BEFORE AND AFTER MARRIAGE

IT was a pessimist who wrote that Marriage is the grave of love ; a wiser man has said more truly, Marriage is not a failure, though sometimes the parties to it are failures.

Yet the parties, the man and the woman, enter into the contract of their own desire, because they feel they can no longer bear to live apart from each other. For in England it is the love-marriage that holds sway; we have never taken kindly to the idea of the marriage of convenience.

It is true that it is customary in this country for the would-be husband to obtain the consent of his sweethearts parents to their engagement; parents have at least a traditional right to protect their daughters from making grosser, more obvious mistakes, such as engaging themselves to persons so markedly unsuitable that to marry them would be to invite disaster.

It is true also that parents have strong traditional powers to forbid or delay an engagement or marriage of which they disapprove; but even when we allow this, in the very great majority of cases the young people have it their own way from start to finish.

They choose each other, they get engaged first and then ask permission, they decide when the marriage shall take place. If need be they are quite capable of dispensing with all permission and defying all orders.

Clearly, such a procedure is not without danger, particularly if there be any truth in the old sajing that love is blind. Ideally, nature ought to ensure that each one of us should infallibly select our perfect mate. But that is not natures way.

Natures way, as is well known, is by trial and error, and no doubt she considers that as men have grown BO wise, it is up to them to seo that in so serious a matter as marriage they make as few errors as possible.

The falling in love with each other of two young people is one of the most beautiful of all human experiences; it has in it all the elements of the sublime, and there is nothing of the ridiculous in it, though lovers and their ways have been the butt of the humorists from time immemorial. They have also inspired the most radiant thoughts of the greatest poets; and the poets are in this instance wiser than the humorists.

Jt is also one of the. Most difficult of all matters to be practical about. Yet the consummation of this falling in love, marriage, is an exceedingly practical matter. The fact that three out of every four marriage ceremonies in this country are solemnized in churches and that thus the spiritual and mystic aspect of marriage is, quite rightly, emphasized, must not blind anyone to the fact that in English law marriage is a business agreement, a contract the terms of which are defined in law, which imposes binding and heavy responsibilities upon both partners, and which, in the present state of the English law, is one of the most difficult of partner-ships to dissolve.

Most people will agree that in the cir-cumstances it is far wiser to do all we can to avoid before marriage a mistaken choice of partner than to discover our mistake after marriage. So let us be very practical, and see if wo can lay bare a few avoidable errors in choice. To do this we must inquire into the couise of the normal progress of two young people towards love and marriage.

Nature makes young people of opposite sexes very attractive to each other. Urged on by her, young people strive to heighten their attractiveness in various ways; chiefly by attention to personal appearance and dress. As a result, boy3 and girls begin to be drawn one to another. Many of these attractioas are fleeting, and pass; the interest wanders elsewhere. This is Natures first phase of trial and error.

But sooner or later there comes to most of us a stronger, more permanent attraction towards someone of the opposite sex. If the attraction is mutual, then comes the second phase of trial and error, falling in love followed by courtship, during which the two roung people grow more and more attentive to each other, and become more and more blind to the attractions of others.

Usually, it is very largely physical attractiveness which has drawn the two togother, and this mutual attractiveness grows during courtship. He thinks her eyes more beautiful than anything in the world, loves the tendor curve of her cheek, her neck, the slender gracefulness of her young form; she delights in his crisp, curly hair, his broad shoulders, and worships his big manliness.

All this is as it should be, and very beautiful; there is nothing in it to ba ashamed of. The human body is one of Gods most perfect works, and it is at its loveliest in the spring of youth.

But physical attractiveness in itself is not a sufficient reason for marriage, says the wisdom of all the ages. Beauty is skin deep, adds the pessimist, and though this is not altogether true, it is a reminder that physical attractiveness does inevitably diminish with age, that not every girl can be a Cleopatra, of whom Shakespeare wrote in matchless words that:

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stalo Her infinite variety.

A love that will endure throughout a lifelong partnership must have other foundations as well. Even our lovers, ia their more serious moments, admit this; they explore each others minds, seek to know each others tastes, discuss each others views on this, that, and the other. But often they are so wrapt up in admiration of each other that they wilfully ignore temperamental and habitual differences, each assuring himself or herself that they do not matter, that it will .all come right in time.

They make light of seeming difficulties, confident in their ability to overcome them. In this, up to a point, they are perfectly right. If love is not worth making an effort for, if marriage is not worth many efforts, then neither is worth anything at all.

