Married Love By Marie Carmichael Stopes
More than ever to-day are happy homes needed. It is my hope that this book may serve the State by adding to their numbers. Its object is to increase the joys of marriage, and to show how much sorrow may be avoided.
The only secure basis for a present-day State is the welding of its units in marriage; but there is rottenness and danger at the foundations of the State if many of the marriages are unhappy. To-day, particularly in the middle classes in this country, marriage is far less really happy than its surface appears. Too many who marry expecting joy are bitterly disappointed; and the demand for “freedom” grows; while those who cry aloud are generally unaware that it is more likely to have been their own ignorance than the “marriage-bond” which was the origin of their unhappiness.
It is never easy to make marriage a lovely thing; and it is an achievement beyond the powers of the selfish, or the mentally cowardly. Knowledge is needed and, as things are at present, knowledge is almost unobtainable by those who are most in want of it.
A New Contribution to the
Solution of Sex Difficulties
BY MARIE CARMICHAEL STOPES
Doctor of Science, London; Doctor of Philosophy, Munich; Fellow
of University College, London; Fellow of the Royal Society of
Literature, and the Linnean Society, London
With a Preface by Dr. JESSIE MURRAY
and LETTERS from PROFESSOR E. H. STARLING, F.R.S.,
and FATHER STANISLAUS ST. JOHN, S.J.
Printed by the Pelican Press, London.
Copyright; translation and all other rights reserved
by the Author
Copyright in U.S.A.
BY Miss Jessie Murray, m.b., b.s.
In this little book, Dr. Marie Stopes deals with subjects which are generally regarded as too sacred for an entirely frank treatment. Some earnest and delicate minds may feel apprehensive that such frankness in details is “dangerous,” because the effect on prurient minds might be to give them food for their morbid fancies. It is just such a fear which has been largely responsible for the silence and mystery which have for so long been wrapped around the sacred rites of mating.
The question now is, Has this reticence been carried too far? Has it been carried so far that it now tends to defeat its purpose of safeguarding public morals? There are many who unhesitatingly answer such questions in the affirmative. Their intimate knowledge of human lives compels them to recognise that at least as much harm is done by silence as by speaking out. Everything depends on how the matter is presented.
Those who are shocked at the publication of such a book as this on the ground that it gives material for impure minds to sport with, need only reflect that such material is already amply provided in certain comic papers, in hosts of inferior novels, too often on the stage and film, and presented thus in coarse and demoralising guise. It can do nothing but good to such minds to meet the facts they are already so familiar with in a totally new light.
On the other hand, there are all the earnest and noble young minds who seek to know what responsibilities they are taking on themselves when they marry, and how they may best meet these responsibilities. How few of them have more than the vaguest ideas on the subject! How few of them know how or where to obtain the help they desire!
They recoil from the coarse and impure sources of information which are so accessible, and they hesitate to approach those they have learned to regard as virtuous and modest,[viii] realising that from such they will receive so little actual information and that so veiled as to be almost useless.
Dr. Stopes has attempted to meet the need of such seekers, and her book will certainly be warmly welcomed by them. It is calculated to prevent many of those mistakes which wreck the happiness of countless lovers as soon as they are actually married. If it did no more than this it would be valuable indeed!
But there is an even more important aspect to be considered—the effect on the child. In all civilised lands there is a growing sense of responsibility towards the young.
The problems of their physical and mental nurture attract more and more attention day by day. Eugenists, educationists, physicians, politicians, philanthropists, and even ordinary parents discuss and ponder, ponder and discuss, matters both great and small which have a bearing on the development of the child. By common consent the first seven years of life are regarded as the most critical. It is during these years that the foundations of the personality-to-be are laid—”well and truly” or otherwise. It is during these years that the deepest and most ineradicable impressions are made in the plastic constitution of the child, arresting or developing this or the other instinctive trend and fixing it, often for life.
