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.
Love Is Fed Not By What It Takes, But By What It Gives, And That Excellent Dual Love Of Man And Wife Must Be Fed Also By The Love They Give To Others.--Edward Carpknter.
MAN, even the commonplace modern man, is romantic. He craves consciously or unconsciously for the freedom, the beauty, and the adventure which hjs forefathers found in their virgin forests. This craving, transmuted, changed out of recognition by civilised life and modern circumstances, is yet a factor, not to be ignored in the relationship of the sexes.
The "bonds of matrimony," so often referred to with ribald laughter, touch, and perhaps secretly gall., even the most romantic and devoted husband. If to the sincere and friendly question: « What is most difficult in married life for the man ? " one gets the sincere and rueful answer--that answer may be summed up in the words " perpetual propinquity."
Of this, the wife, particularly if she be really in love, is seldom fully aware. If her husband is her true lover, his tenderness and real devotion will give him the wit to conceal it. But though by concealment he may preserve the unruffled surface of their happiness, yet the longing to be roving is not completely extinguished. In the true lover this unspoken, unconscious longing is perhaps less a desire to set out upon a fresh journey than a longing to experience again the exquisite joy of the return; to re-live the magic charm of the approach to the spot in which the loved one is living her life, into the sacred separateness of which the lover breaks, and, like the Prince by his kiss, to stir her to fresh activity.
As will be realised by those who have understood the preceding chapters, each coming together of man and wife, even if they have been mated for many years, should be a fresh adventure; each winning should necessitate a fresh wooing.
Yet what a man often finds so hard is to come to that wooing with full ardour and with that complete sense of romance which alone can render it utterly delightful, if the woman he is to woo has been in a too uninterrupted and prosaic relation with him in the meantime.
Most men, of course, have their businesses apart from their homes, but in the home lives of the great mass of middle-class people the Victorian tradition still too largely preponderates, and the mated pair bore or deaden each other during the daily routine.
To a very thoughtful couple whom I have known. so precious was the sense of romantic joy in one another that they endeavoured to perpetuate it by living in different houses.
Such a measure, however, is not likely to suit many people, particularly where there are children. Yet even without bodily separation (which, must always entail expense) or any measure of freedom not at everyone's command, much can be done to retain that sense of spiritual freedom in which alone the full joy of loving union can be experienced.
But even intellectual and spiritual freedom is often rendered impossible in present-day marriage.
The beautiful desire for ideal unity which is so strong in most hearts is perhaps the original cause of one of the most deadening features in many marriages. In the endeavour to attain the ideal unity, one or other partner consciously or unconsciously imposes his or her will and opinions first upon the wife or husband, and then upon the children as they grow up.
The typical self-opinionated male which this course develops, while a subject for laughter in plays and novels, a laughter which hastens his extermination, is yet by no means extinct. In his less exaggerated form such a man may often be an idealist, but he is essentially an idealist of narrow vision. The peace, the unity, for which he craves is superficially attained: but it takes acuter eyes than his to see that it is attained not by harmonious intermingling, but by superposition and destruction.
I have known a romantic man of this type, apparently unaware that he was encroaching upon his wife's personality, who yet endeavoured not only to choose her books and her friends for her, but " pro- " hibited " her from buying the daily newspaper to which she had been accustomed for years before her marriage, saying that one newspaper was enough for them both, and blandly ignoring the fact that he took it with him out of the house before she had an opportunity of reading it. This man posed to himself more successfully than to others, not only as a romantic man, but as a model husband; and he reproached his wife for jeopardising their perfect unity whenever she accepted an invitation in which he was not included.
On the other hand, in homes where the avowed desire is for the modern freedom of intellectual life for both partners, there is very frequently a bickering, a sense of disharmony and unrest that dispels the peace and the air of restful security which is an essential feature of a true home.
It is one of the most difficult things in the world for two people of different opinions to retain their own opinions without each endeavouring to convert or coerce the other, and at the same time to feel the same tender trust in the judgment of the other that each would have felt had they agreed.
It takes a generous and beautiful heart to see beauty and dignity in the attitude of a mate who is looking at the other side of a vital question.
But the very fact that it does take a beautiful and generous heart to do this thing proves it well worth the doing.
If the easier way is chosen and the two mutually conceal their views when they differ, or the stronger partner coerces the weaker into hiding those traits which give personality to an individual, the result is an impoverishing of both, and through that very fact, an impoverishment, a lowering of the love which both sought to serve.
In marriage each one dreams that he will find the LFnderstander--the one from whom he may set out into the world- in search of treasures of knowledge and experience, and before whom the spoils may be exhibited without thought of rivalry, and with the certainty of glad apprisal. Treasures, dear to our own hearts but of no value to others, should here find appreciation, and here the tender super - sensitive germ of an idea may be watered and tended till its ripe beauty is ready to burst upon the world.