"A similar taste in jokes" was George Eliot's formula for producing harmony in married life. An extraordinary comment on this was the divorce suit brought by an American wife on the grounds that her husband ' made bad jokes at breakfast." His children (and hers) gave evidence to the same effect, and she won the day.
Humour of the same brand is rarely found in any two individuals, unless they have been brought up together, have imbibed ideas from the same father or mother, and have been nourished on humorous works by the same author.
Compatibility of tastes is a strong bond between married people. Love of dogs or of gardening makes a solid link. The love of children or of music binds them together with hooks of steel. Mutual dislikes are not so powerful, though "Punch" has put on record a couple who were attracted to each other, and married, because both disliked oysters. A limited compatibility, but it served.
Questions of temperature are a fruitful source of trouble. A chilly wife, and a husband who owns a rapid pulse and veins in continual ebullition have a daily, sometimes an hourly, grievance. The room is always too hot for the one, too cold for the other. The husband lets the fire out, and the wife's feet are cold. The episode has possibilities of recrimination, sometimes resisted, but invariably resented, whether expressed or suppressed.
Most of us have some brand of ill-temper concealed about us. In some it is a sudden tempest, whirling with an unexpected blast through the calm atmosphere of the home. In others it is a clammy sullenness of indefinite duration, a wordless brooding fenced with a fog of impenetrable gloom. It has to run its course. Prescriptions are in vain. Questioning serves but to thicken the sulphurous atmosphere. The poor sufferer will not be helped to emerge into clearer air, but issues forth unaided in course of time, the malady over till the next attack. A lively partner may come to the rescue again and again, only to be met by that invincible stolidity which is the armour of the poor prisoner against those who would release him.
Unanimity is an excellent thing in general, but when it signifies a similarity in ill-temper it is a foe to peace. Two sets of sulks in a house produce a mimic but realistic purgatory, not for the possessors only, but for all within the walls. But it has happened more than once that each, seeing in the other the full ugliness of this defect in temper, has gradually subdued it.
The English husband of a sprightly American girl, feeling aggrieved about something, treated her with British aloofness, chilly words, and looks expressive of disdain rather than of the affection he had promised her on their wedding-day. She became aware of the change of temperature during dinner. Laying down her knife and fork, she remarked, with a note of decision in her voice: "Come off the roof, James, or I'll not eat another morsel. Neither shall you. Explain yourself." The startled man produced some lame excuse, and the meal proceeded. Drastic measures are sometimes salutary.
A very sulky-tempered man married a pretty girl, and all went well until the day when he resumed his bachelor habit of showing displeasure. He did not speak to her for some days. When he then addressed some remark to her, she made no reply. He asked her if she had heard. She said: " Yes. But as you have not spoken to me for five days, I do not intend to speak to you for five more." This prescription strictly carried out effected a complete cure. He is now an even-tempered man, and the menage is a happy one.
"Blessings on the falling out That all the more endears."
"All the more endears"? On the contrary, collisions of the kind bruise the heart, lacerate the feelings, chill affection, and end by creating enmity in implacable natures, and a condition of cold tolerance in others of gentler mould.
Mothers spoil many men for marriage by indulging them from boyhood to manhood, sometimes even fetching and carrying for them in a way that is humiliating to their manliness, but to which they have become so accustomed that they cannot see it in its true light. A son standing at case in the hall while his mother runs up five flights of stairs for his forgotten gloves is a very sorry spectacle. The wife is prepared to offer no equivalent service, and, for a while, suffers in comparison with the mother.
The best kind of compatibility is that of reciprocity in bearing and forbearing, in mutual politeness and consideration.