THE Good Housekeeping MARRIAGE BOOK
Ernest R. Groves James L. McConaughy Ellsworth Huntington Eleanor Roosevelt Gladys Hoagland Groves Elizabeth Bussing Jessie Marshall Hornell Hart Frances Bruce Strain William Lyon Phelps Stanley G. Dickinson
Twelve Steps to a Happy Marriage
EDITED BY William F. Bigelow FORMER EDITOR Good Housekeeping MAGAZINE
FOREWORD by Helen Judy Bond
GARDEN CITY PUBLISHING CO., INC. Garden City, New York
Garden City Publishing Co. REPRINT EDITION, 1949, by special arrangement with Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Copyright, 1938, by PRENTICE-HALL, INC.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM, BY MIMEOGRAPH OR ANY OTHER MEANS, WITHOUT PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHERS.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
William F. Bigelow
The articles that are printed in this book made what was in my opinion the most important, the most constructive, series on a single subject that Good Housekeeping has published in the quarter century and more that I was its editor. And they might so easily never have been written—just a little item in a newspaper missed, or its significance overlooked, and these sincere and helpful articles would still be locked up in the minds and hearts of the men and women who wrote them. For it all happened just like that. Students in one of the larger California universities asked that a course in marriage relations be given—and a New York newspaper heralded it with a stick of type over about page 10.
Somehow the item impressed me deeply. Here were thousands of students of both sexes, thinking of marriage, physically impelled toward marriage, admitting that they wanted more information about marriage before undertaking it. Add to these students the hundreds of thousands in other colleges and to them the millions of young men and young women outside of college—and there was Youth itself, visioning marriage as the Great Adventure, which no one should miss, but about which there were grave reports.
I have heard lots about Youth in recent years—its lackadaisical attitude toward all serious things, its tendency to look the moral code straight in the eye and smash it, its belief that chastity isn't worth its cost or success in marriage worth working for. And I had disbelieved much that I had heard, it having been my privilege to work with and for young people in high school and college over a long period of years. I knew that Youth is looking for something better than it is being given in either precept or example. And so this request of a group of college young people seemed to me to be both a challenge and an opportunity.
I accepted the challenge. The next step was to find out how best to meet it. It seemed to me that to offer our young people anything less than the best that I could get would be letting them down. So I turned for advice to several college men who had made a long study of the problems involved in marriage, and from the various lists of subjects and authors suggested—adding a few of my own—selected the group now presented in permanent form in this book. If these articles make success in marriage seem something that must constantly be worked for, they at the same time show that success, plus the happiness that goes with it, can be achieved. Which is all, I think, that any man or woman has a right to ask for.
WILLIAM F. BIGELOW
Helen Judy Bond
If by some strange chance, not a vestige of us descended to the remote future save a pile of our schoolbooks or some examination papers, we may imagine how puzzled an antiquarian of the period would be on finding in them no indication that the learners were ever likely to be parents. "This must have been the curriculum for their celibates," we may fancy him concluding. "I perceive here an elaborate preparation for many things; especially for reading the books of extinct nations and of coexisting nations (from which, indeed, it seems clear that these people had very little worth reading in their own tongue); but I find no reference whatever to the bringing up of children. They could not have been so absurd as to omit all training for this gravest of responsibilities. Evidently, then, this was the school course of one of their monastic orders."
This quotation from the pen of Herbert Spencer arrested our attention this winter when we were reading a number of books dealing with various epoch-making periods in the development of educational method and theory.
We closed the book and pondered over the inferences made by this leader and we began to speculate on what an antiquarian of the present period might say of our textbooks, our curricula, and our examination papers. We hope in his search that it might be his good fortune to unearth the syllabi of some of our courses on Education for Marriage and Family Life, some of the worthwhile literature which is being written on the subject, even perhaps the Good Housekeeping Marriage Book. If these happened to be the only remaining record of the period, we might fancy him concluding, "Ah, what an enlightened people there must have been in the twentieth century. I perceive here preparation for real life problems. This must have been a school course for all the Youth of that generation."
This volume represents a definite step in the advancement of this ideal.
We wish to express to Dr. William F. Bigelow, former Editor of Good Housekeeping, our sincere appreciation for the kindly way in which he received the idea of publishing these valuable articles in permanent form and his readiness to help in every way possible in carrying this idea through to completion.
To each author we wish to express our gratitude for the important contribution he has made, not only in giving new interpretation and new meaning to the institution of marriage, but also for rendering valuable assistance in the solution of many of the problems which confront the Youth of today as they approach this most challenging, most demanding, most satisfying and most rewarding of Life's experiences.
H. J. B.
Table of Contents
Introduction—Dr. William F. Bigelow v
Foreword—Helen Judy Bond vii
I. When He Comes A-Courting—Dr. Ernest R. Groves 1
II. Now That You Are Engaged—Dr. James L. McConaughy 13
III. Ought I to Marry?—Dr. Ellsworth Huntington 27
IV. Should Wives Work?—Eleanor Roosevelt 43
V. Learning to Live Together—Gladys Hoagland Groves 54
VI. Marriage Makes the Money Go—Elizabeth Bussing 66
VII. Children? Of Course!—Jessie Marshall, M. D 80
VIII. Detour Around Reno—Dr. Hornell Hart 97
IX. Sex Instruction in the Home—Frances Bruce Strain 111
X. Religion in the Home—William Lyon Phelps 126
XI. It Pays to be Happily Married—Stanley G. Dickinson 140
XII. The Case for Monogamy—Dr. Ernest R. Groves and Gladys H. Groves 154
Dr. Ernest R. Groves
When He Comes A-Courting
Never were American young people more conscious of the challenge of marriage. They are not willing to accept the idea they have often heard expressed by their elders that marriage is a lottery. Neither do they believe that when they marry, they are given a blank check which permits them to draw from the bank of happiness as they please. Instead, even though they do not know how to go about it, they feel more and more that there is something they need to do to give themselves a fair chance of achieving success. A mere acquiescent waiting for Fate to come and lead them into paradise is contrary to their spirit. They seek as best they know how some way of finding their proper mate and some means of becoming equal to the testing that even the most reckless of them in their better moments realize that marriage is sure to bring.
This fact-facing of the marriage problem shows, more fully than anything else could, how much our youth today are expecting from marriage. Even those marriages that peter out and sink to a barren drabness started out with high hopes, and, although the victims may not know what brought about their mishap, they generally feel there was blundering somewhere and that this need not have happened.
Some young people grow cynical because they are so familiar with matrimonial failures; but most of them, even when they have noticed that many of their friends are unhappily married, become more determined to find, if they can, the secret of success. This leads them to ask for help, for insight, and to become fact-seeking with a frankness that seems to be their most marked characteristic. They have not been led into this attitude by any influence from their elders; they have acquired it from their own realistic approach to the marriage problem, which they clearly see has more emotional meaning than anything else that is likely to come to them through choice during their lifetime.
This request for help by young people in courtship, in engagement, in their first years of marriage, and when they plan to assume parenthood, cannot be met merely by words of caution. They do not welcome just being told what they should not do. What they seek is positive assistance. They do not want advice, but they want information and insight. They have become convinced that there are facts about marriage that people have learned through experience, especially through the searching of the scientists, and they ask that they be given the advantage of this knowledge.