And it is during these years above all that the parents play the most important role in the inner history of the child’s life, not so much by anything they directly teach through verbal exhortations, warnings, or commands, as by those subtler influences which are conveyed in gesture, tone, and facial expression. The younger the child, the more is it influenced through these more primitive modes of expression, and quite as much when they are not directed towards itself but are employed by the parents in their intimate relations with one another in the presence of their apparently unobserving child—the infant in its cot, the toddling baby by the[ix] hearth, the little child to all appearance absorbed in its picture book or toy.
Is it not of the utmost importance that these earliest impressions should be of the finest nature? And should we not therefore welcome all that may help—as this book can—to make the living cradle of the next generation as full of beauty and harmony as love and mutual understanding can?
The age-long conflict between the “lower” and the “higher” impulses, between the primitive animal nature and the specifically human developments of an altruistic and ethical order, are fought afresh in each soul and in every marriage.
We need to realise more clearly that the lower is never—ought never to be—eliminated but rather subsumed by the higher. No true harmony can be hoped for so long as one factor or the other is ignored or repressed.
Dr. Stopes makes some very important biological suggestions which should not be lightly dismissed. Further observation is required to establish or disprove her theory of the normal sexual cycle in women, but my own observation certainly tends to confirm it.
J. M. MURRAY.
Letter from Professor E. H. Starling, M.D., B.S., F.R.S., Professor of Physiology, University of London.
Gower Street, London, W.C.,
November 23, 1917.
Dear Dr. Stopes,—
The need for such guidance as you give is very evident. After all, instinct in man is all insufficient to determine social behaviour, and there is need of instruction in the highest of physiological functions, that of reproduction, as there is in the lower functions of eating and drinking—the only difference being that in the former instruction can be deferred to a later age. And there is no doubt that in this case, it is better to acquire knowledge by instruction than by a type of experience which is nearly always sordid and may be fraught with danger to the health of the individual and of the family.
At the present time it is of vital importance to the State that its marriages should be fruitful—in children, happiness, and efficiency (and all three are closely connected).
If your book helps in securing this object, your trouble will not have been in vain.
Yours very truly,
ERNEST H. STARLING.
More than ever to-day are happy homes needed. It is my hope that this book may serve the State by adding to their numbers. Its object is to increase the joys of marriage and to show how much sorrow may be avoided.
The only secure basis for a present-day State is the welding of its units in marriage, but there is rottenness and danger at the foundations of the State if many of the marriages are unhappy. Today, particularly in the middle classes in this country, marriage is far less really happy than its surface appears. Too many who marry expecting joy are bitterly disappointed, and the demand for “freedom” grows; while those who cry aloud are generally unaware that it is more likely to have been their own ignorance than the “marriage-bond” which was the origin of their unhappiness.
It is never easy to make marriage a lovely thing, and it is an achievement beyond the powers of the selfish, or the mentally cowardly. Knowledge is needed and, as things are at present, knowledge is almost unobtainable by those who are most in want of it.
The problems of the sex-life are infinitely complex, and for their solution urgently demand both sympathy and scientific research.
I have some things to say about sex, which, so far as I am aware, have not yet been said, things which seem to be of profound importance to men and women who hope to make their marriages beautiful.
This little book is less a record of research than an attempt to present in easily understandable form the clarified and crystallized results of long and complex investigations. Its simple statements are based on a very large number of first-hand observations, on confidences from men and women of all classes and types, and on facts gleaned from wide reading.
My original contributions to the age-long problems of[xii] marriage will principally be found in Chapters IV., V., and VIII. The other chapters fill in what I hope is an undistorted picture of the potential beauties and realities of marriage.
The whole is written simply, and for the ordinary untrained reader, though it embodies some observations which will be new even to those who have made scientific researches on the subjects of sex and human physiology. These observations I intend to supplement and publish at greater length and in more scientific language in another place.
I do not now touch upon the many human variations and abnormalities which bulk so largely in most books on sex, nor do I deal with the many problems raised by incurably unhappy marriages.
In the following pages I speak to those—and in spite of all our neurotic literature and plays they are in the great majority—who are nearly normal, and who are married or about to be married, and hope, but do not know how to make their marriages beautiful and happy.
