On Marriage And Married Life

On Marriage And Married Life

ariston andri ktaema sympathaes gunae. ~ Hippothoon

Marriage laws are framed, not for or by the likes and dislikes of men and women, but by the exigencies of social, often of political, economy.

Therefore Men and women’s likes and dislikes are obliged to conform to the usages demanded by social and political economy: so In Turkey women accept with a good grace the custom of a plurality of wives; in Tibet men accept with good grace a plurality of husbands.  In the western world .. . . Humph!

Always will there be everywhere prevalent a latent hostility between the likes and dislikes of men and women on one hand, and the laws enforced by a social and political community on the other.  This is why Always there will be those who will try to “reform” the marriage state: some looking only to the likes and dislikes of men and women, others only to the advantages which shall accrue to the State.  So, Some there will be will always advocate a loosening of the marriage bond, others who will seek to make it indissoluble.  Both should remember that The unit of the State is the family; therefore the State makes laws, not to suit the tastes or convenience of the husband and the wife, but for the good and preservation of the family.  All of which, surely, is right and proper, since It is the business of the State to make laws governing the welfare of the generations to come.  In fine The children—they are the pivot about which all matrimonial controversies should turn.

Reformers of marriage laws should seek a preventative, not a cure; since It is doubtful whether the ills of matrimony are really curable, for, generally speaking, Matrimonial incompatibility is a malignant, not a benignant, disease; its prognosis is doubtful; nor does it run a regular course.

* * *

Many are the women who, soon after marriage, silently turn over in their minds this little problem: whether it were better to marry the man they loved but who did not love them; or to marry the man who loved them but to whom they were indifferent.  And The man a woman ultimately marries will give her no clue to the solution. And for the following reasons:

(i) He, fond wight, does not know that any such problem is agitating her little brain; and

(ii) She, of course, dare not divulge the factors of the problem.

In short,Most marriages are brought about by the following simple, yet fateful, consideration: The man marries the woman he wants; the woman marries the man who wants her.  The two propositions, though apparently identical, often produce results very far from identical.  And yet, Sometimes—sometimes—that glorious dream comes true, in which a hale and heart-whole youth implants the first pure passionate kiss upon the lips of a hale and heart-whole girl.—Ah, happy twain! For them the sun shines, the great earth spins, and constellations shed their selectest influence.  ‘T is a dream that all youth dreams.  ‘T is a dream makes wakeful life worth living.

Ah! the wild dream of youth! The maenad dream! The spring-time dream!

Of the maid: the dim, dim dream of stalwart man offering a love supreme without alloy, and taking, forceful, a love as flawless, as supreme; a steady breast on which to lean, strong circling arms, a face set firm against the world, a face that softens only to her up-turned eyes that seek the lover who is hers and hers alone; a dream of music, color, and the swaying dance; of rivals splendidly out-shone; of home and friends and trappings; of raiment. Retinue; of ordered bliss; and by and by, in a still dimmer far-off time, a time un-whispered to herself, of baby-fingers, baby lips . . . . . .

Of the youthful man: a vivid dream, involved, unsteady, shifting; a dream of lust and love and smoke, and flame and fame; of cuirass and horse and saber; of blood  and battle; of high place;  of many dominated by his look and gesture; of mighty man, and orders issued, preemptory, not to be gain said; also of lithe arms, a supple waist, sweetly-soft entwining limbs, a gentle girlish woman all his own who never was another’s and always will be his; and an heir and household gods.—Ah! the wild dream of youth!

Youths, dream ye while ye may! And you, ye aged, I charge ye do not wake them: it is the dream makes wakeful life worth living.  And yet—and yet, Sometimes—sometimes, alack and fie for shame, things come to such a pass, between husband and wife, that a modus viviendi has to be tacitly agreed upon.  In that case, alas!

Too often, between husband and wife, it depends upon who is the better actor and liar—to their shame be it said.  But before this happens, much else must have happened.  For, Here and there, ahem! we meet a woman who is like the moon: she circles sedately round, and dutifully faces, the planet to which she is united; but that planet does not know that she is irradiated and warmed by a far-distant sun—a sun which symbolizes, ahem! Duty, or Necessity, or Affection for her children, or (tell it not in Gath) Affection for another.

And here and there, ahem! we meet a man who, like the sun, shines steadfastly enough upon his own earth, but shines also, all unbeknown to earth, upon other earths—and errant comets—and small aerolites.

