MARRIAGE AND LOVE

MARRIAGE AND LOVE

THE popular notion about marriage and love is that  they are synonymous, that they spring from the same motives, and cover  the same human needs. Like most popular notions this also rests not on  actual facts, but on superstition.

Marriage and love have nothing in common; they are as far apart  as the poles; are, in fact, antagonistic to each other. No doubt some  marriages have been the result of love. Not, however, because love could  assert itself only in marriage; much rather is it because few people  can completely outgrow a convention. There are to-day large numbers of  men and women to whom marriage is naught but a farce, but who submit to  it for the sake of public opinion. At any rate, while it is true that  some marriages are based on love, and while it is equally true that in  some cases love continues in married life, I maintain that it does so  regardless of marriage, and not because of it.

On the other hand, it is utterly false that love results from  marriage. On rare occasions one does hear of a miraculous case of a  married couple falling in love after marriage, but on close examination  it will be found that it is a mere adjustment to the inevitable.  Certainly the growing-used to each other is far away from the  spontaneity, the intensity, and beauty of love, without which the  intimacy of marriage must prove degrading to both the woman and the man.

Marriage is primarily an economic arrangement, an insurance pact.  It differs from the ordinary life insurance agreement only in that it  is more binding, more exacting. Its returns are insignificantly small  compared with the investments. In taking out an insurance policy one  pays for it in dollars and cents, always at liberty to discontinue  payments. If, how ever, woman's premium is a husband, she pays for it  with her name, her privacy, her self-respect, her very life, "until  death doth part." Moreover, the marriage insurance condemns her to  life-long dependency, to parasitism, to complete uselessness, individual  as well as social. Man, too, pays his toll, but as his sphere is wider,  marriage does not limit him as much as woman. He feels his chains more  in an economic sense.

Thus Dante's motto over Inferno applies with equal force to marriage: "Ye who enter here leave all hope behind."

That marriage is a failure none but the very stupid will deny.  One has but to glance over the statistics of divorce to realize how  bitter a failure marriage really is. Nor will the stereotyped Philistine  argument that the laxity of divorce laws and the growing looseness of  woman account for the fact that: first, every twelfth marriage ends in  divorce; second, that since 1870 divorces have increased from 28 to 73  for every hundred thousand population; third, that adultery, since 1867,  as ground for divorce, has increased 270.8 per cent.; fourth, that  desertion increased 369.8 per cent.

Added to these startling figures is a vast amount of material,  dramatic and literary, further elucidating this subject. Robert Herrick,  in Together; Pinero, in Mid-Channel; Eugene Walter, in Paid in Full, and scores of other writers are discussing the barrenness, the  monotony, the sordidness, the inadequacy of marriage as a factor for  harmony and understanding.

The thoughtful social student will not content himself with the  popular superficial excuse for this phenomenon. He will have to dig down  deeper into the very life of the sexes to know why marriage proves so  disastrous.

Edward Carpenter says that behind every marriage stands the  life-long environment of the two sexes; an environment so different from  each other that man and woman must remain strangers. Separated by an  insurmountable wall of superstition, custom, and habit, marriage has not  the potentiality of developing knowledge of, and respect for, each  other, without which every union is doomed to failure.

Henrik Ibsen, the hater of all social shams, was probably the  first to realize this great truth. Nora leaves her husband, not---as the  stupid critic would have it---because she is tired of her  responsibilities or feels the need of woman's rights, but because she  has come to know that for eight years she had lived with a stranger and  borne him children. Can there be any thing more humiliating, more  degrading than a life long proximity between two strangers? No need for  the woman to know anything of the man, save his income. As to the  knowledge of the woman---what is there to know except that she has a  pleasing appearance? We have not yet outgrown the theologic myth that  woman has no soul, that she is a mere appendix to man, made out of his  rib just for the convenience of the gentleman who was so strong that he  was afraid of his own shadow.

Perchance the poor quality of the material whence woman comes is  responsible for her inferiority. At any rate, woman has no soul---what  is there to know about her? Besides, the less soul a woman has the  greater her asset as a wife, the more readily will she absorb herself in  her husband. It is this slavish acquiescence to man's superiority that  has kept the marriage institution seemingly intact for so long a period.  Now that woman is coming into her own, now that she is actually growing  aware of herself as a being outside of the master's grace, the sacred  institution of marriage is gradually being undermined, and no amount of  sentimental lamentation can stay it.

From infancy, almost, the average girl is told that marriage is  her ultimate goal; therefore her training and education must be directed  towards that end. Like the mute beast fattened for slaughter, she is  prepared for that. Yet, strange to say, she is allowed to know much less  about her function as wife and mother than the ordinary artisan of his  trade. It is indecent and filthy for a respectable girl to know anything  of the marital relation. Oh, for the inconsistency of respectability,  that needs the marriage vow to turn something which is filthy into the  purest and most sacred arrangement that none dare question or criticize.  Yet that is exactly the attitude of the average upholder of marriage.  The prospective wife and mother is kept in complete ignorance of her  only asset in the competitive field---sex. Thus she enters into  life-long relations with a man only to find herself shocked, repelled,  outraged beyond measure by the most natural and healthy instinct, sex.  It is safe to say that a large percentage of the unhappiness, misery,  distress, and physical suffering of matrimony is due to the criminal  ignorance in sex matters that is being extolled as a great virtue. Nor  is it at all an exaggeration when I say that more than one home has been  broken up because of this deplorable fact.


