There are some people who do not believe in second marriages. That they are few is proved by statistics, some five-sixths of widowers marrying again, and four-sixths of widows also.
The spinster knows nothing of married life beyond what she has observed for herself, or heard from friends who have entered into the holy state. Sometimes this knowledge is rather more puzzling than illuminating, and confidences from married women friends are apt to be misleading.
Does a woman ever tell to anyone the whole truth about her married life? Even to herself she glosses over those faults on her side that may explain so much of her husband's conduct. Consequently, the spinster embarks upon her matrimonial career almost wholly unequipped with useful data. She may have read many stories dealing with a similar case, but fiction is to be distrusted as a guide to practical life.
A girl of about twenty-three marrying a widower of forty has her work cut out in order to make the union successful. If she is in love with him she is tremendously in earnest in this endeavour, and often finds discouragement in his references to his first consort. "We used to do so and so." "The arrangements were different when-------" The poor man, in uttering such phrases as these, little knows what incalculable harm he is doing.
Even as little girls at school we all learned how detestable it is to have some bright example continually held up before us, some exalted paragon who is being perpetually quoted. It is human nature to dislike unfavourable comparisons between ourselves and others, and the wise man refrains from instituting them between his present and his late wife.
The worst of being greatly in love with a husband is that, being over zealous to please him, anxious for recognition of one's efforts, and easily discouraged by its absence, one is reduced to a plaintive, easily dejected frame of mind, which shows in the conduct, and infinitely puzzles the husband. He fails to recognise what is amiss, and any explanation seems to him incomprehensible.
He may be quite aware of the fact that his wife is making a great endeavour to render herself useful, and to endear herself to him. That which he knows so well concerning himself he thinks must be patent and easily discernible to her. This is a very common frame of mind with regard to many matters other than the one under discussion. The very excess of affection on the part of the wife becomes a cause of friction, and young wives must be warned against it.
Many women nowadays marry at a mature age, say from thirty to thirty-five years. Thus a woman who unites herself to a widower of perhaps the same age, or a few years older, begins with a certain number of decided views. She may have imbibed the fatal idea of managing her husband, an idea that should only be the outcome of experience of his ways of thought, every-day habits, and the trend of the inner man.
The woman of thirty-five with "the brow of Jove, the eye of Mars himself" begins by domineering. This is "no way to behave." To snub a husband is to ensure a speedy Nemesis, perhaps not voluntary, but certainly inevitable. Nothing chills affection so rapidly as deliberate rudeness, and the reason is not far away. "If she can speak to me in such a way, she cannot have married me for love," is the man's natural comment.
Women are supposed to be gentle, flexible beings in comparison with men, but very often the cases are reversed in matrimonial partnership. The woman may be a virago, though, fortunately, such an extreme case is unusual in the educated classes. The man may have a gentle, even sensitive personality, and would shrink like the mimosal-eaf from the touch of roughness or sharpness.
When assailed by a domestic storm, a man of this temperament- offers merely a passive opposition. Should the wife be of an ungenerous nature, she takes advantage of this quiet non-resistance, and at last rampages over his fife with a deadly influence, killing within him his mental powers, and covering his moral atmosphere with a cloud of grey.
But from this unhappy representation let us turn to the well-assorted couple-the widower who has wisely chosen a girl, not much younger than himself, who enters his home loving and loved. What a change for him from the dulness of solitude to the charming companionship of one who understands him, and ministers not only to his bodily needs, creating an atmosphere of comfort and order, but is also found to be mentally sympathetic. They enjoy life together, as only congenial spirits can. Should their tastes differ in some respects at the beginning of their married life, after a few years they tend to become fused. Each takes an interest in what the other enjoys, and after a year or two of marriage they will have become almost identical in their choice of amusement and mental culture.