4 Ways 50s Housewives Were RIGHT About Happy Marriages

How to be happily married, the old-fashioned way.

Last updated on Jun 02, 2024

Ways 1950s housewives were right about happy marriages, planning dinner Liudmila Chernetska | Canva, RDNE Stock project | Pexels

I love 50s fashion, but 1950s gender politics? Not so much. As much as we've come to evolve beyond the "old" way of being a housewife, I have to admit I found myself still thinking about it — there were actually some really great points that we seem to have forgotten about what it's really like to be a wife. Am I saying women need to transform into retro wives and harken back to the days of "the little happy homemaker?" No, but I DO think some of that retro advice can up the happiness factor in your marriage now ... if you add a modern twist to it. 


Here's the advice I love (and how to update it.)

Here are 4 ways 50s housewives were right about happy marriages:

1. Plan for dinner.

Ever wonder why they call that chunk of time before dinner the "Arsenic Hour"? Well, it's because everyone in the family is transitioning between work, school, and home and not only are you adjusting the roles you play, but you're tired, stressed, and tense from the day, as well. And it isn't just men who are hungry at the end of the day, so are you. (And if you have kids, they'll insist they're dying of starvation.)

Now let's be honest, you probably spend the whole day making decisions, and we all make poorer choices when we're "hangry." With everyone nearly frothing at the mouth, it's too easy to grab unhealthy snacks or order take-out (yet again). Planning ahead for dinner means you have one less decision to make at the end of the day, but a healthy meal is still waiting.

@nutritiouslyeasy simple weeknight recipe that you can make in 10 minutes #healthyrecipe #easydinner #healthydinner ♬ There She Goes - The La's

The best part? Planning ahead gives you the opportunity to sit down and unwind together as a family over a nice meal. Which, let's face it, benefits you as much as it does them. 

Bonus for parents of teenagers: Studies suggest that adolescents who share family meals have better psychological well-being, decreased risk of substance abuse, and maintain a healthier body weight. Post the weekly meal plan on the fridge, where everyone can see it, so that whoever gets home first can start the meal. Women aren't the only ones who cook, sister! These days, your man probably has better cooking skills than you! Lucky, girl. While you may not have the desire to prep every meal like the "little woman" of the 50s, don't go to the other extreme and NEVER make him a meal either. Food is love.

RELATED: 4 Small Behaviors That Kill Happiness In Marriage


2. How you look matters.

We know that clothes affect how others see us, but research shows that what we wear also affects our impression of ourselves! When we're in the courtship phase of relationships, we gussy up for a date. But we slack off a bit once we settle into married bliss. 

Choosing to freshen up for yourself is a way to transition from work to "home mode" and a way to channel your inner goddess. You'll feel better about yourself, and the bonus? Men are visual, so the little extra effort you put into making yourself feel attractive will radiate out to him, as well; making him feel special too. "Casual Fridays" in the workplace has somehow led to yoga pants every day for a lot of folks, but you don't follow the crowd. Wear what makes you feel great and maybe invest in some loungewear to spice up your average Tuesday evening (wink, wink).

RELATED: How Science Can Predict How Good Your Marriage Will Be

3. Clear away the clutter.

A cluttered home equals a cluttered mind. The pile of dishes in the sink, the mountain of laundry, and that menacing stack of mail are all in cahoots. Their goal? To distract your mind so you can't relax. Tidying up is as much for your own peace of mind as it is for your partner's. If you're relaxed, he'll feel more relaxed, too. Now, instead of focusing on the clutter, you can direct your energy and attention toward connecting with each other. No one says that women are the only ones who can wield a dishrag and a toilet brush — modern couples split the chores! And if cleaning is a challenge thanks to dual careers, maybe invest in a cleaning service so that no one feels anxious about a messy home.

@home_reimagined ✨3 simple Decluttering tasks you can do today for a clutter-free home! 🏡 If you want to declutter your house, do these 3 things! 1. Designated Donation Box 📦: Place an empty box in a common area like the hallway, whenever you see an item, you no longer love or, for me, feels overwhelming to maintain… drop it in there! 📦 As soon as its full, drop it off at your local donation center! 🚚 2. Closet Trash Bag 💼: Always keep a trash bag in your closet. 🗑️ Whenever you try on a piece of clothing that no longer fits, or you don’t like, drop it in there! 👚 This way you can keep up with constantly removing old items, instead of feeling like you have to go through them all at one time when its full! 👕👖👠 This gives you mental and physical space back for items you actually like! 👍 3. Having a close out routine 🚏: At the end of everyday create a 20-minute close out routine where you reset your home for the next day. ✅ This can include picking up all items and return them to their homes, tidying up your space, loading the dishwasher, wiping counters or anything else. 🧽 But returning your home to a state of peace at the end of the day will allow you to start the next day in a positive and refreshed mood! 😊 Remember that decluttering is a maintenance process. 👩🏼🔧 You cannot do it once and be done. ❌ Keeping up with it in these small steps will help you create a clutter free and serene home easily! ✨ Make sure you’re keeping up with our decluttering challenge for the month of January, on our story posts everyday to help you achieve the clutter-free home of your dreams!✨ Follow for more cleaning, organizing, decluttering and home tips! ❤️ Products linked in my Amazon shop in bio! #declutteringchallenge #declutter #organization #newyearnewstart #declutteringtips #organizingtips #declutteringhacks #organizinghacks #organizedlife ♬ original sound - Home Reimagined

RELATED: 6 Tiny Things Your Marriage Must Have If You Want It To Last Forever

4. Nag less.

Complaining makes you feel like crap because it puts your focus on everything that seems wrong in your life and disempowers you from finding solutions. I certainly don't advocate burying your head in the sand and pretending problems don't exist, but there is a time and place for dealing with them. Starting a "kvetch-fest" the moment you (or your husband) walk in the door is never productive. Each evening, set a goal omitting all complaints for the first hour you're both home, and focus on what's going right in your relationship and in your day. The bonus of reducing negativity, according to the Gottman Institute, is that doing so also reduces the likelihood of divorce. Complaints pit you as adversaries while positive communication builds to intimacy.

Healthy communication is timeless. Challenge yourself to use the "notes" feature on your smartphone to jot down positive things about your husband and your relationship, or even just great things about your day. Share those things in that first hour of being home. Though the thought of wearing a pearl necklace and channeling Donna Reed may feel too old-fashioned, she is the prime example of what we modern women desire in our lives.


Here are Reed's own thoughts about the character she played "I felt that I was making, for women, a statement. This mother was not stupid. She wasn't domineering, but she was bright and I thought rather forward-thinking, happily married.” They say a happy wife makes a happy life. "Loving, bright, forward-thinking, and happily married" sounds fabulous to me, so take these tips to heart to channel your best marriage from those seemingly outdated pieces of advice.

RELATED: How To Have A Happy Marriage, According To Happily Married Men

Debra Smouse is a life coach and author whose work has been published in TIME, Huffington Post, MSN, Psychology Today, and more.