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Marriage and Love
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Marriage and Love
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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
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 today 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.
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, however, 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
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
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 anything 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 brain 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
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 workers; 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
wage workers in every walk of life, from the highest brain work to the
mines and 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 treadmill; 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 housework, 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 overcrowded, 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
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
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
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.
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 can 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
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.