Marriage Advice Every Southern Woman Needs to Know, Says Mama

Daddy thinks he’s in charge—bless his heart.

Valerie Fraser Luesse
Married Couple Cooking
George Marks / Stringer / Getty Images

There’s romance, and then there’s marriage. And any Southern Mama knows a thing or two about both. We all want a little romance, whether we’re 26 or 86, but to have a truly happy marriage that will last a lifetime, a girl needs management skills—not marriage counseling but management skills.

One of the best lines in My Big Fat Greek Wedding comes when Toula’s mom tells her that the man might be the head of the house, but “the woman is the neck”—in other words, she quietly directs the head. Southern women have known all about that neck thing for generations. And boy howdy, can they work it.

Years ago, Mama was officially certified as a Level I Head Turner. And she says the day she stopped trying to understand Daddy and just learned to operate him was the day she knew that the two of them would one day celebrate their golden anniversary together. Any marriage problems can be solved—nay, headed off at the pass—with the proper skill set. Fortunately for us, Mama’s happy to share her hard-won wisdom. Here’s her best marriage advice:

1. Never put him in charge of his own clothes—but let him think he is.

“If you want him to look nice (and make you look good) periodically purge his closet when he’s not paying attention,” Mama advises. “Men will wear a sweater till it’s pilled to Timbuktu, and they think grease stains add character. Treat the good washables with Woolite on your delicate cycle. Anything he golfs in, fishes in, hunts in, or cuts grass in gets Tide. And if he asks you what went with that ratty football jersey he bought at the Sugar Bowl ten years ago, tell him one of the kids at church begged you for it and you didn’t have the heart to say no.”

2. Always hide a little money back.

“That’s just good home management,” Mama says. “You never know when Belk’s will have a mega-sale, and there’s no need to trouble Daddy with a big hit on the credit card. I run a cash operation.”

3. Get him out of the house.

“While he’s reading the paper, I’ll casually look out the window and say something like, ‘Isn’t it a beautiful day! So sunny and warm outside!’ Then I’ll go and busy myself in the kitchen. Within minutes, he’ll be coming to tell me that he thinks he might squeeze in a little fishing. That’s how I keep him from staying underfoot and getting on my nerves.”

4. Lie about where you’re going.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake—don’t look so shocked!” Mama says. “Once he retires, this is especially critical because he’ll want to go everywhere with you. Let’s say I want a little time to myself, so I’ve planned a day to ramble the shops and have lunch someplace Daddy doesn’t care for. If I tell him I’m going shopping, he’ll want to tag along, and then he’ll try to change my lunch plans. So I tell him I’ve got an appointment with my OBGYN, and after that I’m delivering fruit baskets to the nursing home. He can’t get away from me fast enough.

5. Lay down the law—you run the house.

“He hates the sound of a vacuum cleaner and tried to convince me it wasn’t necessary,” Mama said. “If you want to know who won that argument, just check out the Shark tracks on my spotless carpet.”

6. Make out like he hurt your feelings, and you can get him to do anything.

“This one needs no explanation,” Mama says. “Southern brides figure it out on their honeymoon.”

Got any marriage advice from your Mama to share? Let’s hear it, sisters!