If, however, woman is free and big enough to learn the mystery of  sex without the sanction of State or Church, she will stand condemned  as utterly unfit to become the wife of a "good" man, his goodness  consisting of an empty head and plenty of money. Can there be anything  more outrageous than the idea that a healthy, grown woman, full of life  and passion, must deny nature's demand, must subdue her most intense  craving, undermine her health and break her spirit, must stunt her  vision, abstain from the depth and glory of sex experience until a  "good" man comes along to take her unto himself as a wife? That is  precisely what marriage means. How can such an arrangement end except in  failure? This is one, though not the least important, factor of  marriage, which differentiates it from love.

Ours is a practical age. The time when Romeo and Juliet risked  the wrath of their fathers for love when Gretchen exposed herself to the  gossip of her neighbors for love, is no more. If, on rare occasions  young people allow themselves the luxury of romance they are taken in  care by the elders, drilled and pounded until they become "sensible."

The moral lesson instilled in the girl is not whether the man has  aroused her love, but rather is it, "How much?" The important and only  God of practical American life: Can the man make a living? Can he  support a wife? That is the only thing that justifies marriage.  Gradually this saturates every thought of the girl; her dreams are not  of moonlight and kisses, of laughter and tears; she dreams of shopping  tours and bargain counters. This soul-poverty and sordidness are the  elements inherent in the marriage institution. The State and the Church  approve of no other ideal, simply because it is the one that  necessitates the State and Church control of men and women.

Doubtless there are people who continue to consider love above  dollars and cents. Particularly is this true of that class whom economic  necessity has forced to become self-supporting. The tremendous change  in woman's position, wrought by that mighty factor, is indeed phenomenal  when we reflect that it is but a short time since she has entered the  industrial arena. Six million women wage-earners; six million women, who  have the equal right with men to be exploited, to be robbed, to go on  strike; aye, to starve even. Anything more, my lord? Yes, six million  age-workers in every walk of life, from the highest brain work to the  most difficult menial labor in the mines and on the railroad tracks;  yes, even detectives and policemen. Surely the emancipation is complete.

Yet with all that, but a very small number of the vast army of  women wage-workers look upon work as a permanent issue, in the same  light as does man. No matter how decrepit the latter, he has been taught  to be independent, self-supporting. Oh, I know that no one is really  independent in our economic tread mill; still, the poorest specimen of a  man hates to be a parasite; to be known as such, at any rate.

The woman considers her position as worker transitory, to be  thrown aside for the first bidder. That is why it is infinitely harder  to organize women than men. "Why should I join a union? I am going to  get married, to have a home." Has she not been taught from infancy to  look upon that as her ultimate calling? She learns soon enough that the  home, though not so large a prison as the factory, has more solid doors  and bars. It has a keeper so faithful that naught can escape him. The  most tragic part, however, is that the home no longer frees her from  wage slavery; it only increases her task.

According to the latest statistics submitted before a Committee  "on labor and wages, and congestion of Population," ten per cent. of the  wage workers in New York City alone are married, yet they must continue  to work at the most poorly paid labor in the world. Add to this  horrible aspect the drudgery of house work, and what remains of the  protection and glory of the home? As a matter of fact, even the middle  class girl in marriage can not speak of her home, since it is the man  who creates her sphere. It is not important whether the husband is a  brute or a darling. What I wish to prove is that marriage guarantees  woman a home only by the grace of her husband. There she moves about in his home, year after year until her aspect of life and human affairs  becomes as flat, narrow, and drab as her surroundings. Small wonder if  she becomes a nag, petty, quarrelsome, gossipy, unbearable, thus driving  the man from the house. She could not go, if she wanted to; there is no  place to go. Besides, a short period of married life, of complete  surrender of all faculties, absolutely incapacitates the average woman  for the outside world. She becomes reckless in appearance, clumsy in her  movements, dependent in her decisions, cowardly in her judgment, a  weight and a bore, which most men grow to hate and despise. Wonderfully  inspiring atmosphere for the bearing of life, is it not?

But the child, how is it to be protected, if not for marriage?  After all, is not that the most important consideration? The sham, the  hypocrisy of it! Marriage protecting the child, yet thousands of  children destitute and homeless. Marriage protecting the child, yet  orphan asylums and reformatories over crowded, the Society for the  Prevention of Cruelty to Children keeping busy in rescuing the little  victims from "loving" parents, to place them under more loving care, the  Gerry Society. Oh, the mockery of it!