These young men and women do not take kindly to a marriage program which merely lists the qualities that one ought to find in one's mate. Even from a very little courtship experience they come to realize that one does not desire to marry abstract virtues, however desirable, but a flesh-and-blood person whom one desperately wants. What they seek is a guidance which will keep them from wanting the kind of person they should not marry. They expect to fall in love, but hope to escape immature, untrustworthy emotions. They want to make a grown-up choice or at least to pick a mate in whose fellowship they can develop the character they know they need to achieve happiness.
First of all they ask for information that will help them make good use of their courtship opportunity. They rightly feel that if they blunder in this period, there is little hope of their making their goal later. They have grown suspicious of a strong feeling of attachment, because they have been forced to see in the experiences of many of their friends that this has not guaranteed later happiness. They expect to have sooner or later an overwhelming impulse to join their life to that of another human being, and they ask:
"How can I protect myself from giving my affection to the wrong person? How can I learn when it is safe to trust my own strong emotions? I know I shall be just as others are, unable to hold back, blind to the other's faults, but surely before this happens I can do something that will keep me from growing fond of a person whom I ought not to marry! People who study marriage and become familiar with its emotional demands must have learned some facts that offer guidance in choosing a life mate."
Indeed, there are such, and here are some that prove useful during courtship, the destiny-deciding period in most people's matrimonial career:
1. Don't let yourself fall in love with the first person who comes along; meet as many young people of the opposite sex as you can.
The young man or young woman should seek to know as many agreeable, companionable persons of the opposite sex as possible without the strain of attempting to establish a reputation for popularity. These acquaintances, as much as possible, should have a background essentially similar to one's own, and they should be sought as friends rather than as lovers. It is obvious that one's affection must turn to some one whom one knows, and before the awakening of strong feeling there should be as wide an experience—the man with women, and the woman with men—as possible. He or she who fails to go about with young people, as opportunity comes, loses the only way there is to gain the knowledge that is necessary later to make a wise choice of husband or wife.
2. Don't judge by party manners and dress; everyday life is different.
In this association with members of the opposite sex, the young man or woman should seek to know, in as many and as everyday situations as possible, those who prove attractive. The party and the dance need not be neglected. Anyone who proves interesting at such occasions must, however, also be known in other more usual and commonplace circumstances. The mere being with members of the opposite sex will not in itself bring insight. One must learn to observe the reactions, the attitudes, the emotional characteristics of anyone whom one likes. Effort must be made to explore the other's personality, not in a cold-blooded, analytical way, but naturally and yet with open eyes, so that there may be genuine understanding of the characteristics of those who seem to be good candidates for matrimony.
3. Study your own emotional reactions as you go along; your mate should bring out the best that is in you.
This association should also help the young man or woman to become better acquainted with himself or herself. Marriage happiness cannot be achieved merely by asking that the other give. There must also be one's own offering in the fellowship. Nothing helps clear up one's own motives, desires, and preferences so much as contact with others. We find ourselves liking some people better than others. We learn to understand ourselves through our own choices. This teaches us that self-acquaintance which measurably helps in choosing the right mate. It is particularly important that we see the effect that others have upon us. What we ourselves possess we are most apt to draw out from others. The kind of mate we need for happiness is one who stirs up the best in us, and not merely the most entertaining or the most physically stimulating of our acquaintances. Matrimony is not a short, hilarious excursion, but a serious lifetime undertaking.
* * * * *
Another thing we want to learn before we choose our mate is the wearing character of any courtship candidate.
4. Does he, or she, wear well? If you are bored now, think of what you may have to endure later.
Wearing qualities are not so easy to find out as some other things; but, if we are alert, we can notice whether a friend who has attracted us holds his own as we go about with him or there is a tendency on our part toward a letting down of interest. Many of those who lose matrimonial zest and merely have a tolerable relationship in marriage blunder at this point. Usually they have not thought of the need of finding out during courtship whether the friendship that started with promise keeps its pace; they have been unconscious of the drift toward a less meaningful relationship, or have assumed that that was an inevitable result of being together constantly. It is true that the emotions do somewhat settle themselves, but they do not become weaker because they are more stable and less violent in expression. Much association with the right sort of person in courtship should increase rather than decrease the emotional ties that hold the two young people together.
5. Will he, or she, grow with you—in mind and in character? If not, your own growth will make you unhappy.
Another of the more difficult tasks that must be assumed in a wise courtship program is discovering whether there are in the person one is beginning to like incentives toward growth. There is one certain thing in any marriage: it is impossible for those who enter such an alliance to remain stationary; either they grow in character or they lose ground. The mere possession of ambition is not evidence of the desire to grow up emotionally. One has to probe the ideals of the other person. The question is, "Does he or she have the character-vitality to develop emotional maturity?" If this is lacking, successful marriage is seldom achieved, and for one who has gained this trait to be tied to a spouse who cannot attain it is tragic for the well-matured person.
6. Will he, or she, put father or mother ahead of wife or husband? Look out for apron strings.
There is something that the psychiatrist warns us about that we cannot wisely forget in our courtships. We must free ourselves from entanglements in our emotional make-up that may have had their beginning in childhood, and we must especially avoid marrying anyone who has such liabilities and makes no effort to be rid of them. An example is father fixation or mother fixation. We all know from experience persons who cannot grow up from their childhood dependency, and they make very trying husbands or wives. They are easily spotted if one is only keen in noticing what takes place, because they are constantly showing their childishness, and we can be sure that they will continue both to reveal and to nurse their weakness throughout life in such a way as to be discouraging and irritating in marriage and parenthood relationships.
7. Can he, or she, "take it"? You know what they call it in the army.
Although there are many virtues that one would like to find in any candidate for matrimony, there is one that we must look for seriously; if it is absent, turn away from an alliance that is almost certain to fail. That is pluck. Marriage, like life itself, puts upon persons demands that can be met only by courage. The fair-weather type of person is certain to be disappointing in the critical, character-revealing experiences that are bound to arise in marriage and in parenthood. It is difficult not to grow bitter if one finds himself or herself married to a mate who does not have the pluck to meet the disappointments, the hardships, the testing of ideals, that must appear in every husband-wife relationship.
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It would be much easier for young people, we often think, if courtship did not make its start at the same time that the young man or woman is feeling in full force the body changes, the nervous readjustments, and the impulses to escape childhood dependency that come with puberty. The fact is, however, that our type of courtship largely results from using the energy of this adolescent upheaval. There is a redirecting of the forces that mark the awakening of puberty and then start flowing through the entire personality. Courtship becomes a sublimation, as the scientist says, a reshaping of this energy so that later there may be a higher, more mature satisfaction of the desires that follow along with this influx of new vitality, this strange, unexpected interest in members of the other sex.
Undoubtedly modern youth face in this experience a greater ordeal than did their parents. This comes about from changes in our way of living and the effect they have had upon marriage, particularly upon our expectations when we enter matrimony. In times past the economic advantages of being married were so great and, as a rule, the struggle of life was so hard, that there was no opportunity to overload marriage with expectations and make its successes and its failures so exclusively the satisfying or denying of emotions.
Of course our tendency is to ask too much of marriage. We demand that it fulfill every purpose of the heart; thus some disappointment, once one enters upon the career of marriage, is inescapable. The young man and woman who have entered marriage expect to grasp much too soon the happiness which their emotions demand. The imagination has such a free range while romance runs at full tide that it would be strange indeed if the imagination did not go far beyond the possibilities of any human relationship.
This readjustment of expectation is what we mean by matrimonial maturity. The young person who refuses to play the game of marriage, just as soon as it appears that complete fulfillment of youthful wishes is not to be had, cannot grow up and never comes to see that the greater satisfactions must come out of self-discipline, emotional restraint, and a love of response that does not ask what is beyond human achievement. Not through a bringing to life of his rosy dreams of contentment, but in a fellowship that deepens through the maturing of emotional life, must one find the values of either marriage or family life.