* * *

As it is usually physical or sentimental characteristics that bring a man and a woman into the field of mutual attraction, so it is generally physical or sentimental characteristics that drag them apart.  Thus, A clever wife will put up with a stupid husband, and an intellectual man will get on admirably with a dull but domestic woman.  But If either party to the marriage contract disregards or is unable to appease the demands made upon him or her for sympathy or emotion, there is likely to be trouble; for Sentiment, not intellect, is the cementing material in marriage, and If a man and wife cannot effuse a mutual sentiment, gradually they will grow apart.  Indeed, The demands of the emotions are at once more imperious and tyrannical, and more fastidious and critical, than are the demands of the mind.  Of all of which, what is the moral?  This: The married pair who would live in amity, not to say in affection, must so live as that each shall persuade the other is the sole personage under the roof of heaven that he or she desires.  Alas! The unwritten motto of many a married couple is: The Heart Knoweth its own Bitterness.

* * *

Marriage reveals the moods of a man.

What is an ideal marriage? That perhaps in which the man is to the woman at once friend, husband, and lover.  But some people prefer these functions distinct.

That is a happy marriage in which a woman’s husband is also her confidant. And always, Husband and wife should move like binary stars: revolving about a common centre; mutually attractive; and, unless closely viewed, presenting a single impression.

* * *

Matrimony is sometimes a terrible iconoclast.  Whether it throws down the images of false or of true gods, depends on the religion of the worshipper.

* * *

It would be difficult, sometimes, to determine whether constancy was an autogenous or enforced virtue.

* * *

Never play pranks with your wife, your horse, or your razor.

* * *

There is a thing which not gold nor favor nor even love can buy.  Its true name is secret; but it is content to be called Sympathy.

Accordingly, Let no man or woman think when he or she has won wife or husband all has been won that is necessary.  For, If sympathy cannot be gained from one quarter, it will probably be sought in another.

* * *

At the moment of the formation of a matrimonial syndicate of two, each member of this as yet unincorporated joint-stock company verily believes that each has put into the concern his whole real and personal property.

Yet it is to be feared that, although The woman, possibly, invests her whole capital, the man—often, no doubt, unwittingly to himself—retains not a few unmatured bonds and debentures.  That is to say, Love, it is to be feared, is often enough a bargain in which the woman comes off second-best.  For A woman gives herself; man accepts the gift. Rarely, if ever, does a man give himself.  He cannot.  His work, his play, his politics, his friends, his club—these are matters to him highly important. To a woman the only highly important things are: her husband and her home.

* * *

A woman rules until she tries to rule,–which will be an enigma to many.

Out of a wife’s obedience will grow her governance; never out of her dominance.—Those who think this sheer nonsense, are welcome to think so.  But it is worth thinking about.

* * *

A man ought to rule his wife.  Granted.  But he cannot do this unless he rules himself.  The Colonel of a Regiment cannot command if he himself breaks the King’s or the State’s Regulations.  And An uncontrolled wife deems her husband indifferent—or weak.  The number of husbands who, though they think they rule, yet in reality are ruled,  would astonish—not their wives, but themselves.

It is customary to call the man the head of the household; yet, between man and wife, it is a question after all whether it is not the stronger will and the cooler judgment that should, and generally does, guide the family, independent of sex or custom.

* * *

As in the solar spectrum, so in love: beyond and intermingled with the visible rays of passion are numerous actinic but invisible rays of affection, invisible to careless spectators, but known and felt by the recipients.  These, too, must be introduced if the connubial domicile is to be warmed as well as illuminated.

* * *

The marriage tie loosens all other ties.  In fact, Neither men or women are always aware of the absoluteness of the marriage tie: thenceforward the woman belongs not to her own people, hardly to herself.—As to the man, well, Often a wife will actually be jealous of the time and attention her husband spends on things and matters unconnected with her—his work –his play—his politics—his friends—his club.

* * *

Many are there who still believe that the marriage service, like a legal indenture, irrevocably entails the whole estate of a human heart.  In sober truth, There never was a married couple yet who had not to purchase their own happiness.  And The only charms that increase in value as time goes on are the charms of character; beside these, those of person, and even those of mind, are weak.  In short, In marriage, as in every human relationship, it is character that avails and prevails, naught else.

* * *

Chemists draw a distinction between a chemical and a mechanical mixture.

Moralists might discover the same in marriage.

* * *

To encircle monogamy with an ever-increasing halo of romance—that is a problem deserving of study.

Monogamy is one of the disharmonies of life; it seems (as I have said) to be the decree of politics rather than of nature.

But surely polygamy or polyandry would be more disharmonious still.

