Marriage Advice in 1894


“Give little, give seldom, and give grudgingly.”

This was what Ruth Smythers, wife of Reverend L.D. Smythers, wrote in 1894 in her advice book for husbands and wives. She went on to tell women that unbridled passion in bed even within marriage was seen as a dangerous pastime and should be avoided at all costs.

Here’s more:

“Finding joy in the act and overindulgence can lead to cancer and other illnesses.”

“Refrain from having careers because working is vulgar and demeaning to husbands, declaring him incompetent and unable to provide.”

Furthermore, she instructed the wife to turn a blind eye if a husband strayed because that lifted her marriage burden.

These archaic ideas are too funny and definitely not what any of my characters adhere to. Nor did I.

Jack and Nora in Saving the Mail Order Bride (#2 of Outlaw Mail Order Brides) share a healthy marriage and view each other as equals even down to taking care of the children. Jack loves kids and sees Sawyer and Willow as his own and he adores Nora—even when she dyes his hair blonde.

In The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride (#1 of the series), Clay and Tally struggle to learn how to trust. Both had been betrayed so the lesson didn’t come easy. However, they have no trouble in bed. 🙂

In my years of living, which have been considerable, I have a little advice of my own. However, I don’t claim to be an expert. No, no.

But maybe I’ll do better than Ruth Smythers. Here we go:

  • Develop mutual respect and make it the cornerstone of your marriage.
  • Marriage is a partnership.
  • Share all aspects of your lives. Never keep secrets.
  • Share the chores and the care of the children.
  • Talk
  • Share the finances equally.
  • Never go to bed angry.
  • Find joy in being together and make time every day.
  • Have a date night each week or several times a month.


These are just a few things I’ve learned after two marriages. Okay, it’s your turn. What is your advice? I’ll give both books of my Outlaw Mail Order Brides series to one commenter.

Website | + posts

Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

38 thoughts on “Marriage Advice in 1894”

  1. Hi Linda I can’t say I have any good marriage advise but yours sound about right to me. I have been married for 34 years and we have had our rough patches but made it through. I do know you both have to give a lot to keep it going.

    • Good morning, Quilt Lady…..You’re so right. Compromise is one of the most important things and one I’d forgotten about. Marriage is about give and take. It can’t be all about either one. But you also have to be wise enough to know how to compromise and when. Thanks so much for coming.

  2. Hi Linda! What a great blog–and some good advice in there, too! Well, I must say, we used to go by the not going to bed angry rule, but after 40 years, we have slipped up some on that one. LOL I think the best advice is what my mom told me years ago–“You better have things in common–common goals and beliefs, because as you get older good looks and health go out the window, so you better have something else that holds you together.” I think what she WASN’T saying was that in the beginning romance is everything–including the sex. But when you get older, that is less important than the good foundation you better have built during those early years.

    Great post. I am looking forward to reading these books of yours! Love you, my Filly sis! XOXO

    • Good morning, Cheryl…..Oh my goodness yes! You have to have a sturdy foundation built for a marriage to withstand the storms that come. Your mother was very wise. I see so many young couples who call it quits at the first sign of trouble. They don’t want to do the hard work to keep a marriage together. And it is hard work–not just temporarily but for as long as it lasts. Love you back!

  3. Your list is excellent. After 49 years of marriage it is an ongoing lesson. I don’t think that I can improve upon your list.

    • Hi Anne…..Thank you for stopping by. Wow, you’ve had a long marriage! But like you said it’s continuous trying. And it takes both working at it. I had to laugh at Ruth Smythers saying that finding joy in the marriage bed and overindulgence will give you cancer and other diseases! I think she was very dissatisfied with her marriage and life.

  4. Yes, you are right. You need the strength and belief that your marriage can withstand the trials and tribulations which you confront throughout the years. Major crises and difficulties arise and you have to share the worries. The trust, devotion, but also the communication.

