Why Think About Marriage
( Originally Published 1918 )
ADOLESCENCE is the term applied to that period of life which extends between child-hood and maturity. It might very well be called the mating period, because it is during these years that the interest of each sex in the other is intensified, and they are drawn together until, in the majority of instances, each finds his or her mate, and marriage ensues. Normally, this intensified interest in the opposite sex should not manifest itself to any degree before eighteen or twenty years of age. But so unnatural are the conditions under which the majority of people are living at the present time, that boys and girls in their early teens often get the notion that they are in love with each other.
Without doubt, this condition of affairs has been largely brought about through the unwise - suggestions of the adults. Even in childhood parents will suggest that the little boy and girl —perhaps four or five years of age—who delight in playing together, are "lover" and "sweet-heart." And so, from early youth, the impression is made upon the plastic little minds that boys and girls must always associate upon this basis of a sentimental relationship. The result is most unfortunate. The children lose the benefit of a healthful comradeship during the practically sexless years of childhood, and they develop a premature sex interest in each other, which may have very serious consequences. If nothing worse happens, the boy and girl at four-teen or fifteen years of age are likely to think that they are madly in love with each other, and so we have these startling elopements and child marriages; or, if the course of love fails to run smoothly, the tragedy of a child suicide because of unrequited love !
There is no doubt that the greater part of all this unhappiness could be avoided if adults would cease to treat love and marriage as a subject of jesting, and be willing to speak of it in all seriousness whenever the' children indicate a desire for information upon this all-important subject.
The little children take it for granted that they are to reproduce in their lives the lives of their parents. The little girls play with their dolls and talk about what they are going to do when they have children of their own. The little boys plan also for the future and talk about what they are going to do for their little boys. The way is open, in the very earliest years of life, for parents to make a deep impression upon the minds of their little ones as to the sacredness of marriage and the responsibilities which it entails. Such instruction given in the early years would safe-guard the young people when the turbulent period of adolescence has been reached.
It will very often be found that under normal conditions the girl in her early teens, while she perceives the question of marriage arising upon her horizon, will nevertheless feel a disinclination for the marriage state. This is not to be wondered at. She is still a child, with the child's love of freedom from responsibilities, and it is just as well to encourage in her, for the time being, the feeling that she does not wish to assume any added burdens, knowing that in all probability this attitude of mind is a temporary one, and will pass away with the passing of the years.
The girl at sixteen or eighteen years of age, however, begins to come more definitely under the sway of romance. She dreams of a possible lover, but her mind goes no further. She does not care as yet to dwell upon the possible consequences of his actually coming into her life.
The girl of eighteen or twenty should normally be ready to begin to think seriously and definitely of marriage, with all that it may mean. Many .girls, however, prefer to dwell a little longer in the atmosphere of romance, and so they may feel moved to ask the question, "Why think about marriage? Why not let me dream a little longer? It is so beautiful here in the land of romance, and there are no sharp corners or ugly details to obtrude themselves upon my notice."
Their reluctance to leave the realm of the ideal is not difficult to understand ; they are incapable of realizing the importance of having a clear vision at this most critical period of their life. But their eyes must be freed from the mists of their dreams that they may perceive truly what is round about them.
Many a young girl, still living in the land of make-believe, invests some young man whom she meets with all the glamor of that romantic realm, and, marrying him while still under its spell, awakens finally to find herself in the grasp of a situation from which she cannot escape and which promises to her only life-long unhappiness and possible disaster. What would she not give to be able to go back and, with clear vision, view the question of marriage in its true light!
Girls must be willing to consider thoughtfully the subject of marriage from all points of view, if they would protect themselves from lifelong regrets. It is not only the young man whom they must study from the point of view of what marriage really means, they must also study them-selves. What will marriage mean to them? What effect will it have upon their own development? What is the reason for marriage, and what part does it play in human life?