According to Census figures, in 1980 (around the time many of our parents were tying the knot) the median age for married people in the U.S. was 24.7 for men and 22.0 for women. Three decades later, we’re older when we take the plunge. Men, on average, are 28.4-years-old and women are 26.5.
But cohabitation is on the rise. As of 2005, 4.85 million unmarried couples were living together in the United States, and as of 2002, about half of all women ages 15 to 44 had lived unmarried with a partner at some time. (We’ve tackled cohabitation in several posts — most recently here.)
I’m all for cohabitation. I like to think of it as testing strength of a long-term relationship, kind of a necessity before engagement. A pre-marriage boot camp if you will. I really couldn’t imagine not living with a husband-to-be before walking down the aisle. If you can’t get along when you have to share a small apartment one bathroom, then — so I’ve heard — God help you later on.
Housekeeping Monthly, which is about how often my apartment gets a good cleaning, published the now somewhat laughable “Good Wife’s Guide” in May of 1955. Another “Good Wife’s Guide” was published in France in the late 1300s, and it looks like not much changed between 1393 and 1955. Excerpts from the 1955 article (which surprisingly has its own Facebook page) included those listed on the jump (with my comments about being “The Good, er Modern Girlfriend” in parenthesis beside Housekeeping Monthly’s tips).
- Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have be thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home. (Most working women are hungry when they get home, too. Split the dinner duties. If you get home first, you cook. He can clean up afterward. Or vice versa.)
- Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. (I have nothing against looking nice for my significant other, I’m really sure he doesn’t want to see me looking like crap daily. But I’m not redoing my hair, applying another coat of makeup, etc. so he can see me looking “fresh” when he walks in the door. Plus he’s seen me in the morning and when I’m sick, so at 6 p.m. I’m probably already looking way better than my worst. How did women in the 50s have time for this? Weren’t they busy preparing dinner?)
- Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dustcloth over the tables. (If my apartment was cleaned and dusted daily, the someone close to me would probably make me see a doctor — that is if he noticed the Pledge-perfect end tables. Cleanliness is great and necessary, but a daily dusting seems kind of ridiculous.)
- Be happy to see him. (This one I agree with)
- Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours. (What?! Listening is key to a good relationship, but there is no reason for it to be one-sided.)
- Don’t greet him with complaints and problems. (I also agree with this, but the same goes for the guy. It’s no fun to start off a conversation as Debbie (or Dan?) Downer.)
- Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice. (I’d rather not. How about relinquishing the remote so he can watch Sports Center for a few minutes instead of whatever bad reality TV I’m watching. Reruns of “Americas Next Top Model” can wait — and we both like sports, so it’s win-win. And, if I don’t know what’s going on, he can explain it. After, we can go back to “Top Model” and I can explain why Tyra Banks acts like a lunatic in every episode.)
- A good wife always knows her place. (A good girlfriend (wife-in-training?) does, too. And it’s on equal-footing as her boyfriend. My grandparents were married in the early 1950s, and I really can’t see my grandmother putting up with this nonsense either!)
Oh – thank God — how times have changed (But maybe not enough. Another outdated guide for the unmarried set is “The Rules.” I have broken several, you probably have, too. But they might be entertaining to look at). What do you think about old — and new — advice for living with a husband/boyfriend? Do you have any tips to share?