I have a feeling that this article will go down like a lead balloon for some, but do hear me out. I am of the opinion, that the sentiments echoed in the song “Wives and Lovers” by Burt Bacharach is relationship advice gold, and why most of the “marriage advice” from the 1950s shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, have a little listen to my favourite version by Jack Jones on YouTube. If you haven’t already recoiled in horror (I jest), you’ll find plenty of opinion articles calling it outdated and sexist, and it may sound silly - but I consider it somewhat of a theme song to remind me of the importance of my attitude towards my husband. Am I a Trad Wife cliche? Perhaps! However I do count it as a key component to marital success beyond what lacklustre modern advice has taught me.
Granted, when a man sings this song it can come off as a little condescending, but did you know Ella Fitzgerald, and Dionne Warwick have recorded versions too? Is the advice any easier to swallow if it’s from female lips? I’m of the mind that it’s not actually the supposed sexism that is offensive today, but that time itself has done away with advising women to put any sort of work into their relationships at all, and that is the key to our discomfort…
Wives and Lovers is not sexist, it’s good advice!
I’ve had a little gripe in my gut about this subject and misunderstanding for this song for the past two years now. As my British friends would have seen when the show went out live (Jan 2020), This Morning played “Wives and Lovers” just before my segment.
I had no idea this was going to happen, so I sat there in the studio ready to be interviewed by Philip & Holly with a pleasant smile on my face (hiding thoughts of “oh dear, where is this going!?) as they ran through the lyrics… namely;
Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore
Oh the look on their faces and their comments! “It’s that line, it’s shocking”... It was pretty comical to see them so worked up to be honest. A furrowed brow on Holly, complemented by a ‘concerned for you’ look on Philip.
For those outside of the UK who may be unable to watch the clip; the presenters make fun of the fact that I greet my husband at the door (doesn’t he have a key?), and that I’d dare to consider my husband and our budget before making big purchases. Dumbfounded were they that we divide our roles in the home so clearly, and that I put my husband and marriage first.
The worst of it, that women should “try” to please their husbands and might not identify with the modern take on what it means to be a housewife. Preferring instead a nod to midcentury marriages.
Now my question is, what is wrong with this advice and marital dynamic? Honestly, in my book - nothing! Absolutely nothing at all.
You see dear readers, you and I have spent a lifetime being indoctrinated by women’s magazines, media opinion, and suchlike. They dedicate pages and pages on how to be alluring while you are dating. How to dress, how to behave, how to flirt. So much advice on how to catch the attention of the men you fancy, and then what to do to snare him and
make inspire him to commit. Then we march forth with the bridal magazines which pressure you to have the most lavish wedding possible and then…
Nothing. Radio silence.
You’re on your own now women! Perhaps we’ll let you have a little time of bliss while on the honeymoon, but once you’re back to the real world and “wifed”, well - we are going to turn it all around on you! The (mostly single, unmarried) journalists will do a complete one eighty and advise you differently now!
The “Chuck Him” scene from Bridget Jones says it all!
Henceforth we will write articles for your reading pleasure on how to get your husband to do XYZ. How to make him adore you and worship the ground you walk on while asking for nothing in return (the gall). Analyse why you might not be happy (it’s probably his fault), and while we’re at it, here’s a forum whereby you can complain to other ‘poor women stuck in your awful situation’ and encourage each other to file for divorce…
You can raise those kids on your own, in fact it’s probably better for all concerned because his influence is a bit toxic, it’s male after all! It’s 2022, plenty of independent “successful”, liberated women are already doing it. Why do you need a man anyway? You certainly shouldn’t have to put up with one who doesn’t do things at the drop of a hat to please your every whim just because you’re his wife. There is a ring on your finger - you needn’t try anymore! But oh, how he must!
In fact let’s now celebrate and sing songs about how useless, disagreeable, and surplus to requirements men are. Who run the world? Girls! A blessing really, because, “you don’t want no scrubs”, if they do you wrong “to the left, to the left”. This house? “I bought it”!
