Retro couple having cocktails

History tells us that the whole 2.5-kids-and-white-picket-fence ideal of the 1950s and early '60s didn't really pan out for anyone involved — specifically women, who had few options for fulfillment beyond being a stay-at-home mom.

Reclaim the romance

However, as we look back on the era via old magazines, TV shows like Mad Men and books like The Best of Everything, is there anything that mid-century culture can teach us about making our relationships better? We think there are a few things:

Mind your manners

True, it's no fun adhering to schoolmarm-level etiquette rules (use the correct fork!), but try keeping your bad habits — interrupting, knuckle-cracking, constant texting, swearing — to a minimum when you're around your significant other. Putting your best foot forward will encourage you to see your relationship as something special that's to be respected, rather than an uncouth free-for-all. When your guy sees you behaving so well, he might just get inspired to clean up his act as well.

Retro idea: Mad Men's Joan Harris cited Emily Post as her inspiration for organizing a dinner party she threw in season three. Today, you can peruse Emily Post's website for etiquette tips on everything from safe sex to online dating. How modern!

Love and gadgets: Tech etiquette for couples >>

Jessica Steele apronLook nice for your man — just because

When you get home from work, it's so tempting to shed those pantyhose and pull on your college sweatpants, but a pair of drawstring duds doesn't exactly encourage a steamy night of passion. You don't have to put on your finest frock and whip up a roast chicken dinner, à la Trudy Campbell in Mad Men, but consider donning a pair of jeans, a cute top and little bit of lip gloss to greet him when he comes home. He might not mention the change out loud, but he'll notice... and you'll feel better about the way you look after putting in a little bit of effort. And who knows: You just might benefit big time in the bedroom.

Retro idea: Even if you're cooking some simple store-bought pasta and sauce for a quick dinner à deux, tie on a quirky apron like one from Jessie Steele, just for fun.

Retro radioEat together at the dinner table

Raise your hand if you regularly eat your meals in front of the television. (We're guilty of that too!) Before Americans had 1,000-plus cable channels to choose from, having dinner together was a main event, not an afterthought. In that spirit, the next time you're both home for the evening and have a few minutes to spare, try eating from real plates at the dinner table (even if the main course is takeout pizza!) and having a conversation with your guy, all while the TV is switched off. You might be surprised by how much you end up connecting.

Retro idea: Fire up your laptop or hook your iPhone up to a speaker system and listen to Pandora's "'60s Oldies Radio" station for mood music.

Encourage your partner's pursuits

Back then, there was a clear delineation: Men went to work to bring home the bacon, and women stayed home. That's (thankfully) no longer the case, but there's something quaint about trusting in your guy so much that you're confident he has the skills to pay the bills. Translation: Encourage your guy in every area of life: his business, his hobbies...even his fitness goals. Because no matter who's going out and winning the bread (and these days you both probably are), there's no better feeling than having a champion in your corner when you get home. And he should do the same for you.

Retro idea: If he's been fretting about a big work presentation or he's running his first 5k, put a note in his briefcase or send him an email or text the morning of the big day saying, "Good luck today!" or "You've got this, baby!" It'll mean the world to him.

Bring back the nightgown

What's lace and silk and undeniably pretty? A basic nightgown, which was de rigueur for mid-century ladies. (True, there were also unsightly hair rollers at bedtime too, but we'll focus on the positive.) How lucky will your guy feel when you slip between the sheets in something slinky? Very. And we'll bet you'll feel sexier too. It's a win-win!

Retro idea: If you chafe at the idea of something lacy and itchy, try a super-soft cotton-blend gown from a brand like Cosabella. It's still gorgeous, but way more comfy.

More relationship tips

Your cohabitation survival kit
Go on a nag-free marriage diet
Love and gadgets: Tech etiquette for couples

Woman in a nightgown


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Comments on "5 Love tips inspired by 1950s housewives"

Erin August 14, 2012 | 10:30 AM

I love all these tips and am a firm believer in that a little goes a long way. The article states your guy may not say that he noticed you looked nice when he got home from work, but he definitely will notice! I think it's important to look good for your man and be on your best behavior! Act like a lady, just as they did in the 50s.

Erica June 11, 2012 | 12:06 PM

I think these are all great ideas and I intend to follow them in my life. I was raised with these principles in mind and I don't think they'll ever go out of style!

Ruby May 04, 2012 | 12:47 PM

This day and age both men and women have to work. It is great for women to contribute and feel accomplished, but it can really hurt a mans ego! Especially with unemployment on the rise, if she is working and he isn't, it can really put a strain on the relationship. It is so true and important for women to be their mans biggest cheerleader so he always feels that pride and that he is taking care of his spouse and family!

Emma May 04, 2012 | 12:42 PM

One of my biggest peeves is watching tv at dinner! I love sittin at the table and enjoying a meal with my man! He likes to sit on the couch, even if the tv isn't on, because its more comfortable! I have found a great compromise! We go on a walk together after dinner... It gets us out of the house moving, let's us connect and communicate, and it's just fun! We both win!!

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