October 22, 2010 at 7:35 am , by Jennifer Castoro
Ladies’ Home Journal has been around for a loooooong time (128 years to be precise). And while we’re not normally ones to brag, allow us just a smidgen of gloating: Our famous column, Can This Marriage Be Saved?, has been a huge favorite since it debuted in the magazine in January 1953. Throughout the 57 years we’ve run the column (much longer than most marriages, I might add), we’ve tackled everything from cheating spouses to secret porn habits, fights over the stepkids to battles over the dog. Though the complaints are different, one theme always emerges, whether the couple in question each month has a ton of tiny problems or a few massive ones: Communication helps EVERYTHING.
In the spirit of our celebrated, iconic column, we’d like to ask you to referee the battle between our controversial couples. Each Thursday, we’ll take a classic case from the column and give you the chance to weigh in. Our debut story is the very first Can This Marriage Be Saved? article published in LHJ (the black-and-white image above ran in the issue!), involving Guy, a 25-year-old mechanic, and Diana, a 22-year-old secretary, who’ve been married for six years. (A bride at 16! Suddenly I feel behind in life.)
Diana’s side, in a nutshell: Guy isn’t exactly a romantic. He doesn’t kiss or compliment his fragile flower (i.e. steamroller) of a wife, but her boss and coworkers think she’s grand. He doesn’t clean up around the house, won’t shop for groceries, won’t let her drive the car and won’t buy a house for them. She’s also peeved that he won’t have kids, as she puts it, until “he’s an old man hobbling around on a cane,” which in her mind (and decade) probably means 30. And – big shocker – she hates his mom.
Guy’s take: She is his mom. She whines and cries and moons around the house, which she doesn’t keep clean, anyway, and wears scandalous outfits to the office but is a frumpish Frannie at home. She also thinks he’s stupid and nags him to teach her how to drive, even though the only time she tried to do so, she wrecked the car. When he was a boy, he dreamed of a docile, pretty, sweet and slightly dim wife, and he ended up with a nagging, opinionated loony.
The counselor’s opinion? They’re both just selfish kids. They entered into marriage without understanding the whole “union” part of the equation. They thought they were each trying to please the other, when what they were really doing was laying on the Oscar-worthy drama (her) and running full speed to Timbuktu (him). The counselor taught Guy that ladies are not akin to fembots (direct quote: “The young husband was actually unaware that sexual satisfaction for women existed”) and Diana that dressing up for your husband once in a while is better than gussying up for your boss, unless your ultimate aim is a shady ascent of the corporate ladder (ahem). They both worked to stop sniping at each other and to let go of their childhood issues, and ultimately bought a house with a garden and had a Guy, Jr.
Even though this played out 50-plus years ago, I love the fact that this couple’s struggles are so similar to what you’d see today, before the advent of Facebook flings and Internet addiction and infertility and the myriad other issues that can throw a big fat wrench in the happiest of relationships.
So, what do you think? Who was right? Was Diana a whiny brat or was Guy living in a fantasy?
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