There are a lot of ways in which relationship dynamics have changed for the better in the last few decades. Feminism has empowered women to be more financially independent and more vocal about their needs and desires, and the current conversation around toxic masculinity has encouraged men to be more emotionally intelligent and to express how they feel instead of channeling their frustration into long nights at the bar.
But, in an ideal society, we would cast off harmful norms while retaining the ones that are actually beneficial. After all, some of the guidance that your grandmother gives you is actually worth listening to, especially where relationships are concerned. What follows then, is a list of old-fashioned relationship tips that are still applicable in today’s day and age. And for more great advice, check out the 50 Best Marriage Tips of All Time.
Make Romantic Gestures for Her
The most common complaint that I hear from women in long-term relationships is that men tend to make a real effort to be romantic in the beginning of a relationship and then let all the romance go out the window once you’re a year in. This makes women feel like they’ve gone from being the beautiful woman at the bar to an old sack of potatoes in your pantry, which is a problem, especially since feeling neglected is the number one reason women cheat.
You don’t need to take her out for a lavish dinner or buy her gold jewelry to show her you care. Taking her to the park bench where you first kissed and telling her, a la George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, that you’ll tie a lasso around the moon and give it to her, is more than enough to make a girl feel adored.
Dress Up for Him
Miranda Kerr took a lot of heat from feminists when she said that she likes to make sure “to have a nice dress on and the candles lit” when her hubby comes home, but it’s not bad advice. Just as men get lazy, so do women. In the beginning, you doll yourself up to look your absolute best on your dates. By the time you’re a year in, all he’s ever seen you in is your old T-shirt and sweatpants. It’s not about how you look; your man will think you’re beautiful whether you’ve got makeup or not. It’s about making an effort to show you still care. And greeting him in nothing but lingerie and an apron can every so often can be a lot of fun for you—and a great treat for him.
Let Him Take the Lead Sometimes
One of the other comments that got Kerr into hot water was when she said that she leans in at work and leans back at home. “At work, I’m like, ‘We need to do this!’ and, ‘This needs to happen.’ But at home, I slip into my feminine and empower Evan to be in his masculine,” she said, “It’s a nice balance.”
To many, this seemed insanely old-fashioned, but there’s nothing un-feminist about getting in touch with your feminine side and making room for him to get in touch with his masculine side. Besides, we all know that a little ego boost can enhance a man’s sex drive, and that feeling emasculated is the number one reason why men cheat.
Pay Her Compliments
You might think she already knows how beautiful she is by now, but it doesn’t hurt to remind her every so often, or to give her a once-over when she’s wearing a new dress and say, “Wow, you look stunning,” like it’s your first date all over again. Just stay away from the back-handed compliments in The 17 Worst Things a Man Can Say to a Woman.
Show Her She’s Still Super Sexy
In Sex and the City 2, there’s this great scene where Carrie is slowly taking off her gown, and looks over her shoulder, expecting to see her longtime partner ravenously watching her. Instead, he’s glued to the TV, making her feel like the aforementioned sack of the potatoes, and they start to fight. It’s important for a woman to still feel like the object of your desire, and not just someone you can have sex with when there’s nothing good on ESPN.
Don’t Ignore Them—Ever
One of my female friends always complains that when her husband comes home from work, he briefly greets her before settling down on the couch and scrolling through his phone until he passes out. Phubbing—the act of phone snubbing—has been proven to have a devastating affect on relationships, and both men and women can be guilty of it. Back in the day, you had the stereotype on a husband constantly buried in a newspaper, but even a paper doesn’t offer an unlimited number of hours to ignore your partner. Ask each other how your day went. Listen. Talk.
Greet Each Other When You Come Home
Nowadays, we laugh at the trope of a man coming home from work, hanging up his hat on the hatstand, and joyfully exclaiming, “Honey, I’m home!,” but it’s actually a very sweet tradition we’ve let fall by the wayside. No one expects you to be as pumped about seeing your partner as your dog is when you’ve been out of the room for more than 10 minutes, but a little enthusiasm really helps to keep the magic of a relationship alive, not to mention it gives both of you something to look forward to when you’re apart.
