Would you trust marital advice from a long-time mistress? Would you have confidence in a woman who has carried on a clandestine affair with a married man for nearly thirty years?
Yet, the Mistress in this book believes she has wisdom to offer, Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress. Through Drury. the speaker says, “society assumes a mistress is in the wrong and therefore has nothing to say to a woman in the right. But she does.”
“Many years ago,” she adds, “when I was divorced initially against my choice, I protested to a friend, a much older man, “I was a good wife!” and he replied, “My dear, there is no such thing. There is only the right wife for a given man.”
Drury does not dispense the woman’s advice in a numbered list. Rather, she makes her points in a formal, Victorian voice, a few reflections which I have converted into 8 “bullet” points.
1. . . . all newcomers to marriage are inescapably beginners, a little clumsy, too earnest, quite unaware of what is yet required, cheerfully certain that they have arrived at a triumphant culmination instead of a precarious takeoff.
2. Attraction can flare up in almost any situation, but love cannot long endure where there are no selves, no terminals between which the spark can alternate. Anode and cathode, yang and yin, riposte, counterpoint, tension: it is just that simple.
3. A successful mistress knows how to be loved; it seldom occurs to a wife that it is necessary to learn.
4. But a woman who habitually complains against a man is quibbling. Either live with him, and hold your tongue, or act, but don’t harp, unless you really mean to keep from being loved.
5. A mistress, because she has few stated rights, learns restraint; a wife, having almost too many, is tempted to usurp.
6. Wives and mistresses have different clocks. A wife can become so engrossed with the future that she almost ceases to live today. Everything is for tomorrow: the children’s education, the bigger house, next year’s promotion, retirement, the long focus upon some event not yet arrived. A mistress lives perhaps too much in the present, but this very immediacy, physical and spiritual, is a lodestar.
7. If you would stay loved, stay strange a little. Maintain a reserve of mind and heart, not a sly withholding but the privacy of personality.
8. A wife does not have to be a career woman, but she does need to be a woman, a whole person with brain and hands.
* * *
In June, I met a woman online whose life lessons more closely resemble mine. In fact, hers reflect the ones I mention in the pages of My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir.
Susan Alexander Yates has been married to husband John for 54 years. She, too, has advice to dispense, tried and true bits of wisdom garnered over years of experience.
Her website’s “About” page introduces Susan:
I’m mom to five children (including a set of twins) and grandmother to 21 (including a set of quadruplets!). My husband, John, and I have been married 54 years. We live in Falls Church, Virginia, a Washington D.C. suburb where John served as the Senior Pastor of The Falls Church Anglican for 40 years before retirement. I’ve written 16 books and speak on the subjects of marriage, parenting, faith issues, and women’s issues.
Susan blogs weekly on the theme of “Wisdom for Every Season.” A North Carolina Tarheel, Susan “loves Monday night football, ACC basketball, shooting hoops with my grandsons, hiking and riding horseback with my husband, running and talking with girlfriends. You are not likely to find me at the mall; I’d rather be at the farm.”
She also offers best advice for a healthy marriage (of 54 years), listing seven nuggets of advice for a happy marriage. You’ll find three here. Discover the others on her website:
- Forgiveness is the most important ingredient of any marriage.
- Have friends to whom you are accountable.
- Resolve conflict.
More Insights from Susan:
Our wedding anniversary, August 1967 – 2023
I wrote about our own marriage in My Checkered Life, a Marriage Memoir, April 2023
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What valid bits of wisdom did you discover from the old mistress?
Advice you value from author Susan Alexander? From your own observation or experience?