    • Hi Pearl…….I think communication is so vital to a marriage which is hard for a man. He doesn’t like to examine his feelings, especially talk about them. And they assume that we should know what they think! They are very funny. A couple needs a lot of trust and devotion too. There’s just nothing easy about living with someone.

  5. Wow, that first bit of advice from Ruth is scary! Marriage is not for the faint of heart. Hard work is what it takes – and continual work! Definitely communication and not holding feelings in. On both sides! So many things go into making it work. 🙂

    • Hi Susan P……..Almost everything Ruth advised was scary to me…and plain wrong. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s funny to think that having love and passion would cause cancer and other diseases! Hilarious. She was a repressed woman. But yes marriage takes really hard work and a lot of patience. On both sides. Thanks for coming and have a wonderful day!

    • Love your advice Linda. I have found in two marriages that to make it work it has to be a partnership. One person can’t carry the load alone. My rewards from my first are my 5 sons who have helped to bless me with grandchildren and great grands!! My second was with my soulmate, my bestfriend who was beat of my heart. I thank God for the time I got to spend with him and for my very large wonderful family. I know this is more than you ask for but it’s my comment!

      • Hi Miss Ruth…….Thanks so much for coming over. No comment is too long so no need to apologize. I’m glad you got your heart’s desire from both marriages. Bless you, sweet lady. Life is sure full of surprises and rewards. Have a wonderful day! Much love.

  6. Welcome Linda. Wow those are really some strange pieces of advice. I like your pieces of advice a whole lot better. These are some that my husband and I have adhered to for the last 35 years. At the top of the list is “God is the Lord of my life” second is “God is the center of our marriage”. Thanks for being here today.

    • Hi Lori……I agree that having faith and belief in a higher power is crucial. I think that anchors a marriage and sets a firm foundation on which to build. Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. Have a blessed day!

  7. I’ve been married for almost 48 years. I think you have an excellent list and it would be hard to add anything to it. All I can say is it takes a lot of give and take from both people.

  8. Hi Linda, After two marriages, first one I was young and apparent very naive. Glad he asked for the divorce because I was going to stay true to my vows no matter what but he didn’t at all. It was a relief when he wanted on.

    Second one I am on 35 years come August and it hasn’t been easy but at least he’s faithful, more than I can say for the first one, and he does what he needs to since I am pretty much handicapped. The poor guy works hard at work and then comes home to feed two dogs and me.
    Respect and talking is a biggie even if it is hard to due sometimes but without respecting each other what else can you really have in a marriage? It comes first and for most for me as I didn’t have that before. Best friends is a plus. Someone you can do everything with and yet we leave room for doing what we want on our own or with our friends. I wish I could give that back for my hubby as he has given up so much to care for me. He also tolerates taking me places like having coffee with a friend or getting my hair cut or doctor appts. I don’t drive right now and mostly have to use a wheelchair when we are out so he has to take time off from work to take me to places open only during the week.
    I guess blind dates can work out.

    • Hi Dorothy……Thanks for coming. I think sometimes people marry too early. Marriage takes maturity to be successful. It sounds like you have a prince now. That’s one good guy! And how wonderful that you consider him a best friend. 🙂

  9. Make the decision that divorce is not an option. Put the Lord first and everything else lines up.

  10. Oh my, no wonder young women were often scared of marriage. That advice would make you feel something was wrong with you if you did find joy in your marriage. I’m glad we’ve moved past such negative attitudes. Your list is much better.

    One thing I would add is LISTEN to one another. It is as important as talking.

    • Hi Alice……I’m happy you liked my post. I agree that it would certainly scare a woman and make her expect a loveless marriage. You know, listening to one another is a wonderful piece of advice. That’s one area where both my husbands had trouble. They’d be so wrapped up inside their own heads during a conversation they wouldn’t hear what I was saying. 🙂 Have a wonderful day!