To the reticent, as to the conventional, it may seem a presumption or a superfluity to speak of the details of the most complex of all our functions. They ask: Is not instinct enough? The answer is No. Instinct is not enough. In every other human activity, it has been realised that training, the handing on of tradition are essential. As Dr. Saleeby once wisely pointed out: A cat knows how to manage her new-born kittens, how to bring them up and teach them; a human mother does not know how to manage her baby unless she is trained, either directly or by her own quick observation of other mothers. A cat performs her simple duties by instinct; a human mother has to be trained to fulfill her very complex ones.
The same is true in the subtle realm of sex. In this country, in modern times, the old traditions, the profound primitive knowledge of the needs of both sexes, have been[xiii] lost, and nothing but a muffled confusion of individual gossip disturbs a silence, shamefaced or foul. Here and there, in a family of fine tradition, a youth or maiden may learn some of the mysteries of marriage, but the great majority of people in our country have no glimmering of the supreme human art, the art of love; while in books on advanced Physiology and Medicine the gaps, the omissions, and even the misstatements of bare fact are amazing.
In my first marriage, I paid such a terrible price for sex-ignorance that I feel that knowledge gained at such a cost should be placed at the service of humanity. In this little book average, healthy, mating creatures will find the key to the happiness which should be the portion of each. It has already guided some to happiness, and I hope it may save some others years of heartache and blind questioning in the dark.
MARIE CARMICHAEL STOPES.
AUTHOR’S PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION.
I so much regret that many people have had to wait for the book, or been unable to get it. The paper restrictions and difficulties of printing and binding have been great. At first, the publisher started with a modest edition of 2,000, not knowing what sort of reception the book would have. Now that we know that people not only need the book but really want it we hope to be able to keep it in print, instead of perforce having it so often “reprinting,” as it has been in the first few months of its existence.
MARIE CARMICHAEL STOPES.
AUTHOR’S PREFACE TO THE FIFTH EDITION.
To mention some of those whose appreciation and encouragement have so much helped the progress of this book would be invidious, and to record them all would fill pages with mere names, but there is one toward whom I have often desired to record in print my gratitude, and that is Humphrey Verdon Roe. These thanks are rendered to him not in his private capacity of adored and adoring husband, but in his more public office of a sympathetic friend. Though he did not meet me early enough to contribute to the text of the book itself his interest has nevertheless been invaluable in creating a helpful atmosphere for the ever-increasing work the book brings.
MARIE CARMICHAEL STOPES.
AUTHOR’S PREFACE TO THE SIXTH EDITION.
The difficulty and cost of printing still render it inadvisable to incorporate throughout this edition the number of small notes I should like to add, and the further points about which my various correspondents have asked advice.
Among the subjects of inquiry, two are particularly prominent in the many letters which readers send me. The most frequent questions concern the practical extension so many desire to Chapter 9. This I have already dealt with separately in the short companion volume called “Wise Parenthood.” The other subject deals with the reverse state of affairs and is also an extension of Chapter 9. This, for the present, I am placing at the end of the volume, Addition 4, page 119. Other points are dealt with on pages 114, et seq.
Readers who have kindly contributed information, or have made requests for more light in a new edition, will, I hope, be satisfied now before too long a time has elapsed.
MARIE CARMICHAEL STOPES
Letter from Father Stanislaus St. John, F.C., S.J.
114, Mount Street,
London, W. I,
Dear Dr. Stopes,
I have read “Married Love” with deep interest. As a piece of thoughtful, scientific writing I find it admirable throughout, and it seems to me that your theme could not have been treated in more beautiful or more delicate language or with a truer ring of sympathy for those who, through ignorance or want of thought, make shipwreck of their married happiness.
Your clear exposition of the rhythmic curve of sex-feeling and of the misinterpretation on the part of so many husbands of what they call their wives’ contrariness, arising from their ignorance of its existence, should bring happiness to many married couples whose lives are drifting apart through want of knowledge. In the exercise of my ministry, I have repeatedly traced the beginnings of the rift to this want of knowledge and consequently of sympathy.
So far we are in complete agreement, but our ways part when you treat of birth control.
