When The Other Woman Appears
( Originally Published 1918 )
IT sometimes becomes necessary for the wife to consider the question of the "other woman." Of course, it is quite possible for an apprehensive woman to think she perceives a rival upon the horizon when there is nothing more there than the product of her own fancy.
It is most unfortunate for the wife to get into the habit of nagging her husband about his woman friends, continually suggesting to him by her fears that she has no faith in his constancy, or in her own powers to hold his love. We often bring to us by our fears that which we dread.
Again, by endeavoring to hold her husband too much under her control, the wife may drive him to extremes simply through a desire to achieve an approximation to personal freedom. There may have been no intention of being untrue to her, but simply the human being's natural desire for a normal amount of freedom.
The wife must not permit herself to get into a frame of mind calculated to produce any of these undesirable conditions. On the other hand, it is not amiss for her to exercise a little wise supervision over her husbands' friendships in order that she may prevent his drifting into an intimacy which may eventuate in a situation difficult for all involved. Tactfully she may be able to make her husband see the dangerous position in which he has placed himself, and so avert what might prove to be a calamity for all concerned.
Suppose, however, she has made all of these efforts, and they have proven fruitless. She finds her husband growing more and more enamoured of another woman, and herself apparently helpless to avert the threatened catastrophe. What is she to do?
I heard of one woman in such a situation who, with a courage born, it may be, of despair, did a most unusual thing. She invited her apparently successful, but unsuspicious, rival to spend a week or two in her home. The other woman came prepared to enjoy the attention from the husband to which she had been accustomed. The wife, with an unusual appreciation of the nauseating effects of an overdose, proceeded to throw the two together so persistently that the man was finally repelled by the cloying sweetness of the woman, who had not learned to make allowances for the personal idiosyncrasies which crop out in daily life. Before the visit was over he was appealing to his wife to free him from the presence of this creature who, as he had begun to feel, fairly fawned upon him.
In this instance, the wife was successful in her strategy. Of course, such might not always be the case. At any rate, she stood a fair chance of success, because she did not allow herself to lose her self-control and waste her energy in tears and moans and despairing cries. The woman who will keep her wits about her stands a pretty fair chance of winning.
Frequently success is achieved through the wife's coming to realize that she has really been neglecting her husband through her desire to do everything possible for the children. In other words, she realizes that hers as been the great mistake and she sets about retrieving it. Instead of appearing always in wrapper and curl papers in the morning hours, she makes an effort to come to the breakfast table looking trim and neat, with an air of good-fellowship instead of one of careworn anxiety. It is not easy, to be sure, when one has been up with the babies during the night, but it pays in the long run. She may even learn the advisability of taking a nap in the afternoon in order to appear bright and entertaining at the evening meal. She can take a rest during the day, as a rule, if she but makes up her mind to do so, and the evening hours will be much more enjoyable if one of the pair is not overtired. The husband will feel rested at once when he comes into his wife's presence, if her nerves are calm and her words of greeting cheerful.
Every domestic triangle cannot be dealt with by attention to these little details, but in many instances they have proven to be important aids to success.
A wife must be very careful not to accuse her husband of unfaithfulness on insufficient grounds. For example, if he is a minister, a doctor, a dentist, or a lawyer, she must make allowances for the difficulties of his calling. In each of these professions there are many opportunities for designing women to take advantage of the man with whom-they come in contact. That there are designing women in the world we must admit; and, instead of turning her husband over to them by her readiness to believe him guilty, the wife must be ready to defend him from their wiles by the use of her woman's wits.
Designing women, silly women, love-sick women call men up on the phone repeatedly, write them sentimental letters, waylay them in their offices, on street corners and in the most unheard-of places, in an effort to satisfy their own vanity or love of romance, or for the purpose of carrying out thoroughly wicked designs. Under these circumstances, men need the protection of their wives, and the wives should be ready to give it.
There have been instances in which a man's downfall has been plotted by his professional rivals and an unscrupulous woman utilized to further their ends. The wife who refuses to listen to her husband under such circumstances simply plays into the hands of his enemies, and it may be, through the lack of that understanding which accompanies true love, wrecks his life and hers.
Sometimes he may even be guilty of temporary unfaithfulness, and while it may seem to her that for the time being her faith in him is utterly dead, if he is sincerely repentant and she feels in her heart that she still loves him, she should realize that forgiveness is divine, and that there has often been built up upon what has appeared to be the wreck of a marriage a truer, more intimate and more lasting union than would ever have been possible without that sad, yet binding, experience. The suffering that comes to the man through his humiliating discovery of his own weakness, and the reverence that he feels for his wife's generosity, will often bring to his heart a truer comprehension of her real worth than he ever had before, and she may find that the thing that threatened to take her husband from her has but served to make him more than ever her lover.
But what if the new love that has come into his life seems to be the real love? What then? This is indeed a sad situation for the wife, and one to which each individual must find her own solution. While she is going through the terrible testing time that must accompany this discovery, she can find no better solution than in John Burroughs' poem entitled "Waiting." Let her constantly remind herself in the words of the poet, "Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor height can take my own away from me," realizing that, if this man is her own. nothing can deprive her of him. If he is not hers, she does not really, in her heart of hearts, want him.