Generation after generation passing down the advice or warnings of their ancestors can lead to some strange and oftentimes untrue instructions that people widely accept and follow. These “old wives’ tales” cover topics from holistic healthcare to child-rearing and everything in between. They can also cloud romantic entanglements with misguided, if often well-intentioned, advice that simply doesn’t apply to the world at large today—if it ever did. Here are some old wives’ tales about romance that you can chuckle at and gently put aside, even if your parent, grandparent or other older relative is insistent you keep them in mind.
Don’t Buy the Cow When You Can Get the Milk for Free
This rather crude analogy is typically used specifically in terms of women, but the concept can apply to men to a lesser extent as well. It equates buying a cow—committing to spending money on the cow, raising it and keeping it for the reward of the milk it produces—to marriage and commitment. “Getting the milk for free” in this case refers to sex. It’s an outdated idea that men won’t marry women who have sex with them before marriage, as if the reward of having sex for the first time within the confines of marriage is the only reason those rascally, promiscuous men will settle down.
While there are still those who take vows of chastity until marriage for religious or personal reasons, this old wives’ tale demeans both men, implying they’re incapable of commitment unless a woman withholds sex, and women, saying their only worth is their chastity, which they need to use to entice a man to stay with them for the long haul. Many relationship experts actually recommend couples get to know each other sexually and ascertain their sexual compatibility before marriage and commitment, as a healthy sexual relationship is a part of many (but not all) couples’ lives.
Happy Wife, Happy Life
While the tale is not entirely without merit, the “happy wife, happy life” response is often trotted out to mean that women are unreasonable and that it’s best for their husbands to just go along with whatever they want and to always let them “win” arguments. If the wife isn’t happy, the husband will never get any peace. However, you could interpret it to mean that a happy wife leads to a happy, peaceful life—but without all the extra “but women are unreasonable so you’ll have to roll your eyes and bear it” baggage that often goes with the saying. A truly happy wife is happy when her spouse is happy, and she’s willing to compromise when necessary.
Chocolate Is an Aphrodisiac
While chocolate is said to increase those “feel-good” dopamine levels in the brain, the fact that people widely consider it an aphrodisiac is more of an old wives’ tale as it is still scientifically debated. There’s some evidence that the chemicals in cacao slow down the breakdown of andanamine, which heightens the brain’s sense of euphoria, but not to a significant degree. Just consider every time you’ve eaten chocolate, even in unromantic situations. You don’t feel more sensual with every bite. When you eat chocolate in the midst of a passionate encounter, it may feel like the cocoa is contributing to the mood, but that may be a mild placebo effect.
Opposites Attract (and Like Attracts Like)
There is no hardwired rule for what type of people will attract you, despite the old wives’ tales (that are at odds with each other) “opposites attract” and “like attracts like.” While there are some types of people better suited for long-term relationships with you, that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be attracted to those types. Despite popular belief, someone who’s opposite to you in tastes and life experiences won’t necessarily make for a bad match either—if you complement and respect each other’s differences. There’s no scientific basis to know exactly who may be attracted to whom; personal tastes shaped by your genes, environment and society at large make it different for virtually everyone.
There are truths in all myths and old wives’ tales—to an extent. Sometimes you just need to extrapolate the intention behind the tale to get the gist of what its purpose was. Then, you can decide if you want to strive for that intent through other, more modern means or if that intent no meaning in your life at all.