Jilly Cooper, doyenne of the bonkbuster and magnificent now 82, thinks about the sea changes that have occurred in the half century since she was asked to write a manual, How To Stay Married, with advice to newlyweds.
The book has just been reissued for a new generation to celebrate its 50th anniversary, so Jilly looks back on her old board in an exclusive interview – alternately hilarious, absurd, sensible and often politically incorrect – with a mix of entertainment and horror .
& # 39; What a horrible presumption! & # 39 ;, she says about her 32-year-old self for spreading such shrill opinions about sex, affairs, and the division of household chores.
Jilly Cooper, pictured in an undated photo with her husband Leo, who died six years ago, revised her handbook, How To Stay Married, for newlywed couples
& # 39; I was almost horrified when I read it again. What a self-satisfied, quirky little all-round knowledge I was! I strictly announced that men hated seeing women struggling in the house, so their wives had to work from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm so that they could come home to clean, iron and clean. cook before they got home from work.
& # 39; "If you amuse a man in bed," I went on, "he is unlikely to worry about the pile of dust underneath," or, more in the small, "it is unlikely that he will get lost."
& # 39; How could I have maintained that & # 39; a woman should be grateful that her husband wants her & # 39 ;, and suggested that if a woman refuses her husband's sex, she will only blame herself if he is unfaithful?
& # 39; I wrote some terrible things, but to limit it, it was a completely different era. & # 39;
Jilly, now 82 and pictured last year, said she & # 39; almost died of horror & # 39; when she read her book again and said & # 39; what a smug, stubborn little – all I was & # 39;
Her advice about what to do if you found out that your husband was cheating had an uncomfortable feeling.
& # 39; If you find out he's having an affair with someone and he doesn't know, play it cool & # 39 ;, she advised in her book. & # 39; But if he knows you know it, bring the hell up. & # 39;
In the 1990s, her adored husband Leo – who died of Parkinson's disease six years ago – had a long affair with publisher Sarah Johnson, who became painfully public when Sarah wrote about it in a newspaper.
Did Jilly obey her own advice when she was confronted with her husband's infidelity? In fact, she says now, although betrayal & # 39; pain & # 39; her advice is conciliatory.
& # 39; Forgiven. That is my recommendation. And pray that it blows over it, & she says, just like in her husband's case.
The author, pictured with Leo on their wedding day, had been married for 52 years and said that the worst thing she survived in her marriage was her infertility
A few years ago she admitted that she too had a & # 39; short flight & # 39; early in her marriage. but Leo had no desire for revenge. & # 39; He welcomed me back with open arms. & # 39;
During their 52-year marriage, Jilly and Leo enjoyed and enjoyed much besides unfaithfulness, but their joint commitment to stay together was inviolable.
I ask her what the worst thing was that she survived in her marriage and she says, after slow consideration, that apart from the pain of watching Leo & # 39; s decline with Parkinson's – it was her infertility. & # 39; It was absolutely terrible & # 39 ;, she says. & # 39; There is something tragic and yet ridiculous about those failed threshing, night after night.
& # 39; We have tried seven traumatic years, from doctor to doctor, to have a baby and there was only one moment of excitement when one of them said: & # 39; You are pregnant & # 39 ;, before adding, & # 39; but it is ectopic & # 39 ;.
But we were able to adopt Felix after six weeks and Emily when she was a week old. We were so lucky that we were offered those heavenly babies. Now you have to go through all sorts of bureaucratic hassle and eventually you adopt a child when it is five or six, which is much more difficult. & # 39;
The couple's children were there with Jilly when Leo died.
Leo, pictured with Jilly at their home in 1991, died of Parkinson's disease six years ago
& # 39; At the end he was so sick that I always thought, "Please God, take him" and then feel terribly guilty. He was ill for 13 years. I had time to say goodbye. How heartbreaking it would be if a man died suddenly or just after you had a terrible fight.
& # 39; I had said all the things I wanted to say, and when he died it was wonderful because I sat there with the children and recited all the old poems and silly jokes that he loved when Emily put her hand on his chest and said, "I think he's gone."
& # 39; He is buried in a cemetery nearby and I talk to him and take flowers to his grave every week. & # 39; Because all that marriage is imperfect, it is an institution that must – and will – survive, she believes.
& # 39; On our ruby wedding anniversary, I compared the marriage to two people rowing across a vast ocean in a boat, sometimes with a blue sky and beautiful sunsets, sometimes moved by storms so violent that we were almost capsized, but at the Somehow we had fought further, & she says.
Jilly, pictured at her home in Gloucestershire in 2016, said the marriage is trying to make you harder & # 39; and that happy marriages do not happen overnight. You have to build them & # 39;
The glue that bound them was their shared humor: a capacity for uncontrollable laughter that made even the most fragile rows harmless.
