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Chapter 6 - Marriage Contracts
"That article of yours, 'So Near and Yet So Far,' has worried me to an extent I am ashamed of. To my 'judgment' that article is disingenuous. It is not so much that you jumped on that poor soul with hob-nailed shoes, but that you formulated the 'jump' quite as the husband might have done. That is, if she would repent and change her course, she would soon find that he was all right, and--inferentially--all the trouble was of her making. Not one word on the other side! You even quote your own experience against her. My dear, did you really find that your 'trouble' was of your own making, and did you really change ANYTHING except your own amount of distress during the process of disintegration? Marriage is the only contract which society does not promptly admit to be broken when either party refuses to fulfill his obligations--as agreed to. And in view of the custom of ages, and the instinct in woman formed by such custom (when instinct makes the establishing of Individuality the very hardest thing in life for a generous woman), I think that your implication against the woman, trying with all the light she's got to keep her side of that very one-sided contract is simply--cruel! I wish I could get at that girl and tell her that her only chance for happiness is through the paradox 'Whoso will not lose his life cannot find it.' Whoso will not 'let go' of the love which his five per cent judgment claims as his only righteous chance, cannot inherit that which the ninety-five per cent would attract if the five per cent were 'offered up' to the spirit. This is the first time I have ever disagreed with your point of view." Jane.
That article, "So Near and Yet So Far," has brought forth volumes of comment, most of it highly favorable, and nearly all of it from women themselves. But among the writers were three critics, and among the critics one of the brightest women I know, whose letter appears above.
And she says that article is to her disingenuous. Of course it is, for she has not yet arrived at the point of giving up her own way. She is still a Pharisee of the Pharisees--on the surface. She is proud; she knows she has done her best to bring things right--according to her judgment of right; and she does hate to acknowledge her foolishness! She will "hold fast her own integrity" as long as there is a shred of it left! Don't I know? Didn't I do exactly the same thing? Of course. But the pressure of the great spirit of love, wisdom, justice, was too much for me; I had to give up my judgment; I had to acknowledge that there must be the same spirit expressing in my husband's judgment; I had to let go, be still and get at his point of view. Jane, too, will have to do it. And the fact that that article "worried her to an extent she is ashamed of," is the proof. When Truth presses her point we worry until we can hold out no longer; then we give in.
One of the other two critics writes that over that article she "shed the first tears in over seven years." Then she asks me if I don't think I was a "little hard on the Taurus woman," and goes on to reveal plainly that her tears were those of self-pity. Don't I know? Haven't I shed quarts of such tears? Of course. But not more than an ounce or two were shed after I gave up my own way. But this second critic is arriving just as I did, and as Jane will--arriving all unconsciously to herself. Her letter sounds like a chapter from my own thinking of a dozen years ago. She gives a bird's eye view of her husband--no, of her husband's faults; she tells how she reads new thought literature on the sly--just as I did; and she winds up with this piece of good advice:
"I will say to such, live your own life as God intended you to, regardless of the fact of your husband. Be brave, hope, will and pray. Dress, look sweet. If your husband tells you he doesn't care how you look but to not come near him with your foolishness, as mine does, why, let him live his life in his own way, make home attractive for your own sake, read good books; and in time books will be your chum."
The third critic, too, is full of self-pity, though she does not mention her tears; and her letter is a long portrait of her husband's faults. She wants a little encouragement to leave him, but she is afraid he will go to the dogs if she does. So, like a generous woman, she sticks to him and makes the best (?) of a bad bargain.
Jane says my article was "cruel." Dearie, it was--as the surgeon's knife is cruel. But it is the truth, and it hurts but to make way for healing. The woman who blames has in her eye something worse than a cataract. The woman who sheds tears over her "fate" is moved by the "meanest of emotions." She attracts "cruelty," not only from that article, but from her husband.
