When Love Seems Dead
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE wife who has determined to overlook her husband's unfaithfulness has a greater task to perform than she may at first realize. Not only must she be willing to forgive and forget, but she must make the effort to revive a love that apparently has died. It may only be sleeping, but nevertheless it will take some effort on her part to draw it forth into active expression.
Equally difficult is the task of her whose husband, without having reached the point of actual unfaithfulness, has nevertheless given unmistakable evidence of having, at least for the. time being, lost the ardor of devotion which filled life with happiness in the early days of marriage. What can the wife do under these circumstances?
When we learn that someone no longer loves us, we are inclined to blame the other individual. We wring our hands and moan, "He no longer loves me," and a feeling of resentment rises up in our hearts. We forget that love cannot be forced. It is impossible to love another by an effort of the will. A sense of duty never brought love.
The more I study the matter, the more thoroughly convinced do I become that the one who loves is, if we may so phrase it, the passive factor, being acted upon by the attributes and personality of the one who is loved. If the love fails, it is because the recipient has in some way not succeeded in persistently drawing it forth.
To the neglected ones this may seem a hard statement, yet in reality it contains within it the germ of a great hope. If the cause of the failing love lies within themselves, then in their power rests the possibility of its revival.
The best way to discover how to arouse love in another is to analyze one's own feelings, and learn what it is that arouses the glow of love within one's own heart. The spark is generally kindled by admiration in some form or another. It may be admiration for a face or a figure which seems to express admirable attributes. It may be for qualities of soul, such as generosity, kindness, thoughtfulness and the like. We all respond immediately to words of appreciation. They bring a warm glow to our hearts and make us feel that here is someone who really understands us; we instinctively open our hearts to such individuals.
Let no one think that a pretense to these qualities can arouse love. Those who say flattering things which they do not mean very soon be-tray their own insincerity, and thereafter their words have but little weight. A sincere interest in another shows itself in many subtle ways that cannot be imitated; where these are lacking, the imitation stands revealed.
In the case where the wife has to revive the dead love of an erring husband, her first step in that direction will be a magnanimous forgiving and a complete forgetting of his past transgressions. Then let her try to understand something of the soul anguish which he is in all probability enduring. There is no harder experience for the human soul than passing through the Valley of Humiliation, and there is no more humiliating experience than the discovery of one's own weakness. Having another learn of one's wrong-doing is not so keen an anguish to the sensitive soul as is the realization of one's own unworthiness.
If the wife realizes all this, she will have some-thing of an understanding of what may be passing through her husband's mind when he sits of an evening gazing moodily into the open fire, or watching her at her bit of sewing, and saying never a word. She may be tempted to think that he has, in familiar phraseology, "got a grouch;" and, of course, if she approaches him on that basis, she will but drive him farther from her. If, however, she truly comprehends his suffering and, it may be, puts down her work to steal be-hind his chair, put her arms about his neck and " murmur softly in his ear, "Don't feel so badly about it all, my darling; let's forget it and be happy in each other's love," she will stir in his heart a feeling of gratitude and a faith in her comprehension of him which will go a long way toward reviving love that he had thought was dead.
Many will feel, of course, that he should be thinking of her suffering, and she may be tempted to let the same feeling take possession of her. This is a time, however, when she cannot afford to think of herself and what may be due her. That can come later, when the dead love has really been revived. Just now she has but one important thing in hand, and that is to reawaken the feeling of devotion and ardent love. She can do it, if she will but try, and she should let nothing interfere. This is a time when she can afford to neglect her children a little, in or-der to devote herself more completely to her great undertaking. When her husband finally discovers that there is no trace of resentment in her feeling toward him, no least fear of any further transgression on his part, nothing but a sincere and self-forgetful devotion to his happiness, then at last he will begin to know what real love is and in that knowledge his own love will grow far beyond anything which he has heretofore experienced.
It is not an easy task which the wife has before her, but it is one worthy of her greatest effort. Let her not hesitate to study unsparingly her own mistakes of the past, knowing that thus only will she find the real secret of success in the present.