Relationship advice that we get today is fair, just and thoughtful. There are dedicated individuals – therapists, counselors and psychologists, who after attaining in depth knowledge about human behaviors and relationships, give careful advice to troubled couples about how to overcome their problems. Even generic information about relationships shared on public platforms such as newspapers, online websites and magazines are supported by credible research and studies.
But it hasn’t been like this forever. Relationship advice is majorly shaped by cultural factors. Today a lot of people believe that women deserve equal rights, equal treatment and equal opportunities like men.Therefore relationship advice given out today is fair towards both genders. But two decades ago, women were not entitled to equal rights, they faced major discrimination. Popular belief was that, women should be subservient to men and their sole responsibility should be to appease their men and dedicate their lives to chores of their households. Cultural settings and thought process of the people reflected in the relationship advice that were given at that period of time.
In the 1900’s, our society was in a very primitive stage. Men were only expected to work and earn for their households. Women were supposed to do the chores and rear children. According to a book written in 1902, by Emma Frances Angell Drake called “ What a girl should know” a woman was supposed dedicate her life to conception and maternity, without which she had no right to be called a wife.
This decade was witness to a feminist movement, women began demanding freedom. They wanted the right to follow their individual pursuits and not just spend their lives bearing motherhood and household responsibilities. The feminist creed started the liberation movement, they began venturing out, dating, dancing and drinking.
The older generation obviously did not approve of this and began “slut shaming” the feminists. Relationship advice by the conservatives at the time was centered around how horrible this culture was and how feminists were spoiling the concept of marriage.
However still there were drastic cultural changes in the society. This period saw the rise of late marriages and divorce rates.
The 1920’s saw huge economic development but by the end of the decade the world economy plunged into Great Depression. Feminism took a backseat and the focus shifted to more difficult problems.
By 1940’s almost all the effect of women empowerment had faded. Relationship advice directed to women was again about taking care of their household. In this period in fact sexism rose with all its glory. Women were advised to not only look after chores and the children, they were advised feed their men’s ego. Popular belief was that ‘men had to work hard and had to suffer ample bruises on their ego from their employers. It was the wife’s responsibility to boost their morale by being subservient to them.’
Women’s place in the society and the household further deteriorated in 1950’s. They were repressed and confined to do chores behind the walls of their houses. Relationship advisers propagated repression of women by promoting marriage as a “career for women”. They said women should not look for jobs outside their homes because there are lot of jobs inside their homes that they are supposed to take care of.
This decade also paved way for another regressive thought that success of the marriage was entirely the responsibility of the women. It implied that if a man cheated, got separated or divorced his wife, the reason would necessarily have to do something that his wife did.
In 1960’s women again began to retaliate against their societal and domestic suppression. The second thrust of feminism had started and women began to demand right to work outside their homes, pursue their own career choices. Graver marital issues like domestic abuse which earlier had not surfaced began to be discussed.
Women’s liberation movement had its effect on relationship advice as well. Big publishing houses printed advice articles which were pro-women and were not sexist. Ideas such as, “a girl does not owe a boy any sexual favor just because he bought her something” began to be propagated.
In 1960’s the stigma associated with talking about sex also declined to a certain extent. Advice about sex and sexual health started featuring on different media platforms. Overall the society began shedding some of its conservatism during this period of time.
By 1980’s women had started to work outside their homes. Relationship advice was not longer focused about chores and motherhood duties. But the concept of fueling the men’s ego somehow still prevailed. Dating experts advised girls to act ‘clumsy and underconfident’ so that the boy they like felt better about themselves.
However positive relationship advice like ‘being yourself’ and ‘not changing yourself for your partner’ were also being shared parallelly.
In 2000’s relationship advice became even more progressive. Deeper concerns about relationships such a sexual satisfaction, consent and respect started being discussed.
Although even today not all relationship advice is devoid of stereotypes and sexism, but the society and culture has undergone a major evolution in the previous century and most of the flaws in relationship advice have been successfully eradicated.