Where have the songs that unite and encourage romance and trying gone? Well, they got left behind when women entered the workforce for ‘empowerment’. Instead all we’re offered now is the message that we must lament, lament, complain, complain, walk away, walk away. You don’t serve me, so I’m leaving… YOU change, I’m perfect as I am thank you.
Such is the language of modern “femininity” (I daren’t say feminism, because I’ll get in more trouble than I’m already in, and they can be quite vicious)! To clarify, while I support women’s rights - I do not support the idea of female supremacy it has mutated into.
The current narrative is this. Women in western first-world marriages are now on a pedestal, perfect as we are, deserving of all things and men have to bend over backwards to please us, while we do nothing in return. Especially once we are married.
Exhausting non? This dating charade and all this effort to find a man, then we must work so hard (by actually doing naff all) to unravel it before the ink is dry on your marriage certificate.
Do you see how backwards this is? The modern media has fed this to you! I don’t know about you, but I much prefer the midcentury take on it.
What happened to “success” being a happy, stable marriage, and having a healthy family?
Why 1950s marriage advice is actually worth following.
I’m sure you’ve seen some of the articles poking fun at the old “Good Housewives Guides” of the 1950s, calling them archaic, and backwards. On the surface it does seem silly to go to so much effort for your husband when he is quite capable of fixing his own drinks and putting his slippers by the fire - but let me stop you!
If you are a traditional housewife, with no external responsibilities outside the home, what exactly have you signed up for? This calling to stay home isn’t a meal ticket darlings… There is actually work involved for you, and you aren’t here to be pampered by your husband. It must work both ways.
Modern thinking is that the housewife can now please herself, and as soon as the husband steps through the door after his long day in the office, or at his physically demanding job, he is to pick up your slack come 5pm? I’m sorry, but no wonder marriages are going down the drain.
We’re forgetting our vows to love and to cherish, and most times that means performing acts of service. We’re also forgetting that your spouse is the person you dated at one time hoping they’d produce something sparkly on a gold band! What changed?
Ladies, I have witnessed this in action myself! Married women I once called friends, at home through choice, or not, have actually said, “I’ll leave that for Bob to do once he gets home”, as she tumbles a pile of laundry requiring folding on the dining table (it’s 10am in the morning).
I’ve seen husbands turned on their heels to go and do the shopping for the evening meal as soon as his key has been put in the door… she having been out for “coffee with the girls and a spot of window shopping” for most of the day. Then turning to me with a smile on her face that claims “isn’t he so well trained”.
My jaw = on the floor.
Yes, perhaps I am being awful by judging these ladies, but I’ll be completely honest - it’s disappointing to know that there was no reason why they should do this, other than they felt they were owed more from their husbands somehow! This is why housewives have a bad name these days. No wonder some men would rather us go out to work, we’re not showing them what we are capable of (managing the home), and worse yet, we aren’t bothered about showing our appreciation for what he does!
Modern standards for housewives are too low, and we’ve lost a code of conduct! Where once stood a “Guide for Housewives”, there is now a please yourself attitude - and considering this is a job in itself, it’s time we showed up, and show our men why it’s worth having a wife at home at all!
So what can we do?
Wifey, comb your hair do your make up…
Soon he will open the door. He has been at the office all day with demanding clients and grumpy colleagues, or out in all weathers alongside gruff sweaty men in high-vis jackets. Wouldn’t it be nice for him to return to his pretty wife who is happy to see him and makes an effort? It’ll make you feel so much better about yourself to demonstrate to your husband (and yourself) that your appearance is worth it.
There are exceptions to this rule, such as when illness strikes, or newborns and young babies are on the scene - but don’t fall into the sweatpants and greasy haired trap. It’s a deep abyss that’s hard to get out of. Don’t you want your husband to find you attractive and irresistible?
