Marriage Advice from the 1950s that is Definitely Outdated

A regular Indian girl shared this link.

Marriage Advice from the 1950s that is Definitely Not Outdated

Was this advice ever helpful – if yes, then who did it help?

Did this advice empower those who it was given to (or enforced upon)? Or did it give some other people the power to control the lives and choices of those who were expected to follow this advice?

Did it in anyway ensure they were treated like equal humans, with basic human rights and dignities?

Was this advice practical, fair and logical?

Does such advice create the impression that marriage is something that happens to women alone?

Advice #1: Family is your topmost priority

In the 50s, family was the most important part of a person’s life. Couples, especially women, were taught to prioritise family over career. This was perhaps one aspect that kept families together.

IHM:  In the 50s and even today, our ‘family values’ ensure that many women do not have much choice in what is their top most priority.

Perhaps, the advice that the society (and not just the women) need is to marry only if they want to marry, and only those who they want to marry, only when they want to marry and to remain married only as long as it makes them happy.

If you consider the present scenario, where professional and personal desires and achievements have taken a higher priority, broken marriages have also become rampant.

IHM: ‘Broken marriages’ should be seen as an indication that those involved had the freedom, courage and opportunity to make new beginnings.

Perhaps the society needs to be advised that the purpose of human life is not to save Institutions, the purpose of Institutions (including the Institution of Marriage) is help humans live better lives. 

Advice #2: You are married to the family, and not just to your spouse

… the younger generation was trained to accept, love and respect every member of the spouse’s family. Women considered it as their foremost duty to be a good wife, a good daughter-in-law, good sister-in-law and a good mother. Men in turn reciprocated and treated the wife’s family as their own.

IHM: If daughters were seen as children instead of future daughters in law, future wives and future mothers, the society would not see raising them as a challenge.  

If there is one advice Indian society needs today, it is to see and to raise their children as as their own children, not as paraya dhan and budhape ka sahara. This alone can help ‘save the girl child’.

So long as we  look at women as saviours of Institutions, culture, family name, family honor, or as future mothers of male heirs, future daughters in law – Indian would continue to pray, fast, sex select, kill, wish and bless (etc) for male children. 

Advice #3: Marriage is for life

… instead of throwing around the D-word (divorce!), think that marriage is for keeps! Marriage is a “forever bond”, and that is how it should be approached.

IHM: The society and ‘log’ should be aware that sometimes relationships don’t work and that is not a failure or end of happiness for those involved. 

Also, expecting women to stay married when they are unhappy, just to ‘save the marriage’ or to create a good impression on other people (log) was never a good advice. 

Nobody should stay married because they dread the D-word – if two people stay married it should be because that’s what they both want to do

Advice #4: Tolerance and acceptance are the keys to a successful marriage

One of the most profound advices that people in the 50s received was to set aside their egos and personal prejudices, and develop the virtues of tolerance and acceptance. When parents chose partner for their child, they always gave the highest priority to these values, so that the new member could easily adjust to not just their spouse, but the family as well.

IHM: Tolerance and acceptance can make it easier to deal with most situations, relationships or just life in general – specially when we have no way to change the said situations.

But.

In the past many women did not have the option to refuse to ‘tolerate’ and they had to ‘accept’ whatever ‘fate’ (or family elders, community, in laws, Patriarchy etc) decided for them.

Not sure if that was an advice or a lack of options. 

And finally:

Look around at your grandparent’s generation, their love and respect for one another; certainly not everything that happened in the days of yore is outdated!

IHM: This is romanticisation. The fact is many grand parents feel their children (frequently sons) are the only ‘glue in their relationships’. 

The equality between the husband and wife is also more pronounced now. But, the rate of divorces in India is also on a rise today, mainly because of incompatibility and ego issues between the spouses. Perhaps, the younger generation should take a leaf out of yore; and learn to accept, love and respect each other like the people in the 50s did.

IHM: And ‘incompatibility’ is not a good reason for divorce? 

What do you think does ‘ego issues’ mean here? Whose ‘ego’? 

