Married Love

Chapter X. Society

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. — Edward Carpbnter.

MAN, even the commonplace modern man, is
romantic. He craves consciously or uncon-
sciously for the freedom, the beauty, and the
adventure which hjs forefathers found in their virgin
forests. This craving, transmuted, changed out of
recognition by civilised life and modern circumstances,
is yet a factor not to be ignored in the relationship of
the sexes.

The “bonds of matrimony,” so often referred to
with ribald laughter, touch, and perhaps secretly gal);
even the most romantic and devoted husband. If to
the sincere and friendly question : ” What is most
difficult in married life for the man.? ” one gets the
sincere and rueful answer — that answer may be
summed up in the words ” perpetual propinquity.”

Of this, the wife, particularly if she be really in
love, IS seldom fully aware. If her husband is her
true lover, his tenderness and real devotion will give
him the wit to conceal it. But though by concealment
he may preserve the unruffled surface of their happi-
ness, yet the longing to be roving is not completely
extmguished. In the true lover this unspoken, un-
conscious longing is perhaps less a desire to set out
upon a fresh journey than a longing to experience
again the exquisite joy of the return; to re-live the
magic charm of the approach to the spot in which the
loved one is living her life, into the sacred separateness
ot which the lover breaks, and, like the Prince by his
kiss, to stir her to fresh activity.

As will be realised 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 ardour 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 endeavoured to perpetuate it by
living in different houses.

Such a measure, however, is not likely to suit many
people, particularly where there are children. Yet
even without bodily separation (which must always
entail expense) or any measure of freedom not at
everyone’s command, much can be done to retain that
sense of spiritual freedom in which alone the full joy
of loving union can be experienced.

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.
In the endeavour to attain the ideal unity, one or
other partner consciously or unconsciously imposes
his or her will and opinions first upon the wife or
husband, and then upon the children as they grow up.

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. In his less exaggerated form
such a man may often be an idealist, but he is
essentially an idealist of narrow vision. The peace,
the unity, for which he craves is superficially attained ;.
but it takes acuter eyes than his to see that it is attained
not by harmoniovis intermingling, but by super-
position and destruction.

I have known a romantic man of this type,
apparently unaware that he was encroaching upon his
wife’s personality, who yet endeavoured not only to
choose her books and her friends for her, but ” pro-
hibited ” 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 oppor-
tunity of reading it. This man posed to himself more
successfully than to others, not only as a romantic
man, but as a model husband; and he reproached his
wife for jeopardising their perfect unity whenever she
accepted an invitation in which he was not included.

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 endeavouring 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 lov/ering of the love which both
sought to serve.

In marriage each one dreams that he will find the
Understander — the one from whom he may set out
into the world in search of treasures of knowledge
and experience, and before whom the spoils may
be exhibited without thought of rivalry, and
with the certainty of glad apprisal. Treasures,
dear to our own hearts but of no value to others,
should here find appreciation, and here the tender
super – sensitive germ of an idea may be watered
and tended till its ripe beauty is ready to burst upon
the world.

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. For too long have men been
accustomed to look upon woman’s views, and in par-
ticular oa her intellectual opinions,, as being something
demanding at the most a bland humouring beneath
the kindest smiles.

Even from the noblest man, the woman of sensitive
personality to-day feels an undercurrent as of sur-
prised congratulation when she has anything to say
worth his serious attention outside that department of
life supposed to belong to her « sphere.” Thus man
robs his wedded self of a greatness which the dual
unity might reach.

But in marriage the mutual freedom and respectfor
opinion, vitally important though it be, is not sufficient
for the full development of character. Life demands
ever-widening interests. Owing partly to the differen-
tiation of many types of individuals due to the
specialisation of civilisation, which interests thought-
ful individuals, and partly to the transmutation of hi?
old vagrant instinct, man increasingly desires to touch
and to realise the lives of his fellows. In the lives of
others our hearts and understanding may find per-
petual adventures into the new and strange.

Individual human beings, even the noblest and
most complex yet evolved, have but a share of the
innumerable faculties of the race. Hence even in a
supremely happy marriage, which touches, as does the
mystic in his raptures, a realisation of the whole
universe, there cannot lie the whole of life’s ex-
perience. Outside the actual lives of the pair there
must always be many types of thought and many
potentialities which can only be realised in the lives
of other people.