She can learn to cook, to sew, to keep household accounts, to overcome her dislike of handling raw meat; he can put in extra time at the works or office, study to pass that examination which 6pells promotion, cut down his expenditure on cigarettes, cinemas or golf.

Each of the two must be prepared to make numerous such little accommodations and sacrifices; life together would be intolerable on any other basis, unless one partner gave in all the time. There have been happy marriages on that basis even; but they are rare. The experiment is hardly worth risking.

These are material obstacles, com-paratively easy to remove when courage unites with love. It is when we have to consider temperament, tastes, habits, points of view, outlook, upbringing, that the real difficulties creep in. Then, it is not so much a matter of compelling success by endeavour as of deciding whether or no the elements essential for success are present.

It is not, of course, necessary for happy and successful marriage that two people should be of exactly the same type of temperament; in fact, should they be too similar, they may bore each other before many years are out. This happens sometimes.

But it is necessary that the temperaments shall be complementary, that the weakness of the one shall call forth strength in the other, not antagonism or irritation. Two young people who before marriage get on each others nerves every now and then, quarrel, have tiffs, coldnesses, misunderstandings, have not too rosy an outlook before them if they marry.

Unless it can be felt at all times that the personality of the lover is one that inspires confidence, so that even when he or she makes the inevitable mistakes there is no feeling of strain or hopelessness, it is better seriously to consider whether the choice has been a wise one.

In some countries marriages can be dissolved on the grounds of incompatibility of temperament; but not in Great Britain. In Great Britain, you have to discover before marriage whether jour temperaments agree or clash, or take the consequences.

Again, it is far from necessary that two people should have exactly the same tastes, but it is at least desirable that they should have similar ones. Just as it would probably be a mistake for the over-hasty, over-sanguine girl to marry the particularly slow, over-cautious boy, so it would probably be an error for the man passionately fond of all athletic sports and pastimes to wed the girl whose chief exercise is playing bridge or reading Plato.

Such marriages are more successful in books than in real life.

Habits seem little things, but only those who have had to live day in, day out with little habits and mannerisms that grow slightly more exasperating every day can realize what slow torture they can prove and how effectually they can destroy happiness. It is like enduring a splitting headache caused by a monotonous and intermittent noise that will not leave off.

During courtship it often seems delightful to hold diametrically opposite points of view; one can have such splendid arguments about things. It may be a danger signal, nevertheless; if the opposition be concerned with vital matters – religion, views on social questions, children, the management of financial affairs – and no compromise satisfactory to both sides can be arrived at, then what appears now to be no more than a rift in the lute may later broaden into a bridgelcss chasm.

Particularly should lovers beware of having two fundamentally different outlooks upon life. This is a very subtle and difficult point, because rarely is ones outlook upon life fully realized and understood by oneself, much less by other people. It is hardly over revealed except bit by bit, by our actions as much if not more than by our words.

Occasionally it happens that the soul, the character, of a man or a woman is revealed to us in all its nakedness in a moment; some crisis calls forth in a flash every trait and wo are illuminated by the revelation. But this tends to happen more frequently in novels than in real life.

Our outlook upon life is the result of the blending of two forces – our nature and our nurture – what we are in ourselves and what our upbringing and education have made of the essential us. As might be expected, it is, as a rule, a complex of contending and intertwining interests, ambitions and desires. Men and women who see life steadily and see it whole, and who, having thus seen it, deliberately eliminate all they consider to be non-essential and pursue only that which they consider essential, are very few and far between.

Such men and women are the masters of the world; they are the Napoleons, the Miltons, the Madame Curies.

But in each one of us, no matter how vague our general outlook may be, there can always be discerned in time dominant traits. We are filled with love towards our fellow-men, or wo are suspicious or intolerant of them; we are traditional, conservative, inclined to look back rather than forward, or we are pioneering in spirit, seeking for what shall be rather than what is.

If it came to a crucial test, we would sacrifice everything else for riches, power, knowledge, comfort, happiness, or love.

Are the two outlooks in sympathy with each other? N they are, all will be well; but if they are basically unsympathetic, there is no real hope of a successful and happy marriage. The driving forces in each will be pulling all the time in opposite directions, and sooner or later the two will find themselves so far apart that they can never come together again. Their minds are closed against each other; they are strangers in all that matters.

It ia this fundamental antipathy of outlook which is responsible for the saddest of all marriage tragedies, the slow drifting apart of two people who began by loving each other truly and deeply, who still want to love each other, but who year by year find it more impossible, and whoso marriage, outwardly successful, is known by the partners alone to be a bitter emptiness.