* * * * *
Although the wise use of courtship is the most important preparation for marriage happiness, it is not the only way we clarify and mature the emotions in our efforts to be happily married. Engagement brings its peculiar challenge, and again demands are made that surge with emotions and need to be dealt with consciously and practically. One of these has to do with sex, and in a very definite way. The modern young man and woman are familiar with the fact that wholesome marriage requires good marital adjustment. They think of this as the sex side of marriage. In recent years they have heard much concerning the need of adequate sex technique in marriage. Not only do they wish information that will prepare them to handle this problem, but often they also need to get rid of their worry that they may fail in this relationship. This anxiety is more common than one might expect, both in men and in women. Even those who are exceedingly sophisticated frequently have such fears. They wonder if they have in some way made their adjustment difficult.
The last days of engagement frequently stir up feelings of doubt. These, born of the thought of the seriousness of the marriage near at hand, easily become allied with the anxious thoughts regarding sex adjustment in marriage. There is every reason for giving young people at this time the information they need to enter marriage as easily and satisfactorily as possible. To give them a fair start we also have to take away the nervous dread that may become their chief difficulty. This must be done not by attempting to extract the emotion as we pull a tooth but by destroying the fear by building up its opposite, security. This is the way we always get rid of hazardous emotions: we destroy them as we alkalize acids.
The reason why so much is made of sex technique as a preparation for marriage is partly that in the past we have utterly neglected this side of marriage and also that it is the easiest problem to handle. Needed information can be clearly and definitely given, and there are a number of excellent books, widely read, that provide this preparation for young people about to be married. Such literature needs to be read calmly so as to avoid exaggeration and not in the spirit of panic that sometimes leaves young people worse off rather than better prepared for their marriage relationships.
Since sex is so highly emotional and its difficulties as they appear in marriage are almost always psychic in character—that is, born of brain experience as a result of earlier suggestions and happenings—it is fortunate that we have something besides a book to offer young people that they may be sure they are well prepared to deal with the sex side of marriage. Doctors have developed a counseling service designed to give young men and young women before they marry the assurance that they need. This is the premarital examination so popular among college people about to be married and becoming more and more a part of their routine of matrimonial preparation.
The young man and young woman, and especially the latter, either together or separately go to a physician who is interested in presenting the sex problems of marriage and is familiar with the technique of the premarital examination and can give young people a clear understanding of the meaning of marital adjustment. This examination includes finding out whether there are any structural or nervous obstacles to marital happiness, the giving of specific information regarding any worry, doubt, or ignorance felt by the person being examined, the giving of counsel that will help make successful adjustment easier to achieve, and, if this is requested, the giving of sound birth-control instruction.
The premarriage examination does so much to lessen the tension before marriage and to prevent temporary discouragements or ungrounded fears after marriage that it is no wonder that it has been accepted rapidly by young people who have come to know its value. Soon it will become a commonplace preparedness sought by all thoughtful, sincere young people who are about to marry. It is best obtained at least two weeks before the wedding. Since there are sometimes mild physical conditions that need treatment and that can be cleared up if there is sufficient time, many doctors prefer that the examination be made at least a month before the marriage. It is true that not every physician is prepared to give this assistance, but the number of those who can is rapidly growing as doctors become conscious of their responsibility for this new type of preparation for marriage.
* * * * *
Generally a most useful part of this service is the opportunity it gives the doctor and the patient to talk together frankly and clearly about sex adjustment so as to take away the emotional handicaps that are the chief cause of maladjustment. These difficulties, when they are deeply rooted, and especially when they are unrecognized, play havoc in marital adjustment. Most often they are the result of some sort of suggestion or happening far back in the earliest days of childhood that led to fear, shame, or guilt, the three chief enemies of happy sex life in marriage.
The mere opportunity to talk over anything related to sex adjustment about which they are anxious brings to many young people a wonderful relief. The best way to get the full value of this service is to read first, as young people are so anxious to do, some sensible, honest, and reliable book that at least in part treats the problems of sex adjustment in marriage, and then to gather up the questions that are personally troublesome or that come because something is not quite clear and take them to the physician at the time of the premarital examination.
Young people should realize also that beyond the value of this examination in itself, it is helpful in that it encourages an intelligent attitude toward all later problems that may arise in marriage. It emphasizes the fact that the best way of dealing with any difficulty is to face it frankly, try to understand it, and then seek the best possible help.
Young people are so conscious of the help they need for the carrying on of their marriage and family career that in every part of the United States we have petitions from students asking college administrators for courses in preparation for marriage. But if every college were giving this instruction, we could not expect that it would reach all American youth. Other institutions and organizations must carry on in the same way, so that other groups than college young people may get their chance to have a modern entrance into marriage. The need of emotional preparedness for marriage must be stressed. The opportunity to start marriage right by bringing the resources of experience and of science should be the birthright of all American youth. These young people seek specific, practical information that will give them insight. They are eager to keep to the pathway leading not only to a satisfying marriage but to a marriage whose meaning goes forward along with our advancing civilization.
Dr. James L. McConaughy
Now That You Are Engaged
"Love is blind," says the adage. "Love should be open-eyed and wise," say the modern engaged couple.
A successful marriage depends upon two factors—emotions and brains; no marriage succeeds unless these are combined. "Falling in love" is essential, but one can fall out of love as well. Falling in love is the business of the emotions; staying there, holding your lover's affection, requires brains.
A lifetime of happy intimacy between two individuals as different as a young man and a young women can be attained if the mind is used. It is only the old fogy who thinks modern young people "know too much." Psychology teaches us that all emotions deserve study; if they are wisely utilized, happiness results; if they are thoughtlessly spent or thwarted, we may pay the price in unsatisfied lives, broken hopes, sometimes in psychiatric disturbances.
The engagement period—if it is approached intelligently—can be a time not only of supreme happiness, but of wise growth in understanding and preparation for marriage. Unfortunately, modern young people sometimes resent the idea that any one else can help them solve their problems. Advice may seem to them interference. "We are going to live our own lives. Why should any one else care what we do? Why should outsiders feel that they have a right to tell us 'do' or 'don't'?" Such an attitude is understandable, but it is unfortunate, and the young people are the ones who suffer. Perhaps it is true that the older generation feels that it must advise youth, even attempting to control it; but it is also true that we, nearer the end of the road, should be qualified to furnish a map of the way to those about to start out upon it. Thanks to modern scientific methods, the map is now much more accurate than the one handed over to us. There are certain well-charted highroads where there were once only brambled trails.
Among the scientific methods are the statistical studies of marriage; these show certain interesting conclusions. College people have a higher percentage of successful marriages—at least, they show a lower divorce ratio. Apparently college graduates use their minds in picking a mate and in preparing for marriage. Marriages between those who have gone to coeducational colleges appear to have a still higher chance of success. This is probably the result of close association between the sexes in such institutions. But the use of one's mind is what is important; marriage can be fully as successful for those who are not college-trained.
According to statistical studies, overdominance by parents decreases the chance of successful marriage. Apron strings never aid engaged couples. A good rule for families is to let the young people avail themselves of parental suggestion, not to force dictates upon them.
Statistically, more marriages succeed if each partner has had an earlier love affair. It is, say the experts, an asset to have had boy or girl friends with whom you thought for a time you were in love. Of course all of us know completely happy marriages of boy and girl sweethearts; most of us also know unhappy couples who first became engaged during their teens, one of whom has entirely outgrown the other, with mismating as a result.
