This section is from the book "Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties", by Marie Carmichael Stopes. Also available from Amazon: Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties.
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 fjnawing at the very roots of his love is a hateful ittle 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, 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.
It may then happen that the young man, himself pained and bewildered at having pained his bride by the very ardour of his affection, may strive to please her by placing restraint upon himself. He may ask himself: Do not religious and many kinds of moral teachers preach restraint to the man? He reads the books written for the guidance of youth, and finds " restraint," " self-control," in general terms (and often irrationally) urged in them all. His next step may then be to curtail the expression of his tender feelings, and to work hard and late in the evenings instead of kissing his bride's fingers and coming to her for sweet communion in the dusk.
And then, if he is at all observant, he may be aggrieved and astonished to find her again wistful or hurt. With the tender longing to understand, which is so profound a characteristic in all the best of our young men, he begs, implores, or pets her into telling him some part of the reason for her fresh grievance. He discovers to his amazement that this time she is hurt because he had not made those very advances which so recently had repelled her, and had been with such difficulty repressed by his intellectual efforts.
He asks himself in despair: What is a man to do ? If he is " educated," he probably devours all the books on sex he can obtain. But in them he is not likely to find much real guidance. He learns from them that " restraint " is advised from every point of view, but according to the character of the author he will find that " restraint " means having the marriage relations with his wife not more than three times a week, or once a month--or never at all except for the procreation of children. He finds no rational guidance based on natural law.
According to his temperament then, he may begin co practise "restraint."
But it may happen, and indeed it has probably happened in every marriage once or many times, that the night comes when the man who has heroically practised restraint, accidentally discovers his wife in tears on her solitary pillow.
He seeks for advice indirectly from his friends, perhaps from his doctor. But can his local doctor or his friends tell him'more than the chief European authorities on this subject? The famous Professor Forel ("The Sexual Question," transl. 1908) gives the following advice : -The reformer, Luther, who was a practical man, laid down the average rule of two or three connections a week in marriage, at the time of highest sexual power. I may say that my numerous observations as a physician have generally confirmed this rule, which seems to me to conform very well to the normal state to which man* has become gradually adapted during thousands of years. Husbands who would consider this average as an impre-scriptable right would, however, make wrong pretensions, for it is quite possible for a normal man to contain himself much longer, and it is his duty to do so, not only when his wife is ill, but also during menstruation and pregnancy.
* The italics are mine.--M. C. S.