Love Making And Its Dangers
( Originally Published 1918 )
WE have already considered the danger that threatens the girl who allows her men friends certain little liberties when they have no serious intentions toward marriage. But there are perils, too, in another sort of relation. Many girls seem to have the feeling that, if a young man honestly loves a girl and intends to marry her, all possibility of danger is passed. This, however, is very far from being the case, and every young woman should understand this fact from the very beginning.
In the first place, we must remember that engagements are not unbreakable. Too many girls have forgotten that important consideration. They think because a man has placed a ring upon their engagement finger that, therefore, he is practically bound to them for life, and they may allow themselves to go to lengths which they will keenly regret when he has proven to them by his failure to keep his promise, the frailty of the tie between them.
It would be well if every young woman would look upon the period of engagement as a time of testing. It is her opportunity to test the depth and intensity of her love for the young man, and also his sincerity and trustworthiness. The couple are making an experiment together. They are going to advance into an intimate revelation of their innermost thoughts and feelings in the hope and expectation that these will draw them into a permanent relationship.
It may not do so, however. They may discover, as they become better acquainted with their real selves, that they are not so well suited to a life-long companionship as they had imagined. If such a discovery results, they should have the courage to acknowledge their mistake and to withdraw from the contract. Well for the girl, then, if she has not memories from which she shrinks.
The greatest danger in the engagement period comes from the intimacies of love-making. Because she believes this young man's intentions toward her are honorable, and that she can trust him absolutely, the girl is tempted to follow her own impulses without restraint.
Every girl should understand that her natural instinct would lead her to give herself completely where her deepest feelings of love have been touched. This is the definite impulse implanted within womankind, to make them willing to undergo the pains and burdens and self-sacrifices entailed by motherhood. Being given for this altruistic purpose, however, it should not be followed blindly from motives of selfish gratification.
Woman has no right to give herself until she has insured the safety and well-being of those human souls which may be called into existence through her gift.
It is not mere conventionality which says that woman should maintain a certain amount of re-serve in her associations with men, even with those who are nearest and dearest to her. It is a. result of the experience of the race. Whatever tends to deepen man's reverence for womanhood, strengthens his powers of self-control and self-restraint. He needs every bit of assistance which can come to him from woman's moral support, and this she exercises through her womanly reserve, her purity, her delicacy of thought.
As upon woman has been placed the heavier physical burden in caring for the life of the race, so upon her shoulders rests the heavier moral burden. She it is in whom was first developed the sense of racial responsibility, because she could not, by any possibility, escape from her charge. She was bound in the fetters of motherhood, and she perforce learned her great lesson of maternal care through the experience of her own physical change. From all of this man was able to escape, and, as a result, the development of the paternal instinct has been very much slower.
It is for this reason that the moral responsibility in these matters rests so heavily upon the woman. She it is who must always consider the welfare of her possible children, and must make that consideration paramount. She has no right to think only of her own wishes and desires.
The impulse to give herself is an expression of the highest generosity. In reality, however, she has no right to think only of her own wishes and desires.
The dangers of love-making are generally greater when the engagement is a long one. When the young man first learns that his love is returned and is accorded the lover's privilege, he finds complete satisfaction in the new wonder of being allowed to kiss her hands and her lips. There comes a time, however, when these privileges lose the glamour of their newness, if the engagement is long continued, and there is then the temptation to attempt to revive the thrills of the first weeks of courtship. It is without doubt, in some such way as this that the desire for greater intimacies is aroused; and too often, carried away by the wish to meet every demand of her lover, the girl silences the inward monitor which would keep her within the path of safety, and ventures into the danger zone.
It is a strange thing, but experience has repeatedly proven that a man's regard is very apt to change as soon as he feels that he has entire possession of the one whose favor he has so eagerly sought. Man does not really desire an easy con-quest; and too often, when he has found his power supreme, he turns away to pursue another who is, as yet, beyond his grasp. Thus, through bitter experience, many a girl learns that she has made a fatal mistake by being too yielding.
The period of courtship is the time when woman has her opportunity to impress upon man the great lesson of reverence for womanhood. She should respect herself and her potential powers of motherhood so greatly that she will call forth from him an involuntary reverence.
The true relationship between men and women was well symbolized in the age of chivalry by the devotion which the knight paid to his lady. Its form of expression may seem to us sometimes exaggerated, but it nevertheless was true to an eternal reality. It is only as woman is worthy of this regard, however, that she can call it forth. If she allows too great an intimacy with her lover before she has safeguarded the welfare of her possible children, she proves herself unworthy of his high regard for her.
It is not meant to suggest here that the man is, under these circumstances, free from blame. He proves himself a dastard if he leaves the girl under such circumstances. He has shown that he loved not her but himself, because he has sought only his own selfish gratification without any consideration of what the consequences would be to her or to their possible offspring. He has sacrificed her good name, her self-respect, her happiness and the welfare of his own children to his selfish desires. He claimed to be her lover and her protector; he has proven to be a lover of himself, and her exploiter. He is to blame for her undoing, and if he does not stand by her and his promise to her, he is unworthy of the name of a man, for he has been false to his responsibility as father of the race.