Back in 1995, Steve (husband) and I were strolling down High Street, Prahran (Melbourne) when we came across a book stall on the footpath out front of a bookstore. Now, as many of you would know, you can often find some real gems on these bargain tables (I'm saying this to save face when I find my own books on one) as was the case in 1995. I picked up a rather antique-looking book titled, The Marriage Book and for $5 thought it would be an important addition to my collection and perhaps it would even guide me through the vagaries of married life.
It didn't have a publication date but I made some inquiries of a book historian and antique bookseller and was able to establish a release date sometime in the early 1950s.
Out of curiosity, rather than a desire to become a better wife, I flicked through the pages to instantly find valuable insights which also confirmed what I've been doing wrong these past 28 years. I'd like to share a few of these with you so they can similarly improve your existence.
Chapter 1, Happiness in Marriage: "Somewhere, when the promise of marriage ends in disappointment, there has been blundering." You can't argue with that. And, "Your husband does not need to hear about the difficulties of your day when he returns home from the office. Be showered and groomed and ready to greet him with a smile." This is definitely one I have failed to practice.
In the Chapter, The Problems of the Growing Child in the paragraph, Good Manners I learned that: "When a small son or daughter takes the opportunity on a rather important social occasion to throw his manners to the winds and to behave like a little hooligan, it is only natural for his mother to feel somewhat humiliated." This is comforting I'm sure for mothers throughout the ages.
There's more important advice on children in the section, Mud Pies: "It is natural when formal visitors call, to feel a little ruffled if a muddy, dishevelled object bursts into the drawing room looking like nothing on earth. Perhaps we should prefer not to listen to any attempts to uphold the rights of mud but children revel in it. They are intensely happy stubbing their toes in it, splashing it around and handling it. Mud is nature's free gift to our children for instilling confidence." I had no idea mud could do this.
In the Chapter, Getting to Know Ourselves, it seems, "Men usually have a far better idea of their sex organs than women of theirs." I'm pretty sure I know where they're going with this.
If you've read my novel, RAIN, you might recall that I refer to The Marriage Book in Chapter 10 (1967) and I assure you that I referenced exactly the advice offered in the book. Michael and Helena have just moved into their new home in Orchard Road (yes, named after the famous street in Singapore) and Helena reverts to The Marriage Book to assist with her argument that Michael should not smoke in the house:
"An additional issue arose with regard to cigarettes, which drew nicotine into Michael’s lungs and precious sums out of the domestic purse. They were responsible for the stained tongue and groove walls at Park Lane, which were now tinted orange with no evidence of the military green beneath. To protect the fibro and furniture at Orchard Road from similar mistreatment, Helena had outlawed smoking in the house. In support of her argument she had reverted to The Marriage Book, which had merely reported that although for grown-ups smoking had undoubted advantages, there was an almost unanimous medical opinion against smoking for children. There was no mention of any alleged pernicious effect on chattels, and Michael retorted that he had no plans to share his Marlboros with William, and so the case closed in his favour. It was not however, a closing of all arguments related to money, which would settle on the marriage like nicotine on timber."
So, if you're looking for guidance on any number of important subjects including common questions of married life, well-kept floors, how to explain to a child 'where did I come from' using an egg and a nest, the definitive list of items you must have in your kitchen, dishes for invalids (husbands), dressmaking precautions (don't do it) or household management and accounts (remember to pay the fish monger on time), or any other meaningful topic, please do not hesitate to ask and I will be happy to 'advise' you directly from The Marriage Book.