that the article is shameful. I could see that point. I think as a society however, many of us try to drop the expectation on wives rather than extend it to husbands. 

The end of bullet #6 reads, "After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction." Someone (not, I believe, my friend) had incredulously underlined this statement. But it is true. And unless you have married a total jerk, catering to his needs with be rewarded by his catering to yours. That, my friends, is the basis of a good marriage. If I do all I can to take good care of Larry and he does all he can to take good care of me, both of our needs are then met in a very unselfish, giving way.

Bullet #3 reads, "Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him, His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it." Guess what, my day needs a lift, too. If I am fun and interesting, Larry will be, too. I've heard it said that people who are bored are people who are boring. There is a lot of truth to that. I married my best friend for, among other reasons, companionship. If I am a lousy companion, what was the point?

Bullet #12: "Your goal: try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit." Wow. That should be the goal for the benefit of us all! Easy to manage? Uh--no. But a good goal none the less. 

Bullet #8: "Be happy to see him." Do I even need to say "duh?" 

I am sad that our world becomes increasingly unconcerned with manners and respect, with kindness and selflessness. I think of an extreme case of a miserable person I know who feels that he is never shown enough love. But it's because he doesn't know how to show love himself. He only looks at what he thinks he's not getting, never at what he's not giving. It's a pitiful situation. Many of us, I'm sure all of us at times, could do wonders to increase our happiness by looking outside of ourselves and giving more. The Savior said that those who lose themselves for his sake would find themselves. I think that general sentiment applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. There is great satisfaction to be had in being a good wife, husband, mother, father, friend, child, citizen of the world.

16 fishy comments:

Annette Lyon said...

I've seen that list before, but this is the best analysis I've ever seen of it.

CaJoh said...

I like #6. I tend to use it myself. I love to serve— I'm the one that cooks and truly enjoys it. I'm always trying to find more ways to cater for my wife and I get more satisfaction serving her than when I am served myself.

I know that my wife and I are never boring and we always play off of one another— oh to be a fly on the wall… you'd be cracking up every time.

Excellent post. Great way of taking something from long ago and making it current.

ramsam said...

How funny- a client I have just mentioned this article this week. That is weird.

I agree with what you are saying 100%. I got a lot of slack when I promoted "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" on my blog- but let me tell you this- I have had a blast since I read it. It is a gret book, not far off from that article of days past!

2busy said...

Thank you for taking the time to type out all your analysis. I love it and totally agree with the good changes. I would not have been a very good subservient wife. Yikes! Our marriage has been the happiest when we are returning each other's service and affection.

So said...

#12 is so, so true.

I think the thing that bothered me so much about this was that it seemed that the men had absolutely no other responsibility other than go to work and provide for his family. It wasn't his "job" to make an effort to make his wife and his family and his home a happy place. That responsibility fell fully on the woman...and that is not right.

clan of the cave hair said...

i SO agree with your thoughts on this. I remember reading this list at one point and wondering what exactly was supposed to be so demeaning about most of it. Like you, I don't think we should go back to allowing our husbands to rule the roost without question-teamwork seems to go alot better for us anyways-but kindness, humor, "being interesting"...definitely a two way street and foundations for a happy home.

Lara said...

Loved reading your thoughts on this.

I've received this email a few times, and like clan, I never saw it as absolutely horrible. Sure, a few of them were a little outdated or silly, but most of them apply BOTH WAYS in all good relationships. Sad that our world looks at it the way they do.

Heatherlyn said...

It's sad that a lot of women bridle at the thought that meeting their husband's needs and respecting his opinion somehow demeans them. Marriage is a two-way street.

Of course, it is assumed that you aren't married to a jerk. None of this applies in that case.

But I LOVE meeting Jeremy's needs. It DOES bring me immense satisfaction. He appreciates it. He does the same for me.

Once, I read that happiness in marriage is when each partner puts the other's happiness before their own. It's really true.

A good husband doesn't exactly want to be in charge, either. He'll take the initiative when he needs to, but from my experience, he will always want his wife's opinion and her complete support. Otherwise, it's not really a partnership.

Actually, and this is funny, my husband once in an attempt to reconcile some issue in his first marriage, compared their marriage to a partnership. His ex wife was SOOOO offended. I can't think that a good marriage would be anything different.

In a real business partnership, the parters respect each other's opinions. They treat each other with deference and respect. They each have a different contributing role in the company. And they also consult one another in decisions. They value the other's opinion. I think the analogy works very well.

Becky said...

Great post! I get frustrated when people say that looking nice for your husband or meeting him at the door with a kiss means that women are oppressed. Um, no. It just means we love and respect our husbands.

Melissa said...

Great post! Can you believe how times have changed??? Some ways good, some ways - not so good.

Kristina P. said...

Love your new header picture!

And I found this book from the 50s that I bought all about how to be a man. Hilarious!!

Heidi Ashworth said...

I truly think there were men out there would who have agreed with every word of that list, in which case, for the wives of those men, it would have been a great list. Thank goodness men have changed!

Diane said...

I'm almost a 50's wife. I cook dinner every night and sometime I remember to put lipstick on.

But he irons his own shirts.

Becky said...

Amen! Great comments on that fun list. Although life has changed a lot since that list was written, not all of the changes are for the better (or the worse). Hopefully we can take the best of both worlds to make our marriages stronger.

Tink said...

I've seen that list before, too, and it is a total crackup! Oh how I would have failed miserably as a good ole housewife living back then! BTW, I like your new header and pictures! Suhweeet!

Cadance said...

I've had this forwarded to my e-mails before...actually I think my husband sent it to me as a joke!

Respect is a two way street....no one can expect to get something out of what they don't contribute to!

great post...I love your thoughts!