Married Love

chapter II.
The Broken Joy

What shall be done to quiet the heart-cry of the world? How answer the dumb appeal for help we so often divine below eyes that laugh?

– The Hero in Man

DREAMING of happiness, feeline that at last
they have each found the one who will give
eternal understanding and tenderness, the
young man and maiden marry.*

At first, in the time generally called the honeymoon,
the unaccustomed freedom and the sweetness of the
relation often does bring real happiness. How lon^
does it last.-” Too often a far shorter time than is
generally acknowledged.

In the first joy of their union it is hidden from the
two young people that they know little or nothing
about the fundamental laws of each other’s being.
Much of the sex-attraction (not only among human
beings, but even throughout the whole world of
living creatures) depends upon the differences be-
tween the two that pair; and probably taking them all
unawares, those very differences which drew them to-
gether now begin to work their undoing.

But so long as the first illusion that each under-
stands the other is supported by the thrilling delight
of ever-fresh discoveries, the sensations lived through
are so rapid and so joyous that the lovers do not
realise that there is no firm foundation of real mutual
knowledge beneath the ir feet. While even the

* In this, and in most of the generalisations found in this
book, I am speaking of things as they are in Great Britain. While,
to a considerable extent, the same is true of America and the
Scandinavian countries, it must be remembered all through that
I am speaking of the British, and primarily of our educated classes.
happiest pair may know of divergencies about re-
ligion, politics, social custom, and opinions on things
in general, these, with goodwill, patience, and intel-
ligence on either side, can be ultimately adjusted, be-
cause in all such things there is a common meeting
ground for the two. Human beings, while differing
widely about every conceivable subject in such human
relations, have at least thought about them, threshed
them out, and discussed them openly for generations.

But about the much more fundamental and vital
problems of sex, there is a lack of knowledge so
abysmal and so universal that its mists and shadowy
darkness have affected even the few who lead us, and
who are prosecuting research in these subjects. And
the two young people begin to suffer from funda-
mental divergencies, before perhaps they realise that
such exist, and with little prospect of ever gaining a
rational explanation of them.

Nearly all those whose own happiness seems to be
dimmed or broken count themselves exceptions, and
comfort themselves with the thought of some of their
friends, who, they feel sure, have attained the happi-
ness which they themselves have missed.

It is generally supposed that happy people, like
happy nations, have no history — they are silent about
their own affairs. Those who talk about their
marriage are generally those who have missed the
happiness they expected. True as this may be in
general, it is not permanently and profoundly true,
and there are people who are reckoned, and still
reckon themselves, happy, but who yet unawares
reveal the secret disappointment which clouds their
inward peace.

Leaving out of account “femmes incomprises”
and all the innumerable neurotic, super-sensitive, and
slightly abnormal people, it still remains an astonish-
ing and tragic fact that so large a proportion of
marriages lose their early bloom and are to some
extent unhappy.

For years many men and women have confided to
me the secrets of their lives; and of all the innumer-
able marriages of which the inner circumstances arc
known to me, there are tragically few which approach
even humanly attainable joy.

Many of those considered by the world, by the
relatives, even by the loved and loving partner, to be
perfectly happy marriages, are secretly shadowed to
the more sensitive of the pair.

“Where the bride is, as are so many of our educated
girls, composed of virgin sweetness shut in ignorance,
the man is often the first to create ” the rift within the
lute “; but his suffering begins almost simultaneously
with hers. The surface freedom of our women has
not materially altered, cannot materially alter, the
pristine purity of a girl of our northern race. She
generally has not even the capacity to imagine the
basic facts of physical marriage, and her bridegroom
may shock her without knowing that he was domg so.
Then, unconscious of the nature, and even perhaps of
the existence of his fault, he is bewildered and pained
by her inarticulate pain.

Yet I think, nevertheless, it is true that in the early
days of marriage the young man is often even more
sensitive, more romantic, more easily pained about
all ordinary things, and he enters marriage hoping for
an even higher degree of spiritual and bodily unity
than does the girl or the woman. But the man is more
quickly blunted, more swifdy rendered cyncial, and is
readier to look upon happiness as a Utopian dream
than is his mate.

On the other hand, the woman is slower to realise
disappointment, and more often by the sex-life of
marriage is of the two the more profoundly wounded,
with a slow corrosive wound that eats into her very
being.

Perfect happiness is a unity composed of a myriad
essences; and this one supreme thing is exposed to
the attacks of countless destructive factors.

Were I to touch upon all the possible sources of
marital disappointment and unhappiness, this book
would expand into a dozen bulky volumes. As I am
addressing those who I assume have read, or can read,
other books written upon various ramifications of the
subject, I will not discuss the themes which have
been handled by many writers, nor deal with abnorm-
alities, which fill so large a part of most books on
sex.

