Practical Advice to a Newly-Married Couple

[This is taken from George Routledge's Manual of Etiquette.  Mr. Routledge lived between 1812 and 1888, but we trust his advice, though perhaps now lacking in political correctness, has a certain timelessness attached to it.  - Ed.]


Our advice to the husband will be brief. Let him have no concealments from his wife, but remember that their interests are mutual; that, as she must suffer the pains of every loss, as well as share the advantages of every success, in his career in life, she has therefore a right to know the risks she may be made to undergo. We do not say that it is necessary, or advisable, or even fair, to harass a wife’s mind with the details of business; but where a change of circumstances—not for the better—is anticipated or risked, let her by all means be made acquainted with the fact in good time. Many a kind husband almost breaks his young wife’s fond heart by an alteration in his manner, which she cannot but detect, but from ignorance of the cause very probably attributes to a wrong motive; while he, poor fellow, all the while out of pure tenderness, is endeavoring to conceal from her tidings—which must come out at last—of ruined hopes or failure in speculation; whereas, had she but known the danger beforehand, she would have alleviated his fears on her account, and by cheerful resignation have taken out half the sting of his disappointment. Let no man think lightly of the opinion of his wife in times of difficulty. Women have generally more acuteness of perception than men; and in moments of peril, or in circumstances that involve a crisis or turning-point in life, they have usually more resolution and greater instinctive judgment.

We recommend that every husband from the first should make his wife an allowance for ordinary household expenses—which he should pay weekly or monthly—and for the expenditure of which he should not, unless for some urgent reason, call her to account. A tolerably sure guide in estimating the amount of this item, which does not include rent, taxes, servants’ wages, coals, or candles, &c., is to remember that in a small middle-class family, not exceeding four, the expense of each person for ordinary food amounts to fifteen shillings weekly; beyond that number, to ten shillings weekly for each extra person, servant or otherwise. This estimate does not, of course, provide for wine or food of a luxurious kind. The largest establishment, indeed, may be safely calculated on the same scale.

A wife should also receive a stated allowance for dress, within which limit she ought always to restrict her expenses. Any excess of expenditure under this head should be left to the considerate kindness of her husband to concede. Nothing is more contemptible than for a woman to have perpetually to ask her husband for small sums for housekeeping expenses—nothing more annoying and humiliating than to have to apply to him always for money for her own private use—nothing more disgusting than to see a man “mollycoddling” about marketing, and rummaging about for cheap articles of all kinds.

Let the husband beware, when things go wrong with him in business affairs, of venting his bitter feelings of disappointment and despair in the presence of his wife and family,--feelings which, while abroad, he finds it practicable to restrain. It is as unjust as it is impolitic to indulge in such a habit.

A wife having married the man she loves above all others, must be expected in her turn to pay some court to him. Before marriage she has, doubtless, been made his idol. Every moment he could spare, and perhaps many more than he could properly so appropriate, have been devoted to her. How anxiously has he not revolved in his mind his worldly chances of making her happy! How often has he not had to reflect, before he made the proposal of marriage, whether he should be acting dishonorably towards her by incurring the risk, for the selfish motive of his own gratification, of placing her in a worse position than the one she occupied at home! And still more than this, he must have had to consider with anxiety the probability of having to provide for an increasing family, with all its concomitant expenses.

We say, then, that being married, and the honeymoon over, the husband must necessarily return to his usual occupations, which will, in all probability, engage the greater part of his thoughts, for he will now be desirous to have it in his power to procure various little indulgences for his wife’s sake which he never would have dreamed of for his own. He comes to his home weary and fatigued; his young wife has had but her pleasures to gratify, or the quiet routine of her domestic duties to attend to, while he has been toiling through the day to enable her to gratify these pleasures and to fulfill these duties. Let then, the dear, tired husband, at the close of his daily labors, be made welcome by the endearments of his loving spouse—let him be free from the care of having to satisfy the caprices of a petted wife. Let her now take her turn in paying those many little love-begotten attentions which married men look for to soothe them—let her reciprocate that devotion to herself, which, from the early hours of their love, he cherished for her, by her ever-ready endeavors to make him happy and his home attractive.

In the presence of other persons, however, married people should refrain from fulsome expressions of endearment to each other, the use of which, although a common practice, is really a mark of bad taste. It is desirable also to caution them against adopting the too prevalent vulgarism of calling each other, or indeed any person whatever, merely by the initial letter of their surname.

A married woman should always be very careful how she receives personal compliments. She should never court them, nor ever feel flattered by them, whether in her husband’s presence or not. If in his presence, they can hardly fail to be distasteful to him; if in his absence, a lady, by a dignified demeanor, may always convince an assiduous admirer that his attentions are not well received, and at once and for ever stop all familiar advances. In case of insult, a wife should immediately make her husband acquainted therewith; as the only chance of safety to a villain lies in the concealment of such things by a lady from dread of consequences to her husband. From that moment he has her at advantage, and may very likely work on deliberately to the undermining of her character. He is thus enabled to play upon her fears, and taunt her with their mutual secret and its concealment, until she may be involved, guilelessly, in a web of apparent guilt, from which she can never extricate herself without risking the happiness of her future life.

Not the least useful piece of advice—homely though it be—that we can offer to newly-married ladies, is to remind them that husbands are men, and that men must eat. We can tell them, moreover, that men attach no small importance to this very essential operation, and that a very effectual way to keep them in good-humor, as well as good condition, is for wives to study their husband’s peculiar likes and dislikes in this matter. Let the wife try, therefore, if she have not already done so, to get up a little knowledge of the art of ordering dinner, to say the least of it. This task, if she be disposed to learn it, will in time be easy enough; moreover, if in addition she should acquire some practical knowledge of cookery, she will find ample reward in the gratification it will be the means of affording her husband.

Servants are difficult subjects for a young wife to handle: she generally either spoils them by indulgence, or ruins them by finding fault unfairly. At last they either get the better of her, or she is voted too bad for them. The art lies in steady command and management of yourself as well as them. The well-known Dr. Clark, who was always well served, used to say, “It is so extremely difficult to get good servants, that we should not lightly give them up when even tolerable.  My advice is, bear a little with them, and do not be too sharp; pass by little things with gentle reprehension: now and then a little serious advice does far more good than sudden fault-finding when the offence justly occurs. If my wife had not acted in this way, we must have been continually changing, and nothing can be more disagreeable in a family, and, indeed, it is generally disgraceful.”

An observance of the few following rules will in all probability ensure a life of domestic harmony, peace, and comfort:--

To hear as little as possible whatever is to the prejudice of others; to believe nothing of the kind until you are compelled to admit the truth of it; never to take part in the circulation of evil report and idle gossip; always to moderate, as far as possible, harsh and unkind expressions reflecting upon others; always to believe that if the other side were heard, a very different account might be given of the matter.

In conclusion, we say emphatically to the newly-wedded wife, that attention to these practical hints will prolong her honeymoon throughout the whole period of wedded life, and cause her husband, as each year adds to the sum of his happiness, to bless the day when he first chose her as the nucleus round which he might consolidate the inestimable blessings of HOME.

“How fair is home, in fancy’s pictured theme,
In wedded life, in love’s romantic dream!
Thence springs each hope, there every spring returns,
Pure as the flame that upward heavenward burns;
There sits the wife, whose radiant smile is given—
The daily sun of the domestic heaven;
And when calm evening sheds a secret power,
Her looks of love imparadise the hour;
While children round, a beauteous train, appear,
Attendant stars, revolving in her sphere.”

    -- HOLLAND’S Hopes of Matrimony.


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