Divorce Physiologically Considered
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
DIVORCE is a much discussed subject. Laws have been enacted to control divorce. The men who have placed these restrictions upon the statute books know little or nothing of the physiological laws involved in marriage. They have imbibed certain theories, as a result of their environment, in reference to the intimate relations of marriage that are founded on nothing but superstitions. Marriage, the same as any other human relation, should be intelligently regulated. All laws that are made to control marriage should be made by those who have a definite and detailed knowledge of the natural laws of marriage. They all, naturally, recognize the object of marriage. It is plain and clear to the dullest of minds, but the new science of eugenics will have to enter into and become a part of their home lives before marriage can be intelligently controlled by theologians, politicians, or statesmen. This is an age of specialization and any rules that are laid down by the government regarding marriage should be made by marriage specialists. They should be made by men who understand in every detail the relations of men and women living in a state of wedlock.
First of all, we must recognize the right of the child to be well born. A civilization which fails to do this has progressed but little beyond savagery. - Such a right upon the part of the child having been recognized, the queries that will naturally arise next will have to do with the various influences previous to conception and during pregnancy, that bear upon its life, health, strength and character. You might say that at the present time this subject is a closed book to the ordinary man or woman.
From a physiological point of view, we are compelled to recognize that marriage is made and cemented by an intense affection that we call love. This affection is the result of certain alluring forces existing in the contracting parties. The man is attracted by the woman and she finds answering desires within her own soul. These forces finally become so strong as to be irresistible. The man and woman marry and their union is given the stamp of legitimacy by a public acknowledgment. The preacher, or some representative of the State, steps in and confirms the tie.
Now all is ready for the beginning of the home-building process. Under normal conditions, with proper observance of the physiological laws of sex, the attractive force existing between the man and woman should be made stronger day by day, year by year. This presumes, however, the observance of the natural laws of marriage. Suppose, for example, the contracting parties proceed to abuse their privileges; the man is excessively and unreasonably passionate, and knows nothing of feminine rights under the circumstances. He proceeds practically to kill the love of his sweetheart in the first days of their union.
Or let us suppose another extreme in which the wife develops an abnormal and insatiable passion. Either of these conditions will bring about a gradual dissolution of the love bond between husband and wife. Whether the man or the woman is at fault is of no very great importance when it comes to considering the question of divorce.
To my mind, marriage is truly a divine institution. It is created by laws that should be held sacred. If there is an influence in all human life which can be termed divine, it is surely that which stirs the mind and heart of a man and woman just entering upon the wedded state. The sacred ties of love are a mighty force.
But when love has disappeared, with its binding, cementing force, marriage becomes a farce, a pretence. Love then frequently turns to mutual hate and disgust. Where there has once been strong affection, there often appears a feeling of loathing. Must men and women be forced to live together under such circumstances? I cannot imagine an influence in life that would be more destructive to character than such a compulsory relationship. A man who hates a woman should not be compelled to live with her. A woman who loathes a man could not suffer a more terrible punishment than to be forced to live with him.
Some may say: "Let the punishment fit the crime." But I believe at the beginning it is impossible to control love. Men and women can-not fall in love by rule. They are often driven here and there by this uncontrollable, irrepressible force that wells up within them. To be sure, love has disappeared because of certain mistakes that are made within the marital relationship. But in practically every instance such errors are committed because of ignorance. One learns to avoid too close proximity to a blazing fire be-cause of the immediate pain associated therewith, but the effects of marital mistakes are not indicated so definitely and decidedly. Such errors are not usually detected even when the harm has been wrought.
We hear much about incompatibility of temperament. You can depend upon it that many a divorce is brought about not through tempera-mental differences, but through errors made possible by the grossest sort of ignorance relating to physiological laws. Marriage is made by love and is unmade through the disappearance of love, regardless of legal or theological enactments. This law is definite and final. In fact, it is a divine law, a thousand times more sacred than human enactments. Men and women attract each other for certain practical purposes. They repel each other for similar practical reasons, and when a man and woman have made mistakes that have created within the soul of each a feeling of loathing that repels each from the other, a higher law than the human has separated them. The Supreme Power has divorced them. It would be a crime of the worst order for a man and woman to live together under such circumstances. And imagine, if you can, the possible suffering involved in bringing children into such a home. There is no crime that is more heinous. I once heard of a woman's boasting that she had not . spoken to John, her husband, for ten years; but note that during that period she had had five children. At the time this incident was called to my attention I was not so familiar with this subject as now, or I would have been deeply interested in learning something of the characters and physiques of these children. I am quite sure that they are miserable specimens, and I know it would be impossible for them to possess the spirit, zest and energy that should inspire every human soul.
The marriage of today is a human-made contract. Human beings are not yet infallible. Marriages are often mistakes of the most tragic sort. Such mistakes should be rectified. Many marriages are not mistakes in the beginning but devitalizing errors are committed afterward and the marital craft is wrecked on the rocks of prudery and ignorance. Divorce should be recognized at times as a divine institution. It rectifies mistakes that are sometimes terrible in their consequences. To go through life with the ashes of a dead love at your side would be something like being tied to a corpse. Prudery has stood like an impenetrable wall against every effort that has been made to investigate the details of the marital relationship. But now the science of eugenics has opened the door. It has thrust aside the conventional rules; it has delved into the conditions and forces that influence the unborn child and, with this knowledge as an opening wedge, the subject of marriage in all its various ramifications will soon be a part of our public school curriculum. Then, possibly, divorce will be unnecessary, for the evil that led up to it will disappear. But until such reforms are brought about, we are compelled to recognize the demand for relief from a relationship that can often be fittingly described as a "hell on earth."
It should always be borne in mind, however, that many ties which seem hopeless, are not hope-less, but can be made bearable and even delightful, by the study of the laws of life, and by mutual forbearance and consideration. There is hope for many an apparently hopeless situation.