You write primarily as a scientist (though a very human scientist), and so you are naturally mainly occupied with the facts and conditions of what I may call our earth-life. I, on the other hand, writing as a Catholic, regard our earth-life as essentially and inseparably connected with an eternal existence which reaches out beyond the grave. I look on this life as utterly meaningless in itself, as a period which is simply and solely a means to an end—Eternity—a period of which all the circumstances of pleasure and pain can only be explained and rightly used in their relation to this Eternity.
Let me take in illustration of my meaning the case you give of the worn-out mother of twelve. The Catholic belief is that the loss of health on her part for a few years of life and the diminished vitality on the part of her later children would be a very small price indeed to pay for an endless happiness on the part of all.
In our belief, then, the destruction of one spermatazoon is not the question, but the deliberate prevention of an eternally happy existence which, in the supposition, might arise from its preservation. Holding, as we do, that the marriage-act is the divinely ordained means by which man offers to God the opportunity of creating an immortal being, we do not believe that he may make use of this means and deliberately frustrate it of its end without doing grave wrong.
You do me the honour of suggesting that I should write a foreword to your book, but any foreword from me could obviously only derive value from my position as a Catholic priest, and that position is in opposition to this part of your work.
I cannot end without thanking you very sincerely for allowing me to read your book. Apart from what, as a Catholic, I object to in it, it contains so much most helpful matter that I feel sure it will bring to many a happiness in married life now wanting through the ignorance and the consequent want of sympathy which you so rightly deplore.
Believe me, dear Dr. Stopes,
Yours very sincerely,
S. ST. JOHN, S.J., C.F.
I publish this letter with sincere thanks to Father St. John for his permission to use it.—M. C. S.
Reply to Father St. John, S.J.
Leatherhead, December 12, 1917.
Dear Father St. John,—
Your letter wins my heart entirely by its appreciation and kindness. It is a great help and encouragement to find that we are so far in essential agreement and that you are so well disposed toward even part of my effort.
But—and I wish I could say it in burning words—it is not because I am chiefly concerned with Time that I wrote Chapter IX., but just because I am so acutely and so persistently conscious that I am dealing with factors of Eternity. To me, today is essentially a part of my Life Everlasting.
I cannot separate time and eternity, this world and the next, as religious people often seem able to do; to me, this body is a tool in the service of (though not completely in the control of) my immortal soul. Now it seems to me those religious people—and even in your letter I fancy I detect the same tendency (forgive me if I am wrong)—are too ready to separate this world and the next, to act unreasonably or cruelly here and to trust to Eternity, or the Hereafter, to put all right. I do not think that is the way God wills us to work out His plans now that He is giving us the knowledge to do better.
Could there be anything more unreasonable or cruel than to bring into life half a dozen children doomed from birth to ill-health, poverty, and almost inevitable crime?
Christ forgave the thief upon the Cross, but He said, “Woe unto him through whom offenses come. It were better for him that a millstone was hanged about his neck and he cast into the sea.” Would Christ approve of deliberately creating a thief by bringing forth a child who was one inevitably through the predictable weakness of physique and mentality and an environment of poverty? (“Thief” stands for criminals in general.)
But more, what about others, born dead, born imbecile,[xvii] thwarted of life by miscarriage, which tears and rend the overburdened mother so that she is forced to neglect the children she has, and her neglect turns them into thieves? The poor, uneducated mother commits this crime through ignorance: it is we who know and allow her to remain in ignorance who are really responsible. Is not our withholding God-given knowledge the greatest stumbling-block of offense to these little ones, and shall we not deserve the millstone around our necks?
Were everyone to have all the children physiologically possible (now that infant mortality is so much reduced by science) in a few centuries there would not be standing room on the earth, and nowhere for a blade of grass or an ear of corn to grow between the crowding feet. Is then a Roman Catholic mother, the increases to whose large family gets punier and punier, to be privileged to go deliberately with that host of puny children at the expense of others, not only through that part of Eternity called Time but through all Eternity?
