Instead of looking for someone who says they like children, look for someone who children seem to like instead. 

During a recent conversation with an acquaintance who has recently split from her husband of almost twenty years it was noted, and not for the first time, that it should be harder for people to get married in the first place rather than easier to get divorced. On reflection, however, even if there were official couple criteria to be met, who’s to say we wouldn’t all meet them perfectly during that first flush of love and deciding to separate after twenty or so years can hardly be blamed on unsuitability. It is often just a simple case of people changing as the years go by.

It appears that the secret to long marriages is not about suitability or love, but about allowing each partner to grow and change naturally, while still liking and enjoying the evolving personality. It would seem that those hell bent on sticking with the ‘person they married’ are often disappointed in the long term. Such inflexibility leads to inevitable breakdown. However, while we can’t see into the future, we can be careful about how we choose a spouse in the first place.

A few days after this conversation, I came across a very old book of short stories and articles that I had picked up somewhere. It had been published in 1960, but the tone and language in some of the content suggested it had been written much earlier. As I skimmed through it, a short essay caught my eye, “How to Choose a Husband”. With interest peaked I began to read and quickly noted that it was still relevant today.

“Look for one who laughs in a hearty manner and has a twist of kindness at the edge of strong even lips. His ears should like the sound of an ocean surf and let him walk solid, but always with animal grace. Does he clink his coins with relish and with glee? Pass him by. Misers make unholy lovers!”

Mean males

However, these days it’s harder to detect the miser as notes and credit cards are more silent than coins, but you get the general drift. Is there anything as awful as spending time with a tightwad? I’m all for living within your means but frugal, tight fisted men, or women for that matter, are to be avoided at all costs. I once went on a date with a man who actually boasted during the evening about how he steamed unfranked stamps off envelopes if he was, as he said, “lucky enough to get one”. (Needless to remark that one date did not turn into two; but as they say, you have to kiss a lot of frogs!)

“Does he keep his carriage spotless and in good hue? This could be a minus sign. A man who expends much energy and pride on an inanimate possession may in time deploy his wife to second place.”

The above statement instantly renders all boy racers as inappropriate for marriage. There are plenty of closet car fanatics out there too but it may not be a vehicle. It could just as easily be a set of golf clubs or anything else; keep your eyes open, you have been warned.

“Look long in search for a man who brings a gift when there is no occasion. Many men celebrate the standard holidays with traditional presents, but a man has true spirit when he gives a woman a pretty bauble just to see her eyes bubble with surprise.” I’m a little lukewarm about this. While it is true that many kind and affectionate men like to buy gifts, beware of the guilt gift. If he has done the regular present thing from the beginning of the relationship then that’s fine, but if he suddenly commences after years of not doing it, he has either been reading Cosmo or he’s having an affair! (That’s according to Cosmo. Quite frankly, either is worrying!)

“Look for a man who loves his mother, but be cautious of the one who worships her. He indeed may turn out to be a chronic son who whimpers all his days at his mother’s knee. Neatness is a prize in a male, of course, but prissy males make finicky life companions. Nervous is life with a man who makes a fetish seeking dust on high cupboards and complaining about tables in slight disarray”. If you aren’t particularly sure about the last bit and think you might like someone who would take an interest in the housework, I suggest you rent the movie ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’. The obsessively neat and clean freaks are to be avoided at all costs.

“A husband, of course, should a kisser be, but he must command a repertoire. A man’s kisses should have fire and passion, yes, but he must have the art of kissing kind and gently too.”

Avoid vanity

I also liked the bit about children and thought it was very clever. It suggested that if you wanted to have a family never take a man’s word that he ‘likes children’. According to the author men are prone to lying in order to get what they want. Instead of looking for someone who says they like children, look for someone who children seem to like instead. Also, if he has an affinity with dogs this is a very good sign.

It warned about avoiding the vain. “Does he preen in front of mirror? Forget him. Harsh is the life of a wife condemned to live her days in the company of a vain peacock.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

As you can see wisdom is timeless but tastes do change and I was mildly concerned to read the line; “He should like the feel of leather.” This, unfortunately, wasn’t expanded upon at all and of course it made me wonder if that was the ‘feel of leather’ on himself or on his wife? Either way this could suggest an unusual fetish, but then again he did say ‘like the feel of leather’ not ‘love the feel of leather’ so maybe it was a reference to quality furniture! Who knows? However, even if it was a strange sexual preference, should you have managed to tick all the other boxes this would be a small price to pay and, let’s face it, nobody’s perfect.


Finally I must emphasise that the biggest surprise of all is that this article was actually written by a man. So, before I get emails and letters from angry men about being sexist, don’t bother. The author is well and truly deceased at this stage and there is little point in shooting the messenger or wasting one of those stamps that you were ‘lucky enough’ to get for free!