What Men And Women Wanted Out Of Marriage in 1939 Compared to 2016

Marriage has changed in the last 70 years. If you need proof, think about your grandparents’ marriages and then think about your parents or friends’ marriages. It’s dramatically different but whether it’s better or worse, we can’t say.

The cultural and historical markings of what we class as a ‘good relationship’ have really shaped the expectations of what marriage should be; on both sides of sex.


Most wedding issues stem from the awkward interaction and inevitable conflict that comes when these expectations start to supersede or disturb each other. Especially if certain expectations are rooted in old timey (and probs sexist) ideals.

New research from Max Roser has found, from historical surveys, what men and women wanted from their prospective husbands and wives in 1939. This data can be compared to the wants of today to find some interesting and worrying insights.


Image credit: Max Roser

These diagrams are kind of hard to read so we’ll run through the best and most shocking expectations below.

What Women Want

In 1939, women wanted a “dependable character” before anything else. This has since been put in second place nowadays as “mutual attraction” is now considered the most important trait of a husband.

“Good looks” have rocketed up from 14th to 8th has as “education”. Funnily enough “chastity” has dropped all the way from 10th to 18th which isn’t that surprising.

What’s interesting is that, as on overview, traits that have to do with husbands’ actual character have jumped up in 70 years whereas smaller things haven’t really declined in importance.

We can’t really say the same thing about the guys…


What Men Want

This’ll be fun….

“Good looks” has become significantly more important since 1939 has it did for the women and “chastity” has fallen dramatically. What is interesting is that “chastity” was considered equally as important for both men and women.

What’s quite sad is that “ambition” has fallen as a desirable trait for women since 1939 whereas “intelligence” has risen.

This probably comes from men wanting the ‘best’ women he can ‘get’ but still feeling insecure about being the breadwinner… just a theory.