36 thoughts on “Marriage Advice from the 1950s that is Definitely Outdated

  1. I get so irked by these Miss Goody Two Shoes kind of sweeping advices that extols the virtue of ‘good old times’ when families were not broken up. At what cost? I know of several women who suffered silently to keep the family ‘together’ at the cost of their mental and physical health. Many women stayed behind exactly because in their struggle to keep everyone afloat, they were not able to focus on their careers or anything personal. Yes, they were scared the society would ostracize them, that their maternal / paternal families would not support them if they decided to get out.
    Today’s women have a choice, many of them are aware they do not need someone’s conduct certificate to live a life they have chosen. The best part is the support groups many of us have developed that serves as a shoulder to cry on ans steps to climb on.
    Yes, compromise, adjustment, ignoring your ego, all that is required to have a happy married life. To what extent is the question.

    Liked by 1 person

    • //Yes, compromise, adjustment, ignoring your ego, all that is required to have a happy married life. To what extent is the question.//

      Very good point.

      Also, we have to consider how reciprocally this works in real life. Is it just the woman doing it?

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  2. Rephrasing the ‘advice’ for what it actually stands for:
    Advice #1: Family is your topmost priority:
    Actually stands for “LOG are everyone’s topmost priority”. If everyone is unhappy-uncomfortable it doesn’t matter. As long as we maintain a happy face for the world and Log don’t see the problem that’s what all of us are to aim for.

    Advice #2: You are married to the family, and not just to your spouse
    You are married to only the family and not the spouse. Having no relationship with your spouse is the key to everyone’s happiness. if you and spouse bond, how the hell will ‘family’ and log benefit from it?

    Advice #3: Marriage is for life
    Marriage is an institution, we lock you in and throw the keys.

    Advice #4: Tolerance and acceptance are the keys to a successful marriage
    The keys that we threw away, they are the key to your freedom (also know as divorce) since the keys are gone and you are locked in for life, this marriage will most definitely be successful, i.e. wont end in divorce.

    What this should actually mean:
    Advice #1: Family is your topmost priority:
    Family stands for you, spouse and your children. You family – mother, father, sisters, brothers become relatives or extended family at most. Only when the needs of you family are met, then start worrying about your relatives/ extended family. In short, learn to leave and cleave.

    Advice #2: You are married to the family, and not just to your spouse
    Only comes into play if your spouse come with children from earlier relationship. Leave and cleave applies to ex-spouse and others, children of your spouse will become part of your family with your spouse. Don’t get into relationships with a partner with children if you are going to try to break them up.

    Advice #3: Marriage is for life
    It is, its the most important relationship you will/should ever have, more important than ‘family’ and children too. Invest you efforts in forming a great bond with your spouse and put them above all others. Marriage will either enrich you life or ruin it. Learn to choose well and walk out when you see it fit

    Advice #4: Tolerance and acceptance are the keys to a successful marriage
    ‘Learn to choose well and walk out when you see it fit’ doesn’t mean spouse won’t agree with everything I say, so we are not compatible. Tolerance is understanding that your partner is having a difficult time and helping them through, Acceptance is that something are beyond your control and not meant to be. Having said this, understand that your spouse is a different person not a extension of you. They will have different ideas, look at it as an opportunity to have a different point of view. Learn to discuss and debate and have a different POV without fighting, it will help you in all relationships personal and professional

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  3. This is such BS advice.

    Whose ego? The wife’s ego of course. She’s clearly not supposed to have any self esteem or confidence to stand up for herself during an argument.

    This kind of ‘advice’ reminds me of this old man who was conducting an Art of Living ‘course’ that I signed up for. The man was old, religious. clearly sexist and racist and the stuff he was saying that ‘women’ (especially wives) should do (it so happened that the rest of the ‘students’ there were women) was BS.

    I had a stupid bet with my husband for 5000 bucks before starting the course–he said I’d quit after the first day, I said I could stick it out thinking the the Art of Living foundation wasn’t affiliated with religion and ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ Ugh. Lesson learnt–ask if ‘courses’ are headed by obsolete, religious, sexist, racist old men before paying for them.

