75th Anniversary


How to Keep Your Husband

July 11th, 2011

A Classic Catholic Digest article from 1946

Photo from Photos.com


Times do change.


Just a few weeks ago Kate Oates, a Catholic Digest editor in her 20s, showed me an early 1960s TV coffee commercial she had found on Youtube. It was rather shocking to her. It tells of a time in America — or at least in the mind of the advertiser — when the husband was the king of his castle and his wife found true happiness in making his home a lovely and carefree place where he could retreat from his trials in the world, and where nothing would disturb either his male ego or his sense of entitlement.


In the commercial a dour young husband sits eating his breakfast and reading the paper while his young smiling wife tries to pour him a second cup of coffee. He not only refuses it, but uses the moment to complain bitterly and scornfully about how rotten her coffee is and to ask why can’t she make good coffee like the “girls at the office.” He storms out of the kitchen as his bride dissolves into tears.


In the next scene the poor young wife is telling her best friend how she can’t make good coffee like those girls at the office, and while she never actually expresses her fear, it’s clear she thinks her marriage is in deep trouble. Yes, over coffee. Rather than advising her to pour it over her husband’s head and tell him to make his own from now on — as Kate would have counseled her today — her friend in the commercial tells her that her coffee is rotten. But if she switches to this great brand, all will be better.


And it is. Husband raves about the new coffee. Wife smiles. The marriage is saved. 


Did commercials like that reflect real life in their time?


The same question might be asked of this Classic Catholic Digest article and the advice it gives to new brides: Don’t be a nag; don’t “whine him around your little finger”; flatter your husband at every turn; always laugh at his jokes, even when they are terrible; if you can’t afford two newspapers, always read it before he gets home and then carefully refold it; and never greet him at the door with a greasy pan unless you’re about to bake a cake in it.


Some of the advice given in this article is common sense and reflects the generous love one spouse should always show to the other (and it should go both ways). Some of the advice, from a 2011 perspective, seems a bit insulting to both wives and husbands. And some seems just a bit silly. In any case, perhaps this article should have been partnered with another one called “How to keep your wife.”


It was a different time, of course, a time before a lot of married women worked outside the home, a time when our culture fostered the image of the happy homemaker not only because that seemed the only way to domestic bliss, but because the happy home she created was the best bulwark against America’s enemies, especially godless Communism.


Today, many women whose families can find a way to afford it still choose to be homemakers and stay-at-home moms — a noble calling to be sure. But I think they’d still be uncomfortable with some of the advice offered here, and would be downright bewildered to be told: “So long as he brings home the frying chicken, don’t worry about his going out with another.”  If any reader today understands that line, please write in and explain it to me.


So here, from August 1946, is “How to Keep Your Husband.”


And I’d love to hear what you think.


Click here to read this classic article