Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to be a Good Husband

"Don't lose sight of the fact that, once a man is married, the only sensible thing for him to do is to make best of the circumstances" - Page 7 from How to be a Good Husband


I went to my friend's house yesterday. In the loo there was this most interesting book that I found. It was entitled, "How to be a Good Husband". It is the kind of book that you could read, in its entirety, in 30 minutes. While it is very small and a short read, I found it very interesting and well written. It's not often that you read a book and every sentence is a true gem!




The book was originally written in 1934. The Amazon product description reads:

Marriage can be a series of humorous miscommunication, a power struggle, or a diplomatic nightmare. Men and women have long struggled to figure each other out—and the misunderstandings can continue well after they’ve been joined in matrimony. But long before Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, couples turned to self-help booklets such as How to Be a Good Husband andHow to Be a Good Wife, two historic advice books that are now delightfully reproduced by the Bodleian Library.





            The books, originally published in the 1930s for middle-class British couples, are filled with witty and charming aphorisms on how wives and husbands should treat each other. Some advice is unquestionably outdated—“It is a wife’s duty to look her best. If you don’t tidy yourself up, don’t be surprised if your husband begins to compare you unfavorably with the typist at the office”—but many other pieces of advice are wholly applicable today. They include such insightful sayings as: “Don’t tell your wife terminological inexactitudes, which are, in plain English, lies. A woman has wonderful intuition for spotting even minor departures from the truth”; “After all is said and done, husbands are not terribly difficult to manage”; or “Don’t squeeze the tube of toothpaste from the top instead of from the bottom. This is one of the small things of life that always irritates a careful wife.”

            Entertaining and charmingly illustrated, 
How to Be a Good Husband and How to Be a Good Wife offer enduringly useful advice for all couples, from the newly engaged to those celebrating their golden anniversary.

The Amazon comments from buyers is also interesting. One read:

Originally published in 1936, this little handbook is incredibly datedly sexist, and pretty funny because of that. Lots of advice along the lines of "Even though you make all the money, you should still show her respect" and "don't forget that washing and cooking can be difficult too." Shows how times have changed.

"Don't neglect your wife's advice on manners pertaining to your own dress. As a rule, a woman knows better than a man what suits him..."

It may be sexist and it may be funny, but much of the advice is spot on and, I think, useful in this day and age where stability is a rarity and mutual respect is a fast disappearing act (not to mention skyrocketing divorce rates). While many young people may find this book unusable, I think it has very wise platitudes that many would do well to observe.

For example: 

"Do remember that there can only be true happiness where there is self-deial. The ideal union is where each strives to yield to the reasonable wishes of the other."  - Page 41 from How to be a Good Husband

How often are we advised today, especially in western society, that the road to happiness is self-sacrifice? Not very many places, I think. This sort of attitude, while it may be considered "dated" by many westerners, seems to still be common thought in many households in Japan - in spite of all Japan's warts.

Reading this book reminds me of a buddhist priest friend of mine who told me what a truly happy marriage was and how I had finally found one myself. He said, "You and your wife are the nearly perfect couple. The nearly perfect couple stays together for a long time not because of sex or what people today consider, "love." They stay together because they are sympathetic to each others mutual suffering. They feel a bond. This is a bond that allows them to self-sacrifice for the other. That is true happiness."


Sure, How to be a Good Husband is a tiny and short book that can be read all at lunchtime... But, where in the world can you find such good advice on how to treat your wife and family correctly, without a bunch of politically correct nonsense all within 92 short pages? Not many places, I think.

There's also a companion book called, How to Be a Good Wife. I haven't read it, but think  will. Not only will it be fun and funny, it most likely has tons of gems in it too!


- Thanks to Ken Nishikawa and Ayumi Maeno, probably the happiest married couple you could ever hope to meet. And why not? They have both How to be a Good Husband and How to Be a Good Wife books in the loo! 

1 comment:

James said...

So were you in your friend's loo for 30 minutes while you read it?