Published Date

November 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 30: Can War Marriages Be Made to Work? (1944)

How do some couples make a go of marriage under war conditions? Keeping busy in war work seems to help. If the husband is in the Army and his wife in a war plant, they won’t have much time to brood over the ill fate that separates them or to blame each other for circumstances beyond their control. They are both doing what they can to win the war and shorten the time of their separation. Their shared concern establishes a common bond in relation to the very war which separates them.

Another source of strength in meeting the problems of separation is the sense of comradeship with many others who are having similar experiences and deprivations. Army wives have banded together in various ways for moral support. The married man in the Army will not forget that one out of every three American soldiers is facing a domestic problem similar to his own.

Intensive letter writing can be of value in helping a couple separated by the war to hold on to each other and to keep their marriage vital. Newsy letters telling of the little events that have happened and of the feelings of the writers toward them result in A sharing of day-by-day experience. This helps to keep the couple close to each other and to understand how each is being changed.

Finally, there is reason to believe that family morale, like any other kind of morale, is based on hope. Couples who plan realistically for their married life in peacetime minimize troubles brought on by war. Planning for children is important. One study of marriage indicated that the happiest couples are those who want but do not yet have children.

What are some of the timeless, general conditions of success in marriage? In particular, what are the conditions that can to some extent be influenced by the conscious effort of couples to make their marriages succeed?

Couples have to pay a price for marriage success. No two persons enjoy a complete identity of purpose. Some effort, some compromise, therefore, has to be made—and made from  the beginning. A good start in marriage may lead to growth of satisfaction and contentment.

It is not unreasonable to believe that children help to make marriage a success. The fact that divorced couples have fewer children does not, of course, make it certain that these couples would have been happily married if they had had more children. But no one can deny that children help to educate parents into maturity, provide a common interest, and strengthen the incentive to work for a good marital adjustment.

Someone has said that a wife is a person who sticks by you in trouble you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t married her. Yet even trouble may be a bond that holds a home together.

Another trait generally favorable to success in marriage is what might be called sociability. The good mixers, the participants in group activities, those who take an interest in others, are likely to make successful wives and husbands. Ability to make friends is not created by a mere act of will, but can be cultivated. Common friends and skill in the art of friendship help to make a go of marriage. As the more romantic phase passes, the successful marriage develops the quality of an intimate friendship.

Another favorable characteristic is honesty. Those who are honest with their mates, with themselves, and with the world are more likely to have successful marriages than those who are not. Remember, however, that a certain kind of honesty is the same as tactlessness. While there is much to be said for honesty about money matters and about activities and outlook on life, there is perhaps little gain in the expression of frank disapproval of your wife’s nose, the size of her feet, or her I. Q. After all, very little can be done about these matters. It may be wise to consider whether or not a constructive change is possible, and whether the change, if made, is worth the risk of hurt feelings and misunderstanding. Truth is sometimes bitter medicine which must be handled with discretion.

The “fifty-fifty” marriage, the kind in which neither husband nor wife orders the other around but in which they share equal authority and parallel responsibility, seems to have the best chance of success. There are persons who like to be bossed and others who enjoy bossing. If such individuals happen to pair off, the marriage may be a success. But in general American women are not by temperament or by training inclined to play the role of door mat in marriage any more than American men.

In fact, a couple’s attitude toward equality in marriage relationship may be as important as the actual division of authority and responsibility between them. One recent study showed that husbands opposed to rights for women were somewhat less likely to be happily married than those more tolerant on the subject of equal rights and responsibilities for women. Many happily married couples assert that a “fifty-fifty” meeting is not enough—that each must be ready to go more than half way and provide, in a “sixty-sixty” arrangement, a wide area for compromise.

Finally, mature people are more likely than others to make a go of marriage. They are not necessarily people who were born a goodly number of years ago. There are grown-up babies walking around disguised as adults by graying hair and wrinkling skin. Grown men are sometimes still tied to their mothers’ apron strings. Some fading women talk of “Daddy,” expect indulgent adoration, and want somebody else to shoulder their share of work and responsibility. People in their thirties may still at heart be adolescents seeking thrills, craving admiration, and pursuing the will-o’-the-wisp of unchanging romantic love.

Throughout the centuries the human race has commonly regarded marriage as a symbol of maturity. When the symbol corresponds to reality, the chances of making a success of marriage are best.

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