Making Love Lifelong
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE great problem of all young married people is keeping alive the love which has drawn them together. It is easy enough to fall in love; the difficult thing is to stay in love.
It has been said that love is blind, but a closer analysis would seem to prove that love bestows a keener vision upon those who come. under its influence, so that they are able to perceive charms and virtues which may be hidden from the eye of the ordinary observer. Qualities which are there only in promise may be discerned, and the faith in their presence acts like a warm ray of sunshine to bring them into expression.
It is easy in the first flush of an ardent love to see only the virtues of the beloved, especially while the two are living separate lives and see each other only under the most favorable circumstances. When they have started their life together, however, and must needs meet before breakfast, while still in mental as well as physical undress, so to speak, it becomes increasingly difficult to overlook the ragged edges and the sharp corners that begin to obtrude themselves upon the attention.
This is the testing time of love. If the feeling which has drawn the two together has been more or less superficial, a fascination exercised by some trivial charm, the time comes when the cause of the allurement is lost sight of in the great number of uncongenial traits which develop. If, on the other hand, the love is true and deep, no matter what shortcomings may become evident, the great fundamental fact remains that, with all their faults, the two still love each other. Where. that is the case, it is possible for them to have patience with failings and to continue to keep their regard steadfastly fixed upon the traits that originally called forth the admiration and its resultant love.
Sometimes it calls for an effort of the will to take the attention away from the things that rasp and irritate, and fix it upon the commendable qualities. Yet this can be done, and must be done many times, if the exigencies of married life are to be met successfully.
The first great essential for success in a marriage relation is unselfishness. But this unselfishness should be mutual. If it is all on one side, it produces in time a state of injustice which cannot be forever maintained. Some women begin by being so very unselfish that they afford the husband no opportunity to give evidence of the love that is at that time actively calling for expression. It is a great mistake for either one in the partnership to insist upon having a corner on the unselfishness, so to speak. It is in this way that we develop selfishness in the other member of the firm. If a woman insists upon making a door-mat of herself, you cannot blame the man if in the end he gets the habit of wiping his feet upon her.
Unselfishness in both is the only basis which will permit of a proper adjustment of the sex relation in marriage. It will result in the two finding out what is the normal and happy sex life for them. It must not be forgotten that true marriage involves the mental, spiritual, social and physical union of the two parties concerned. Without any doubt, a harmonious and satisfactory sexual relationship is essential to successful marriage. It is not the whole of marriage, however, and the probalility is that it will be more perfectly adjusted where greater emphasis is placed upon the mental and spiritual aspects of the relationship. These are, after all, the lasting elements which will endure long after physical desire has fled.
The importance of the little courtesies of life cannot be over-estimated. There is always a temptation, in the hurly-burly of strenuous endeavor, to overlook delicate little attentions, and this is especially true in the intimacy of the home. But these delicate flowers of thoughtfulness are what give beauty and charm to domestic life. Let the wife, therefore, make every effort in her power to keep up this atmosphere of thoughtfulness and consideration. Not only can she show regard for her husband in many little ways, but she can express such appreciation of all such thoughtful attentions from him that he will be constantly encouraged to continue them in order to gain more of her approval.
The wife needs to take especial care that she does not neglect her husband when the children come. Her nature finds its completion in her children, and she is tempted to become so absorbed in them that the husband will begin to feel himself a negligible quantity. He comes home at night, it may be. full of the happenings of the day, and eager to talk them over with her, as they did in the days of their courtship and early marriage. His most interesting tale, however, is broken in upon by urgings to "look at the baby," or a request to wait upon the child in some way. The first time or two this happens, the husband is able to perform the duties of a father with more or less willingness. But if it is continued, he comes to feel—and quite rightly —that his wife is really not paying any attention to him at all.
Now she has been with the baby all day long. It won't hurt her to forget the infant for fifteen minutes or so, in order to give her undivided attention to her husband. This will be wise on her part, for it will enable her to keep close to her husband's life and thought. Having shown unmistakable evidence of complete interest in his affairs, she then has a right to expect him to turn with equal enthusiasm to her absorbing interest, the baby, and, without doubt she would then find the paternal instinct manifesting itself to a thoroughly satisfactory degree.
The question may be asked as to how much the wife should call upon the husband to help her in caring for the little ones. Some men seem to have the idea that if they take the child out for a walk on a Sunday morning, they have done all that can be expected of them. They may then find themselves in the position of the man who, after having chastised his small son, heard him saying to his mother in an aggrieved tone of voice, "Mamma, that man who stays here Sun-days spanked me." The father who does not en-ter closely into the lives of his children in infancy misses a great deal of joy and a great spiritual development. He needs to feel the tug of tiny fingers at his heart-strings, and to feel the yearning desire to relieve a helpless little sufferer in some way is to grow into a stronger and better man. No man should be deprived of this opportunity.
On the other hand, the wife must remember that when the man goes to business he has no opportunity to catch up on the sleep that he may have lost the night before. Therefore she should not call upon him too frequently. She can drop down for a cat-nap in the middle of the day, and so maintain her nervous equilibrium, but he can-not. In this, as in every other problem, a little judicious common sense is needed to strike the happy medium.