The Erring Wife
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
A MAN faces a serious problem indeed when he finds that his wife has been unfaithful. Happiness in the home is utterly impossible where conditions of this sort exist. And the more deeply the husband loves his wife the keener will be the mental torture that will come with the knowledge of her infidelity.
No advice can be given that will be applicable to all cases of this kind. The husband himself must be the judge and the jury. But if he is to judge, he should at least try to be fair in every way, and to strive to understand all the circumstances which have led up to this unfortunate development in his married life. In writing this chapter it is not our purpose to defend the erring wife; neither is it our purpose to condemn her in all cases. We should simply try to understand the situation.
No one rule will hold good in all cases. And yet it is always well for the husband to make inquiry as to just why his marriage has proven to be a failure. For to a large extent, in most cases, the problem of the erring wife is the problem of an unhappy marriage. And why has it been unhappy? As a rule a happy marriage does not result in infidelity upon the part of either husband or wife. A woman will not turn to any other than so long as she devotedly loves her husband. And the same is true of the husband.
Now, why this death of love that makes infidelity possible?
This is the question that the husband should face squarely before he eternally condemns his unfortunate wife. Has he himself not been to blame, partly at least? Let him ask himself honestly: In what way has he failed to hold his wife's affections? How has he ceased to be attractive to her?
There is no doubt that the husband has some-times been seriously at fault, and has to a certain extent at least influenced the action of his wife. Men are said to be selfish by nature. They are continually seeking their own pleasure, though I am inclined to think that in a great many in-stances there would be no grounds for such a charge if the husband really understood his position and thoroughly realized his duty toward his life partner. His transgressions are sometimes unconscious, the result of thoughtlessness. As I have previously said, many husbands know practically nothing about marriage and the necessity for satisfying the sex desires of their wives. Thus there is often serious disappointment upon the part of the wife, which, if continued, will result in an attitude which makes infidelity easily possible when serious temptation appears. In other words, if the husband fails both to awaken and satisfy the instinctive cravings of his wife, then she may finally fall a prey to another man.
There are, also, instances in which the husband suffers from impotence. A marriage of this kind is often productive of the greatest unhappiness and suffering. The husband is humiliated and irritable because of it. The wife is resentful. Such a union is not a marriage. But while such cases are not very frequent, it is true that there are thousands of instances in which the man suffers from some form of sexual weakness. Perhaps it is what is known as "prematurity," which is purely a condition of weakness, and makes it impossible for the victim to enjoy normal relations or to satisfy his wife. In all such cases the husband should consider the part he has played in contributing to the cause of his wife's infidelity. He should shoulder his share of the blame. Under such circumstances he cannot afford to be too severe.
This is not a defense of the conduct of the wife. She has made a grave mistake in any case. She has chosen the wrong way out of her difficulties. If for any of the reasons just mentioned she finds that her marriage is only a pretence, a farce, that it is no marriage at all, then her course of action should be to secure a divorce. At least, she should have a plain understanding with the man she has married. Frankness in such matters will usually prevent trouble. It is partly a question of being honest and truthful. If a woman finds that she has been tricked into a marriage with a man who is really not a man at all, and if she loves some one else who is in a position to marry her and be a husband in every sense of the word, then she should secure a divorce and marry the other, instead of living a double life, untrue to the first.
The individual circumstances must determine the course to be pursued. It will be necessary in many cases to consider the responsibilities that have accompanied marriage. Have children come into the home? If so, how will the situation affect them? Has the wife's attitude toward these children been all that could be expected? A single breach of marital faith need not necessarily mean the breaking up of the home. If the wife still loves her husband, if she is penitent, and if the condition of marital happiness which has contributed to her action is one that can be remedied, then he may see fit to forgive and forget. Occasionally a situation may arise which makes a mistake of some kind seem necessary in order to teach the couple a lesson. In any event, the husband must judge for himself.
It must be admitted that there are women who have what might be termed polyandrous tendencies. They have been cursed by an insatiable passion. Fortunately, such women are often barren. When infidelity is the result of such a pernicious tendency, divorce must be advised in most cases. It would certainly be to the husband's advantage to avoid intimate associations with a wife of this type, for they would be seriously devitalizing. There are also women who desire to retain their husbands' affections merely because of their de-sire for a home. They will allow themselves to be "used" sexually when there is little or no reciprocation on their part, and in the meantime they spend their affections on other men. Under these circumstances, the marital relation will always be devitalizing. Whatever magnetism the wife may have is spent on others. There can be no proper continuance of home life under such conditions.
We should remember that divorce, in cases of this kind, opens the way for a real marriage and a real home with some one else. Instead of being the foe of marriage, divorce, under such circumstance, is the friend of marriage. It is not the "divorce evil," but the "divorce good," making it possible for the man or woman, who has once been cheated in love and marriage to have an-other chance to contract a real marriage, found a truly happy home and raise a family of happy, healthy children.