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until women possess as much intellectual freedom
and freedom of opportunity within it as do their partners.
Love is fed not by what it takes,
but by what it gives, and that excellent dual love of man and wife must
be fed also by the love they give to others.
Man, even the commonplace modern man, is romantic.
He craves consciously or unconsciously for the freedom, the beauty, and
the adventure which his forefathers found in their virgin forests.
The "bonds of matrimony," so often referred
to with ribald laughter, touch, and perhaps secretly gall, even the most
romantic and devoted husband.
Of this, the wife, particularly if she be really
in love, is seldom fully aware.
As will be realized by those who have understood the preceding chapters, each coming together of man and wife, even if they have been mated for many years, should be a fresh adventure; each winning should necessitate a fresh wooing.
Yet what a man often finds so hard is to come to that wooing with full ardor and with that complete sense of romance which alone can render it utterly delightful, if the woman he is to woo has been in a too uninterrupted and prosaic relation with him in the meantime.
Most men, of course, have their businesses apart from their homes, but in the home lives of the great mass of middle-class people the Victorian tradition still too largely preponderates, and the mated pair bore or deaden each other during the daily routine.
To a very thoughtful couple whom I have known,
so precious was the sense of romantic joy in one another that they endeavored
to perpetuate it by living in different houses. Such a measure, however,
is not likely to suit many people, particularly where there are children.
But even intellectual and spiritual freedom is often rendered impossible in present-day marriage.
The beautiful desire for ideal unity which is
so strong in most hearts is perhaps the original cause of one of the most
deadening features in many marriages.
The typical self-opinionated male which this course
develops, while a subject for laughter in plays and novels, a laughter
which hastens his extermination, is yet by no means extinct.
I have known a romantic man of this type, apparently
unaware that he was encroaching upon his wife's personality, who yet endeavored
not only to choose her books and her friends for her, but 'prohibited her
from buying the daily newspaper to which she had been accustomed for years
before her marriage, saying that one newspaper was enough for them both,
and blandly ignoring the fact that he took it with him out of the house
before she had an opportunity of reading it.
On the other hand, in homes where the avowed desire is for the modern freedom of intellectual life for both partners, there is very frequently a bickering, a sense of disharmony and unrest that dispels the peace and the air of restful security which is an essential feature of a true home.
It is one of the most difficult things in the world for two people of different opinions to retain their own opinions without each endeavoring to convert or coerce the other, and at the same time to feel the same tender trust in the judgment of the other that each would have felt had they agreed.
It takes a generous and beautiful heart to see beauty and dignity in the attitude of a mate who is looking at the other side of a vital question.
But the very fact that it does take a beautiful and generous heart to do this thing proves it well worth the doing.
If the easier way is chosen and the two mutually
conceal their views when they differ, or the stronger partner coerces the
weaker into hiding those traits which give personality to an individual,
the result is an impoverishing of both, and through that very fact, an
impoverishment, a lowering of the love which both sought to serve.
As marriage is at present such tenderness and
such stimulating appreciation is much more likely to come from the woman
to the man and his work than from the man to the woman.
Even from the noblest man, the woman of sensitive
personality today feels an undercurrent as of surprised congratulation
when she has anything to say worth his serious attention outside that department
of life supposed to belong to her 'sphere .
But in marriage the mutual freedom and respect
for opinion, vitally important though it be, is not sufficient for the
full devel- opment of character.
Individual human beings, even the noblest and
most complex yet evolved, have but a share of the innumerable faculties
of the race.
And, still more serious barrier to joy, so primitive,
so little evolved are we even yet, there is in most human beings a strong
streak of sex-jealousy.
Jealousy, which is one of the most frequent shadows cast by the blight of love, is very apt to sow a distrust in one which makes a normal life for the other partner impossible.
It is hard to say in which sex the feeling is
more strongly developed.
Custom, and generations of traditions, seem to
have imprinted on our race the false idea that marital fidelity is to be
strengthened by coercive bonds.
But this is not enough.
It is true that many natures are not yet ready
for such trust, and might abuse such freedom.
While, on the other hand, it is only in the fresh
unsullied air of such freedom that the fullest and most perfect love can
When they are sometimes physically apart married
lovers attain the closest spiritual union.
So great is the human soul that some of its beauty is hidden by nearness: it needs distance between it and the beholder to be perceived in its true perspective.
To the realization of the beauty and the enjoyment
of solitude, woman in general tends to be less awake than man.
Although it is merely incidental to the drama,
yet to me the most poignant thing in Synge's beautiful play Deirdré
is that she could feel inevitable tragedy when the first thought of something
apart from herself crosses her lover's mind.
This ancient weakness of her sex must be conquered, and is being conquered by the modern woman.