Have Dinner Together
There’s been a lot written about the demise of the family meal in the last few years. And while many believe that the concept of sitting down to chat and have a home-cooked meal together is archaic, a 2015 study found that doing something as simple as eating a meal together has been proven to boost intimacy and understanding between couples.
Spend Quality Time Together
Watching a show together doesn’t count! Experts emphasize that “quality time” has to be a positive, shared experience, like going for a walk in the park, or having a picnic, or even checking out a new exhibition at a museum and exchanging your thoughts. Try something unique, like one of these 40 Non-Cliché Valentine’s Day Date Ideas.
But Also Give Each Other Space
Nowadays, people seem to think that couples who are truly in love should do everything together. But experts say that spending a little time apart helps us maintain our individual identities, reflect on our wants and needs, and, most importantly, gives us room to miss the other person. Plus, if there’s one thing we learned from this Reddit thread on things men wish women knew, it’s that a lot of guys wish their girlfriends wouldn’t take it as an insult when they want to play video games for a little while.
Allow for Boys and Girls Nights
It’s extremely unpopular these days to have gendered events, and people always laugh at the old days, when men used to retire to the parlor after dinner to smoke cigars and play cards and talk about man stuff, and women would be left to (presumably) gossip with their female friends. But unless you’re actually genuinely into your partner’s boys/girls night, it’s not such a bad idea to let them shoot the breeze without getting in the way with all your eye-rolling and watch-checking.
Find Someone Who Makes You Laugh
This is classic grandma advice, and it turns out she’s not wrong. Research has found that the couple that laughs together, stays together.
A lot of my female friends bemoan the fact that chivalry is kind of dead, and men no longer bring flowers to dates, or open the door, or pull out a chair for their lady. But if your girlfriend is old-fashioned, she’ll certainly appreciate those kinds of sweet gestures, along with these other 15 Little Things Men Do That Women Can’t Resist.
Actual cheating has been around as long as monogamous relationships, but our grandparents didn’t have to worry about their partner flirting with a hot guy or girl on Instagram late at night while they were asleep. Although it seems harmless, experts say that this so-called “micro-cheating” can lead to some major trust issues, as well as pave the road for actual cheating.
Get Off Your Phone
We’ve already covered the effect that “technoference” has on your sex life and emotional intimacy, but even having it out during dinnertime can be an issue. When I polled men about the things that they wished women would stop doing on dates, the overwhelming majority mentioned how annoying it is when women spend the entirety of dinner snapping photos of their food and taking selfies to share in a group chat with their friends. Be present. Commit to the date, especially once you’ve been seeing each other for a long time and feel like there’ll always be time in the future to have a long chat because, at this rate, there won’t be.
Make Eye Contact
With everyone buried in their phones, there isn’t a whole lot of opportunity to do the romantic thing that always happens in old movies, when two people gaze at one another from across a table. Which is too bad, because science has shown that prolonged eye-gazing can do a lot to fan the flames of attraction and love.
Holding hands while skipping down a street together feels like another archaic trope lifted from the ’50s movie. But not only has research shown that holding hands can foster intimacy, some studies have indicated that this simple gesture even has the ability to alleviate physical pain.
Drop the Handkerchief
Talk about old-fashioned. In his seminars with women, dating coach Matthew Hussey talks about how, back in the Victorian era, women who saw a man they were interested in while on a stroll through the park would literally “drop their handkerchief” in order to invite him to pick it up and engage in conversation. In this way, she would essentially “make the first move” without having to make any moves at all.
Hussey’s modern-day version of “dropping the handkerchief” is, for example, giving a man a compliment on his sweater. It’s a great way to make it clear to a man that you’re interested in him, but it’s also a nice thing to do once in while even when you’re in a full-blown relationship.
Get Intimate Often
Nowadays, couples are having sex a lot less often than they used to, mainly because they’re watching Netflix or scrolling through their phones when they should be spending quality time together. But studies have shown that doing the deed on the regular strengthens the bond between you and partner (not to mention a recent study found that it also boosts your mood and sense of meaning in life). How regular you do it is up to you, but if you want a benchmark, a 2017 study that appeared in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that the average adult currently enjoys sex 54 times a year, which equates to about once a week.
And Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
No matter how much you love someone, when you’ve been together for a long time, it’s easy for sex to start to feel a little routine and stale. There’s a reason that a lot of couples in the ’70s infamously threw swinger parties. According to Justin Lehmiller, a Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute, the most common fantasy that people have are threesomes, but those don’t tend to play out too well in real life. On the other hand, he found that when couples looking to spice things up consensually cheated on one another—be it through swinger parties or what have you—the practice had a positive impact on their relationship.
Choose Your Partner Wisely
Karl Pillemer, a family sociologist and researcher on aging, once conducted a survey in which he asked hundreds of older women who had been married for decades what advice they would give younger women about love and marriage. The result? Surprisingly, they cautioned women against marrying someone because they felt like they were at the age in which they should be settling down. They also warned women against marrying someone too quickly, since it’s easy to overlook someone’s flaws while in the initial throes of passion. Take your time, make sure you feel the person is really right for you, and consult with friends and family before making the next big step.
“The biggest mistake is being too quick to enter a marriage,” 78-year-old Lillie told Pillemer. “Get to know that person very, very well in all circumstances, the happiness part and the stressful parts. So both people have to be very willing and very open, and often times make concessions, as they get to know each other. So please, take a very serious look. You cannot mold your spouse into something that you want.”
It sounds old-fashioned, but getting married solely for the sake of love can often end poorly. Studies have shown that the euphoria that you feel when you first marry someone you’re crazy about inevitably wanes after the first 18 months together, a phenomenon known as “the honeymoon effect.” So it’s worthwhile to consider some of the stuff your grandmother feels is important when choosing a life partner. Do you have the same core values? Do you want the same things in life? Are you financially soluble? At its core, marriage is a social contract, so as unromantic as it sounds, being practical before heading down the aisle can be extremely beneficial later on in life.
Make a Pro and Con List
Again, it sounds unromantic, but Rowena, 69, told Pillemer that she found it very useful to write down the things that she wanted out of a relationship and evaluate whether those needs were being med before tying the knot.
“When I met Graham and decided to get involved with him, I sat down with a piece of paper and I wrote pros and cons. I was in my 30s at that point, and I said, ‘Hmm, you know, this is what I want.’ And this guy had those qualities—many more good ones than bad ones. By that time in my life, I was awake to what I needed. And really sitting there with a piece of paper did it. It may sound cold-blooded, but I made a list of what I and what he could bring to the situation. At this point I had a little boy and what he needed was very important to me—and it turned out very well.”
Consider Not Living Together Before Getting Married
Nowadays, people consider living together to be a crucial preliminary step to getting hitched. But, as counterintuitive as it sounds, studies have found that couples who live together before marriage are actually at greater risk for divorce in general, have higher levels of substance abuse and depression, tend to get divorced earlier, and even earn less money than those who waited until their wedding day.
Dating coaches say that the main reasons so many more people are single today than ever before is because people are too demanding. Back in the day, people got married because they thought someone was a good person who matched them well, and let the love blossom from there.
That’s not to say that you should settle for someone you don’t really like. But writing someone off early into the relationship because you’re not certain they’re your soulmate can be a mistake, especially because some people take a while to open up, and sometimes a real connection can take time to develop. By the way, once I Hired an Online Dating Coach—and This Is What I Learned.
Consider an Arranged Marriage
It might sound ridiculously archaic and borderline offensive, but for what it’s worth, studies have found that arranged marriages have a higher success rate and greater level of marital satisfaction than unions born solely out of love. The theory is that because these kinds of marriages are based on core values and belief systems, it’s easier for couples to see eye to eye. And, oftentimes, real love can blossom out of shared experiences, intimacy, and understanding. Crazy, right?
Take Things Slow
The acclaimed anthropologist Helen Fisher has coined a phrase to discuss today’s culture of jumping into bed on the first date: “fast sex, slow love.” Now, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with sleeping with someone on the first date, and plenty of rewarding relationships have started that way. But it’s worth considering the benefit of waiting to get to know someone a bit before taking the next step.
