This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
The state of conjugal union should be the happiest in the whole of the existence of either man or woman, and is such in a congenial marriage. Yet in the history of very many marriages contentment or happiness is palpably absent, and an almost insufferable misery is the heritage of both parties. It is therefore important that previous to the marital union the parties should take everything in consideration that foreshadows happiness after marriage, as well as everything calculated to despoil conjugal felicity.
The first requisite of congenial marriage is love. Without being cemented by this element the conjugal union is sure to be uncongenial. It is the strongest bond, the firmest cord, uniting two hearts inseparably together. Love for the opposite sex has always been a controlling influence with mankind. It is the most elevating of all the emotions, and the purest and tenderest of all sentiments. It exerts a wonderful power, and by its influence the grandest human actions have been achieved. Of what infinite worth it is to either sex to be compensated with a worthy and satisfying love, and how ennobling to the impulses and actions it is to bestow the sentiment upon one worthy to receive and willing to return.
Love is only given to that which we admire and esteem. The man who admires the shapely hand, the comely figure, the pretty foot, the handsome features, the well-formed waist, etc., will naturally love the woman possessing such attractions. The woman will love the man who favorably approaches her standard of conception as to manly excellence and beauty. Others admire moral purity, vivacity of disposition, superior talents, genius, etc., and hence naturally will love the possessors. In fact, this proposition is founded upon a law of mind; love cannot be generated by forces that antagonize our ideals of esteem and admiration. The love that engenders matrimonial happiness must be reciprocal. Reciprocity of love will naturally induce matrimonial alliance. It should not be inspired by a passional nature only, nor should it be platonic entirely, but the two intimately blended together will render the love one of adaptation, and secure conjugal placidity. The love that is created in us by the Venus-like form of the female, or Appollo-like character of the male, is not that love that alone insures happiness, the moral and mental nature must also be congenial. Candidates for marriage should carefully consult themselves, and without ulterior motives ascertain if the love they have for the one to be chosen or accepted is adequate to compensate the yearning of this sentiment. If the one selected has all the characteristics that inspire love, that will be the proper one to marry. Love is the main spring that regulates the harmony of conjugal life, and without it there is a void in the machinery, productive only of jars, convulsive movement, and a grating and inharmonious action. The soul yearns for love and to love, and unless the desire is compensated, human life is a blank, and becomes a purposeless existence. Love ever stimulates the good and suppresses the bad, if kept in a proper channel, and guided by pure affections.
Another requisite of a happy marriage is health. No person has a moral right to engage in wedlock who cannot bring to his partner the offering of good health. It may be apparently a cruelty to the consumptive to deny to him the gratification of his affections or passions, but it would be a greater cruelty to encourage him or her in a step the consequences of which would engender anything but happiness. Is it a pleasing thing to contemplate that you throw upon the bosom of your spouse but the body of an invalid, and one that will be the constant object of care and solicitaiton on the part of either husband or wife? Is it consoling to your justness that you can but offer a limited period of your life to the one of your choice, and that the inevitable consequences of your affection will at an early period leave but one at the hearthstone? Is it encouraging to know that the offspring of your union will in all probability be equally tainted as yourself, and that on those upon whom you conjointly place your hopes and pride are destined to perhaps an early grave? It is intrinsically wrong for those in whom the taint of consumption, scrofula, syphilis, insanity, etc., to marry, unless they feel convinced that by proper medical treatment they have been or can be thoroughly cured. Intermarriage of the cachectic would be far more judicious than the union of the healthy to the diseased. Vigor and debility are constitutional opposites, and cannot exist together in the physical economy, and the marital union of the physically healthy to the physically unhealthy does also produces nothing but discord in the economy of marital existence.
A very important consideration is the knowledge of what marriage really implies. It obliges the encountering of duties and circumstances which press considerations and plans of life upon the most careless minds. The change in the habit and manner of life, the divided responsibility, the inexorable demands of marital duties to be complied with, and various other matters incident to wedded association should be fully pre-considered, and the relation assumed only after thorough deliberation and satisfactory self-examination. It is the duty of the eligible of either sex to marry, but a marital alliance should be consumated intelligently, not thoughtlessly or ignorantly. "Look before you leap," is an adage that has profound significance in its application to candidates for connubial association. If an error is made in selection, scarcely another error that may be committed by man or woman is so difficult of rectification, and none will result in greater misery, mental anguish, and destruction of all the joys of life. If, on the contrary, the selection or acceptance is wisely and discreetly made on both sides, the conjugal pair will be blest with all the earthly joys capable of attainment.
It is invariably those who thoughtlessly entered into marital companionship that make mistakes. They shrink before the realities incident to married life on their first presentation, simply because they never dreamed, much less thought, that such exigencies are inevitable to the marital sphere. They are ignorant of the duties incumbent upon either husband or wife, hence they leave them unperformed; opportunities for advancement are not improved; neglect becomes the basis of action with only one possible result -- marital infelicity. If we trace the cause, we find that in the majority of cases, infelicity is owing to neglect in the performance of marital duty; and this disregard is ascribable to utter ignorance previous to marriage of the duties inherent to the marital sphere; consequently, as soon as they confront the wedded pair they are not met with a fixed determination to discharge them satisfactorily as emergencies will admit, but are shirked and postponed, and finally, when the necessity for action becomes absolute, they are inadequately performed; a fault which is sure to engender dissatisfaction, petulance, or reproach on the part of either husband or wife.