Marriage And Its Alternatives
( Originally Published 1918 )
WE have already considered the meaning of sex. We know that it is the principle which divides humanity into two halves in order that each may specialize along a certain line. Marriage, therefore, is the means whereby these two halves are conjoined for perfect functioning. As has been said, sex is the great paradox, for it divides in order that it may unite.
One great purpose of this union is the continuance of the life of the race upon the earth. There is another great purpose, however, which must not be overlooked, and that is the true completeness of the lives of the two individuals concerned. It is from both of these points of view that we must consider marriage. But at this time we will confine ourselves to the consideration of marriage from the standpoint of the contracting parties.
One of the greatest needs of the human soul is a sympathetic companionship. The human heart longs for some one who shall truly understand its emotions and aspirations, and it requires both sympathetic insight and intimate, lifelong association to give this in its highest degree.
This is the treasure which two young people set out to find when they enter the long road of matrimony, and it is well worth their utmost endeavors. Moreover, it is only in marriage that human beings can arrive at their highest development and a complete unfoldment of their powers. In the perfect union each brings to the other those qualities in which he or she is most lacking, and, bit by bit, draws out from the other the best that lies hidden within him or her. Many have commented upon the striking resemblance that has often developed between a husband and wife who have spent a lifetime in close association, and this assimilation of opposite characteristics must necessarily mean a more rounded development of the individual. The bearing of common burdens, the surmounting of the same obstacles, the working toward the same aims, if made in the same spirit, must contribute to their united development.
Marriage is not a pastime. It is a great under-taking, and calls for the exercise of the highest qualities the individual possesses to bring it to a successful completion. For this reason, it is well to think of marriage long years before entering the state, in order that one may prepare oneself in every possible way for success in the great adventure. The young woman who studies the married life of her friends and acquaintances, in an effort to discover what makes each a success or failure, will be in the way to learn many valuable lessons. Even though she may never marry, whatever she gains that would help make a possible marriage more successful, will also contribute to the rounding out of her character.
It is well also for a young woman to bear in mind the thought of the possibility of marriage when choosing her friends. She may at first be inclined to think that it doesn't really matter what sort of young men she goes out with in search of a good time ; but when she once realizes that from among the young men whom she meets every day will come, in .all probability, the one whom she will choose to marry, she can no longer look upon this matter of friends as a negligible factor in her future happiness. If she is wise, she will limit her circle of intimate friends to those whom she feels are fit to make good husbands and fathers.
It is because they are vitally interested in the young men of today as their possible husbands, and the fathers of their children, that the young women of today have so deep a concern in masculine habits and ways of living. Whatever militates against the physical, mental and moral integrity of the young manhood of the nation should receive the outspoken condemnation of the young womanhood of our land. It is in the mating period that the young men are most easily influenced by those whose approval they are so eager to win.
The girl who has not thought seriously on the subject of marriage for herself may make the foolish mistake of allowing her time and attention to be monopolized by some young man whom she would never think of marrying, but who is able to give her "a good time." She does not stop to realize that she is limiting her own powers of choice by thus allowing all other young men to be kept away; and not until she has passed the years of her greatest attractiveness, it may be, does she wake up to the fact that her best opportunity for a successful marriage has passed.
There are several important questions to be considered in connection with marriage. The first of these is the economic question. The young man who is physically ready to marry, has not, in the majority of instances, reached that point in his business career where he can command the income which the young woman's father has reached at the end of his years of struggle. The girl is in danger of thinking that she should start her married life at the point to which her parents have attained, and so she may feel it necessary either to refuse the young man whom she really loves, because he isn't making enough money, or else to urge an indefinite postponement. These are both serious mistakes for her to make. She may flatter herself that her action is simply the expression of a commendable prudence, but closer analysis of her own heart will show her that the real reason is cowardice on her part. She is afraid to face the hard realities of life, as her mother probably faced them before her. She wants to live a cushioned existence. She is not brave enough to get out into the daily struggle and do her share of the work of the world. In modern phraseology, she is a slacker, and as such she should be heartily ashamed of herself. What are youth and health for, if not to glory in the surmounting of obstacles? The harder the conflict, the greater the joy of victory. She will be unworthy of the army of women who have gone before her, and from whose primitive efforts have sprung the civilization of today, if she shirks her part in the great undertakings of life.
This is a question that is certain to come very closely home to the girls of our land when they realize the necessity for strong enduring bodies. For years following the world's war thousands of young men will be in a more or less crippled condition, physically or economically. Their general health will be good, their stamina will have been strengthened through the stress and strain of war, and their characters purified in the furnace of the great conflict, but they will be handicapped in the struggle for daily existence either by some actual disability, or because they have been expending their young energies on other struggles than that of "making good" in the business world. The crippled may feel that, being only wrecks of humanity, as they might put it, no girl would consider a life with them acceptable. This will be the opportunity for our American girls to show the stuff of which they are made. It will be their privilege to help carry the burden of family support, and, as they feel their powers develop under the strain, they will know the joy that comes from exerting oneself to the uttermost. It is only the brave who deserve lifelong happiness, and our men who will have suffered so much must not be counted out of the running.
Occasionally, however, young women have to meet another type of man. This is the man who urges a girl to enter into all the intimacies of the marriage relation with him, while at the same time he excuses himself from assuming its legal obligations. In this instance, it is the man who is the coward, and a coward of the most despicable sort. He is deliberately planning to throw all of the burdens of this relationship upon the woman. He says he is not financially able to support a wife and possible children. What, then, does he ask of her? To support herself while giving him her love and companionship, and, should a child come into the world as the result of their union, she is the one who cannot escape from that responsibility, while he will slink away to some safe spot where he can continue to make life comfortable for himself! The pity is that women are ever so blinded by their love and desire for self-sacrifice that they will allow themselves to be thus defrauded of the care and protection which are their due. If they saw the man in his true light of unmitigated selfishness, they could only despise him ; but, being blinded by their own idealism, they may allow themselves to be led into this unfair relationship.