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Rules and Maxims for Promoting Matrimonial Happiness

Benjamin Franklin's "RULES and MAXIMS for promoting Matrimonial Happiness. Addressed to all Widows, Wives, and Spinsters."

Ver novum, ver jam canorum, vere natus Orbis est:
Vere concordant amores, vere nubent alites
— Catul.

Faelices ter, & amplius,
Quos irrupta tenet Copula: nec malis
Divulsis Querimoniis
Suprema citius solvet amor die

The happy State of Matrimony is, undoubtedly, the surest and most lasting Foundation of Comfort and Love; the Source of all that endearing Tenderness and Affection which arises from Relation and Affinity; the grand Point of Property; the Cause of all good Order in the World, and what alone preserves it from the utmost Confusion; and, to sum up all, the Appointment of infinite Wisdom for these great and good Purposes. Notwithstanding, such is the Perverseness of human Nature, and so easy is it to misuse the best of Things, that by the Folly and Ill-behaviour of those who enter into it, this is very often made a State of the most exquisite Wretchedness and Misery; which gives the wild and vicious Part of Mankind but too much reason to rail against it, and treat it with Contempt. Wherefore, it highly becomes the virtuous of both Sexes, by the Prudence of their Conduct, to redeem this noble Institution from those unjust Reproaches which it at present labours under, and restore it to the Honour and Esteem it merits, by endeavouring to make each other as happy as they can.

I am now about to lay down such Rules and Maxims as I think most practicable and conducive towards the End and Happiness of Matrimony. And these I address to all Females that would be married, or are already so; not that I suppose their Sex more faulty than the other, and most to want Advice, for I assure them, upon my Honour, I believe the quite contrary; but the Reason is, because I esteem them better disposed to receive and practice it, and therefore am willing to begin, where I may promise myself the best Success. Besides, if there is any Truth in Proverbs, Good Wives usually make Good Husbands.

RULES and MAXIMS for promoting Matrimonial Happiness. Address’d to all Widows, Wives, and Spinsters.

The likeliest Way, either to obtain a good Husband, or to keep one so, is to be Good yourself.

Never use a Lover ill whom you design to make your Husband, lest he either upbraid you with it, or return it afterwards: and if you find, at any Time, an Inclination to play the Tyrant, remember these two Lines of Truth and Justice.

Gently shall those be rul’d, who gently sway’d;
Abject shall those obey, who haughty were obey’d.

Avoid, both before and after Marriage, all Thoughts of managing your Husband. Never endeavour to deceive or impose on his Understanding: nor give him Uneasiness (as some do very foolishly) to try his Temper; but treat him always beforehand with Sincerity, and afterwards with Affection and Respect.

Be not over sanguine before Marriage, nor promise your self Felicity without Alloy, for that’s impossible to be attain’d in this present State of Things. Consider beforehand, that the Person you are going to spend your Days with, is a Man, and not an Angel; and if, when you come together, you discover any Thing in his Humour or Behaviour that is not altogether so agreeable as you expected, pass it over as a humane Frailty: smooth your Brow; compose your Temper; and try to amend it by Cheerfulness and Good-nature.

Remember always, that whatever Misfortunes may happen to either, they are not to be charg’d to the Account of Matrimony, but to the Accidents and Infirmities of humane Life, a Burthen which each has engaged to assist the other in supporting, and to which both Parties are equally expos’d. Therefore, instead of Murmurs, Reflections, and Disagreement, whereby the Weight is rendred abundantly more grievous, readily put your Shoulders to the Yoke, and make it easier to both.

Resolve every Morning to be good-natur’d and CHEERFUL that Day: and if any Accident should happen to break that Resolution, suffer it not to put you out of Temper with every Thing besides, and especially with your Husband.

Dispute not with him, be the Occasion what it will; but much rather deny yourself the trivial Satisfaction of having your own Will, or gaining the better of an Argument, than risk a Quarrel or create an Heart-burning, which it’s impossible to know the End of.

Be assured, a Woman’s Power, as well as Happiness, has no other Foundation but her Husband’s Esteem and Love, which consequently it is her undoubted Interest by all Means possible to preserve and increase. Do you, therefore, study his Temper, and command your own; enjoy his Satisfaction with him, share and sooth his Cares, and with the utmost Diligence conceal his Infirmities.

Read frequently with due Attention the Matrimonial Service; and take care in doing so, not to overlook the Word Obey.

In your Prayers be sure to add a Clause for Grace to make you a good Wife; and at the same Time, resolve to do your utmost endeavour towards it.

Always wear your Wedding Ring, for therein lies more Virtue than usually is imagined. If you are ruffled unawares, assaulted with improper Thoughts, or tempted in any kind against your Duty, cast your Eyes upon it, and call to Mind, who gave it you, where it was received, and what passed at that solemn Time.

Let the Tenderness of your conjugal Love be expressed with such Decency, Delicacy and Prudence, as that it may appear plainly and thorowly distinct from the designing Fondness of an Harlot.

Have you any Concern for your own Ease, or for your Husband’s Esteem? then, have a due Regard to his Income and Circumstances in all your Expences and Desires: For if Necessity should follow, you run the greatest Hazard of being deprived of both.

Let not many Days pass together without a serious Examination how you have behaved as a Wife, and if upon Reflection you find your self guilty of any Foibles or Omissions, the best Attonement is, to be exactly careful of your future Conduct.

I am fully persuaded, that a strict Adherence to the foregoing Rules would equally advance the Honour of Matrimony, and the Glory of the Fair Sex: And since the greatest Part of them, with a very little Alteration, are as proper for Husbands as for Wives to practice, I recommend them accordingly to their Consideration, and hope, in a short time, to receive Acknowledgments from married Persons of both Sexes for the Benefit they receive thereby.

And now, in behalf of my unlearned Readers, I beg Leave of my learned Ones, to conclude this Discourse with Mr. Creech‘s Translation of that Part of Horace which I have taken for the Motto of this Paper.

Thrice happy They, that free from Strife,
Maintain a Love as long as Life:
Whose fixt and binding Vows,
No intervening
No Fears and no Debates untye;
Death alone can loose.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, October 8, 1730