But, dear Father St. John, it is not my place to preach or to argue with you, especially after your generous kindness and appreciation. And, alas! I fully realise that even were I granted the tongues of men and of angels, and I converted you to my thought in this matter, you as a Roman Catholic priest could not uphold a position in opposition to your Church.
Oh, that the Churches would look to Christ’s own words instead of to the official Church interpretation of them!
I thank you very sincerely for your kindness to a stranger, and remain, always yours respectfully,
MARIE CARMICHAEL STOPES.
The Heart’s Desire
She gave him comprehension of the meaning of love: a word in many mouths, not often explained. With her, wound in his idea of her, he perceived it to signify a new start in our existence, a finer shoot of the tree stoutly planted in good gross earth; the senses running their live sap, and the minds companioned, and the spirits made one by the whole-natured conjunction. In sooth, a happy prospect for the sons and daughters of Earth, divinely indicating more than happiness: the speeding of us, compact of what we are, between the ascetic rocks and the sensual whirlpools, to the creation of certain nobler races, now very dimly imagined.—George Meredith’s “Diana of the Crossways,” chap. 37.
Every heart desires a mate. For some reason beyond our comprehension, nature has so created us that we are incomplete in ourselves; neither man nor woman singly can know the joy of the performance of all the human functions; neither man nor woman singly can create another human being. This fact, which is expressed in our outward divergencies of form, influences, and colors the whole of our lives; and there is nothing for which the inner-most spirit of one and all so yearns as for a sense of union with another soul and the perfecting of oneself which such union brings.
In all young people, unless they have inherited depraved or diseased faculties, the old desire of our race springs up afresh in its pristine beauty.
With the dreams and bodily changes of adolescence, come to the youth and maiden the strange and powerful impulses of the racial instinct. The bodily differences of the two, now accentuated, become mystical, alluring, enchanting in their promise. Their differences unite and hold together the man and the woman so that their bodily union is the solid nucleus of an immense fabric of interwoven strands reaching to the uttermost ends of the earth; some lighter than the filmiest cobweb, or than the softest wave of music, iridescent with the colours, not only of the visible rainbow, but of all the invisible glories of the wavelengths of the soul.
However much he may conceal it under assumed cynicism, worldliness, or self-seeking, the heart of every young man yearns with a great longing for the fulfillment of the beautiful dream of a life-long union with a mate. Each heart knows instinctively that it is only a mate who can give full comprehension of all the potential greatness in the soul, and have tender laughter for all the child-like wonder that lingers so enchantingly even in the white-haired.
The search for a mate is a quest for an understanding heart clothed in a body beautiful but unlike our own.
In the modern world, those who set out on high endeavours or who consciously separate themselves from the ordinary course of social life, are comparatively few, and it is not to them that I am speaking. The great majority of our citizens—both men and women—after a time of waiting, or of exploring, or of oscillating from one attraction to another, “settle down” and marry.
Very few are actually so cynical as to marry without the hope of happiness; while most young people, however, their words may deny it and however they may conceal their tender hopes by an assumption of cynicism, reveal that they are conscious of entering on a new and glorious state by their radiant looks and the joyous buoyancy of their actions. In the kisses and the hand touch of the betrothed are a zest and exhilaration which stir the blood like wine. The two read poetry, listen entranced to music which echoes the songs of their pulses and sees reflected in each other’s eyes the beauty of the world. In the midst of this celestial intoxication, they naturally assume that, as they are on the threshold of their lives, so too they are in but the ante-chamber of their experience of spiritual unity.
The more sensitive, the more romantic, and the more idealistic is the young person of either sex, the more his or her soul craves for some kindred soul with whom the whole being can unite. But all have some measure of this desire, even the most prosaic, and we know from innumerable stories of real life that the sternest man of affairs, he who may have worldly success of every sort, may yet, through the lack of a real mate, live with a sense almost as though the limbs of his soul had been amputated. Edward Carpenter has beautifully voiced this longing:—
That there should exist one other person in the world towards whom all openness of interchange should establish itself, from whom there should be no concealment; whose body should be as dear to one, in every part, as one’s own; with whom there should be no sense of Mine or Thine, in property or possession; into whose mind one’s thoughts should naturally flow, as it was to know themselves and to receive a new illumination; and between whom and oneself there should be a spontaneous rebound of sympathy in all the joys and sorrows and experiences of life; such is perhaps one of the dearest wishes of the soul.—”Love’s Coming of Age.”
