Sunday, October 12, 2014

Steps To Happiness In Marriage - 1949 Advice From LA County To Newlyweds

I found this while sorting things in my mom's garage trying to make more room and less clutter. 

I sort of expected this to be really bizarre and sexist.  It was put together by a panel of 21 clergymen, 13 of whom have Dr. before their names, a couple of Rt. Rev's, a Most Rev, and a VeryRev. Msgr, plus two Rabbis.  All the names are male.  Though there are three with just initials.  I don't think there were many (or any) women clergy back then.   Imagine living in a world where no one thinks there's anything wrong with 21 men writing advice for a partnership of a man and a woman to be distributed by Los Angeles County.  And, reflecting that the establishment seems to have seen nothing wrong in males writing this, women are presumed to be in charge of the household.

  There's a section "Making a Beautiful Home" that is aimed at the women:
"...the wise bride will look for the chance to express, for the first time perhaps, her personality in the home.  This will not be an adventure to be experienced but once.  On the contrary, daily, by her flower and furniture arrangement, by her selection of books and magazines, by the change of colors in table covers, napkins and various bits of china, by artistic draperies and lamp shades, and by her personal neatness, the wife, will express her personality."

The other parts are much more egalitarian; the basic theme is togetherness.   It tends to stay general, though here and there - as in the budget section - there's actual practical advice.

The Table of Contents includes:
  • Steps to Happiness in Marriage
  • Off to a Good Start
  • The Honeymoon
  • How Love Grows
  • The Fifty-Fifty Spirit
  • Making a Beautiful Home
  • Making Sense Out of the Family Dollar
  • Important Legal Knowledge
  • Preparing for Children
  • The Family
  • Why We Have Been Happy in Marriage
  • Maturity or Childishness in the Home
  • Daily Work and Family Happiness
  • How to Meet the Usual Causes of Friction
  • Our In-Laws
  • Living Together in God's Universe

Some other excerpts from this eleven paged pamphlet:
The Honeymoon
It is better that a honeymoon should start in the early afternoon so that the pace of the first night may be reached by dinner time.  The place should be preferably within easy driving distance.  It is not well to spend the first night on the train.  No disturbing pranks should molest the couple after their journey."

How Love Grows
. . . The marriage experience does nothing to the bride and groom which eliminates the need for all the lovely expressions of concern and appreciation which were such a joy during courtship.  If married life is made a perpetually extended honeymoon in the sense that the little an big courtesies and marks of attention are continued day by day, then the love which made the days efore the wedding such an unceasing delight will grow in beauty and strength.

Making Sense Out Of the Family Dollar
". . . A budget is a tentative family agreement upon a plan by which we try to balane expenditure with income.  Budgets never succeed 100 per cent.  Each month they may need revision in the light of new needs.  budget books may be obtained at your bank or your book store, where you may also received counsel on its use.  In the budget there should be items for Food, Clothing, Shelter, Transportation, Dental and Medical care, Education, Recreation, Gifts, Insurance, and Savings."
Nothing for cable or internet.  Most people didn't have televisions in 1949 and radio, once you bought the set, was free.  I guess telephones and other utilities were cheap enough not to get a category. 

Important Legal Knowledge
"Through ignorance of the laws relating to communal or family property, many distressing cases arise.  Be sure that you hae arranged your property affaris, both through informal agreements and through the making of wills, so that in case of sudden death difficulties may not arise.
In one case a wife deserted without a divorce.  The husband worked and saved for his three children.  When he died without a will, the undivorced widow had a legal claim to the entire estate."
 Oops.  It would be interesting to have listened in to the conversation that decided to use that example of poor planning.  I wonder how many examples of abandoned husbands raising the kids there were back then compared to abandoned wives.

Preparing for Children
"Mutuality is the secret of happiness in marriage.  In the previous pages we have tried to picture the importance of mutual interests in work, recreation, money matters, homemaking friendship, and many of the small affairs of married life.  Mutuality in the se relationship is also most important.  This intimate aspect of married life, if always an expression of tender love, helps to keep alive and enrich the bond of afection.  With the coming of children, the character of husband and wife shold grow stronger, and the home should become more beautiful.  Marriage without children is a picture with only the two dimensions of length and width.  Children add the depth necessary for beauty, balance, and richness of experience."

While most of this is advice that they hope will lead to a happy home, they also, acknowledge marriage doesn't always (usually?) work that way.

Maturity or Childishness in the Home
The California state law sets certain requirements as to the age at which people are old enough to marry.  It is unfortunate that more attention is not paid to the fact that people must be grown up emotionally as well as chronologically, if they are to succeed in marriage.  Temper tantrums, sulking, moodiness, and other childish actions occur much more freqently between married people than they would care to admit.  Too often we go through the day building up reentment againt an employer or neighbor, and the explode emotionally at home in the evening.  this is a sure road to marital unhappiness and a path to discord and the divorce courts.  Emotions are the driving forces of life, but, if they are out of adjustment, the more we turn on the power, the greater the harm that can be done. . ."
 I can't imagine that a county today could pull together a group of major clergy in their community to write up as sober a guide to marriage.  Issues about the proper roles of the spouses would make it much more difficult.  These men, in the 1940s, saw the woman's role in the home.  This was after World War II when many women went into the workforce to support the war effort.  But when the men returned, women lost their jobs to them.  But many women didn't have a choice about working -  their incomes were critical to the family budget.  Yet, much of the advice in this book is surprisingly modern in their emphasis on mutuality, on both partners working together. 

Today's discussions of marriage seem much more influenced by the religious right's literal interpretation of the bible.  Their descriptions of marriage drip with biblical references as in this description from Focus on the Family's Divine Order of Marriage:
For what reason is man to marry a wife? Because woman was originally a constituent part of man, she must return to become one with him again, so that the full expression and design of God's image in human beings can be revealed.
 For those wondering what the last section of this pamphlet - Living Together in God's Universe - covers,  it's basically about togetherness and mutual interests.  There's a story about a couple walking hand in hand along a trickling rivulet that grows and grows until
"Presently, however, the brook because a stream that widens and deepns until the couple can no longer make each other understand."
The only mention of God, besides the heading, is in a long list of things families should do together.
"Successful marriages are those in which the husband and wife plan together, work together, play together, suffer together, sacrifice together, succeed together, raise their children together and worship God together."
Even though clergymen wrote it, it's pretty light on religion.  But I suspect that because clergyman advise people during crises, they learn a great deal more about marriage than most people.  And if they are wise, intelligent, and caring,  they can write a decent brief guide to marriage.  But it still seems, from a 2014 perspective, incredible that they could think that a panel of all men should do this.  

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