In the complete human relation friends of all grades
are needed, as well as a mate. Marriage, however,
in its present form is too often made to curtail the
enjoyment of intimate friendships. The reason for
this is partly the social etiquette, Vv’hich, though dis-
carded in the highest levels of society, still lingers in
many circles, of inviting the husband and the wife
together upon all social occasions. It is true that they
are separated at the dinner table, but they are always
within the possibility of earshot of each other, which
very often deadens their potentialities for being enter-
taining. The mere fact of being overheard repeating
something one may have already said elsewhere is
sufficient to prevent some people from telling their
best stories, or from expressing their real views upon
important matters.

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. For
either mate to be allowed to go out uncriticised into
the world, is to demand, if not more than the other
is willing to give, at least a measure of trust which
by its rarity appears nowadays as something con-
spicuously fine.

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. It takes special forms under
different circumstances, and if a nature is predisposed
towards it, it is one of the most difficult characteristics ,
to eradicate.

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. We
are slowly growing out of this, and nowadays in
most books giving advice to young wives there is a
section telling them that a man should be allowed
his men friends after marriage.

But this is not enough. There should be complete
and unquestioning trust on both sides. The man and
the woman should each be free to go unchallenged by
a thought on solitary excursions, or on visits, week-
ends or walking tours, without the possibility of a
breath of jealousy or suspicion springing up in the
heart of one or the other.

It is true that many natures are not yet ready for
such trust, and might abuse such freedom. But the
baser natures will always find a method of gratifying
their desires, and are not likely to err more in trusted
freedom than they would inevitably have done
through secret intrigues if held in jealous bondage.

while, on the other hand, it is only in the fresh
unsullied air of such freedom that the fullest and
most perfect love can develop. In the marriage rela-
tion it is supremely true that only by loosening the
bonds can one bind two hearts indissolubly together.

When they are sometimes physically apart married
lovers attain the closest spiritual union. For with
sensitive spirits — and they are the only ones who
know the highest pinnacles of love — periods of
separation and solitude can be revivifying and re-
creative.

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 realisation of the beauty and the enjoyment
of solitude, woman in general tends to be less awake
than man. This, perhaps, is due to the innumerable
generations during which the claims of her children
and of domestic life have robbed her of Nature’s
healing gift.

Although it is merely incidental to the drama, yet
to me the most poignant thing in Synge’s beautiful
play Deirdre is that she could feel inevitable tragedy
when the first thought of something apart from her-
self crosses her lover’s mind. Deirdre and her lover
had been together for seven years in an unbroken and
idyllic intimacy, and she feels that all is finished, and
that her doom, the knell of their joy, had struck,
when for the first time she perceived in him a half-
formed thought of an occupation apart from her.

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 grow-
ing 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. Every year
one sees a widening of the independence and the range
of the pursuits of women : but still, far too often,
marriage puts an end to woman’s intellectual life.
Marriage can never reach its full stature until women
possess as much intellectual freedom and freedom of
opportunity within it as do their partners.

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 ^(1907, ” Sex and Society “) says :

The American woman, with the enjoyment of greater liberty,
has made an approach toward the standards of professional
scholarship, and some individuals stand at the very top in their
university studies and examinations. The trouble with these
cases is that they are cither swept away and engulfed by the
modern system of marriage, or find themselves excluded in some
intangible way from association with men in the fullest sense,
and no career open to their talents.

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 vs^omen’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 intel-
lectixal comrade.

The desire for freedom, both for physical and
mental exploration and for experiences outside the
sacred enclosure of the home, may at first sight ap-
pear to be conflicting and entirely incompatible with
the ideal of closer and more perfect unity between the
married pair. But this conflict is only apparent,
though it is true that most writers have failed to
realise this. Consequently in some sections of the
writing and teaching of the ” advanced ” schools there
are claims only for increased freedom — a freedom to
wander at will — a freedom in which the wanderer does
not return to his fixed centre.

On the other hand there are those who realise prin-
cipally the beauty of married unity, and, concentrat-
ing on the demand for the unity and extremest
stability on ‘the part of the married pair, are very apt
to ignore the enriching flow of a wide Hfe’s experi-
ences. They try to dam up the fertilising tide of hfc,
and thus, though they are unconscious of what they
are doing, they tend to reduce the richness and beauty
of marriage.

It is for the young people of the new generation
to realise 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 arc 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
sterilise the mother in the married woman.

She writes of a more northerly people, the Scandina-
vians, and it may be true of her countrywomen, I do
not know. But it is not essentially and universally
true. I am writing of the English, the English of
to-day, and though we also have among us that
dwarfed and sterilised type of woman, she forms in
our community a dwindling minority. The majority
of our best women enter marriage and motherhood,
or else long for a marriage more beautiful than the
warped mockery of it that is offered them.