It may chance that someone into whose hands this book falls may protest that he or she has never felt the fundamental yearning to form a part of that trinity which alone is the perfect expression of humanity. If that is so, it is possible that all unconsciously he may be suffering from a real malady—sex anæsthesia. This is the name given to an inherent coldness, which, while it lacks the usual human impulse of tenderness, is generally quite unconscious of its lack. It may even be that the reader’s departure from the ordinary ranks of mankind is still more fundamental, in which case, instead of sitting in judgment on the majority, he will do well to read some such book as “The Sexual Question” (English translation 1908) by the famous Professor August Forel, in order that his own nature may be made known to him. He may then discover to which type of our widely various humanity he belongs. He need not read my book, for it is written about, and it is written for, ordinary men and women who, feeling themselves incomplete, yearn for a union that will have power not only to make a fuller and richer thing of their own lives, but which will place them in a position to use their sacred trust as creators of lives to come.
It has happened many times in human history that individuals have not only been able to conquer this natural craving for a mate but have set up celibacy as a higher ideal. In its most beautiful expression and sublimest manifestations, the celibate ideal has proclaimed a world-wide love, in place of the narrower human love of home and children. Many saints and sages, reformers and dogmatists have modeled their lives on this ideal. But such individuals cannot be taken as the standard of the race, for they are out of its main current: they are branches which may flower, but never fruit in a bodily form.
In this world, our spirits not only permeate matter but find their only expression through its medium. So long as we are human we must have bodies, and bodies obey chemical and physiological, as well as spiritual laws.
If our race as a whole set out to pursue an ideal which must ultimately eliminate bodies altogether, it is clear that very soon we should find the conditions of our environment so altered that we could no longer speak of the human race.
In the meantime, we are human. We each and all live our lives according to laws, some of which we have begun to understand, many of which are completely hidden from us. The most complete human being is he or she who consciously or unconsciously obeys the profound physical laws of our being in such a way that the spirit receives as much help and as little hindrance from the body as possible. A mind and spirit find its fullest expression thwarted by the misuse, neglect or gross abuse of the body in which it dwells.
By the ignorant or self-indulgent breaking of fundamental laws, endless harmonies are dislocated. The modern, small-minded ascetic endeavours to grow spiritually by destroying his physical instincts instead of by using them. But I would proclaim that we are set in the world so to mould matter that it may express our spirits; that it is presumption to profess to fight the immemorial laws of our physical being, and that he who does so loses unconsciously the finest flux in which wondrous new creations take their rise.
To use a homely simile—one might compare two human beings to two bodies charged with electricity of different potentials. Isolated from each other the electric forces within them are invisible, but if they come into the right juxtaposition the force is transmuted, and a spark, a glow of burning light arises between them. Such is love.
From the body of the loved one’s simple, sweetly coloured flesh, which our immemorial creature instincts urge us to desire, there springs not only the wonder of a new bodily life, but also the enlargement of the horizon of human sympathy and the glow of spiritual understanding which a solitary soul could never have attained alone.
Many reading this may feel conscious that they have had a physical union without such spiritual results, perhaps even without an accession of ordinary happiness. If that is so, it can only be because, consciously or unconsciously, they have broken some of the profound laws which govern the love of man and woman. Only by learning to hold a bow correctly can one draw music from a violin: only by obedience to the laws of the lower plane can one step up to the plane above.
The Broken Joy
What shall be done to quiet the heart-cry of the world? How to answer the dumb appeal for help we so often divine below eyes that laugh?—Æ. in “The Hero in the Man.”
Dreaming of happiness, feeling 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 relationship often does bring real happiness. How long 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 between the two that pair; and probably taking them all unawares, those very differences which drew them together now begin to work their undoing.
