Read To Edna Gordon of A Woman of the World, free online book, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, on ReadCentral.com.

During Her Honeymoon

I am very much flattered that you should write your first letter as Mrs. Gordon to me.  Its receipt was a surprise, as I have known you so slightly-only when we were both guests under a friend’s roof for one week.

I had no idea that you were noticing me particularly at that time, there was such a merry crowd of younger people about you.  How careful we matrons should be, when in the presence of debutantes, for it seems they are taking notes for future reference!

I am glad that my behaviour and conversation were such that you feel you can ask me for instructions at this important period of your life.  Here is the text you have given me: 

I want you to tell me, dear Mrs. West, how to be as happy, and loved, and loving, after fifteen years of married life, as you are.  I so dread the waning of my honeymoon.”

And now you want me to preach you a little sermon on this text.  Well, my dear girl, I am at a disadvantage in not knowing you better, and not knowing your husband at all.

Husbands are like invalids, each needs a special prescription, according to his ailment.

But as all invalids can be benefited by certain sensible suggestions, like taking simple food, and breathing and exercising properly, and sleeping with open windows or out-of-doors, so all husbands can be aided toward perpetual affection by the observance of some general laws, on the part of the wife.

I am, of course, to take it for granted that you have married a man with principles and ideals, a man who loves you and desires to make a good husband.  I know you were not so unfortunate as to possess a large amount of property for any man to seek, and so I can rely upon the natural supposition that you were married for love.

It might be worth your while, right now, while your husband’s memory is fresh upon the subject, to ask him what particular characteristics first won his attention, and what caused him to select you for a life companion.

Up to the present moment, perhaps, he has never told you any more substantial reason for loving you than the usual lovers’ explanation-“Just because.”  But if you ask him to think it over, I am sure he can give you a more explicit answer.

After you have found what qualities, habits, actions, or accomplishments attracted him, write them down in a little book and refer to them two or three times a year.  On these occasions ask yourself if you are keeping these attractions fresh and bright as they were in the days of courtship.  Women easily drop the things which won a man’s heart, and are unconscious that the change they bemoan began in themselves.  But do not imagine you can rest at ease after marriage with only the qualities, and charms, and virtues, which won you a lover.  To keep a husband in love is a more serious consideration than to win a lover.

You must add year by year to your attractions.

As the deep bloom of first youth passes, you must cultivate mental and spiritual traits which will give your face a lustre from within.

And as the mirth and fun of life drifts farther from you, and you find the merry jest, which of old turned care into laughter, less ready on your lip, you must cultivate a wholesome optimistic view of life, to sustain your husband through the trials and disasters besetting most mortal paths.

Make one solemn resolve now, and never forget it.  Say to yourself, “On no other spot, in no other house on earth, shall my husband find a more cheerful face, a more loving welcome, or a more restful atmosphere, than he finds at home.”

No matter what vicissitudes arise, and what complications occur, keep that resolve.  It will at least help to sustain you with a sense of self-respect, if unhappiness from any outside source should shadow your life.  An attractive home has become a sort of platitude in speech, but it remains a thing of vital importance, all the same, in actual life and in marriage.

Think often and speak frequently to your husband of his good qualities and of the things you most admire in him.

Sincere and judicious praise is to noble nature like spring rain and sun to the earth.  Ignore or make light of his small failings, and when you must criticize a serious fault, do not dwell upon it.  A husband and wife should endeavour to be such good friends that kindly criticism is accepted as an evidence of mutual love which desires the highest attainments for its object.

But no man likes to think his wife has set about the task of making him over, and if you have any such intention I beg you to conceal it, and go about it slowly and with caution.

A woman who knows how to praise more readily than she knows how to criticize, and who has the tact and skill to adapt herself to a man’s moods and to find amusement and entertainment in his whims, can lead him away from their indulgence without his knowledge.

Such women are the real reformers of men, though they scorn the word, and disclaim the effort.

It is well to keep a man conscious that you are a refined and delicate-minded woman, yet do not insist upon being worshipped on a pedestal.  It tires a man’s neck to be for ever gazing upward, and statues are less agreeable companions than human beings.

If you wish to be thought spotless marble, instead of warm flesh and blood, you should have gone into a museum, and refused marriage.  Remember God knew what He was about, when He fashioned woman to be man’s companion, mate, and mother of his children.