As Mrs. Stetson says (“Women and Economics”) :

In the primal physical functions of maternity the human
female cannot show that her supposed specialisation to these
uses has improved her fulfilment of them, rather the opposite.
The more freely the human mother mingles in the natural
industries of a human creature, as in the case of the savage woman,
the peasant woman, the working woman everywhere who is not
overworked, the more rightly she fulfils these functions.

The more absolutely the woman is segregated to sex-functions
only, cut off from all economic use and made wholly dependent
on the sex-relation as means of a livelihood, the more pathological
docs her motherhood become. The over-development of sex
caused by her economic dependence on the male reacts unfavour-
My on her essential duties. She is too female for the perfect
motherhood !

The majority of our young women, I am con-
vinced, have in them the potentiality of a full and
perfected love. So, too, have the majority of our
young men. For the best type of young man to-day
IS tired of polygamy; he has seen enough in his
father’s and friends’ lives of the weariness of the
sinister, secret polygamy, that hides itself and rots
the race under the protecting cloak of the supposed
monogamy of our social system.

But as things are at present in England, the youno
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. Then, sooner or later, comes the sequence
of disappointments which culminate in the longing
for a fresh adventure.

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 to-
day are not in their heart of hearts polygamists, in
spite of all the outward signs to the contrary; in spi-e
of the fact that so few of them have remained faithful
to one woman. But they arc ignorant of the sex-laws
and traditions, that sex-knowledge which was the
heritage of much less civilised triHes, and so they
have trampled and crushed out the very thing for the
growth of which their hearts are aching.

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.” Not, it is true, to find, or
even in the hope of finding, what he would get from
a perfect marriage; but often to satisfy in some
measure that yearning for fresh experience, for
romance, and for that sense of fusion with another
in the romantic experience which, even if it is only a
delusion of the senses, is yet one of the most precious
things life has to offer.

It is hard, indeed in many cases it seems impos-
sible, 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 un-
aware of the ever-narrowing range of her interest and
her powers of conversation. The home life tends to
become that of a fenced pond, instead of a great ocean
with innumerable currents. From the restricted and
fenced man’s instinct is ever to escape. Man’s oppor-
tunities for exploration in the cities are few, and the
prostitute is one of the most obvious doors of escape
into new experiences.

Women feel a so righteous and instinctive horror
of prostitution, and regarding it they experience an
indignation so intense, that they do not seek to under-
stand 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 clcmcut of charm and mutual gaiety in
pleasure.

If good women realised this, while they would
judge and endeavour 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 itinust be the
realisation that one is within it, and the realisation of
some, at any rate, of its component parts.

Man, through prudery, through the custom of
ignoring the woman’s side of marriage and consider-
ing his own whim as marriage law, has largely lost
the art of stirring a chaste partner to physical love.
He therefore deprives her of a glamour, the loss of
which he deplores, for he feels a lack not only of
romance and beauty, but of something higher which
is mystically given as the result of” the complete
union. He blames his wife’s ” coldness ” instead of
his own want of art. Then he seeks elsewhere for
the things she could have given him had he known
how to win them. And she, knowing that the shrine
has been desecrated, is filled with righteous indigna-
tion, though generally as blind as he is to the true
cause of what has occurred.

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. It is indeed a serious matter, as Jean
Finot says, ” that, under present conditions, the
mistress keeps certain Hberties which are denied to
married women.”

The past and its history have been studied by many,
and we may leave it. What concerns the present
generation of young married people is to-day and the
future. The future is full of hope. Already one sees
beginning to grow up a new relationship between the
units composing society.

In the noblest society love will hold sway. The
love of mates will always be the supremcst life experi-
ence, but it will no longer be an experience exclusive
and warped.

The love of friends and children, of comrades and
fellow-workers, will but serve to develop every power
of the two who are mates. By mingling the greatness
of their individual stature they can achieve together
something that, had both or either been dwarfed and
puny individuals, would have remained for ever
unattainable.

The whole trend of the evolution of human society
has been toward an increased coherence of all its parts,
until at the present time it is already almost possible
to say that the community has an actual life on a plane
above that of all the individuals composing it : that
the community, in fact, is a super-entity. It is through
the community of human beings, and not in our indi-
vidual lives, that we reach an ultimate permanence
upon this globe.

When our relation to the community is fully
realised, it will be seen that the health, the happiness,
and the consequent powers of every Individual, con-
ccrn not only his own life, but also affect the whole
community of which he is a member.

The happiness of a perfect marriage, which en-
hances the vitality of the private life, renders one not
only capable of adding to the stream of the life-blood
ot 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 tree and created for the purpose of the whole
community should not be frittered away in the useless
longing and disappointment engendered by ignor-
ance, 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
ot all around them.