But so long as the first illusion that each understands 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 realize that there is no firm foundation of real mutual knowledge beneath their feet. While even the happiest pair may know of divergencies about religion, politics, social custom, and opinions on things in general, these, with goodwill, patience, and intelligence on either side, can be ultimately adjusted, because 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 fundamental 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 happiness 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 astonishing 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 innumerable marriages of which the inner circumstances are 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 doing so. Then, unconscious of 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 swiftly rendered cynical, 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 myriad essence; 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 abnormalities, which fill so large a part of most books on sex.
In the last few years there has been such an awakening 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 infringements of the fundamental 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 decrees. Yet here, as elsewhere in Nature, the law breaker is punished whether he is aware of the existence of the law he breaks or not.
In the state of ignorance which so largely predominates to-day, the first sign that things are amiss between the two who thought they were entering paradise together, 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. Trivialities are often the first indicators of something which takes its roots unseen in the most profound 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 distances, 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 between 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 wivesa 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 expressed 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 reformers 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 learned, the Art of Love takes time to practise. As Ellen Key says, “Love requires peace, love will dream; it cannot live upon the remnants 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 of 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 entrancement.
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 happiness of life.” (Amer. Med. Assoc. Rep. 1900.) This is, perhaps, an extreme case, yet so many distinguished medical men, gynecologists and physiologists, are either in ignorance or error regarding 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.
Oh! for that Being whom I can conceive to be in the world, though I shall not live to prove it. One to whom I might have recourse in all my Humours and Dispositions: in all my Distempers of Mind, visionary Causes of Mortification, and Fairy Dreams of Pleasure. I have been trying to train up a Lady or two for these good offices of Friendship, but hitherto I must not boast of my success.—HERRICK.
What is the fate of the average man who marries, happily and hopefully, a girl well suited to him? He desires with his whole heart a mutual, life-long happiness. He marries with the intention of fulfilling every injunction given him by father, doctor, and friend. He is considerate in trifles, he speaks no harsh words, he and his bride go about together, walk together, read together, and perhaps, if they are very advanced, even work together. But after a few months, or maybe a few years of marriage they seem to have drifted apart, and he finds her often cold and incomprehensible. Few men will acknowledge this even to their best friends. But each heart knows its own pain.
He may at times laugh, and in the friendliest spirit tease his wife about her contrariness. That is taken by everyone to mean nothing but a playful concealment of his profound love. Probably it is. But gnawing at the very roots of his love is a hateful little worm—the sense that she is contrary. He feels that she is at times inexplicably cold; that, sometimes, when he has “done nothing” she will have tears in her eyes, irrational tears which she cannot explain.
He observes that one week his tender love-making and romantic advances win her to smiles and joyous yielding, and then perhaps a few days later the same, or more impassioned, tenderness on his part is met by coldness or a forced appearance of warmth, which, while he may make no comment upon it, hurts him acutely. And this deep, inexplicable hurt is often the beginning of the end of his love. Men like to feel that they understand their dearest one, and that she is a rational being.
After inexplicable misunderstanding has continued for some time, if the man is of at all a jealous nature he will search his wife’s acquaintances for someone whom she may have met, for someone who may momentarily have diverted her attention. For however hard it is for the natural man to believe that anyone could step into his shoes, some are ready to seek the explanation of their own ill success in a rival. On some occasion when her coldness puzzles him the man is perhaps conscious that his love, his own desires, are as ardent as they were a few days before; then, knowing so intimately his own heart, he is sure of the steadiness of its love, and he feels acutely the romantic passion to which her beauty stirs him; he remembers perhaps that a few days earlier his ardour had awakened a response in her; therefore, he reaches what appears to him to be the infallible logical deduction—that either there must be some rival or his bride’s nature is incomprehensible, contrary, capricious. Both thoughts to madden.
With capriciousness, a man, in general, has little patience. Caprice renders his best efforts null and void. Woman’s caprice is or appears to be, a negation of reason. And as reason is man’s most precious and hard-won faculty, the one which has raised mankind from the ranks of the brute creation, he cannot bear to see it apparently flouted.
That his bride should lack logic and sweet reasonableness is a flaw it hurts him to recognise in her. He has to crush the thought down.