Martha Washington on a “Datable” Kind of Guy
Martha Washington gives real talk on how to choose the right guy.
George Washington, relationship guru? Actually, he gave his step-granddaughters some pretty awesome dating advice. In letters from 1794 and 1796, General Washington asked the below questions of his step-granddaughters, Nelly and Eliza Custis - and they’re just as relevant today.
“When the fire is beginning to kindle, and your heart growing warm, propound these questions to it... Is he a man of good character; a man of sense? What has been his walk in life? Is he a gambler? A spendthrift (wasteful)? Or a drunkard?" 
Translation: The words “character” and “sense” are a little old-fashioned so let’s drill down: character means qualities of integrity, courage, and honesty. Sense means sound and practical judgement.
Martha Washington gives real talk on how to choose the right guy.
YES: Your guy does do the right thing, even when it hurts. He won’t ditch you to hang out with his dudes, "ghost" into thin air, use you as a band-aid or a placeholder, or end things via text. He knows when to say no to that next shot of Fireball and makes smart decisions with his cash. He’s appreciative of everything you do for him even if they're epic failures.
NO: If you’re having trouble putting your guy and “sense” in the same mental picture, swipe to the left. Figuratively speaking.
George Washington to Eleanor Parke Custis, March 21, 1796
"Is he one to whom your friends can have no reasonable objection?" 
Translation: To quote five of the most preeminent relationship philosophers of the late 20th century: if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends. (Yes, we mean the Spice Girls.)
Martha Washington explains why listening to your closest friends will keep you from relationship disaster.
YES: Your girl squad loves him and thinks he’s awesome for you. Your guy friends have given him the thumbs up in their dude kind-of-way.
NO: You’re finding that your friends frequently ask you if you’re bringing your guy out tonight…and then they bail last minute. And if you’re really honest with yourself, you kind of know deep down you’d have a better time without him. #realtalk
"Have you sufficiently concluded that his affections are engaged by you?" 
Translation: Is he into you? No, for real. Calls at 2 a.m. don’t count.
The first first lady has some strong advice on how to end it with style and grace.
YES: It’s pretty simple. His communication is regular, and he makes an effort to be with you.
NO: Washington’s next line to Nelly was “Without this, the heart of sensibility will struggle against a passion that is not reciprocated…”  If he’s not into you, protect your heart and dig deep into discovering your self-worth. Let him go and wish him well. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.
"Is his fortune sufficient to sustain you in the manner you’ve been accustomed to live?" 
Translation: Can he pull his weight in the relationship, financially?
Martha Washington gives her two cents on why financial responsibility in a partner is essential.
YES: Good, because no girl wants to be paying for dinner…for the eighth time this month.
NO: You find yourself sitting in on embarrassing conversations with his parents about how he still can’t find a job. He’s 35. We’ll get you an Uber.
"Do not, then, in your contemplation of the marriage state, look for perfect felicity before you consent to wed. Nor conceive, from the fine tales the poets and lovers of old have told us, of the transports of mutual love, that heaven has taken its abode on earth; nor do not deceive yourself in supposing, that the only means by which these are to be to be obtained; is to drink deep of the cup, and revel in an ocean of love." 
Translation: Marriage won’t bring you perfect happiness, so don’t expect it to. It’s hard work. Also don’t believe any movie that stars Ryan Gosling.
Martha Washington shares her secrets on how to have a happy marriage.
George Washington to Eleanor Parke Custis, January 16, 1795
"…It rarely happens otherwise than that a thorough-paced coquette dies in celibacy, as a punishment for her attempts to mislead others, by encouraging looks, words, or actions, given for no other purpose than to draw men on to make overtures that they may be rejected." 
Translation: Chicks notorious for being ginormous flirts are doomed to be single forever because no guy will ever take them seriously. Ouch, General.
Martha Washington instructs on the pitfalls of flirting.
Washington stressed that good character and sense, rather than that wibbly feeling you get around him, is essential in a guy.
"Without these, whatever may be the first impressions of the man, they will end in disappointment; for be assured, and experience will convince you, that there is no truth more certain, than that all our enjoyments fall short of our expectations; and to none does it apply with more force, to the gratification of passions." 
Translation: The General brings a sobering word of caution here. You set yourself up for disappointment if you rely on another person to make you happy or expect them to somehow bolster your self esteem and confidence. And ladies, few things in life are more cutting than falling in love with the fantasy guy you've constructed out of nothing but sheer hope.
"Retain the resolution to love with moderation…at least until you have secured your game..." 
Translation: Spend time getting to know your guy first before committing. Hold back your affection if you feel he’s a flight risk. And when you find a winner and the feeling is happily mutual, zero in on him like the last pair of Tory Burch flats at Nordstrom Rack.
Martha Washington provides some practical advice on how to know he's "The One".
“Your letter, the receipt of which I am now acknowledging, is written correctly and in fair characters, which is an evidence that you command, when you please, a fair hand. Possessed of these advantages, it will be your own fault if you do not avail yourself of them, and attention being paid to the choice of your subjects, you can have nothing to fear from the malignancy of criticism, as your ideas are lively, and your descriptions agreeable. Let me touch a little now on your Georgetown ball, and happy, thrice happy, for the fair who were assembled on the occasion, that there was a man to spare; for had there been 79 ladies and only 78 gentlemen, there might, in the course of the evening, have been some disorder among the caps; notwithstanding the apathy which one of the company [Nelly herself] entertains for the “youth” of the present day, and her determination “never to give herself a moment’s uneasiness on account of any of them.” A hint here; men and women feel the same inclinations to each other now that they always have done, and which they will continue to do until there is a new order of things, and you, as others have done, may find, perhaps, that the passions of your sex are easier raised than allayed. Do not therefore boast too soon or too strongly of your insensibility to, or resistance of, its powers. In the composition of the human frame there is a good deal of inflammable matter, however dormant it may lie for a time, and like an intimate acquaintance of yours, when the torch is put to it, that which is within you may burst into a blaze; for which reason and especially too, as I have entered upon the chapter of advices, I will read you a lecture drawn from this text.