An engagement to marry is a solemn promise, not to be lightly broken but only for very grave and sufficientreason. When two young people have plighted their troth, the happiness of both depends upon that promise, and for one to hold it of little esteem or break it may mean the end of happiness for the other.

If one becomes convinced, however, that the engagement is a mistake, the only honourable course is to say so, as gently and kindly as possible, but quite decisively. To enter upon marriage with the idea of self-sacrifice, or because- it eecms dishonourable to go back on a promise, is to court certain disaster.. Sooner or later, the other will find out, and the shock of that discovery is far more wounding than that of a broken engagement. There is no cry so bitter as that of Why didnt I know before? Both before and after engagement it is well for our two young people to see as much as possible of each other under the everyday circumstances of life. One can preserve throughout married life the glamour of meeting on moonlit nights and wandering hand in hand through wooded lanes; one need never lose the thrill of taking the most beautiful woman in the world to the theatre, of dancing with the handsomest man in the room – my husband. But nine-tenths of all married life has to be passed in the cold light of ordinary, humdrum affairs.

At the breakfast table; in office or kitchen; shopping, doing out rooms or mending the lock of the back door; making the weekly accounts square with the housekeeping money, or turning out on a cold, wet- night to get the loaf the baker forgot to deliver; meeting each other at night, both tired, both worried, both wanting sympathy – of a thousand such affairs and incidents is married life made

Oh, if it could only be like this for ever! Sighs rapturously the engaged girl, courted, congratulated, feted, and perhaps a little spoiled. It can be like this in the oily sense that matters, if you and he can love each other as much on the Monday morning of marriage as on the Saturday night of engagement. But be wise; find out what Monday morning is like!

Again, to be very practical and prosaic, do not either be extravagant or expect extravagance. Giving is one of the most gratifying of all human pleasures, and to heap gifts upon the beloved one is delight itself. But love is not measured by gifts, and unless you can keep it up, you are setting a false standard by giving costly gifts, and crippling jrour resources.

Many a girl worries a lover to distraction, and lays up for herself a period of poverty during the early years of marriage, through expecting a constant stream of gifts during courtship and engagement.

No one wants to be thought mean, nor is it necessary to go entirely without gifts and presents during this joyous time – that would be unnatural – but the finest gift possible is a steadily mounting bank balance.

Ono last hint before marriage; do not let furnishing your home prove a source of discord between you. It is a most harassing business; the just-too-perfect thing is always just too expensive, and what with this little extravagance and that little unexpected item, it always costs more than you anticipate. That, and the inevitable disappointments and vexations, the being unable quite to match those curtains or that carpet, the delays, the fruitless and tiring journeys, will put quite sufficient strain upon you, particularly if, as so often happens, he is keeping an anxious eye on what the total bill is going to be, while she, with a dream-picture of the ideal home in her mind, has for the moment forgotten all about the f. s. d. end of things.

Cheer up, says the humorist, the first seven years are always the worst. Like most hackneyed jokes, there is a grain of truth in the old jest. If wo were asked what were the two most dangerous ages of marriage, we should be inclined to say the second year and the fifth to the seventh years.

Our young couple are safely installed in their new home. Everything goes swimmingly for a while; there is the wedding and the honeymoon – when for the first time in their lives they were really and truly alone together – to talk over and recall. The little house is spick and span; life is full of excitements and discoveries; mistakes are subject for jokes; friends call and are called upon; the new status and dignity are pleasing; the future is seen through rose-tinted glasses. The days pass swiftly and happily.

Then, neither knows quite how or when,- a change comes over things; not a sudden nor a serious change, but a change. Things are subtly different.

The first testing time has come. During thoso blissful months succeeding marriage novelty has thrown her spell over everything. Now that charm has faded. It is not that the charm of marriage has departed; far from it. If the right adjustment can now be made, the real charm of marriage is about to begin, for, however delightful, those first few months have been slightly unreal.

It is now that our young people must begin to face life as it really is; and their reward, can they do so, will be that enduring love and companionship which only close and intimate sympathy and co-operation can bring.

Now, what is this adjustment we spoke of? Well, let us consider separately the lives of our two joung married people.

He leaves the house each morning after breakfast, and sets out to office, works, factory or shop. He meets his men friends on the way; he plunges for several hours into the whirl of business, talks shop, thinks shop; home and thoughts of home recede into the background of his mind. If he returns at midday, it is only for a brief period; then out again. When he returns finally, he is tired and ready to rest. Home is a refuge, a haven, a quiet and peaceful retreat after the noisy strenu-osity of the day. To come home is in itself a holiday in miniature; a change of air, of scene, of companionship.