Respect yourself in all those capacities, and regard the fulfilment of each duty as sacred and beautiful.

Do not thrust upon the man’s mind continually the idea that you are a vastly higher order of being than he is.

He will reach your standard much sooner if you come half-way and meet him on the plane of common sense and human understanding.  Meantime let him never doubt your abhorrence of vulgarity, and your distaste for the familiarity which breeds contempt.

It is a great art, when a wife knows how to attract a husband year after year, with the allurements of the boudoir, and never to disillusion him with the familiarities of the dressing-room.

Such women there are, who have lived with their lovers in poverty’s close quarters, and through sickness and trouble, and yet have never brushed the bloom from the fruit of romance.  But she who needs to be told in what this art consists, would never understand, and she who understands, need not be told.

Keep your husband certain of the fact that his attention and society is more agreeable to you than that of any other man.  But never beg for his attentions, and do not permit him to think you are incapable of enjoying yourself without his playing the devoted cavalier.

The moment a man feels such an attitude is compulsory, it becomes irksome.  Learn how to entertain yourself.  Cling to your accomplishments and add others.  A man admires a progressive woman who keeps step with the age.  Study, and think, and read, and cultivate the art of listening.  This will make you interesting to men and women alike, and your husband will hear you praised as an agreeable and charming woman, and that always pleases a man, as it indicates his good taste and good luck.

Avoid giving your husband the impression that you expect a detailed account of every moment spent away from you.  Convince him that you believe in his honour and loyalty, and that you have no desire to control or influence his actions in any matters which do not conflict with his self-respect or your pride.

Cultivate the society of the women he admires.  There is both wisdom and tact in such a course.

Wisdom in making an ideal a reality, and tact in avoiding any semblance of that most unbecoming fault-jealousy.

Let him see that you have absolute faith in your own powers to hold him, and that you respect him too much to mistake a frank admiration for an unworthy sentiment.  Do not hesitate to speak with equal frankness of the qualities you admire in other men.  Educate him in liberality and generosity, by example.

Allow no one to criticize him in your presence, and do not discuss his weaknesses with others.  I have known wives to meet in conclaves, and dissect husbands for an entire afternoon.  And each wife seemed anxious to pose as the most neglected and unappreciated woman of the lot.  With all the faults of the sterner sex, I never heard of such a caucus of husbands.

Take an interest in your husband’s business affairs, and sympathize with the cares and anxieties which beset him.  Distract his mind with pleasant or amusing conversation, when you find him nervous and fagged in brain and body.

Yet do not feel that you must never indicate any trouble of your own, for it is conducive to selfishness when a wife hides all her worries and indispositions to listen to those of her husband.  But since the work-a-day world, outside the home, is usually filled with irritations for a busy man, it should be a wife’s desire to make his home-coming a season of anticipation and joy.

Do not expect a husband to be happy and contented with a continuous diet of love and sentiment and romance.  He needs also much that is practical and commonplace mingled with his mental food.

I have known an adoring young wife to irritate Cupid so he went out and sat on the door-step, contemplating flight, by continual neglect of small duties.

There were never any matches in the receivers; when the husband wanted one he was obliged to search the house.  The newspaper he had folded and left ready to read at leisure was used to light the fire, although an overfilled waste-basket stood near.  The towel-rack was empty just when he wanted his bath, and his bedroom slippers were always kicked so far under the bed that he was obliged to crawl on all fours to reach them.

Then his loving spouse was sure to want to be “cuddled” when he was smoking his cigar and reading,-a triple occupation only possible to a human freak, with three arms, four eyes, and two mouths.

Therefore I would urge you, my dear Edna, to mingle the practical with the ideal, and common sense with sentiment, and tact with affection, in your domestic life.

These general rules are all I can give to guide your barque into the smooth, sea of marital happiness.

It is a wide sea, with many harbours and ports, and no two ships start from exactly the same point or take exactly the same course.  You will encounter rocks and reefs, perhaps, which my boat escaped, and I have no chart to guide you away from those rocks.

If I knew you better, and knew your husband at all, I might steer you a little farther out of Honeymoon Bay into calm waters, and tell you how to reef your sails, and how to tack at certain junctures of the voyage, and with the wind in certain directions.

But if you keep your heart full of love, your mind clear of distrust, and your lips free from faultfinding, and if you pray for guidance and light upon your way, I am sure you cannot miss the course.