* * *

Marriage renders no one immune.  That is to say; Unless husband and wife both avoid infection, both can catch amatory fevers.

* * *

The woman who has learned how to minister to a man’s creature comforts has learned much.  And It has disconcerted many a young wife to discover how important a part of her education this is! Since It is certainly sometimes hard to reconcile a suitor’s poetic protestations with a spouse’s prosaic requisitions.

* * *

In the game of life a man may venture many stakes; a woman’s fate is determined by a single throw of the dice.  Thus,  How often it happens that a young and inexperienced maid will look about her, will weigh and consider, will pick and choose, and, when she thinks she has found a man to her purpose, will set her cap at him will attract him, enslave him, bring him to her feet, make him propose, accept him as husband, give him all the sweets of engagement,regard herself and proclaim herself his affianced bride,–all with most prudential—it may be, most praise-worthy—motives.  On a sudden, the man discovers that this was no real attachment, but a fictitious, almost an enforced, one; that the methods (so he thinks) were artificial, the results delusive.  What happens? The man withdraws—politely—gallantly: t’was a mistake; he is sorry; they are unsuited; he did not know his own mind; he is sorry;–and so on, and so forth.  They separate.  And, in this concatenation of circumstances, action for breach of promise is out of the question.—Besides, often enough, the girl, through pride or through sheer chagrin at the indifference of the man, pretends acquiescence.—What happens to the man? Nothing.  If his senses were stirred, he himself is heart-whole.  He gave nothing; he merely received.

He proposes again to somebody else; is accepted; marries happily; rears a family. What happens to the girl? Everything.  The man gave her nothing; she gave all—her lips, her looks, the recesses of her heart; the premonitions of the gift of her self; for, when she leant on him, looked up to him, clung to him, felt his strong encircling arms, was perturbed by his ardor, she gave that which was not to give again.  Such woman is to be pitied.  For, however much she may strive to make it appear that she gave nothing, that she had all to give again, not even her own soul will bear her witness, and sooner, or later, a subsequent lover (and such girl accepts the first lover that offers) will find a void where he hoped to find an inexhaustible treasure.  For the woman cannot forever keep up a fictitious affection; and languid looks, and eyes that will not brighten, and smiles which are so evidently forced, bespeak her sympathies elsewhere.—But, as Heine said, this is an old story often repeated. (1)  Wherefore Let us pity women! The dice they throw are their hearts—and they have only one throw:–when they have thrown away their hearts—Pity women! Men have so many dice to throw: income, status, title; virility, fortune, fame; good spirits, good connections, good looks; an air, a figure, a soul-stirring voice; manners, breeding, force; a good name, a good bank account.  The pity o’ it is that The whole marriage question revolves about a single point: The man wants him a woman,–a woman who shall be his and only his; The woman wants her a head of a home.  And here again, and once again, we see the difference between the sexes:–

The one thing that the man wants is: a mate; The one thing that a woman wants is: a head and provider of a household.

The man’s thoughts never go beyond the woman; The woman’s thoughts always and at once travel far beyond the man—to the children, the household, the home. This is great Nature’s inexorable law.  But little knows the woman, and less knows the man, that the nubile girl is merely obeying great Nature’s inexorable law.

What price woman pays for her high office! for in this implicit, unquestioning, and unconscious obedience to Nature she performs perhaps her highest function.  On all accounts, therefore, let us Pity women! They obey so faithfully great Nature’s law, and Nature  so often plays them false—so very false, and so very often.  Besides, The woman who gives her hand without her heart finds in time that she has made a sorry bargain—a sorrier bargain, perhaps, that the woman who gives her heart with out her hand.  For, Passionately as a man desires a woman, the passionately-desired woman will in time discover that, unless she gives her heart with her hand, her gift suffers depreciation.  And Unless a woman gives her heart, how can she give her aid? Surely, Unless a man’s armor is buckled on for the strife of life by feminine sympathy, the fight is apt to be a sorry one at best; since A woman’s true business is to back her husband: if SHE leaves him in the lurch, there is little hope for him.  For of a truth The strongest man is handicapped in the struggle for existence unless he knows and feels that his wife is at his side—not pushing him so much as leaning upon him.


Ein Jungling leibt ein Madchen,

Die hat einen Andern erwahlt;

Der Andre leibt eine Andre,

Und hat sich mit Dieser vermahlt.

Das Madchen heirathet aus Arger

Den ersten, besten Mann,

Der ihr in den Weg gelaufen;

Der Jungling ist ubel dran.

