Selecting A Wife
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
MANY men select their wives by accident. Would it not usually be more appropriate to say that their wives select them? The average man likes to deceive himself when he "goes a-courting" with the idea that he is the pursuing party. He is often pleased with the thought that great difficulties obstruct his efforts in winning the woman of his choice, though in the majority of cases, if the truth were known, it is the woman and not the man who has made the choice. A woman instinctively likes to be pursued, is pleased to assume that she is running away, and naturally enjoys the keen ardor of the wooer who seeks her.
Nevertheless, a man rarely chooses his wife, and I am firm in the belief that it is entirely right for a woman to do the choosing. A woman should select the man who is to be the father of her children, for is she not compelled to nurture and carry them within her own being for many months before they can lead a separate existence?
Under the circumstances, therefore, it may be a waste of time to tell a man how to select a wife, or to even suggest what sort of a wife would be best suited to him. But a man can, after all, at least influence the choice by avoiding women who are not of the proper sort.
Now the first suggestion I would make to a man searching for a wife would be to select a WOMAN. At first thought such advice may seem foolish and frivolous, but when it is known that real women are scarce it may be worth consideration. Being a woman means something more than the ability to wear the garments associated with the sex. We hear so much about the lack of manliness in men,—that men everywhere are weak and defective. But I am firmly convinced that there are far more incompetent, defective women than there are men.
In selecting a wife, first of all remember that she is to be the mother of your children. Do you want your children to be strong, resolute, splendid specimens of humankind? If you do, then select a woman who you are sure will make a splendid mother. Remember that your child will inherit in part from your wife its chest capacity, the muscles of its back, legs and arms. Some may think that such considerations will place marriage too much upon an animal plane, but we might just as well face the essential facts of this very important relation. The science of eugenics is yet in its infancy. We are just approaching a time when this prudery-besmirched world will allow study, thought and discussion on a subject that has always been classed as indecent.
Strength in a woman is just as important as it is in a man. Strength to a large extent indicates physical perfection. It means strong organs and vigorous nerves. It insures that the instincts and emotions ordinarily associated with a perfect human organism are normal in every way. There-fore, a strong woman is more likely to possess normal feminine instincts.
Unfortunately, the sex instincts in both sexes have been at times perverted to an extraordinary degree. As sex has been a closed subject, marriage is naturally a case of "the blind leading the blind." If a woman does not possess what might be termed normal sexual instincts, it would be folly to expect her to be normal. All the rules of conduct handed down from generation to generation on this important subject have come into being largely because of the subjection of woman to the demands of the male sex. Therefore when your prospective wife selects you, try, as nearly as possible, to determine her sexual status. It is certainly proper that a man should discuss this important subject plainly and frankly with his future wife: I know that this is an unheard-of suggestion, but if it were fol.. lowed before marriage it would unquestionably save a vast deal of misery after marriage. It might not prevent unsatisfactory marriages, for marriage usually begins happily, but a free discussion of this important theme would at least bring about a more perfect understanding of existing defects, and consequently would encourage an effort on the part of the contracting parties to avoid mistakes that are sure to appear when certain sexual defects are present.
It can be stated, however, with a reasonable amount of accuracy that if a man will select a woman who appears strong and healthy, whose bodily structure carries a normal amount of tissue, who, in other words, is well nourished and well rounded, whose eyes are clear and whose lips indicate a good quality of red blood, he can at least be reasonably sure that he has made a satisfactory choice.
Now that girls are taking part in athletics and are competing frequently in public games, their physical status is far more easy to determine than formerly. Whatever mistake you may make, try at least to avoid marrying a weakling, a semi-invalid. A virile, well-sexed man could not for a very long period continue to love a weakling. Above all things, do not marry a woman because you pity her. Likewise, do not marry a woman merely because you love her. For love is transient and fleeting in many instances. You may be madly in love one day and the next day your ardor will have cooled. It is certainly advisable to have something more than mere sex love in marriage whenever possible, although that is indispensable in all cases.
Accordingly, I would say, marry a woman, first, because you love her; second, because you are convinced that she would be the mother of strong, splendid children; and, third, because you admire and respect her.
Admiration and respect are determined largely by the mental, emotional and social qualities of a wife, and these cannot be overlooked when you are choosing a life-long companion. The disposition and temperament are far more important than looks. It is true that good looks of-ten indicate a sound constitution. A state of physical wholesomeness and health is the fundamental basis for womanly beauty. But so far as the face is concerned remember that beautiful features sometimes go with a weakly mis-shaped body and a very unbeautiful disposition.
Purely physical attraction is dangerous. Do not permit your decision to be made through "fascination" or "infatuation." Many marriages have gone wrong because of having been founded on purely physical attraction. Make your choice on other grounds, as well, and become thoroughly acquainted before making the decision. For this reason the dance hall will often be found a poor place to pick out a wife. Dancing may advantageous as a recreation, but it is a poor medium for marital selection.
The relative value of long and short engagements is a question of much interest, but it must be determined in most cases by the individual circumstances. We may say briefly, however, that short engagements are too risky. One cannot afford to take any chances of making a mistake in this way. On the other hand, long drawn out engagements are often not fair to one party or the other. They too frequently end by being broken up, with the result that in the meantime one or the other of the parties concerned may have missed opportunities for advantageous marriage. Many lives have been blighted through long engagements which finally were not consummated. If one cannot marry for many years, and the future is uncertain, he has no right to deprive his fiancee of the freedom to make another match if the occasion should arise. As a rule, engagements of moderate length, sufficient to in-sure a thorough understanding between the two parties concerned, are to be advised.
Lastly, the eugenic considerations in marital selection are not to be ignored. It is always well to investigate the family characteristics that are going to be implanted in your prospective children. You cannot judge entirely from the per-son, mentality and character of your sweetheart. The qualities of her family as well must be taken into account. If there are traces of insanity, epilepsy and other constitutionally weak strains in the parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts, you will probably conclude that you do not care to risk the transmission of such qualities to your children. If you decide to marry into such a family be very certain that your own family tree is sufficiently vigorous to off-set its weak strains. I cannot enter into this question in detail here. Heredity is a subject that is only beginning to be understood in a really scientific manner, but I may say that the most important fact to be kept in mind, apart from the question of physical vigor, is that the qualities of grandparents are especially likely to reappear in their grandchildren. The various children in a family are more likely to "take after" their various grandparents than their own parents, though in some cases certain strongly marked and dominant characteristics may be noted alike in grandparents, parents and children. It is a good plan to find out what is in the "stock," and then be governed accordingly.
There is no denying that the marriage of cousins is sometimes productive of healthy and normal children, when the stock is exceptionally vigorous and free from all defects, taints or weak strains. Usually, however, the marriage of cousins is risky and inadvisable. Any weak strains in the common ancestry are practically certain to be reproduced and exaggerated in some of the children produced by the marriage of cousins. It is better to take no chances with consanguineous marriage, unless you know all branches of both families several generations back.