But Not Too Slow
Today’s couples date for way longer than previous generations before deciding to get engaged. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and only time will tell if this happens to be a more effective strategy. But if your partner is eager to start a family or tie the knot, waiting more than three years can put a strain on the relationship.
This sounds like something only people who feel like they were born in the wrong decade would do. But the truth is that when you want to express something intensely emotional, texting back and forth really isn’t the best medium. Not to mention, hand-written letters are inherently romantic, and a great way to show you really care for someone.
My friend’s grandmother always used to say, “There’s no such thing as a little white lie,” and she’s right. Any expert will tell you that honesty and good communication are the foundation of a healthy relationship. For more on this, check out 17 Secrets You Should Never Keep from Your Partner.
But Not Too Honest
You should never blatantly lie to your partner, but there are also some things they don’t necessarily need you to willingly divulge, like the fact that you hate his parents, or that you think one of her friends is hot. Being really detailed about your sexual history is also one of those things that just ends up breeding insecurity and jealousy. For more on this, check out 13 Secrets You Should Always Keep from Your Partner.
Retain a Bit of Mystery
We’re not suggesting you go full ’50s housewife and start wearing makeup to bed. But neither of you need to see your partner clipping your nails on the coffee table.
Make Household Chores Fair
You definitely don’t need to maintain an old-fashioned arrangement in which the woman takes care of the house and the man pays the bills and takes out the trash. But studies show that women still do significantly more household chores than men. If you’re going to go 50/50 on the rent, then you should be going 50/50 on the chores as well. If not, then the person doing more unpaid labor should be compensated by paying less in rent.
Be a Team
We live in a hyper-individualistic society nowadays that follows the mandate “every man for himself.” You don’t have to agree about everything, but, at least in public, it’s worth always putting up the front of being a team, so that your partner knows that you always have their back.
Don’t Fight in Public
No one is suggesting you swallow your emotions and put up a happy face for the sake of society. But arguing in public often makes things uncomfortable for the people around you and, perhaps even more importantly, waiting until you get home to argue can give you valuable time to reflect and cool down.
Find Someone You Can Dance With
This is the piece of advice my colleague’s grandmother gave her, and it’s not bad, especially in today’s bump-and-grind culture. Slow-dancing may be a bit of a lost art, but it’s romantic, and can do a lot to fan the flames of love.
Try an Old Hollywood Kiss
Doing a classic Old Hollywood Kiss, in which a woman pops up her knee and a man swings her over before locking lips, can seem terribly hokey. But it’s actually kind of fun, and a great way to allow a woman to feel feminine and a man to feel masculine.
Make Up In Person
I can’t emphasize enough that fighting and making up via text is wildly ineffective, because tone and body language make up the majority of meaning in human communication. When you fight, it’s always better to discuss things in person. And if you’re having a real crisis, such an infidelity, you want want to try a trust exercise similar to the one used by Miranda and Steve in the first Sex and the City movie.
When Miranda leaves her husband for cheating on her, a marriage counselor suggests that they plan to meet on Brooklyn Bridge, and if they’re both there, that means they are willing to fully forgive one another and move forward. It’s obviously a romantic gesture, not least of all because it brings to mind classic films like An Affair to Remember.
Carry Her Over the Door
Carrying a woman across the threshold of your new home is a tradition that we’ve totally lost, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carry her home when the situation calls for it. If she’s not feeling well, or if her shoes hurt, there’s nothing that makes a woman feel more feminine, or a man feel more masculine, then literally sweeping her off her feet and carrying her home.
Carry Her Groceries
We’ve got nothing but respect for female body-builders. But, for a lot of women, heavy-lifting has been proven to result in lower rates of fertility and loosening of pelvic floor muscles. Given that men tend to be have more natural upper body strength, it’s both sensible and romantic to offer to carry her groceries. If you want to go really old-school, there’s something kind of sweet about carrying a girl’s books on your way home from class.
Pay Attention to the Little Things
In The Way We Were, there’s this iconic scene where Robert Redford pauses to kneel down and tie Barbara Streisand’s loose shoelaces. It’s a small gesture, but one that indicates he is really paying attention to every aspect of her being, and is willing to care for her. Oftentimes, it’s little gestures like this that keep a relationship going strong.
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