Ahhh the 50’s- a time where the country was happy, children could play outside, and marriages rarely ended in divorce. The 50’s seldom saw two income households- it was a man’s job to bring home the bacon and the woman’s job to cook it, as well as manage the rest of the home and the children. Being social wasn’t about getting on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Being social was about meeting face to face and having a real conversation- not just sharing emoticons. Most households didn’t have a television in the early 50’s let alone video games, iPads, or cell phones. It was a simpler life. How can we in today’s modern world possibly relate, let alone take advice from such a simple time? How can marital advice the 50’s inform the modern marriage?
We can actually learn quite a bit from the marriage advice given in the 50’s and apply it to today’s modern marriage for success. Though these were different times with a much different view on gender roles, the sage advice of our parents still makes good sense. Consider the following 50’s-based advice:
- Know your place. In the 50’s this meant that a woman should know what was expected of her as being the queen of the home and it’s many duties, including managing the children. It also meant that a woman shouldn’t find herself involved with the man’s roles of working or managing the finances. In the 50’s, this was clear cut.
In today’s marriages, this is still great advice. It’s important for each person in a marriage to understand his or her role, to know what each partner is responsible for, and to be accountable for those responsibilities. While we don’t have the strict gender roles of the 50’s anymore, any couple can accomplish this with a weekly or even monthly discussion about dividing responsibilities, determining completion time frames, and of course, understanding each other’s expectations. This provides a greater understanding of each other and helps to build marriage success.
- Have dinner on the table. A wife in the 50’s had dinner on the table when her husband came home from work. This was an expectation of her role as household manager and a perk of her husband’s after working so hard to support his family. The 50’s family typically ate together at the table.
Taking this piece of advice literally is strategic wisdom for the modern family. Literally, have dinner on the table. Eating at the table with your partner or family provides valuable time to connect and learn about each other. Disconnect from the electronics and have some real conversation. Take the time to learn about the inner workings of your partner- how she feels, what he’s thinking, how to we get what we want out of life, etc. Making this a routine in marriage strengthens the bond between the partners and fortifies the all-important friendship which is the foundation of any successful marriage.
- Keep private matters private. Good advice then and certainly good advice in today’s world. 50’s marriages didn’t hang their dirty laundry out for the world to see. They handled their marital problems in private.
Modern marriages can learn a lot from this sensible guidance. Putting your business out there, whether to family and friends or all of Facebook land is just asking for trouble. People are most likely to tell about their problems when they’re upset or angry. Those emotions don’t allow us to think logically and we often say and do things we later wish we wouldn’t have. Blowing off steam about your marriage to others may leave you feeling supported, but what is said may also devalue your partner and leave others thinking you’re in a bad marriage.
In addition, turning towards others and away from your partner in times of trouble creates a chasm in the marriage and starts to decrease trust. Successful marriages keep marital issues between themselves and commit to working on them for the greater good of the union. Invest in a marriage therapist for additional help if needed. A marriage therapist can provide guidance to help a couple through problems in an unbiased manner, unlike friends and family.
- Listen to him. In the 50’s part of a wife’s responsibilities was to listen to her husband’s issues, to comfort him, and to understand him. This didn’t always go both ways in marriages in the 50’s, as a wife’s issues were typically considered trivial.
Listening, though, is still key to marriage success, even in today’s world. We need to listen more than we talk in a marriage. And, we need to really listen, meaning actively listening with eye contact, body language (such as head nodding), and without distractions such as the television, iPad, or cell phone. In successful marriages, partners listen to each other to uncover not only the content of what is being said but the emotion that comes with that content. When we’re able to identify and validate our partner’s emotions through what we hear from them, we develop a deeper understanding and connectedness.
Though the 50’s were definitely different times than what we know today, our previous generations had an understanding of what it takes to be in a successful marriage. Maybe our parents weren’t quite as crazy as we thought.