Such mismating is not at first apparent—may not be for several years. The man usually, by the nature of his occupation, meets more people than does the woman. He finds himself in more varied and interesting situations, and may become a more colorful, a bigger person than his wife. Occasionally the converse may be true. At any rate, it is a tragic thing when either husband or wife so far outgrows the other that they have no common interest, no mutual pleasures.
The engagement period is the time to prove the quality of love. Are you—the girl—capable of growth? Can you, harassed by household tasks, keep up with your husband as he develops in the world of men? Are you—the man—so congenial with this girl whom you wish to marry that you will want to share your experiences with her, in situations very different from those of courtship and engagement days?
The engagement period itself is not altogether an easy time. Wise young people can make it one of fuller acquaintance and of growth in thoughtfulness and courtesy. On the other hand, most engaged couples will discover small faults in each other, even when they are deeply in love. Details that had been invisible before may now loom large. Carelessness in personal habits, manners, speech, and attitude may become irritants that jeopardize romance. A trait that may have been a source of amusement before now becomes irritating and exasperating. If the trait is a fundamental one, marriage should be even more searchingly questioned, although the wedding date may be only a few weeks off. Much has been written about the girl who marries a man to reform him; if the reformation is not completed during the engagement, the chances of success after marriage are small.
Yes, this new intimacy of the engagement period may indeed be trying. Tact is required to avoid fault-finding, nagging, and jealousy. A few "lovers' quarrels" do not matter—they give flavor to a romance—but scolding and criticism do. Romance dies when thoughtless quarreling enters. An engaged man should be even more of a gentleman than the courting swain; the girl with a ring on the third finger of her left hand should strive to be even more charming and feminine than the heart-free lass.
Besides the problems of personality adjustment that propinquity presents, there are such questions as these to look into: Is one standard of moral conduct after marriage to apply to both? How free is each partner to be? What opportunity is the girl to have to be herself, have her own interests and friends and money? How soon is the first child wanted? Further—and just as important—the problems of the financial outlook can be worked on during the engagement period.
The wise couple discuss thoroughly their financial setup, draw up a budget, and use their present resources to acquire equipment for the new home. They decide questions which are to form the basis of the marriage and largely influence its success: Is the wife to have her own share of the family income, her own checking account? Must she ask her husband for money for each household expense, or will she have an allowance on which to run the home? In addition, is she to have money for her own personal uses, with no more accounting required than is expected of the husband's expenditures for tobacco and other personal whims?
While such matters are being talked over and decided with mutual consideration, training for marriage itself is under way. The engaged couple may well learn to put into practice two simple yet very helpful suggestions for married people: never both lose your temper at the same time; make the other laugh once daily. They may also acquire an art which contributes definitely to happiness in marriage: playing together.
I think this is sound advice for brides-to-be: If he is a golfer, try to learn enough about the game at least to respond to his enthusiasm. If he fishes, encourage him and try to learn why such a simple sport thrills him. If baseball is his game, do not disdain his choice for an afternoon's relaxation; if he wants you to join him, go and learn enough to enjoy the game with him; if he wants to go with men friends, encourage him, and do not fear this means his love is cooling! (Romance thrives on occasional separations, even occasional vacations from marriage.) Be interested in his doings, but do not be a nuisance.
* * * * *
Grooms-to-be: If she likes bridge, improve your game and avoid embarrassing her by dumb bids and play. If she enjoys art and finds an art exhibit worth while, do not be the dumb male and say that this means nothing to you; let her teach you what pictures can mean—and to real he men, too. If she enjoys good music—going to concerts or listening to the radio—try to share her pleasure and discover what it is that really gives her such satisfaction. In other words, if either has a favorite sport or a hobby, the other should try to join in—at least in the evident satisfaction it gives. Just going to the movies, or sitting on the sidelines watching others play, is not the ideal joint use of leisure; young couples should actually do something together.
Exercise—active sports—helps keep every one up to par physically; good health is one of the surest foundations for a happy marriage. Divorce thrives among those below par; mental health, serenity, poise, and mutual consideration are all aided by good physical condition.
And remember that mental energy needs an outlet, too. The stimulation of good conversation in mixed groups has a favorable effect on the emotional life of women as well as men. American husbands often err in not drawing out their womenfolk; contempt for their ideas is too frequent.
Those who are wisest about successful marriages advise against long engagements. A hasty marriage and a short engagement are not the same thing. An engaged couple who are sure of their hearts and minds should be helped to marry as soon as the plans for the marriage can be wisely worked out. This usually involves finances—"How soon can we afford it?" Wise parents today cooperate so that the young couple do not have to wait too long. In many cases the older generation, if it can afford it, may give a small allowance to the recently married son or daughter. Money thus given on a definite monthly basis for a previously determined period means much more than a small bequest when the father dies. Or the parents may agree, on a plan carefully thought out, to help if unexpected financial problems beset the young couple. Father may say that if illness overtakes either, or if the first baby arrives earlier than planned, or if a sudden decrease in salary comes, he will gladly help—not with a loan or as a grudging charity but as an interested party to the success of the marriage.
If the man possibly can, he should take out some insurance, seeking unprejudiced advice before choosing between the many kinds of policies each company writes. Even if the policy is small, it is at least a back log if tragedy comes; furthermore, meeting the insurance premiums is a fine first step toward regular saving.
Marrying when either is in debt is to be avoided; such a weight hanging over two young married people all too frequently mars the chances of happiness. And if it is humanly possible, no man should marry while others are dependent upon him.
One comment to engaged students: Unless the circumstances are exceptional, do not marry until your professional training is done. If the girl has her own income or an assured job, perhaps so; if parents will help if an emergency arises, perhaps so; otherwise wait until you are through professional school. Hospitals dislike to appoint married men as internes; they are required to live in the hospital, which means no home life. Law school and marriage do not usually mix well—nor engineering school, nor any other form of post-graduate training. The engaged man who is preparing for college teaching is usually wise if he asks the girl to wait. Many of us know of graduate students who married with only a fellowship or the wages of a wife as income, whose marriages have been almost wrecked by sudden illness or a baby, with resulting financial worries which have aged both the man and woman prematurely. Late marriage for professionally trained men is, apparently, one of the unfortunate results of the long period of preparation for a calling.
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The case for postponement is just as strong when one or both are under-graduates in college, with no professional training planned. College marriages are not so wise as marriage after college work is finished. There are exceptions, however; one knows of cases where marriage and return to college to finish was wise. It is unfortunate that some colleges have rules debarring students who marry during the course; secret marriages often result—and these are always to be deplored.
Sometimes parental opposition, or other factors, seem to the young couple to be sufficient justification for a secret marriage. The circumstances which can make this a wise decision are very, very rare. Marriage is a public matter; it should not be hidden. The couple may feel that only their own lives are involved, but they are all too often wrong. Even the best methods of birth control are far from 100 percent dependable; if a baby is coming, the couple face announcements and explanations and recriminations just at a time when serenity and freedom from emotional strain are desirable, particularly for the bride. Secrecy usually means hypocrisy; often it means deceit. Figures show that secret marriages often produce marital unhappiness and an abnormal number of divorces.