Men are visual creatures, and want to feel like you still want to make an effort for them alone. After a while, most wives only seem to make an effort for strangers and the husband has to gaze upon her at her worst because she can’t be bothered! If you start to slip, so will he! Keep those standards high, for yourself and for him. Remember how you used to get dolled up for your romantic dates and hoped he’d find you attractive in that dress with your hair done how he likes it? Yeah - that!
There’s a ring on your finger, remember that he is the one that put it there.
He committed to you darling, that lovely, excitable gorgeous creature you were while dating. Those days needn’t be over now you’ve worn a big white dress. The effort you made to get you there shouldn’t wane.
Though we may physically age, our inner youth needn’t die! I believe keeping the spark alive is so important and you need to keep dating!!! The wedding isn’t the end goal ladies, in fact it’s just the beginning.
If anything you should be trying harder now that ring is on your finger. Not in desperation to keep him, but to keep your relationship fresh. You may have taken his name, don’t forget you took his heart too. It’s worth looking after. Spoil him when he gets home, listen to him like you used to. Give him your undivided attention! Trust me, you’ll get the same back.
Better still, send him off with a sandwich and a kiss tomorrow morning, and make him excited to see you again! Then….
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you.
What’s the alternative? Barely a nod as he comes in? What an emotionally cold, dark, lonely place to return to… If he has been out at work all day in order to keep a roof over your head, the least you can do is greet him. Men like to feel like their homes are a haven and a soft place to land. They want to feel needed, missed, admired, required!
So many wives complain that their husbands don’t bring them flowers, and ignore them… try greeting him with a big smile, a kiss, and a hug at the door when he arrives home and see the results for yourself.
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music.
This echoes the advice to “keep the house quiet” when he returns, and pop his slippers by the fire. Make it serene and inviting. Fix him a drink while you’re at it! Perhaps this is the most “Stepford” of all points but honestly, make it your mission to get your housework done in the daylight hours while he is doing the same at the office.
Evenings are for family time, and later when the children are in bed, romance! We have a rule in our home that all “housework” is done while the sun is up (save for cooking and clearing up after dinner). The nights are for dining, candles, and togetherness only. You need this clear dynamic so that everyone knows where they stand. It should be a time of maximum rest for both of you.
Your husband’s work is done outside of the home, yours is done inside the home, and you set the tone! If you want romance, light that flame yourself and add fuel to it by being your darling self.
Don’t forget the power you have as a gorgeous, feminine creature, flirt with him - your husband still wants to enjoy that part of you, especially now you’re his wife! Why else would he have wanted to take you off the market?
Otherwise it just looks like false advertising…
Do you want to be part of the marriage revolution?
I’m more than aware that this article will put some cats among the pigeons. Mostly because it’s so counter-cultural to hear that women might be getting it wrong. That we have been lied to since the ‘70s about what makes a happy marriage, and ultimately sold a bill of goods. Not to mention (shock-horror) we might need to change in order to see positive changes in our marriage.
I’d like to leave you with some food for thought.
What can you do today to show your husband that you appreciate him?
It could be something as simple as:
- Cooking his favourite meal.
- Thanking and admiring him for his contribution to your family life, and not expecting him to do your work too.
- Holding back your complaints and demands until an appropriate time (not when he walks in the door).
- Making the house cosy and comfortable for his return from work.
- Fixing him a drink and allowing him to “decompress” and ease gently out of “work mode”.
- Dressing nicely, and greeting him with a smile and a kiss at the door upon his return.
Do it, measure the results, and question whether you might be able to do that every day. Perhaps you’ll be surprised with the long term effects! I do hope you’ll think it’s worth it.
Oh and remember, wives should always be lovers too!
Common sense is better than offence
Please remember that this article is intended for traditional housewives, written by a traditional housewife. If you have found it offensive, it was probably not meant for you in the first place, and that’s ok! We all like to conduct our lives and marriages in a multitude of ways and one is not superior to the other. Yes, even your way!
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Illustrations belonging to respective artists. Sourced from Pinterest.