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Amorous Emotion and Sexual Impulse

( Originally Published 1957 )

Amorous Emotion and Marriage

THE OUTSTANDING sexual relationship is marriage. A large part of any study ambitious enough to be called a psychology of sex must necessarily be devoted to marriage. This book makes no such pretension and is concerned with only one kind of sexual attraction: the emotion called "amorous" and the problem of sexual choice.

The amorous emotion is quite commonly regarded as a premarital experience. The idea seems to be one of the age-long platitudes of the popular philosophy of married life, despite which it may contain a truth. Henry Theophilus Finck, who wrote large books on this subject, once posed the question whether anyone, encountering a reference to "love letters," ever thinks of a man's correspondence with his wife. Yet Finck was not at all a cynic; he dedicated a volume to his mate, along with a gracious tribute to the marital relationship. He distinguished clearly, nevertheless, between the marital and the pre-marital experiences, between "romantic love" and marital "affection," and believed that much confusion resulted from failure to realize the important difference.

The romantic emotion disappears gradually in marriage, Finck maintained, to be replaced "as a rule" by the kind of love that settled married people have for each other, "which is some-times a less intense, at other times a more intense, feeling than the emotions aroused during courtship." In this change certain feelings vanish or become subdued, while new ones appear. There is a "new orchestration" in the emotional life. For the husband, for example, there is now a sense of ownership, so that jealousy becomes less a threat to hopes of possession than to family stability. For the wife, coyness and restraint can now be laid aside. Of greater interest is Finck's belief that an important emotion in sexual love, which he called "adoration," does not ordinarily endure very long in marriage. The wife's attractions are not those of the sweetheart, and the result is a "different kind of love," which comes out of new revelations of personality, from the intimacies of living together, from deepened sympathies, and from a sense of common destiny. Gone are the exaggerated enthusiasms of the romantic mood, like-wise the restless tension and longing; marriage is, by comparison, a period of placidity and relaxation. It may be noted that the lost element of "adoration" looks very much like what many would regard as the emotional essence of being "in love."

The distinction stressed by Finck was sometimes sharply made in the judgments rendered by the "Courts of Love" of the Middle Ages on the possibility of love in marriage. "At the court of love of the Viscountess Ermengarde of Narbonne the problem whether the love between husband and wife or the love between lovers were the greater, was decided as follows: `The affection between a married couple and the tender love which unites two lovers are emotions which differ fundamentally and according to custom. It would be folly to attempt a comparison between two subjects which neither resemble each other, nor have any connection.' In another instance it was held `that a lady lost her admirer as soon as the latter became her husband; and that she was therefore entitled to take a new lover.'"

On several grounds it seems a safe surmise that there is generally some degree of change, from the begining of marriage, in the emotional relation of husband and wife. Tradition, expressed in hundreds of aphorisms, agrees. Some recent findings concerning the life span of the amorous emotion uncomplicated by the influence of marriage will be cited later. However long the amorous state lasts within marital association, if it is true that this emotion has become, in America, the foremost basis of mate selection, the importance of understanding it must be seen as very great, for every young person. Students of marriage seem fairly agreed that ". . . nearly everyone who marries says he is in love, and usually believes it," (45) and again, "Though a few marry for money, position or similar calculating reasons, most couples marry because they have found each other so attractive that they want to live together." (1) The mod-ern American, De Rougemont thinks, "simply does not conceive of any other reason for marriage except romance."

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