The wedding date is chosen by the bride; the honeymoon arrangements are the responsibility of the groom. A wedding is fatiguing, particularly to the girl; the thoughtful man will not plan a long train or motor trip or tiring sightseeing or visits to new relatives; new in-laws can be visited more wisely at a later time. These days should be a period of intimate companionship; a summer camp, perhaps lent by a friend, is ideal. Here, surrounded by nature and not mankind, relaxed honeymooners will find the rest and privacy which should be theirs.
Where to live after the wedding? Obviously where the husband's job is. No need to wait until his chance in the big city comes; the small town is a better place to begin marriage. Friendships come easier, life is simpler and usually cheaper. The divorce rate is much higher in the cities than in small towns or rural regions. Fortunate that couple who start their married life in a town small enough so that neighbors are interested and helpful. The city apartment house is the most impersonal form of dwelling mankind has devised. If the first home does not have all the modern improvements, it is no great tragedy. More marriages are wrecked by too much free time than by too many home tasks to perform. Our grandparents married in the days of covered wagons and sodhouses and drought; a dash of their spirit is a good ingredient in a modern marriage.
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Above all else, the engaged couple should plan to have a home of their own, even if it is only two rooms. If economic considerations make them consider moving in with the in-laws, let some one warn them that the adjustment of two personalities which marriage involves demands some privacy beyond that of a bedroom. Parents, no matter how loving and wise, help the newly married most when they do not live under the same roof with them. Loving interference, irritation, nervous tension, usually go with "living with the folks."
If they have to live with the older folks, the young people should arrange to have two or three rooms of their own, with their own privacies, where they can entertain their own friends and be themselves. If they live thus under the parental roof, they can keep their self-respect by paying something a month as rent, no matter how small. Furthermore, they should own their furniture—at least some of it; it should represent their own joint taste; the possession of some lares and penates is a very good basis for a lifetime partnership. The joint possession of material things is almost an essential to successful marriage.
Should the girl hold her job after she marries? Some authorities say that a bride is better off, emotionally more serene, if she has some work—not too fatiguing—outside the home.
Modern young people do not marry until they know that each brings to the marriage bodily fitness. A medical examination, with blood tests, is required in many progressive states before a marriage license can be secured. A doctor's certificate of bodily fitness for marriage is fully as essential as a marriage license. Such an examination gives a feeling of security to each individual and forwards the well being of society.
To many modern engaged couples the most disturbing question is, "Shall we wait until marriage for physical union?" No question, I think, comes up more often in college courses and conferences on engagement and marriage. "We love each other devotedly; why should we wait for a mere license and a public ceremony?" That testimony which trained doctors, sociologists, and psychiatrists give is entirely in favor of postponing all such relations until after the marriage ceremony. Furthermore, statistics show that marriages in which the engaged couple do not "go all the way" seem to have a higher chance of success.
Modern life has made this a keener difficulty for young people than it was for most of us older ones. Inhibitions have largely gone, young people are allowed to work out their own problems; the automobile, tourist cabin, and hotels with careless standards for their guests allow any engaged couple plenty of opportunity, which we largely lacked. If, even though an engaged couple are passionately in love, the temptation does not present itself at all, they are fortunate; there have been millions of happy marriages before in which this has taken care of itself naturally. On the other hand, if they have to face this situation frankly, and decided to wait, they need have no fear that this indicates a lack of sex feeling or that after marriage this relationship may fail because it has not been indulged in earlier.
But let us all realize frankly how often this problem troubles the majority of engaged couples—no matter how fine their principles may be. Understanding and love are more helpful in such situations than general advice and "don't." Assisting the young couple to marry soon is usually the best help we can give.
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If an engaged couple are willing to think this matter over as unemotionally as possible, the following points may be considered: Postponement of marriage because of economic conditions has been a problem almost as old as the race; they are not the first couple to face this difficulty. Revolt against the standards of home, church, and society is almost always an expensive decision; secret actions are to be deplored; worry about "what may happen" may destroy the serenity in love which should ideally characterize the engagement period. They should be glad that they do have "sex hunger," but should recognize that each person owes just a little to the preservation of morality and social standards; even if they feel that the conditions which beset them are hard, they should think twice before placing themselves "outside the pale of social sanction."
The engaged young man may well do some special thinking of his own. No birth-control methods are sure; the testimony of medical groups rates various procedures as from 20 percent to 90 percent safe; no man who really loves his fiancee would take the chance of "getting her in trouble." More of the responsibility of this decision rests on the man than on the girl. She may seem to be entirely willing, but the normal girl worries, even if only over what her parents would think if they knew. More than one marriage has been wrecked because of the psychiatric effect upon the girl of such practices during her engagement.
Furthermore, many engaged couples do not finally marry; memories of forbidden intimacies are not going to make it easier for either to give himself or herself fully to the right person later on; premarital relations with another may prove a real handicap to the full realization, later, of an ideal romance and marriage. The complete realization of sex after marriage is never so fully accomplished, emotionally and lovingly, if the two have refused to wait. Even the most sophisticated young people have somewhere inside them hesitations about the wisdom of defying social standards. There is a spiritual side to marriage; practices in secret, unapproved by others, detract definitely from this important phase of marriage.
Even if the young man can convince himself that not waiting is right, in spite of what his fiancee may say, she is unlikely to agree in her heart. Very few men who rationalize themselves into believing that such a course of action is wise would be as willing to have their sister or—some day—their daughter do likewise.
Remember these truths: In married life itself there are many difficult decisions, many things you would like to do, which wisely you do not. You are definitely preparing yourself for marriage in strengthening your character by saying "no" now.
If you have decided not to, do not allow yourselves to be in situations which make it unduly difficult to carry out your decision. Drink stimulates the sex urge; few decent people would enjoy remembering that their first sex experience came when they were stimulated by liquor. If you drink, avoid emotional situations in secret thereafter, until this stimulus has worn off. If you harass your serenity and loving contacts by reopening the decision every time you meet, try to do things together in which this sex element does not present itself as a perpetual problem. One couple beset each time they were together with the difficulty of carrying out their decision not to, deliberately decided to visit art museums together instead of merely "petting"; this new interest minimized the other problem and gave them something most worth while to discuss, and it is now one of the many fine things in their married life.
Margaret Culkin Banning, in The Reader's Digest for August, 1937, summarizes "The Case for Chastity." For the engaged couple, the following of her points apply: the girl who is unchaste with her fiance often hesitates to get competent medical advice; venereal disease is a danger; abortions are dangerous physically and emotionally; fear should never accompany sex; sex experience before marriage may harm sex later on; one's "moral code" is violated; some discoveries should be saved for marriage itself; premarital relations stimulate jealousy after marriage; early marriage is a better solution.
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From the sociological standpoint we should take great satisfaction in the increasingly wise way in which young Americans are approaching marriage. Fifteen years ago the subject was entirely neglected in our colleges; today at least 100,000 college boys and girls have the opportunity to enroll in college courses or to attend discussion conferences on marriage. Wise men and women have studied the basis for successful marriage and have written about it. Laws have been changed so that such books—written by American sociologists, doctors, and psychiatrists—are generally available in college libraries today.
However, even the best books do not answer all the normal questions which arise. In many progressive communities marriage clinics have been established, where both engaged and married persons may secure advice from wise, trained authorities.
The ideal consultant is a wise family doctor—especially if he has known both young people from childhood—to whom they can go together for a personal conference. Sometimes the family minister is wise enough to give help.
Appropriate knowledge about sex is necessary for the engaged. Sexual experience is not. Certainly it can now be said—as it could not five years ago—that no modern marriage need be wrecked because the young couple did not know where to turn for helpful advice.
Dr. Ellsworth Huntington
Ought I To Marry?
