THE PHYSICAL SIDE OF MARRIAGE (Part Two)
Part One is here.
Continued from Part One
Another erroneous idea ill-disposing a young wife for happiness in marriage is the concept that it is never proper for her to be the aggressor in any emotional display. She must never appear to be eager.
The husband is always supposed to be the Don Juan sweeping her off her feet with loving attentions. All the while she coolly and with great decorum maintains an affected, dispassionate front. With patronizing air she submits, for his sake only, to his caresses. Such women are fundamentally dishonest, not accepting the fact that they are human and in need of affection as well as their husbands.
I find it very discouraging to deal with these prim and prissy little wives so small that they could high jump under a dresser and possessing faces never once lit up with the ecstasy of love.
This matter of affection is not a one-way street. The normal husband would like to see some signs of response to his efforts at affection toward his wife. If he seldom or never gets it, how can he be blamed if he wonders about his wife’s love for him? Is he just her social security number?
The desired wife has a mischievous streak in her and can be even a little “naughty” with her husband. Some “dead pans” become so blasé about their marriages that they never flirt with their husbands. They miss a lot of fun in life, and little wonder it is that their husbands wear a “hang dog” look.
Another erroneous concept with a copious history of disharmony in married life is the assumption on the part of the wife that the emotional needs and capacities of her husband and herself are equal. Seldom is this true.
The difference of temperament, to say nothing of sex, often calls for sympathetic understanding on the part of the wife. The ideal wife is willing and able to adjust herself to the emotional needs and wants of her husband.
For example, if she is of an affectionate and warm nature, she should realize that perhaps her husband simply is unable to keep up with her, much as he might want to. He is more limited by his nervous system from frequent and prolonged display of emotion.
Some wives spend too much time reading over romantic and even erotic novels. These dubious heroes are generally Casanovas and gigolos with no counterpart in the everyday world of successful husbands.
The young wife who is disappointed because her husband does not measure up to these dreamworld standards of romantic endeavor must come down to earth. More often than not fails to realize how well off she is to have the type of husband who is a good, sound, responsible man.
Perhaps he is not the absolute ideal from the romantic viewpoint. The intelligent wife will see the favorable aspects in her husband’s nature, and the clever wife will patiently and lovingly work for the gradual development of her husband that he come to better meet her emotional and sexual needs.
It is not surprising that young ladies of pre-marriage age imagine that any future husband of theirs will be expert at love making. This misconception could easily come from the observation of the aggressiveness and “know it all” attitude of young men. Actually both wife and husband will have much to learn together.
In this connection there comes to my memory the painful recollection of a young wife estranged from her husband. She was of good, God-fearing parents. She lacked nothing in her environment from a religious and educational standpoint. Her girlhood was virtuous and exemplary. Friends and relatives reasonably assumed for her a successful marriage. Presently her whereabouts are unknown.
In shame she left all behind her after her infidelity. Although her husband was something of a knuckle head, fundamentally he was a “right guy.” His last mistake before her disappearance was in excoriating her in the vilest language. In his lonely bitterness he began to see that he overreached himself.
She was a vivacious young woman, strong in her feelings and in need of a real man for a husband. He was not very demonstrative, and I do not believe that he actually understood her hunger for affection. In any case he did not quite fill the bill.
The young wife experienced a growing sense of frustration for the first two years. Then during the last two years of their married lives she began to sulk. This later attitude put the finishing touches to their marriage. Instead of lovingly and patiently encouraging the development of her husband’s love-making potential to complement the needs of her warm nature, she withdrew within herself in disappointment and resentment.
Moreover there was little earnest effort on her part to adapt herself to her husband’s emotional nature. Perhaps he never could have risen to the heights of the greatest romantic lover of all time. Yet, if she had helped him and had given him a chance, he could have brought happiness and stability into her life.
Offhand I cannot think of a single successful marriage in which there has not been mature, intelligent adjustments on the part of both husband and wife. Very few wives will find marriage exactly as they had visualized it.
The actuality is always somewhat different from the story book picture or the girlhood dream. By this I do not mean that marriage is less than what was expected. It may turn out to be worlds more than what was looked for. In all cases it will be quite different.
Regarding the measure of happiness to be expected, a well-known ritual of marriage has this to say, “If true love and sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears.”
Except in matters of principle and questions of right and wrong, the ideal wife is not going to hang on to her preconceived concepts of marriage. She will not try to put her husband into a mold, which she has built up from romantic novels read during girlhood.
That plain, prosaic husband of hers is a much more real and interesting being than the fleshless, soulless figment of the imagination, to which she wants to cling. He has a spark of the divine waiting to be fanned into a flame of love.
The soul of a human being with all its potentialities is not developed in a vacuum. Only through love does the human soul begin to really live. And love requires at least two beings. Only through concourse with his fellow man will love come into being in the soul of a husband. Who can play the role of this second party in the life of her husband better than the wife?
The ideal wife is in love with her husband. Therefore her whole nature reaches out to him in an effort to bring him happiness. Her joy in life can come only through success in making him happy and content.
Because her first desire in life is for his well-being, all her emotional and physical attentions to him are aimed at satisfying his needs. No one can arrive at happiness through oneself, through self-seeking. Thus the wife’s display of emotion has as its object the comfort and the contentment of her husband.
If this is her way of acting, she need not fear for herself. Only those who seek themselves need fear for themselves.
Those who seek first their own pleasure out of marriage and make the happiness of their partners only a possible by-product, so to say, are doomed to misery. It is an inexorable law of our lives that only through making others happy can we expect happiness. So many wives seem to want to learn this lesson the hard, bitter way.
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“There is more danger of our not hoping enough than of our hoping too much. Don’t put your standard so low. Breathe the air of God’s promises, and raise your hearts high. God wants a great deal of us. Difficulties will vanish at once if we can only bring ourselves to believe that God loves us so. Unconquerable hope in spite of apparent difficulty. Don’t let your heart sink with the false feeling that ‘somehow God doesn’t care specially for me.’ The saints combined humility with the unshaken belief in God’s great love for them.” – Rev. Daniel Considine, S.J., 1950’s
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