While modern marriage is tending to give ever
more and more freedom to each of the partners, there is at the same time
a unity of work and interest growing up which brings them together on a
higher plane than the purely domestic one which was so confining to the
women and so dull to the men.
That at present the majority of women neither desire freedom for creative work, nor would know how to use it, is only a sign that we are still living in the shadow of the coercive and dwarfing influences of the past.
In an interesting article on woman's intellectual
work, W. Thomas (Sex and Society, 1907) says:
He sees clearly that this is but a passing phase in the development of our society, and he advocates a wider scope for the play of married women's powers.
"The practice of an occupational activity of her own choosing, and a generous attitude towards this on the part of the man, would contribute to relieve the strain and make marriage more frequently successful."
When woman naturally develops the powers latent
within her, man will find at his side not only a mate, free and strong,
but a desirable friend and an intellectual comrade.
On the other hand there are those who realize
principally the beauty of married unity, and, concentrating on the demand
for the unity and extremist stability on the part of the married pair,
are very apt to ignore the enriching flow of a wide life s experiences.
It is for the young people of the new generation to realize that the two currents of longing which spring up within them the longing for a full life-experience and the longing for a close union with a lifelong mate are not incompatible, but are actually both essential parts of the more perfect and fuller beauty of the future that already seeks to find its expression in their lives.
Ellen Key (Love and Marriage) seems to fear the widening of the married woman's life, and she writes as though the aspiration to do professional and intellectual work of a high order must dwarf and sterilize the mother in the married woman.
She writes of a more northerly people, the Scandinavians,
and it may be true of her countrywomen, I do not know.
As Mrs. Stetson says (Women and Economics):
The majority of our young women, I am convinced,
have in them the potentiality of a full and perfected love.
But as things are at present in England, the young
man who marries, however much he may be in love, is generally too ignorant
(as has been indicated in the preceding chapters) to give his wife all
her nature requires.
As one young husband said to me, "A decent man can't go on having unions with his wife when she obviously does not enjoy them, and so he is forced to 'go elsewhere . And they call us polygamists! We are not polygamists any longer. But marriage is a rotten failure," was his verdict.
No. They are not polygamists, the finest young
men of the present and of the future. Most men today are not in their heart
of hearts polygamists, in spite of all the outward signs to the contrary;
in spite of the fact that so few of them have remained faithful to one
Hence secretly (for in a marriage that is at least
superficially happy the man seldom does this openly) the man begins to
crave for another type of society and he "goes elsewhere."
It is hard, indeed in many cases it seems impossible,
for a good woman to understand what it is that draws her husband from her.
Restricted by habit and convention in the exercise of her faculties, she
is unaware of the ever-narrowing range of her interest and her powers of
Women feel a righteous and instinctive horror of prostitution, and regarding it they experience an indignation so intense, that they do not seek to understand the man's attitude.
The prostitute, however, sometimes supplies an element which is not purely physical, and which is often lacking in the wife's relation with her husband, an element of charm and mutual gaiety in pleasure.
If good women realized this, while they would judge and endeavor to eliminate prostitution no less strenuously, they might be in a better position to begin their efforts to free men from the hold that social disease has upon them.
It is perhaps impossible to find the beginning of a vicious circle, but the first step out of it must be the realization that one is within it, and the realization of some, at any rate, of its component parts.
Man, through prudery, through the custom of ignoring
the woman's side of marriage and considering his own whim as marriage law,
has largely lost the art of stirring a chaste partner to physical love.
Manifold and far-reaching, influencing the whole structure of society not only in this country, but in every country and at every time, have been the influences which have grown up from the root-fallacy in the marriage relation.
Then there is another cause for the dulling of
a wife's bright charm her inferior position in the eyes of the law.
The past and its history have been studied by
many, and we may leave it.
In the noblest society love will hold sway.
The love of friends and children, of comrades
and fellow- workers, will but serve to develop every power of the two who
When our relation to the community is fully realized, it will be seen that the health, the happiness, and the consequent powers of every individual, concern not only his own life, but also affect the whole community of which he is a member.
The happiness of a perfect marriage, which enhances the vitality of the private life, renders one not only capable of adding to the stream of the life-blood of the community in children, but by marriage one is also rendered a fitter and more perfect instrument for one's own particular work, the results of which should be shared by society as a whole, and in the tempering and finishing of which society plays a part.
Thus it is the concern of the whole community that marriage should be as perfect, and hence as joyous, as possible; so that the powers which should be set free and created for the purpose of the whole community should not be frittered away in the useless longing and disappointment engendered by ignorance, narrow restrictions, and low ideals.
In the world the happily mated pair should be like a great and beautiful light; a light not hid under a bushel, but one whose beams shine through the lives of all around them.
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