“Love is said to be an involuntary passion, and it is, therefore, contended that it cannot be resisted. This is true in part only, for like all things else, when nourished and supplied plentifully with aliment, it is rapid in its progress; but let these be withdrawn and it may be stifled in its birth or much stinted in its growth. For example, a woman (the same may be said of the other sex) all beautiful and accomplished, will, while her hand and heart are undisposed of, turn the heads and set the circle in which she moves on fire. Let her marry, and what is the consequence? The madness ceases and all is quiet again. Why? not because there is any diminution in the charms of the lady, but because there is an end of hope. Hence it follows, that love may and therefore ought to be under the guidance of reason, for although we cannot avoid first impressions, we may assuredly place them under guard; and my motives for treating on this subject are to show you, while you remain Eleanor Parke Custis, spinster, and retain the resolution to love with moderation, the propriety of adhering to the latter resolution, at least until you have secured your game , and the way by which it may be accomplished.
“When the fire is beginning to kindle, and your heart growing warm, propound these questions to it. Who is this invader? Have I a competent knowledge of him? Is he a man of good character; a man of sense?  For, be assured, a sensible woman can never be happy with a fool? [sic] What has been his walk in life? Is he a gambler, a spendthrift, or drunkard? Is his fortune sufficient to maintain me in the manner I have been accustomed to live , and my sisters do live, and is he one to whom my friends can have no reasonable objection?  If these interrogatories can be satisfactorily answered, there will remain but one more to be asked, that, however, is an important one. Have I sufficient ground to conclude that his affections are engaged by me?  Without this the heart of sensibility will struggle against a passion that is not reciprocated ; delicacy, custom, or call it what epithet you will, having precluded all advances on your part. The declaration, without the most indirect invitation of yours, must proceed from the man, to render it permanent and valuable, and nothing short of good sense and an easy unaffected conduct can draw the line between prudery and coquetry. It would be no great departure from truth to say, that it rarely happens otherwise than that a thorough-paced coquette dies in celibacy, as a punishment for her attempts to mislead others, by encouraging looks, words, or actions, given for no other purpose than to draw men on to make overtures that they may be rejected. 
“This day, according to our information, gives a husband to your elder sister [Eliza Parke Custis], and consummates, it is to be presumed, her fondest desires. The dawn with us is bright, and propitious, I hope, of her future happiness, for a full measure of which she and Mr. Law have my earnest wishes. Compliments and congratulations on this occasion, and best regards are presented to your mamma, Dr. Stuart and family; and every blessing, among which a good husband when you want and deserve one, is bestowed on you by yours, affectionately….”
My dear Betcy,
Shall I, in answer to your letter of the 7th instant say—when you are as near the Pinnacle of happiness as your sister Patcy conceives herself to be;1 or when your candour shines more conspicuously than it does in that letter, that I will then, comply with the request you have made, for my Picture?
NO—I will grant it without either: for if the latter was to be a preliminary, it would be sometime I apprehend before that Picture would be found pendant at your breast; it not being within the bounds of probability that the contemplation of an inanimate thing, whatever might be the reflections arising from the possession of it, can be the only wish of your heart.
Respect may place it among the desirable objects of it, but there are emotions of a softer kind, to wch the heart of a girl turned of eighteen, is susceptible, that must have generated much warmer ideas, although the fruition of them may, apparently, be more distant than those of your sister’s.
Having (by way of a hint) delivered a sentiment to Patty, which may be useful to her (if it be remembered after the change that is contemplated, is consummated) I will suggest another, more applicable to yourself.
Do not then in your contemplation of the marriage state, look for perfect felicity before you consent to wed. Nor conceive, from the fine tales the Poets & lovers of old have told us, of the transports of mutual love, that heaven has taken its abode on earth; Nor do not deceive yourself in supposing, that the only mean by which these are to be obtained, is to drink deep of the cup, & revel in an ocean of love.  Love is a mighty pretty thing; but like all other delicious things, it is cloying; and when the first transports of the passion begins to subside, which it assuredly will do, and yield—oftentimes too late—to more sober reflections, it serves to evince, that love is too dainty a food to live upon alone, and ought not to be considered farther, than as a necessary ingredient for that matrimonial happiness which results from a combination of causes; none of which are of greater importance, than that the object on whom it is placed, should possess good sense—good dispositions—and the means of supporting you in the way you have been brought up. Such qualifications cannot fail to attract (after marriage) your esteem & regard, into wch or into disgust, sooner or later, love naturally resolves itself; and who at the sametime, has a claim to the respect, & esteem of the circle he moves in. Without these, whatever may be your first impressions of the man, they will end in disappointment; for be assured, and experience will convince you, that there is no truth more certain, than that all our enjoyments fall short of our expectations; and to none does it apply with more force, than to the gratification of the passions. You may believe me to be always, & sincerely Your affectionate
From Sally to Martha ... a look into Washington's love interests.
Within months of meeting, both George Washington and Martha Custis began to plan a future together.
“I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time nor distance can change.”
Learn more about the life of Martha Washington. From mother to First Lady, learn about her many important roles.