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    • This Art of Living person feminds me of a yoga teacher I had last year.He was extolling the virtues of hand grinding chutneys.He beleived women should stop using mixers and grinders to make chutneys for meals.According to him the blades killed nutrients.Hand grinding,using stones,ensured nutritious food plus it ‘tastes better too’.
      His class had 20+ students, all of them women.
      It was irritating to see most of the women nodding at his advice.

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      • That’s so ridiculous!

        The worst part about my class was that there was a woman who was clearly having problems with her marriage and she’d come there to be happier. He’s giving her advice like ‘lose your ego’ ‘accept all flaws in your husband’ etc, etc. This woman was clearly from a traditional background–her husband probably has far more power than she does in their relationship. It was such awful, ignorant advice to give to such a person.

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        • That’s because such advice is always targeted at women. It may appear to be gender-neutral but it often isn’t.
          Technically, every spiritual organisation “claims” that their life advice is gender-neutral.

          However, I have yet to see a man who has attended such courses and is transformed by the experience enough that he becomes humbler, more sensitive and more giving.

          Somehow, such transformations only happen in women. Most men attend spiritual courses and come out with their “egos” intact.

          I genuinely think that women are more open to honest spiritual self-examination than men are.

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      • To Aarthi – If hand grinding of chutneys tastes better, then it can made even by ‘men’s hands’. After all, who can compete with our superpower strength of the male!! Btb, it will save the money they are paying for their gym too…double benefit you see !!

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    • Oh tell me about courses.

      I was in this Time Management session sponsored by my company. This guy, sounding accomplished and interesting in his presentation otherwise, makes one comment that ruins the whole session for me.

      “How many of you are married?”

      WTF? What has marital status got to do with Time Management. I mentally prepare myself for some Chetan Bhagat-ish sermon on how women must make chapatis on one hob and balance a video conference screen on another (switched off of course).

      Nevertheless, I raise my hand, amused and curious as to what he has to say next.

      “Wow. Good to see that. How many of you have kids?”

      I almost see where this is getting. Not the baby-making saga again! I swiftly put my hand down.

      “You know what time management is all about goal setting. Set goals in life. Get married. Have three or more kids.”

      I was eagerly awaiting some joke or sarcastic punch line. Imagine my shock when he says…

      “No I am serious. Get married. Have three or more kids. Kids are investment. What do you earn/live for? Family… of course…”

      I lasted through 2 hours of this horror – as he regales us with his 1960s marriage-followed-by-two-quick-kids ‘success’ story. (Apparently, his wife is in a prominent position in a reputed company. I almost wanted to ask him what his wife’s take is on the whole thing.)

      “You should have minimum three children… I will tell you why…”

      Yes, so the mom is forced to stay home while you manage both your time and career.

      “Marriage and kids teach you about the value of investments, earning and time. They become motivators in your life. When you are pressured to earn not for yourself but for your wife and kids, you will push yourself very hard and ultimately land up in high positions…”

      I realized it was pointless to argue. This was too retarded for argument.

      Some ‘wife jokes’ were also thrown in – how wife’s family is “high priority” – just as an example for us to learn to prioritize.

      (Another point I just do not understand. I can still understand ‘shopping’, ‘dumb blonde’ or ‘overspending’ jokes – they have a base in long held sexist beliefs about women. Women dominating a marriage is the opposite of misogyny and even sexists know this is a lie.)

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  4. If you look at the advice per se, without any correlated issues, the points are indeed meaningful. Tolerance, mutual understanding, giving each other a chance, putting aside each others’ egos, marrying the families…if applied reciprocally, this is not bad advice for any couple.

    The problem is with the ‘IF’. This is just like communism – ideal, but only for an ideal society. It is definitely not suitable for a country which is still coping with basic equality issues.

    Tolerance could be a good thing, if couples learn to accept and respect each others’ differences without affecting the love between them. This ‘tolerance’ is not meant to be tolerance of abuse, but of each others’ differences of opinions, habits and ideologies. And, the person exercising these rights should also have the thoughtfulness as to how much his/her personal quirks will affect the other person’s life.