Now, what of her day? It is largely spent in the home. There is dusting, bed-making, room-cleaning, cooking – all at home, and every day. If she goes out, it is on business or for short pleasure, shopping or calling. The home is her baso. On some days she may never leave it; and her sole intercourse with the outer world is brief business conversations with the butcher, the baker, and the grocer.

When evening comes, she is tired, and ready to rest. But she is still at home.

So the two meet; both rather worn from the day, but whereas his head is buzzing with business affairs, hers is throbbing with domesticities; whereas he has suffered from a surfeit of companionship, has had, perhaps, a score of people to meet, each of whom has been an interruption and irritation, she is suffering from loneliness. Whereas his work is usually over for the day, hers is never finished till the last plato of the day is washed and dried, the last sock darned. And whereas he has come home, she is and always has been at home.

That is the position. Of course, ws have put it crudely, and perhap- in rather extreme fashion. Not all women are so tied to home; they have servant?, social duties, paid work of their own. There are men who work at home, or who have solitary jobs. But, disregarding exceptional cases, these are the essentials of the position for the great majority of people.

How is the necessary adjustment to be made? It is quite impossible to say in detail; each case has to be met according to its individual peculiarities. But in every case, the moment the subtle change in the married atmosphere begins to make itself manifest, we should advocate a full, frank and free discussion between the two.

The discussion may not be easy to begin; and it will certainly not be a propitious opening for one or the other to eay, My dear, you must have noticed that during the jasc low days (weeks, months) things have altered between us. For that is just what the other has noticed, but is striving with might and main to ignore, a prey to secret dread that the alteration means the end of love and all its dreams. The blunt opening seems to confirm the fear, and raises the fiercest opposition to it. Whence comes silence, and a panic-stricken piling of false hopes and delusions on top of the fear in a vain attempt to bury it.

No, the discussion will not be easy to begin, but once launched it grows easier with every step; and it will be invaluable. It clears the air; it dissipates unreality; it brings the two much closer together. It is perhaps at this moment that young people first see right into each others hearts, and can attain to that fullness of sympathy with each other that only comes after stress. Life teaches her children always by experience.

It is that sympathy, that power of realizing the life of the other one, which alone can render the adjustment possible. However much you strive to do what you think will satisfy the other, you can never really succeed until you know. And our powers of imagination are limited; most of us can only know when we are told.

In discussion, do not be afraid to go right into details; discuss the day hour by hour, examine your modes of recreation, your expenditure other than on pure necessities, your social engagements, your ideal life, your hopes, desires, fears. You may find that each has been secretly longing for the same thing; a few more friends in at night, or a few less, a chango from the usual routine of the weekly half-day off. A concession here, a compromise there, may make all the difference in the world.

Now let us glance a few years ahead. Our people have been married half a dozen years. They are getting towards the staid and the respectable. Two children, it may be, fill the house with their baby joys and woes.

It has been a struggle; it continues to be one. That struggle is leaving its marks on both parents; on the mother more than on the father, but even he is not unscathed. The future does not look EO rosy as it did. Some of the buoyancy of youth has gone, and mountains that were mole-hills six years ago are steadily increasing in size.

Most of all, there is beginning to be a sameness about things. What, with two bonny children growing up beside them! Yes, even with them; for children have to be washed, fed, clothed and put to bed each day; the childs routine is monotonously regular. Plus ca change, said the Frenchman, plus eest la meme chose – the more it changes the more it remains the same thing.

The daily round, the weekly bills, the coming and going of the seasons, the yearly holiday, all have acquired a deadly familiarity, a monotonous sameness.

Does the way lead ever upwards ? Yes, to the very end.

Will it always be like this ? they come to ask themselves. They begin to have depressing visions of a ceaseless succession of ordinary days, each like the other, 011I3 rather less interesting as time goes on. They know the habits, mannerisms, tricks of speech, thoughts of their partner as well as they know the ornaments on the mantelpiece. Well, of course, hes a dear – but oh! If he would only be different sometimes, she thinks, and he feels very much the same towards her. 425

There comes this period to everyone of us. For the sake of a name, let us call ifc the onset of early middle age. We realize then that life is not going to be all we thought it would be, that we are nofc destined to become, as wo fondly hoped, great, distinguished, famous, but are taking our places among the ordinary rank and file of the great army of the worlds workers. We have done our best, but somehow or other things have nofc panned out quits as wo calculated.