"Ought I to marry?" is not a simple question. Its answer is full of a thousand complications. For the great majority of people it is one of the three most important questions that are ever answered or left unanswered in a whole lifetime. The other two are "What is my main purpose in life?" and "What is to be my occupation?" They are old questions, but "Ought I to marry?" is new. In the old days everyone was married as a matter of course. Perhaps in the future the main question will be, "Am I fit to be married?"
"Ought I to marry?" is really three questions in one. First, "Have I a right to marry?" Second, "Is it wise for me to marry?" Third, "Is it my duty to marry?"
You say, perhaps, that these questions are your own business and nobody else's, but you are wrong. They are somebody else's business, and the somebodies else are a good deal more numerous than you think. The first somebody is the man or girl whom you want to marry. Will it be good for him or her to marry you? The next somebodies are the children whom you and your mate may have. They have a right to be born with a good inheritance, to be reared in good health, and to be well trained in a happy home. Your children's children, too, will have a right to bless you or curse you, according to your way of answering the question, "Ought I to marry?"
But even your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are not all the somebodies who are vitally concerned with your answer. Hundreds of people will be helped or hindered by your home, by the kind of person you become under its influence, and by the kind of children who go out from it. You and "he," or you and "she," are certainly the ones most immediately concerned in the question "Ought I to marry?" but your children's stake in the matter is even greater than yours.
Now for the three questions which are implied when you ask, "Ought I to marry?" First, "Have I a right to marry?" Every young person should ask this question. Fitness includes several aspects, among which the first is physical. The most inexcusable unfitness is venereal disease. There is no meaner crime than for a young man to acquire venereal disease by reason of weakness of will, and then pass it on to an innocent girl and perhaps to unborn children. Physicians say that in spite of so-called modern prophylaxis and supposed cures, syphilis is still alarmingly common, and other venereal diseases are rampant. A person having any of these diseases has absolutely no right to marry. Even if he is pronounced cured, he ought not to marry until a physician pronounces him cured beyond danger of recurrence.
For this reason the strictest premarital examination by a competent physician should be required. Marriage should be contracted only after such a physician has given both man and woman a clean bill of health. This is desirable as a means not only of creating a public opinion which will express itself in laws, but of giving both parties a feeling of security. No matter how completely they may trust each other, it is well to have a physician verify the trust.
Another reason for a complete physical examination before marriage is to determine whether it is possible for both parties to have children. Sometimes expert medical advice and treatment make all the difference between a childless home and one that has the happiness of a well-rounded family. In every marriage children should be an essential feature—the most essential feature in the long run. In many countries sterility is sufficient grounds for divorce. In an ideal civilization probably no marriage would be permitted between a person who appears to be sterile and one who appears normal. The sterile would marry the sterile, and the fertile the fertile. Even in our civilization what right has anyone to doom his partner to a childless marriage? The overwhelming majority of people want children. Only the highly exceptional and pitiable woman is without this desire. The normal man feels it almost as strongly as the woman when once the little hand of his own child clasps his finger. Of course unforeseen conditions may unexpectedly make one partner to a marriage sterile, but that is another matter and by no means prevents a happy marriage. In certain cases, too, it may be allowable for a fertile partner to marry one who is known to be sterile. That should never happen, however, without the fullest knowledge on the part of both, and without full time to think the matter over quietly and in complete freedom from the emotional strain caused by the loved one's frequent presence.
Many childless marriages are rendered not only happy but very useful to society by the adoption of children. It should always be remembered that from the standpoint not only of family life but of old age and of society in general, children are the most important result of marriage.
The worst forms of unfitness for marriage are hereditary, but some hereditary defects are mild, some terrible. There is much doubt as to whether many defects are hereditary or are the result of unfavorable conditions during pregnancy and early infancy. Far too much emphasis is placed upon external and easily visible defects in comparison with internal ones which cannot be so readily detected. Such minor hereditary defects as hare lip or misshaped fingers do not necessarily indicate unfitness for marriage. They are far less dangerous than hereditary susceptibility to diseases such as diabetes or weakness of the heart, which lead to unhappy marriages by reason of frequent illness or early death. A hereditary tendency toward short-sightedness or defective teeth, on the contrary, may permit the longest and happiest of marriages. All inherited defects are regrettable, but practically no one is free from them in some minor form.
The sensible attitude toward minor hereditary defects is to balance their real importance against both the good and the bad qualities shown not only by the individual but by his brothers, sisters, parents, and other relatives. Conscientious sufferers from visible defects of any kind are apt to overestimate their importance. Moreover, many supposedly hereditary defects may equally well be the result of an unfavorable environment like that which caused similar defects in the parents. Under ideal conditions they might never appear at all. In such matters, too, the best course is to consult a good physician. Often, perhaps usually, the best thing is merely to avoid marriage with a person showing defects like one's own, and then strive to give your children so good an environment that only the best in them will have a chance to develop. Fortunately the vast majority of people inherit a fairly good assemblage of traits which balance in such a way as to produce normal human beings.
One type of deficiency, however, renders people genuinely unfit for marriage. It takes various forms. One form, easily recognized, is what is commonly called "mental deficiency." By this we mean not merely the kind of mind found in idiots and imbeciles, but that which appears in morons and other "high grade" mental weaklings. Such mental weakness, or feeble-mindedness, is especially dangerous to society because it often afflicts people who are physically strong and attractive, and who are eager to marry. When such persons marry, they exercise little self-control and are likely to have large families. In this respect they are unlike mental defectives of lower types, who rarely have many children and whose children are likely to die young. "High grade" mental defectives tend to marry one another. The result is bad in two ways. First, if the mental deficiency of one or both parents is hereditary, as is often the case, children with defective mental capacity are sure to be born, and will in turn produce other defectives. Second, even if the defects of the parents are due to accident or disease, the children are almost sure to be badly brought up.
The chief type of mental weakness is emotional in nature. Here is a young fellow who as a boy was always a cry-baby and mamma's darling. He is afraid to stand up for himself, afraid of athletics, afraid of girls; and, because of all this, he is lonely, morose, and secretive. Here is a girl of great ability and charm but subject to fits of deep depression. Another young man loses his temper very easily and cherishes resentment for a long time over trivial matters. The girl whom he is interested in is extremely self-conscious and thinks that she is being purposely slighted unless she is the center of everything. Others, both boys and girls, are excessively irritable, very suspicious, inordinately selfish, hysterical, vainglorious, or in other ways show lack of self-control and emotional stability. Later in life such conditions may lead to intense misery. Nevertheless traits of this sort are often combined with very fine qualities in other respects. This renders it extremely hard to decide whether such persons are fit for marriage.
It is extremely difficult to determine whether emotional instability, selfishness, and other undesirable traits are due to heredity or environment. At this point we enter a field of great difficulty because a trait may be inborn, but not hereditary. A child may be born with serious handicaps because some ailment due to unfavorable environment prevented its mother from nourishing it properly before it was born. Such weakness is not truly hereditary. It will not appear in later generations unless the mothers of those generations also suffer from environmental conditions similar to those which prevented the first mother from nourishing her child. It often happens that such conditions are repeated from generation to generation. If this happens very early in the pre-natal life of the child, the results are very likely to be misinterpreted as hereditary.
In the last few decades the study of heredity has been so fascinating and fruitful that biologists have given comparatively little attention to early environmental influences. Recent work, however, suggests that such influences are far from negligible. My own studies of season of birth illustrate the matter. They suggest that the effect of physical environment upon the health of the parents before a child is conceived has an important effect upon the child's future health and achievement.