    In India, however, only the woman is expected to tolerate. This tolerance is tolerance of abuse. And she doesn’t get reciprocal rights. Nor are the other members thoughtful of their personal quirks affecting the woman’s life.

    As regards mutual understanding, well, I have seen marriages in my parent and grandparent generation. I have hardly ever seen ‘understanding’ of any sort in any of these marriages. Yeah, there is ‘tolerance’, sometimes even mutual. But understanding… no.

    You see, men and women in the parent generation have never ever learnt to look at each other like peers or friends. The women silently hate the men. The men silently resent the women. In a marriage, they just have a good agreement of sorts. Women, for example, do not really ‘understand’ or even care about what is going on with the man’s career or emotions. Men never bother, care or understand the woman’s career, interests, or interpersonal relationships. They have just learnt to slip into a comfortable mutualism at best.

    My own parents do not have an ‘understanding’. Yeah they are tolerant and respect each others’ wishes and love each other a lot. But mom does not ‘understand’ my dad – he is a very complex person. And my mom is also very less ‘understood’ by dad. He just knows she does certain things, and accepts it, but doesn’t know why. Same way for her.
    As for giving each other a chance, how many give the woman a chance? And if she is, she is ‘given a chance’ for things that weren’t really her ‘fault’ in the first place.

    Also, sometimes, second chances do not matter. If someone did something once, maybe that’s what they want to do. A second chance at redemption or change is just a way to force them not to do what they want to. Probably some people need it. But in many cases, these ‘second chances’ only result in resentment. Often, the people awarding a ‘second chance’ never really have forgiven or forgotten or moved on at all.

    Putting aside egos is also very similar. Again, there is no reciprocal relationship between men and women. Also, there is a very fine line between ego and self-respect. This threshold and situation-specific differences change from person to person. For instance, I am not the kind who makes lengthy heartfelt apologies. I just say it and get on with it and if something is wrong, I believe in working on it. My husband, however, is the total opposite. He believes mushy lengthy almost cinematic apologies and isn’t much of a ‘worker’. So it might look very differently to different people. I could be seen as an egoist – which I am not.

    Marrying the families, however, is quite overrated. Yes, you should respect your spouse’s family, but not unlike you respect anyone else – your friends or your own family. Also, new families have to understand that relationships do not form overnight. It is nice to say “his/her parents are my parents”. But you did not bond with your own parents overnight. It happened over a period of time when you eventually ended up with considerably more good memories than bad memories. Bonding with anyone else works the same way. You cannot be forced to ‘bond’ with someone just because they happen to be your spouse’s family. It takes time and it differs from individual to individual even in the same family.

    For instance, I do not get on well with my FIL. He knows that. So we maintain a comfortable distance now. There are times we have been left alone in the same room for hours. We do not speak a word to each other unless very important. That is not to say he will abandon me when I am running a fever or vice versa. We just hate each other in peace.

    Maybe it’s just me this way – I am the kind who needs a lot and lot of emotional security and reassurance before I bond that well with anyone. Just my 2 cents on this!

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    • I agree! I like my in-laws just fine but calling them ‘mummy’ and ‘papa’ sticks in my throat even after three years of marriage. I keep planning to shift to ‘aunty’ and ‘uncle’ but this will be seen as a sign of aggression.

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  5. This is such hogwash..All of this ‘accept, love and respect each other like the people in the 50s’ mainly was possible because of the woman accepting the nonsensical oppression that was cast onto her. Even today inlaws are relying on the same brainwashing that girls mostly receive from their own parents so that they can continue the cycle of oppression. If they back off, it is not because of any love and respect in most cases, but because the educated girl is not brainwashed and knows her rights and they realize they cannot get to her

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  6. The highlight of the whole article is that in essence it is giving tips to both the men and women. i.e. when the point ends, it says “tolerance is a virtue, et al.” But invariably, it starts with “In the 50s, the women used to be so and so and hence the marriages & romance survived”. All of the points are trying to hide behind the banner of “both should do” but because it starts with “in the 50s, women used to do this and that”, the real gist of the article is clear. And that is rubbish. Just the fact that it is written by a woman boils me more.