Es ist alte Geschichte,

Doch bleibt sie immer neu;

Und wem sie just passieret,

Dem bricht das Herz entzwei.

~ Buch der Lieder, 39.

* * *

To simulate passion for an hour is possible; to simulate a life-long love—that is hard.  For Love is a thing unique and unalterable (in spite of its various alloys); clip the coin, and it will not pass current.  For Ideal matrimony is founded on a mono-metallic basis: no amount of silver will be accepted for gold.  And yet, How often M loves and N accepts the love! Poor M! Also (in the long run), poor N! That, indeed, is a happy marriage where M gives and wants just what N wants and gives: where M and N just want each other.  For Give and take is the rule of a community of two, as it is of a community of ten thousand; The ideal (and probably impossible) industrial community is that in which demand and supply are in exact equipoise.  The same holds good in matrimony. In wedlock, a virtuous, has probably less force than a vicious, example. That is to say,  A frivolous spouse is more apt to drag the couple down than is a serious spouse apt to lead the couple up. And Many a mate there is (both masculine and feminine) feels like a pack-mule treading a precipitous pass.

* * *

Of every Audrey her Touchstone should be able proudly to say, “A poor. . . . Thing, Sir, but mine own”.  In other words, The homely violet deserves as tender cherishing as the rare exotic.

* * *

What portion of himself or herself any one complicated physical and psychological human being really and truly ‘conveys’ to another by means of the simple contract known as the “plighted troth” or that of a larger deed called the called the “solemnization of matrimony”, is a riddle difficult of solution; and as to how much one may claim on the strength of one or other of these indentures, that is a more difficult problem still.

In no amatorial contract, probably, is it possible to include or to enumerate all the hereditaments, messuages, or appurtenances, involved.

Certainly How great so ever the community of interest, M and N remain for ever M and N. Is there not always something in the “eternal feminine” which cannot quite coalesce with the ephemeral masculine? Probably, Trust your wife with your purse, and seven times out of ten it will grow heavy.

* * *

Many a woman, by man, is accepted at her face value. Many a man, by woman, is taken on trust.  It is difficult to tell whether More bad debts are contracted by giving credit than by taking at face value.  For The promissory note of marriage is undated and unendorsed.  But Children act as collateral security.

* * *

How often a girl, even an affianced girl, accustomed to a multiplicity of admirers, forgets the man of her ultimate choice she must then and there set above all other claimants!

If the man the woman chooses for husband does not stand in her estimation absolutely first and all other claimants nowhere there is bound sooner or later to be trouble.  For No man will play second fiddle to any body or any thing; and The realm amatory is a monarchial, not a republican, one.  In all realms, there must be a ruler, whether elected or hereditary. Always a divided sway results in schism, whether in the family or in the state.  And although Often enough the wife proves herself the more effective Sovereign, the forms of monarchy must be conceded to the man, even though the executive is left to the woman.

* * *

How often the only breast to which one can go on to “rain out the heavy mist of tears” is the one inhibited!

* * *

Two wills are not so easily blended into one as that the task may be left to Cupid.  Yet, Unless Cupid has a hand in blending two wills, it is bound to be a sorry business at best.

Always and in all wedlock there comes a time when will conflicts with will. If both wills are inflexible, one must break—or both will fly apart. But Love and tact will relieve many a strain.  Though sometimes one discovers that Human eyes have a certain store of tears.  It is not difficult to weep them all away.  However, In the final rupture between man and wife, it is the children that turn the scales.  But, O ye young husbands and wives, remember that Youth regards the whole world as its friend; age finds itself desolate in the midst of friends.  Wherefore, O youth, cleave unto the wife of thy bosom; since A loving wife is worth a multitude of friends. Sweet are friends, and fame is sweet; but sweeter far a wifely heart whereon to lay a weary head.  But Each married pair must solve its own difficulties as best it can.  If any advice were worth the offering, it would be this:

O ye Husbands, and O ye Wives, if not for your own sakes then for your children’s, lead a straight, clean, honorable life; any other sort of life leads to despicability, to dismalness, to disaster.

—Which only means, after all, that In the marriage relation, as in every relation—the social, the industrial, the commercial, the political—it is conduct, it is character, that counts, nothing else; Beauty—Wealth—Culture—Grace—Wit—Intellect—Sprightliness— Vivacity—Humor—these are much but they are simply naught, and less than naught, when just this simple, single, yet insatiable thing called Man wants to live amicably, affectionately, martially, with that simple, single, but incomprehensible thing called Woman.

Character—Conduct—rule the world, the Matrimonial equally with the Municipal.

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