Only a hint of the chain of evidence leading to this conclusion is here possible. Many investigations of deaths, fatigue, work, and disease, as well as numerous carefully controlled laboratory experiments, indicate that people feel most comfortable and vigorous, and have the best health, when the average temperature for night and day together is about 63 deg.. Nothing is more pleasant than a day of this optimum kind in May or June. At midday the thermometer rises to 70 deg. more or less; at night it falls low enough so that people sleep soundly and restfully.
A study of season of birth in many countries indicates that children who are conceived when optimum weather of this kind arrives in the spring have stronger constitutions and greater powers of application than do those conceived at any other season. Evidence of constitutional vigor is found in length of life. In four large groups of Americans and in one of Italians it has been found that those born in March, and therefore conceived in June at the time of optimum weather, live longer than those born at other seasons. Among 39,000 people who were born in the eastern United States and who lived beyond the age of two years I found that on an average those born in March lived 3.8 years longer than those born from July to September.
Other evidence, into which we cannot go, suggests that man, like other animals, inherits a definite seasonal cycle of reproduction. As the temperature rises toward the optimum in the spring the functions of the body change in such a way that not only is there a pronounced feeling of well-being, but the children conceived at that time have more than the average vigor, and hence correspondingly long life.
The evidence that these children have greater powers of application, or at least that some of them do, lies in the birthdays of eminent people in countries as diverse as India, Spain, Russia, England, France, Germany, Sweden, and the United States. In all these countries the percentage of eminent people conceived when the optimum weather prevails rises much higher than does the corresponding percentage among ordinary people. Moreover, the greater the degree of eminence, the more marked is the contrast with people as a whole.
The reason for this condition must be that the vigor which gives to many people long life gives to highly gifted people a sort of power of steady application and hard work—an emotional stability—which enables them to use their faculties to the best advantage. Thus they achieve fame in greater measure than do equally well-endowed persons with less vigor. There is not the slightest reason to suppose that children conceived at one season of the year inherit any better minds than do their brothers and sisters conceived at other seasons. There is equally little reason to believe that the average inheritance of mental ability declines as the period of conception approaches midwinter, the low point in the seasonal cycle of reproduction. On the other hand, length of life furnishes evidence that physical vigor varies according to the degree to which the mothers at least, at the time of a child's conception, have been under the influence of environmental conditions which assist the germ cells in developing into vigorous babies. Many studies of eminent people show that they are uncommonly long-lived. When deaths in war and by accident are omitted, the average length of life of 11,000 people in the British Dictionary of National Biography was 71 years. Eminence and the kind of constitutional vigor that leads to long life go together.
This brings us back to the problem of fitness for marriage. If the effect of the weather on the vigor of parents can have such an influence on health, longevity and achievement, such conditions as diet and mode of life may produce similar effects. This possibility adds still greater interest to the two-edged bearing of what we have just been saying upon the problem of fitness for marriage. In the first place it appears that an unexpected number of weaknesses which are sometimes considered hereditary are environmental. Nevertheless, they are also inborn and cannot easily be eradicated by education. Therefore the chance that ordinary normal people carry a dangerous heredity is reduced, but the responsibility of parents to see that their children are properly born is increased. In the second place, it becomes more evident than ever that fitness for marriage implies intelligent willingness and persistence in acting upon the discoveries of science in whatever way may be best for the unborn child. We have long insisted upon the right environment for the expectant mother during pregnancy. The new discoveries suggest that we must insist equally upon the right environment and manner of life before pregnancy begins.
This brings up a very interesting question upon which biologists are not agreed. Does what has just been said about the period before pregnancy apply to the father as well as the mother? Many biologists doubt whether we have any proof that environmental influence can weaken the sperm cells of the male in such a way that the offspring are thereby weakened. Other biologists, such as Professor Pearl, of Johns Hopkins University, and Professor C. A. Mills, of Cincinnati, have made some interesting experiments which lead them to believe that sperm cells weakened by environmental conditions may affect the vitality of the developing offspring. In short, at the present time there is no agreement among competent scientific men that the health and mode of life of the father, as well as of the mother, influence the physical well-being of the developing child, and thereby affect its emotional stability and other qualities. Until this question is scientifically settled it is obvious that the men best fitted for marriage and parenthood are those who act in such a way that they cannot harm their children no matter which view is correct.
Let us return once more to the problem of deciding how far the mental and social characteristics of ourselves and of the persons we are interested in are due to inheritance and how far to pre-natal and postnatal environment. In the present state of knowledge no exact decision is possible. Nevertheless, in some families an undesirable trait is exhibited by a parent, brothers or sisters, and perhaps by more distant relatives. In such cases, it is probably inherited, or at least due to an inherited deficiency or tendency of some sort, and there is a chance that it may be handed down to the next generation. On the other hand, many persons who suffer from some form of emotional instability come from families in which the parents and near relatives appear normal in this respect. In such cases it is probable that the trait is not hereditary, but due to some influence in pre-natal life or childhood. Until the sciences of human genetics and eugenics have made more progress, the safest way to judge in such matters is by the qualities of a family as a whole.
Whether you have any doubt about this or not, a thorough examination by a good physician who is also a psychiatrist and a man of fine character will be a great help. The physician must frame his judgments for the good not only of the individual who consults him, but of the prospective partner, and of the children who may be born to such a couple. Even the best physician is often unable to decide whether a given defect is hereditary. He can merely frame an opinion based on the whole family. Young people find it hard to believe that they marry into families, but they do. As the old Jewish saying puts it, "It is not good to marry a maid who is the only good maid in her family." The responsibility that thus rests on physicians is tremendous. That of the young people who wish to be married is also great, but very different. Theirs is to submit themselves fully and frankly to the physician's examination and advice. He may decide that it is safe to marry a person of stable temperament, but not one who is nervously unstable.
It must always be remembered that even if the physician has given you a clean bill of health, you are still unfit for marriage unless you are willing to go more than halfway in adjusting your life to "his" or "hers." Lovers generally feel sure that they can do this, but have you proved it in your treatment of parents, brothers, sisters, and friends? If you are free from transmissible disease and innate defects, and if you are capable of having children, it is still unwise for you to marry unless you display good evidence of the qualities which make a happy home and insure the right training of children. Darwin once said that the trouble with mankind is not lack of ability, but failure to use the abilities that we possess. Even if it is not wise for you to marry now, perhaps you can take yourself by the scruff of the neck and make yourself fit.
If you are fit, the next question is, "Is it wise for me to marry?" For the vast majority of people the answer is emphatically "Yes" both for your own sake and that of society as a whole. For most people the married state is happier and more useful than the unmarried state. Biologically the two sexes are meant to live together. Long experience has proved that the only permanently happy way of living together is as husband and wife. If the marriage is of the right kind, both the man and the woman become happier, healthier, more adaptable, more interested in the community, and, in many cases, better workers. Marriage is unquestionably one of the best schools and one of the best health resorts. It often has a wonderful effect in steadying people's nerves, provided the partner is wise as well as loving.
The probability that any given marriage is wise is greatly increased where the two young people have reasonably similar ideals and habits and are sufficiently intelligent so that each can enjoy the interests of the other. It is increased still more when both the man and the woman realize that marriage is a comparatively hollow affair unless entered into with the purpose of having a family. Few experiences have greater value than the sacrifices which parents must make if they are to create a real home. The making of such a home brings out the best that is in people. Hence from the purely personal standpoint marriage is a priceless advantage.