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  7. My problem with the article is that it seems to be aimed at women. Had it been advice for BOTH men and women ALIKE, I’d actually agree with some of their points. I do think marriages are for keeps, but I also think that BOTH partners decide whether keeping it is worth their while. I do think being compassionate is the key, but only when BOTH partners are doing it.
    Tolerance and acceptance are important, but only if BOTH partners decide how much they’re willing to tolerate and accept. It is not one person’s responsibility alone. And back in the 50s, they also used to say something to the effect of husband and wife being “ek cycle ke do pahiye”. They’re both equally important.

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    • Hey! Thats true haan! Ek cycle ke do pahiye used to be said. But today, they don’t because the women have started understanding and talking about the second pahiya being equally important. Same is with ardhangani. Stopped using or grossly mis-interpreted altogether. So chuck these sayings below the carpet!

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  8. A marriage first of all needs trust, love , passion and friendship , If those things exist on both sides then both will put the other person on top of their list, try to not let their ego interfere and tolerate a lot of faults ( oh yes !!!) and generally have a happy marriage.

    I’m strange but i dont see any other way i could tolerate and be happy with a person without the above traits present.

    My husband can make a mighty mess, I have OCD not to mention a compulsive cleaner. yet i dont mind living with him, the fun we have , the walks the love and everything else makes me overlook a wet towel on the bed and coffe cups and spoons everywhere !!!- albeit with me bringing the roof down.
    He in turn does his share of cooking breakfast and packing lunch and comes home sometimes to no dinner because i hate to cook , and somedays i dont. we adjust , sure he would take on cooking but i think i’m the nutrition guru and the one capable of authentic cuisine and feeding the kids.. anyway we tolerate each others faults because we both have th efreedom to walk away but dont want too, have the space to do our thing and basically we treat each other as adults.
    not kids. I’m not his parent and he’s not 5 for me to keep track of his food and clothes and hand serve everything to him . Likewise he is not my parents to and Im not 5 for him to control my finances, my friends and my life.

    we do what is necessary to keep a healthy well balanced family thats it.
    this whole advise is BS . a load of nonsense.

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  9. Marriage is for life!! A way of living which can either provide you with lifetime of blessing or lifetime of pain. But it is ridiculous to expect or want a person to expect to stay in an unhappy marriage

    And more ridiculous is the expectation from this particular relationship. There are blood relations which fail all the time.. Sons don’t talk to father, children give up on their parents or vice versa. Brothers fight among themselves to death… Infact if you look at our two epics, they are full of failed blood relations. Yet marriage should be for life and should have 100% success rate. What a Expectation

    If somebody comes and tell me they believe all marriages should work, i laugh and laugh, that someone can believe that any human relation will not have failures

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  10. 1.Family is your topmost priority-
    It is..isn’t it…I mean if you choose to marry and produce children, you better mean business…it doesn’t mean you cannot work, it just means that your family comes first.When a situation comes, you have to be there for them…
    2.You marry the whole family, not just your spouse
    True again.The nature of your spouse’s immediate family affects your marriage.In India, most of the time, a person is very close to his/her family.So when you marry you have to accept that that person is a part of his/her family and inviting him/her to your life will mean having his/her family as a part of your life.It’s true for both girls/guys.

    3. Marriage is for a life time.
    Bull sh*t.If it becomes unhealthy and unbearable, sticking together doesn’t make any sense.
    4.Acceptance and tolerance is the key to successful marriage.
    To an extend yes.They are very much needed.How can two individuals share a great many aspects of their life without accepting each others flaws and tolerating a few irritating traits. And I thing marriage is like an adaptation, a few traits in you change after marriage to match your spouse’s and viceversa! This doesn’t mean always sacrificing or putting up with every sh*t.There is a place where the line has to be drawn….

