Gypsy Creams

Just a Domestic?

Woman's Weekly / 18th June 1965

Hmm. Read the first letter and see if you agree with me that there may be more to this than Mary realises. Everyone loses their temper occasionally, usually when they’re tired or have had a hard day, but regular bouts of extreme anger are different. It’s particularly concerning that the husband only displays this anger to his wife, so everyone else in their lives probably think that he’s an ideal man. Of course, domestic violence wasn’t really taken seriously until the 1980s; when my aunt left her abusive husband in the 1970s, the police were prepared to sit at a distance when he visited her, meaning it was only her quick closing of the door which prevented him from stabbing her with a knife he’d concealed.

What is also worrying is that we haven’t come all that far on this issue in 45 years. This editorial in the Guardian from 2008 states that more women worldwide between 19 and 44 die from domestic violence than any other cause, and the proposed changes in legal aid will make women more vulnerable. And being a victim of violence isn’t restricted to women in heterosexual relationships; anyone can be a victim, and convictions are even more difficult in these (rarer) cases. Mary’s eventual advice of marriage guidance isn’t wrong, but she’s obviously underestimated how frightened this woman is. After all, she’s finally picked up the courage after 30 years to write to a problem page, so getting her husband to undergo marriage guidance? Unlikely. I hope his temper just restricted itself to shouting, because I have a horrible feeling that this woman wouldn’t have got anywhere in dealing with his anger issues.

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Jamie on 31 October 2011 @ 10am

It’s perfectly clear, albeit only reading between the lines, that Housewife’s worthless piece of shit husband is hitting her. Thirty years of just shouting would be very rare – he would be bound to ‘trip over’ into assaulting her in that time. Even if he hasn’t (he has), the fact that she’s terrified of him is assault in and of itself.

In a different world, a later world, one would hope that Housewife would have the courage to leave the prick, but sadly abused women still rarely leave abusive men. They are, of course, uniquely disadvantaged, bound to an inadequate man by concerns about being financially secure, of keeping a roof over their head, for the sake of their children’s welfare and wellbeing — society looks down less on “single mothers” than it once did, but the government and the civil service still do and take delight in making a “single mother” cold, poor, hungry and feeling despised, all because she had the courage to leave a man before he killed her.

Despite these attitudes, then and now, Mary is very very wrong in the advice she gives here. Her brand of stout, pull-yourself-together, Dunkirk-spirit-keep-going advice is okay in small doses against people being stupid (Mrs M: who *cares* that she was divorced? Live in the damn now) but dangerous, even fatal, when faced by serious problems like Housewife has had to painfully live with.

Tanya Jones on 31 October 2011 @ 10am

Yes, I too suspect that he was hitting her, and as you say, bouts of severe temper in themselves can make the person on the receiving end extremely frightened, which is no way to conduct a relationship. I presume Mary was more afraid of the consequences of the woman leaving her husband than her staying, but saying to herself ‘oh, he probably won’t hurt her’ isn’t responsible behaviour, regardless of societal attitudes.

Jam Shambles on 31 October 2011 @ 7pm

But remember ladies, he *is* nice to her sometimes, so she should forgive him his little “weakness”.


Tanya Jones on 31 October 2011 @ 10pm

I can’t help but think Mary’s original reply asked if the poor woman did anything to provoke his bad tempers, and the sub editors thought better of it…

Charlie Albright on 27 November 2011 @ 8pm

How can it be ‘perfectly clear he is hitting her’?
or is that just cynical 21st Century thinking kicking in?

That generation had been through WW2, you could argue the husband had been shell shocked through army service, but its all conjecture on a 45 year old article and bad tempers (which are certainly not confined to males)do not always lead to violence against a person but usually an inanimate object.
Perhaps before writing poor Mary off as a naive old biddy she may have understood the letter better than we can living out of context.

Tanya Jones on 28 November 2011 @ 6pm

Yes, it is conjecture, but that’s all Mary had to go on as well, and I think she could have done a better job. It’s a sad reflection of the times that Mary felt more comfortable telling the wife to ignore the husband’s anger problem than to recommend help, and regardless of how the problem developed, help was clearly what this couple needed.

Charlie Albright on 2 December 2011 @ 9pm

Yes I think your right she should have told them to seek medical attention rather than a councellor,perhaps the age itself was naive to the fact that many mind troubles are now known to be associated with chemical imbalances in the body? Post natal depression was of course unheard of in those days.A popular TV actress committed suicide in 1968 ‘while the balance of her mind was disturbed’the clues missed at the time was the fact she had just had a baby.
Obviously the film with an ‘angry’ James Mason highlighting this a decade before, was perhaps a bit too dull & dreary to have caught Mary’s eye?

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