Marriage may have the power to "bring the horse to water," but  has it ever made him drink? The law will place the father under arrest,  and put him in convict's clothes; but has that ever stilled the hunger  of the child? If the parent has no work, or if he hides his identity,  what does marriage do then? It invokes the law to bring the man to  "justice," to put him safely behind closed doors; his labor, however,  goes not to the child, but to the State. The child receives but a  blighted memory of its father's stripes.

As to the protection of the woman,---therein lies the curse of  marriage. Not that it really protects her, but the very idea is so  revolting, such an outrage and insult on life, so degrading to human  dignity, as to forever condemn this parasitic institution.

It is like that other paternal arrangement ---capitalism. It robs  man of his birthright, stunts his growth, poisons his body, keeps him  in ignorance, in poverty and dependence, and then institutes charities  that thrive on the last vestige of man's self-respect.

The institution of marriage makes a parasite of woman, an  absolute dependent. It incapacitates her for life's struggle,  annihilates her social consciousness, paralyzes her imagination, and  then imposes its gracious protection, which is in reality a snare, a  travesty on human character.

If motherhood is the highest fulfillment of woman's nature, what  other protection does it need save love and freedom? Marriage but  defiles, outrages, and corrupts her fulfillment. Does it not say to  woman, Only when you follow me shall you bring forth life? Does it not  condemn her to the block, does it not degrade and shame her if she  refuses to buy her right to motherhood by selling herself? Does not  marriage only sanction motherhood, even though conceived in hatred, in  compulsion? Yet, if motherhood be of free choice, of love, of ecstasy,  of defiant passion, does it not place a crown of thorns upon an innocent  head and carve in letters of blood the hideous epithet, Bastard? Were  marriage to contain all the virtues claimed for it, its crimes against  motherhood would exclude it forever from the realm of love.

Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the  harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of  all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful moulder of human  destiny; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that  poor little State and Church-begotten weed, marriage?

Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought  brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man  has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue  love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not  conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been  utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor  and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love  passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with  warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a  beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere.  In freedom it gives itself unreservedly, abundantly, completely. All the  laws on the statutes, all the courts in the universe, cannot tear it  from the soil, once love has taken root. If, however, the soil is  sterile, how can marriage make it bear fruit? It is like the last  desperate struggle of fleeting life against death.

Love needs no protection; it is its own protection. So long as  love begets life no child is deserted, or hungry, or famished for the  want of affection. I know this to be true. I know women who became  mothers in freedom by the men they loved. Few children in wedlock enjoy  the care, the protection, the devotion free motherhood is capable of  bestowing.

The defenders of authority dread the advent of a free motherhood,  lest it will rob them of their prey. Who would fight wars? Who would  create wealth? Who would make the policeman, the jailer, if woman were  to refuse the indiscriminate breeding of children? The race, the race!  shouts the king, the president, the capitalist, the priest. The race  must be preserved, though woman be degraded to a mere machine, --- and  the marriage institution is our only safety valve against the pernicious  sex-awakening of woman. But in vain these frantic efforts to maintain a  state of bondage. In vain, too, the edicts of the Church, the mad  attacks of rulers, in vain even the arm of the law. Woman no longer  wants to be a party to the production of a race of sickly, feeble,  decrepit, wretched human beings, who have neither the strength nor moral  courage to throw off the yoke of poverty and slavery. Instead she  desires fewer and better children, begotten and reared in love and  through free choice; not by compulsion, as marriage imposes. Our  pseudo-moralists have yet to learn the deep sense of responsibility  toward the child, that love in freedom has awakened in the breast of  woman. Rather would she forego forever the glory of motherhood than  bring forth life in an atmosphere that breathes only destruction and  death. And if she does become a mother, it is to give to the child the  deepest and best her being can yield. To grow with the child is her  motto; she knows that in that manner alone call she help build true  manhood and womanhood.


Ibsen must have had a vision of a free mother, when, with a  master stroke, he portrayed Mrs. Alving. She was the ideal mother  because she had outgrown marriage and all its horrors, because she had  broken her chains, and set her spirit free to soar until it returned a  personality, regenerated and strong. Alas, it was too late to rescue her  life's joy, her Oswald; but not too late to realize that love in  freedom is the only condition of a beautiful life. Those who, like Mrs.  Alving, have paid with blood and tears for their spiritual awakening,  repudiate marriage as an imposition, a shallow, empty mockery. They  know, whether love last but one brief span of time or for eternity, it  is the only creative, inspiring, elevating basis for a new race, a new  world.

In our present pygmy state love is indeed a stranger to most  people. Misunderstood and shunned, it rarely takes root; or if it does,  it soon withers and dies. Its delicate fiber can not endure the stress  and strain of the daily grind. Its soul is too complex to adjust itself  to the slimy woof of our social fabric. It weeps and moans and suffers  with those who have need of it, yet lack the capacity to rise to love's  summit.

Some day, some day men and women will rise, they will reach the  mountain peak, they will meet big and strong and free, ready to receive,  to partake, and to bask in the golden rays of love. What fancy, what  imagination, what poetic genius can foresee even approximately the  potentialities of such a force in the life of men and women. If the  world is ever to give birth to true companionship and oneness, not  marriage, but love will be the parent.

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