It takes two to quarrel, and either one can stop it. It takes two to maintain "strained relations," and either one can ease the strain. The principles I tried to elucidate in that article are as applicable to a man as to a woman. But it was a woman, a Taurus woman, who asked me; therefore I talked straight to her. And I am a Taurus woman who has been through the same mill; and I wrote not from a hardened heart but from one made tender by experience and the Spirit of Truth. My point of view "might have been the husband's" if the husband had been an unusually just one. And I must say the husband's point of view is more apt to be just, than the wife's; for the reason that a woman is more apt to be blinded by emotional self-interest. In proportion as man or woman is ruled by emotion his judgment is distorted. As a rule man's judgment is straighter than a woman's. But judgment is a shallow thing, based upon already revealed facts. Woman's intuition goes to the heart of things and flashes facts into revelation. Women as a rule see farther, but are apt to misjudge what is close at hand. Only as man wakes in woman and woman in man do right judgment and love commune. Why not judge with the husband, as I feel with the wife? Is any man totally depraved?
Jane feels abused because she thinks I think that in family strains the woman is more at fault. In a sense I do. Women cannot only make and unmake empires but they DO make or fail to make harmony at home. Why, men with all their power are mere rag babies in the hands of women of tact. Women are the real power in the world--the power behind the throne. If only they would develop that particular kind of power instead of coming around in front of the throne to lay down the law!--instead of measuring their man-strength against man. Real woman-strength will move the most stubborn of men. If I "blame" the woman (I blame neither, any more than I blame a child for childishness) it is because I know she is the ruling power. Her responsibility is determined by her real power.
And above all a Taurus woman may rule her home--and does. Either she rules by force--for she has more than her share of the man in her--and makes war and trouble for herself and others; or she learns her lesson and rules by loving tact; in which case her husband rises up and calls her blessed. The woman who knows and rules herself is the woman of Proverbs XXXI, 10th to 31st verses. Her husband is honored among men because he is honored at home; and because he is honored he lives up to it. Why, girls, you hold your husband's destiny in the hollow of your hand, in a far greater sense than any man holds a woman's.
But as I said before, it takes two to make an unhappy home and either one can bring harmony out of discord. Any ordinary woman can do it if she will. And any extraordinary man can do it quite as well as an ordinary woman.
This is not a question of what "society" admits; it is a personal question between one man and one woman. It is a partnership, whether society so admits or not. And the failure of one of the partners to live up to the expressed or implied agreement does not justify the other party in the misdoing of her part as long as they live together. Does one theft or murder justify another? No! Neither does a neglectful husband justify a scolding or spiteful wife, nor vice versa.
Two people marry first, for the happiness of love; and second, for home privileges. No matter whether love flees or not, as long as they keep up the home-privileges partnership it should be done in the spirit of harmony. Remember, it takes two to destroy harmony and either one can restore it. If marriage is not a love contract let it at least be a harmonious business contract. If you can't, or won't, adjust yourself to your husband, then leave him. Don't stay and half-do your part of the business and cultivate hate and contempt. It's hell. Get out.
I have known several couples who lived years in comparative happiness after love had flown; who were kind to each other, considerate, business-like. The wives made pleasant homes and the husbands came and went at will. In their spare time the wives developed their personal interests and "lived their own lives," as critic number two advises. When the husbands took cranky streaks the wives simply made light of it to themselves, and forgot it as soon as possible. They lived on as comfortable terms as if the wives were simply first-class hired house-keepers; little crankisms were all in the bargain. Eventually every one of these couples separated, and nearly all the parties are now happily married. And every couple parted amicably; each being satisfied to terminate the old partnership.
To me a divorce is not a disgrace, but a family row is. And I suspect that most divorce rows are worked up to drown guilty consciences. Neither has done his best by the other, and he knows it; so he raises a great row to fix attention on the other's shortcomings that his own may escape observation.
Until a man and woman have succeeded in living up to their home privileges in a manner befitting honest and intelligent man and woman, they can't be sure that they are not fitted for a real loving union. Friction over small things obscures vision and judgment, and hate hides the lovableness that must lie in every being. Get rid of the rowing over little things of every day life, and you will be able to love as much as your marriage will permit; and you will be free to dissolve the entire partnership if you desire.
Did I really change anything? Yes. Is it "anything" to bring peace and quiet pleasure and comfort and appreciation where their opposites were wont to hold bacchanale? Yes.
No woman who honestly tries the course I have endeavored to outline will ever doubt that she really accomplishes something; neither will she regret.
Here is a word every married woman will do well to heed as long as she lives with her husband: If you can't have your way without a fuss, then try his with a good will.
Peace be unto you; peace, which is the foundation for all you desire.
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