  11. I would have never been married back in the day if I had to abide by any of the things Ruth stated. No, ma’am.

    I agree with all you said. Also being able to laugh about the little hick-ups that come along in a marriage after you get through them helps. Never call the other a derogatory name even in the middle of a fight because it can’t be unsaid or forgotten. Pick your battles instead of nitpicking things that aren’t even important in the big picture. So many little things can help a marriage. Another is, as the wife, not to allow the kids, husband, home, chores, errands to become your entire life. We as woman need time for ourselves even when there really isn’t enough time in the day. Alone time and time with a friend(s) is important too, don’t completely lose yourself after your married and start your family life.

    • Good morning, Stephanie……Oh my yes! Ruth Smythers was hilarious. She had no business writing any advice and showed her ignorance. I agree that laughter is really important and helps smooth out the wrinkles. Calling each other derogatory names is a huge no-no and makes me so sad when I hear couples doing this. Those names are filled with hate and you can’t hate and love at the same time. Like you said, nothing can erase them. Words are lasting. Picking battles and wives needing time to themselves are also really important. You should’ve been a marriage counselor!

      Love you, warrior buddy!

  12. My loving husband and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary June 1st. There are days he pushes my buttons and I KNOW I PUSH HIS….but we have always talked it out, respected each others beliefs and trusted each other utterly. I tell him daily that I thank God he is mine…

    • Good morrning, Miss Paula……It’s great to see you! Congratulations on your anniversary! That’s amazing and shows you are meant for each other. Yes, those shiny buttons are too enticing sometimes not to push. I think that’s something we’re all tempted to do but talking and having respect for each other’s viewpoint can smooth over the any raised dander. Hold him close, Paula. He’s a keeper. I can’t wait to see you in September! Love you, dearly.

  13. Linda- Good morning. This is a great blog and I agree with your list, totally. Another one I’ll add is never lie or keep something from each other. It will only fester.
    Let the other know that they are your best friend, afterall there is no closer bond than that of a husband and wife.
    I’m up and hitting the shower, todays the day of Rob’s heart Cath, sorry I missed seeing this blog yesterday. Love you my sweet sister friend. ???

    • Good morning, Miss Tonya…..You have a lot more important things on your mind than my blog so don’t apologize. I agree about the close bond and making sure it stays that way. I think that couples often start to drift apart without even being aware of it. They get wrapped up in daily life and work and pretty soon a marriage starts to slip away. I’m praying that Rob’s surgery goes smoothly and this makes him feel like a new man. Sending tender love to you both and many, many prayers.

  14. Oh my goodness. That woman must have lived a very unhappy life to have those views. I completely agree with your list. And marriage is not 50 50, its 100 100. You give 100% of yourself as do they. And I’m sorry, but if my husband strayed I would not be able to look a blind eye at it! That’s just ridiculous! Lol Have a wonderful day my beautiful friend!

    • Good morning, Miss Dale……I’m sure Ruth Smythers was a bitter, loveless woman. I picture her with a prune mouth and sharp eyes. HaHa! She’s an old crone. You and me both on turning a blind eye! No and No! Giving 100% of each other is what it takes. You have to be all the way committed. I’m so happy you came. Much love and many blessings.

  15. My advice after almost 27 years of marriage? Talk to each other. Communication is a must. Don’t lie. Support one another. Be respectful of each other. Listen to one another. Love one another. The list could go on and on, I think everyone has given some great advice.

    • Good morning, Joy……Thank you so much for coming! Great to see you. I agree with every single thing you’ve mentioned. Communication and respect is key. Have a blessed day!

  16. Since I have never been married, I can’t give advice. But what I have observed, is those that have respect for each other, trust and love, communicate have a pretty decent marriage. Have to listen to each other.

    • Denise, that’s a great bit of advice and so important. The only disagreements my husband and I ever had was over the checking account and the fact he wanted to handle all the money even though I worked. Thanks for coming by.

Comments are closed.