& # 39; It will continue to exist. I'm sure of that, & she says. & # 39; Being married holds you to a relationship. There is a grim statistic that 50 percent of today's children can expect their parents to split up by the time they are sixteen. And it is significant that 80 percent of these divorces happen with unmarried couples.
& # 39; Marriage, for all restrictions, makes it harder to try. And children especially want their parents to stay together. When a teacher asked a little girl to define love, she sadly replied that she would see her mom and dad get married.
& # 39; A happy marriage is the best life has to offer, & # 39; she reflects. & # 39; But they don't happen overnight. You have to build them like a cathedral, brick by brick. & # 39;
So here, with the wisdom of old age and a fund of hard-fought experiences, Jilly & # 39; s revised tips are to keep getting married. . .
In 1969 I advised virgins to take a red towel during their honeymoon to prevent shame after having had sex. But of course there are no more virgins, so the towel rule does not apply.
However, I still claim that you should take two good books, sleeping pills and go somewhere where there is enough to interest you. Otherwise you have nothing else to do but each other.
NEVER BLOW OVER BUSINESS
Infidelity is terrible, but for the person who commits it, it is often just a frisky. Forgive is my advice. It will blow.
I'm really against friends who think they're giving you a good turn by telling you that your husband is turning someone else away. Many people are working on it, and if so, keep your fall closed. You would be crazy to confess.
We had a nice house in Fulham and there was always a couple in the guest room that slept with someone who was not their wife or husband. One couple had such powerful sex that the ceiling came down.
Jilly revised her tips to stay married and now said that if couples have to share chores and always sleep in the same bed
How can anyone even commit adultery? You have no hope! You can say that you are in the office, but your husband / wife immediately knows that if they have one of those tracking devices on their cell phones, that you are in a pitch. Horrible!
And they can find all the numbers that you have called. These days you have to be much more secretive if you want a secret affair.
IF YOU'RE NO FANCY SEX, TALK IT
I think I was completely wrong to suggest that men had the right to demand sex, but I still think they can talk about it and say, "I love you and I'd like to have it." # 39;
Nowadays poor men practically need a legal consent form before they touch a woman.
Men must be aware and proud of their sexuality, but they are so insecure that they are even afraid to say if someone looks beautiful. I think it is a tragedy that they are now so reduced. They are terrified of passing a woman.
How To Stay Married, book in decor, by Jilly Cooper, £ 9.99 is published by Bantam Press
I love being whistled with a wolf. I'm honored at my age. I don't understand why you wouldn't be unless you are a very young girl who can be ashamed of terrible teaching. It all depends on the context, doesn't it?
Share the household chores. Fifty years ago I told women they had to come home early from work to clean the house. Leo did most of the tidying up and was such a great cook that he was known as Putney's Escoffier. A guy I know is called the Iron Man, I assumed he was that strong. Actually it is because he is already doing the ironing. Awesome!
KEEP A PET
Every marriage should have room for a dog or cat. Animals cheer you up and make you laugh. After a particularly horrifying line, I was packing my bags when Leo said: & # 39; You don't want the poor cat to be the victim of a broken house. & # 39; We started laughing and the argument was forgotten.
SALUTE HOUSE HUSBAND
Housewives and shared parenthood were unheard of in the 1960s, but today, if you're lucky enough to have a husband at home who takes care of the children, be eternally grateful. It is a tough job and not to be underestimated.
IGNORE SEX SURVEYS
Take sex studies with a big pinch of salt. They usually talk to 20 people in Ealing and then generalize the findings around the world. I recently read one that said it would take the average woman 13 minutes to reach an orgasm. That sounds like a long time to me. It of course depends on the context and how excited you are.
PORN FOR ADULTS
I have never seen internet porn – I am a technophobic. I wouldn't know how to find it – but if it turns you on, I think it's okay. But look behind closed doors. It is terrible to think of children watching it on their cell phones.
LOVE AND SOLD
Keep these words close to your heart and your relationship will thrive. I hate it when couples knock each other down. Celebrate your wife / husband's achievements and tell them when they look beautiful.
ALWAYS DELITE A BED
Never share razors. Have separate TV & # 39; s if needed. But always share a bed. Sex is such a beautiful, cheering thing, and when couples no longer sleep in the same bed, it's the first step to stop having sex. Laughter is also the key. The marriage, which I have always believed, is maintained by bed feathers that crack as much from helpless laughter as from sex.
DRIVING FOR BED TIME
I have never agreed with the adage & # 39; Don't let the sun go down over your anger. & # 39; Why do you try to solve a queue if you are both exhausted before going to sleep? It is much better to go to sleep and everything will look better tomorrow.
How to Stay Married by Jilly Cooper, £ 9.99 is spent by Bantam Press
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