In the last few years there has been such an awaken-
ing to the realisation of the corrosive horror of all
aspects of prostitution that there is no need to labour
the point that no marriage can be happy where
the husband has, in buying another body, sold
his own health with his honour, and is tainted with
disease.

Nor is it necessary, in speaking to well-meaning,
optimistic young couples, to enlarge upon the obvious
dangers of drunkenness, self-indulgence, and the
cruder forms of selfishness. It is with the subtler in-
fringements of the fimdamental laws we have to deal.
And the prime tragedy is that, as a rule, the two young
people are both unaware of the existence of such de-
crees. Yet here, as elsewhere in Nature, the law
breaker is punished whether he is aware of the exist-
ence of the law he breaks or not.

In the state of ignorance which so largely predomin-
ates to-day, the first sign that things are amiss between
the two who thought they were entering paradise to-
gether, is generally a sense of loneliness, a feeling that
the one who was expected to have all in common is
outside some experience, some subtle delight, and
fails to understand the needs of the loved one. Trivi-
alities are often the first indicators of something
which takes its roots unseen in the profoundest depths.
The girl may sob for hours over something so trifling
that she cannot even put into words its nature, while
the young man, thinking that he had set out with his
soul’s beloved upon an adventure into celestial dis-
tances, may find himself apparently up against a
barrier in her which appears as incomprehensible as it
is frivolous.

Then, so strange is the mystical inter-relation be-
tween our bodies, our minds, and our souls, that for
crimes committed in ignorance of the dual functions
of the married pair, and the laws which harmonise
them, the punishments are reaped on planes quite
diverse, till new and ever new misunderstandings
appear to spring spontaneously from the soil of their
mutual contact. Gradually or swiftly each heart
begins to hide a sense of boundless isolation. It may
be urged that this statement is too sweeping. It is,
however, based on innumerable actual lives. I have
heard from women whose marriages are looked upon
by all as the happiest possible expressions of human
felicity, the details of secret pain of which they have
allowed their husbands no inkling. Many men will
know how they have hidden from their beloved wives
a sense of dull disappointment, perhaps at her coldness
in the marital embrace, or from the sense that there
is in her something elusive which always evades their
grasp.

This profound sense of misunderstanding finds
readier expression in the cruder and more ordinary
natures. The disappointment of the married is ex-
pressed not only in innumerable books and plays, but
even in comic papers and all our daily gossip.

Now that so many ” movements ” are abroad, folk
on all sides are emboldened to express the opinion that
it is marriage itself which is at fault. Many think that
merely by loosening the bonds, and making it possible
to start afresh with someone else, their lives would be
made harmonious and happy. But often such re-
formers forget that he or she who knows nothing of
the way to make marriage great and beautiful with
one partner, is not likely to succeed with another. Only
by a reverent study of the Art of Love can the beauty
of its expression be realised in linked lives.

And even when once learnt, the Art of Love takes
time to practise. As Ellen Key says, ” Love requires
peace, love will dream; it cannot live upon the rem-
nants of our time and our personality.”

There is no doubt that Love loses, in the haste and
bustle of the modern turmoil, not only its charm and
graces, but some of its vital essence. The evil results
of the haste which so infests and poisons us are often
felt much more by the woman than by the man. The
over-stimulation oi city life tends to ” speed up ” the
man’s reactions, but to retard hers. To make matters
worse, even for those who have leisure to spend on
love-making, the opportunities for peaceful, romantic
dalliance are less to-day in a city with its tubes and
cinema shows than in woods and gardens where the
pulling of rosemary or lavender may be the sweet
excuse for the slow and profound mutual rousing of
passion. Now physical passion, so swiftly stimulated
in man, tends to override all else, and the untutored
man seeks but one thing — the accomplishment of
desire. The woman, for it is in her nature so to do,
forgives the crudeness, but sooner or later her love
revolts, probably in secret, and then for ever after,
though she may command an outward tenderness, she
has nothing within but scorn and loathing for the act
which should have been a perpetually recurring
cntrancement.

So many people are now born and bred in artificial and false
surroundings, that even the elementary fact that the acts of love
should be joyous is unknown to them. A distinguished American
doctor made this amazing statement : ” I do not believe mutual
pleasure in the sexual act has any particular bearing on the happi-
ness of life.” (Amer. Med. Assoc. Rep. 1 900.) This is, perhaps,
an extreme case, yet so many distinguished medical men, gyne-
cologists and physiologists, are either in ignorance or error regard-
ing some of the profoundest facts of human sex-life, that it is
not surprising that ordinary young couples, however hopeful,
should break and destroy the joy that might have been their life-
long crown.