    That is my take on these points, they are not all bad

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      • I adont agree with the you marry the family. AT ALL.
        I marry one individual. thats all, I choose to love him, trust him, and live with him but not every family member he loves.
        If i like them then great but considering how diverse we all are, it could be quite possible that i dont get along with someone he loves a lot. so what. it bears no bearing on my relationship with him.
        its ok with trying to be polite and trying to get along but i don’t agree with the marry a whole family deal. and likewise just because we dont like some part of the others family there is not need to break up or dicorce, it’s simply not a factor in the marriage.

        or atleast thats how i feel.

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        • one doesn’t have to love his/her spouse’s family…but an individual is bound to support and love his family..as far as he/she is concerned his/her family and his/her spouse is of equal importance..I love my aprents and my sister as much as I love my husband and my kid.If my husband tries to alienate me from them, I’l never comply and ours will never be a happy marriage…so marrying me implies accepting that my family will always be a part of my life…

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        • Why don’t we say that you don’t have to marry in order to like or love someone? Why don’t we promote men and women dating and mating? We already have more than a billion people in India, there is no need for all of us to get married and add to that number!

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        • I agree. However, don’t you think that ConfusedHumanity also has a point? When you marry a person, aren’t you also implicitly inviting the person’s family into your life?

          The extended family does affect Indian marriages, mostly for the worse.

          It’s practically not possible to have a peaceful marriage if one partner’s family is a source of conflict and disagreement.

          If for instance, a woman’s in-laws are a source of strife for her, will it not affect the question of her marriage?

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    • Please read the article – or atleast the first few paragraphs.
      The advice you are asking for is there in IHM’s replies in italics, especially in her reply to “Advice #1”

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      • what is the traditional role? does it say anywhere in our marriage rituals that we marry everyone and support just the bridegrooms parents??
        We make our own traditions somethng that causes no harm or hurt to anyone.
        I can marry and have kids and maintaina cordial relationship with my in-laws, i dont have to love them like i do my husband. i dont think that is possible. i dont think they can love me like they do their child either.

        and what is traditional, the lady sacrificing her happiness or even some happiness so his extended family is happier. does a man really want his spouse to be less happy ? why?

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  11. “So long as we look at women as saviours of Institutions, culture, family name, family honor, or as future mothers of male heirs, future daughters in law – Indian would continue to pray, fast, sex select, kill, wish and bless (etc) for male children.”

    Selective abortion, let’s use the proper word, is done all over Asia. For some reason western media only fuss about India, not China or other countries. Now in China, it seems part of the problem is the rules for access to cultivable land, girls getting less land than boys. I don’t know about India, but I have noticed one thing, although apparently the Hindu orthodox view is that abortion is wrong, some people seem to think abortion is just a trivial matter. A soul that is not born will not suffer and go direct to next life, so it’s like a karmic bonus. Life is worthless.

    Obviously to someone raised in a christian culture, that is a concept difficult to accept.
    Yet, in the USA, and Europe, the right for abortion is a feminist battle.

    Does it make any sense to think as “we” ? Does looking at women help them in anyyway ?

    You discuss what is the meaning of ego. Is there any hope of any change anywhere in the world if the responsability is not shifted from “we” and “they” to “I” ? I will not let anyone kill my child. I will not let anyone beat me into submission, I will think for myself… I will not let anyone hurt my wife, mother, sister…

    Is the problem of massive abortion in India linked to eastern philosophies’ contempt for “ego” ?
    Or, is distance from ego’s mindless talks a help in a relationships, a help to become more resistant to social norms and lead a more authentic existence ?

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  12. HAHAHA! I am not surprised that nothing has changed in 60+ years….. #thisisindia LOL.
    I really have a problem with the word “tolerate” and “tolerance”. In marriage, you should not “tolerate” your spouse or his behaviour. There is nothing wrong with setting up boundaries in the marriage so that you don’t have to “tolerate” things like disrespect and control.
    Yes, family is a priority, but I think – especially for women – the SELF needs to be the top priority.

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  13. Pingback: We need to teach our daughters to know the difference between… | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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