There is a social as well as a personal side to marriage. The unstable conditions of the present century have made some people believe that the family is a thing of the past, but this is a mistake. The family life of the future will be different from that of the past, but the finest traits in it will still be the same. Loyalty of each to all and all to each is one of the greatest assets in this tumultuous, changing world. In times of distress, whether it is financial or mental, the most pitiable person is the one without family ties. A family of children may be a handicap at such times, but often it is the very thing that keeps people from failure. Moreover, in adversity and old age a family group of loyal brothers and sisters, even if each has several children, gets along much better than does the man or woman who fends only for himself. It pays to be married and to be married into a large family.
Let us turn back again to the question of whether family life is going to die out. In the old days of unrestricted families children just came because it couldn't be helped. Today, regardless of race or religion, intelligent people limit their families. Abundant statistics make it clear that the size of families has dropped greatly among all except two groups. One is a large group of less intelligent, isolated, shiftless, or incompetent people, among whom families of eight to fifteen children may still be found. The other is a small group of intelligent, high-minded, well-established, well-to-do families with many relatives and with a very assured position. Their children usually number from four to eight. Most of us belong to a huge intervening group in which the average number of children, including those who die young, is less than three, instead of seven, as was the case a century or two ago. This great middle group is the one that will determine what kind of people live in this country in the future.
Well, then, from what part of this middle group will most of the children of the future be derived? A little arithmetic will help us. Suppose we have two sets of parents, numbering a thousand each and having children old enough to be married. In one set each pair of parents has two children; in the other five. The children of each set behave like their parents in this respect. In both sets 15 percent of the children die before reaching the age of marriage, and 10 percent of those who grow up fail to marry. These are normal percentages. Among those who marry, however, 20 percent of the two-child group, and only 10 percent of the other set, fail to have children. How many parents will there be in each group at the end of three generations? If we make no allowance for the fact that more boys than girls are born, there would be 136 parents in the two-child group a century hence, and they would have 136 children. On the other hand, there would be 8744 parents and 21,860 children in the five-child group. Over a hundred and sixty times as many!
Now that we have done the arithmetic, what does it mean? Of course in actual life the two-child and the five-child groups will intermarry. And even if each marries its own kind, the number of children will fluctuate. Nevertheless, there is plenty of evidence of three great tendencies. First, certain kinds of families tend to be small or large as the case may be. Second, each kind tends to marry into its own kind more often than into the other. And finally, people who grew up in large families generally like large families and want to have them. Hence the result of the present limitation of families must be to make large families and family life in general more popular in the future than at present.
This is the way it works in the great middle group to which most of us belong. Families of four to six children are found mainly among people who love children and are willing to make sacrifices in order to provide homes for them. So as long as our present limitation of families continues, the children of each successive generation will tend in larger and larger numbers to be the descendants of people who believe in family life and are willing to make sacrifices for it. A few of them are disappointed because their children do not turn out well, but the great majority feel well rewarded. Ask parents of three or more children how they feel about it. Nine out of ten will say that nothing in their lives has been worth more than their children. So long as people of that kind have children, and those of the other kind fail to have children, family life will not die out. It will become more and more the great center of society. It will change, but the change will be growth, not decay.
Now for the third question, "Is it my duty to marry?" Future generations may say that the better your physique, the greater your beauty and strength, the finer your mind, the more lovable your temperament, and the more highly you are endowed by nature and training, the more certainly it is your duty to marry and have a family. At present, however, the answer to "Is it my duty to marry?" is very much like the answer to a question which you might ask if you were a guest at a delightful summer resort. "Is it my duty to go swimming, play tennis, go yachting, and have a good time?" Assuming that you are physically fit, it certainly is your duty if your presence will cause your hosts and the rest to enjoy themselves. But why ask such a silly question? You will do all those things just because you want to. You would be an awful fool to pass up the chance of having all sorts of fun when everything is just right for it. And you would be an awful fool to give up marriage if the conditions for that were equally favorable.
Of course there is a very important personal element in all this. Some minor crudity in him or her, some ideal diverse from yours, some unfortunate habit or tendency, may be more than you can adjust yourself to. You alone can decide that. All that we can do here is point out what the marriages and families of thoughtful, conscientious people mean to the world.
The essence of the whole matter, as has been said a thousand times, is the extremely rapid fall of the birthrate, especially among intelligent, farsighted, industrious, progressive people whose ideals of family life are high. The majority of the young people who read this article probably belong to this class. Therefore you represent a type of family whose loss or diminution is a very serious matter. Unless your type of family averages more than three children, the country suffers two great losses. It suffers these losses because under the present conditions it takes more than three children per family on an average to provide two who become parents and thus replace their father and mother. So unless your grandparents have at least ten grandchildren, your family stock is dying out, and the country is suffering two great losses. One loss is your good biological inheritance. This does not mean that you are anything wonderful. It simply means that you belong to a group which on the whole inherits more than the average capacity. Therefore, unless you have more than three children, the biological inheritance of America will be lowered.
The second great loss is cultural. It is all very well to talk about sending every competent boy and girl to college, and giving every one the fullest chance to develop, but this does not solve the problem. No other institution comes anywhere near the home as a place in which to establish the ideals and habits that determine whether our lives shall be a mere flash in the pan or a fire that warms and cheers. The finer things of life wither and die if there are not enough children in the families of people who know how to make real homes. If you came from such a home, and especially if your relatives also have such homes, you can make one yourself. Few things are more needed in America today than just such homes.
Ought I to marry? I wish that every reader could answer in the affirmative.
Should Wives Work?
Is it possible for a woman to marry and still have a career? This question has been asked of me so many times that I am glad at last to sit down and write some of the things which always come to my mind.
To begin with, the question is foolishly worded, for there are very few women who have careers. Those with real careers are a little group by themselves needing separate consideration. Most women marry and work, and the work will not be a "career." The question put this way also seems to imply that marriage in itself is not a career. Anyone who believes that has no real understanding of marriage.
There is no general answer which any one individual can give to this question, no matter how it is worded, for it is one of those questions that depends for its answer largely upon the individuals involved, both men and women.
The question should really be phrased in this way: Are you able to carry on two full-time jobs? Have you the physical strength and the mental vigor to do this day in and day out—particularly when you are young, first married, adjusting yourself to a stranger's personality, and perhaps bearing children, which is an added physical strain?
I can hear you ask, "Why do you say, 'adjusting yourself to a stranger's personality'?" The answer is quite simple: no two people really know each other until they have been married for some time, and one of the most exacting duties of family life is the adjustment of the various personalities that make up the family circle. The mother adjusts herself not only to her husband, but to each of her children and to the other near relatives, and she tries to explain and to adjust them to one another. It is not always an easy task.
More and more households are being managed by the housewife alone, particularly among the young people. That means pretty nearly constant attention to household tasks, if a good job is to be done, in the same way that it would be done in an office or wherever the woman might be employed for pay. This housekeeping job can be as scientific and as engrossing as any office job, or it may be a slipshod, haphazard affair with everything at sixes and sevens. It all depends upon the woman whether she makes this side of marriage a career or not.
There is another important aspect to this career. Any woman who means to make marriage a successful career will study her husband, his capabilities, his interests, even his peculiarities. She should know about his business and about his pleasures. It is possible for her to be a great factor in his success, not by thrusting herself forward as an advisor, but by understanding so well his character and his career that she can supplement his shortcomings, bring out the best that is in him, and expand his interests by adding her own. Thus she can have a vicarious career by virtue of what she has put into her husband's.