Ifc is depressing, and at times we cannot help feeling just a little bit disappointed in each other. The thought is disloyal, and we crush it as soon as ifc rises; but – could he nofc have done a bit better? Or, might not she consider me just a bit more ?

The resiliency of youth is passing, the philosophic attitude of middle age has not yet come. Life has us firmly in its grip; he, driven by necessity, is becoming more and more absorbed in his work; she, equally driven, in her domesticities and her children. The old endearments, the blissful moments of tender sympathy, grow fewer and fewer. We are two ordinary people up against the hard material facts of life. We are really too busy to take much notice of each other. Each of us is doing his job, and doing it well; but we are getting firmly into ruts; and while the ruts are close together, they are rather like the escalators at Underground stations – only a few fcefc apart, and drawing their power from the same source, but perpetually going in different directions.

We have again, for the sake of clearness, put the case rather crudely, in bold colours and without detail.

It is none the less serious because ifc is almost inevitable. It is the second testing time of marriod life, and requires meeting in the same frank and brave manner as the first. Only, if anything, the remedy requires to be more heroic.

Naturally, different people will meet this crisis in different ways. A holiday may help. If some spot long unvisitod which will recall happy memories can be chosen, so much the better, for the two will naturally dwell much upon the past, will experience again its joy?, and be able to think calmly upon its sorrows.

And so wo pass to consideration of the future; that future which in reality does hold so much of good, though the burden and the heat of the day have obscured it. In this quiet time of retrospect and reflection the two may remember Brownings words:

Grow old along with me, The best is yet to be. Charles Kingsley, away from his wife on a visit, wrote:

This place is perfect, but it seems a dream and imperfect without you. I never before felt the loneliness of being without the beloved being whose every look and word and motion are the keynote of my life.

John Kcmble called his wife his conscience, memory and common sense.

Women, no less than men, have felt the perfection of a happy married life. Queen Victorias devotion to Prince Albert is common knowledge, and her grief and sense of loss on his death kept her in retirement for fifteen years. The poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning reveal something of the joy she knew in what; was indeed a marriage of twin minds.

It is very true; it is in middle age that man and wife grow more dependent upoa each other, that masculine courage and feminine sympathy can blend most perfectly. Youth is naturally self-reliant, and two young people, however much they love each other, will delight each in doing things on their own to surprise and gratify the other. But middle ago recognizes its limitations, and feels more keenly the need for help, for sympathy and appreciation.

Then comes the proof of mutual accord; and there is no joy so deep and lasting as the joy of two souls marching in perfect harmony, each supporting and relying upon the other. Read what some happily married men have said.

John Bright called his wife the sunshine and solace of his days.

Bridal Customs. In olden times a man captured a bride in a very literal sense. Often enough he had to seize her by force, and was usually accompanied by his best friend – the best man of to-day. In token of their anger, real or supposed, the girls parents hurled missiles at them, soft or hard according to their feelings in the matter, hence the custom of throwing an old shoe after the couple or tying one on the motor-car when they leave for their honeymoon.

In Eastern countries it was the practice for women to go about closely veiled, and none dared look upon a womans face unless he was her husband or future husband. Thus originated the bridal veil.

The engagement ring had its beginning in the days of ancient Rome. It was originally nothing more than a circlet of iron. The wedding ring is a development of the former, though none knows exactly how the gradual evolution took place. The Church did not instigate the custom, but merely adopted it. Even in modern days, when a bridegroom is supposed to be calm and collected, it occasionally happens that the ring is left behind. Some time ago the ungainly key of the great west door of a Surrey church was used for the purpose. A Registrar in the east end of London lent his key-ring, and at Liverpool a man found one of the round handles of a pair of nail-scissors a sufficient substitute. the wtuding cake is also due to Rome, but fortunately the original recipe ia now considered obsolete. The ingredients were nour, salt and water. Just as rice gave place to confetti, so rice had followed grains of wheat, which were thrown at newly wedded couples during the Middle Ages. Eventually the wheat was used for baking biscuits, which were held over the brides head and broken. Spiced buns were the immediate predecessors of the elaborate wedding cake of to-day.

Wedding breakfasts have been super-seded by receptions, but in some parts of the world a marriage is still celebrated by much eating and drinking. One who was present at the wedding feast of two Maoris states that the guests numbered hundreds, and when the sweetened paste was to be served no dish could be found large enough. Accordingly, a large canoo was brought, cleared after their by no means particular fashion, and in this the paste was put. Each guest helped himself with a mussel-shell.