Marriage and the Conservation of Comfort

Alan Sullivan August 1 1913

Marriage and the Conservation of Comfort

Alan Sullivan August 1 1913

Marriage and the Conservation of Comfort

Editor’s Note.—A strange explanation of human affections is ventured upon by this talented Canadian writer. He asks the reader’s careful attention and throws himself unreservedly upon the calmer judgment that ensues from an honest perusal. Where is the missing premise in his argument, or is the sullogism complete?

Alan Sullivan

READER, I am about to take you into confidence, and lean upon your openness of mind. And, when you have read what I am going to say, I only ask that you will subdivide it into three sections:—the first composed of conclusions which you absolutely reject —the second of those which you refuse to accept entirely but which have a certain amount of truth contained in them —the third being that part which you are willing to admit is altogether your way of seeing things. Then, by comparing the relative proportions of these sections, you may arrive at the general appositeness of my argument.

As a postulate, I submit that women may be divided broadly into three classes: the intellectual, the social and the reproductive. Furthermore, I hold that this differentiation, although broad, has a certain sharp distinctness about it, which makes it applicable with directness to the vast majority of women. Stop a moment and think! Is it not so?

These characteristics are supposed to speak verv volubly to similar ones in the male sex ; but the quality of the individual voice, so to speak, is, in the first instance, submerged in the louder and more dominant call of sex to sex. What I mean is this. An intellectual woman desires to appeal to a man similarly endowed. She will believe that

it is her intellect that does the speaking; but she will rarely admit that intellect, unfortified by sex (if it were possible to imagine such a thing), would be practically speechless. To point my argument, I maintain that the intellectual woman will, to gain her end, use the armament of sex with all its charms much more freely than either the social or the reproductive woman. She is strengthened in this use by the self-sustaining reflection that it is really her mind and not her physical attractions she is employing; but I know no women who are more personally conscious of the call of sex than those who have successfully played intellectual roles.

The artillery (I use the term advisedly) of the social woman is again sex, but with a difference. The aim of her intellectual sister is to induce a man to think well of her : but the scoial woman, with a subtle policy, aims to make a man think well of himself. And this is why there is so much loneliness in what we call intellectual feminine circles. I have yet to meet the man who under the influence of an attractive woman refused to think well of himself. Consequently, this is the reason why the campaign of the social woman meets with such overwhelming success. Her ostensible weapons are the same, except that there is a suggstion, even a promise, of yielding, a delicious prop-

hecy of surrender which has yet to be attained by the intellectuals.

And for the reproductive woman I have an enormous respect. She is ostensibly in the world for one large and sufficient reason. She is generally without the strategy of her sisters, but her appeal to man is tremendous and irresistible. She speaks directly to the man, with a calm patient steadfastness, as immovable as Gibraltar and as deep as the changeless sea. It is she after all who stalks out unarmed from the fortifications of sex, who indeed turns their very battlements into a banquet hall, and says—“Take me; we “were made for each other, you and I.” And once her man is secured—and secured he is by right of birth—she holds him to her with bands beside which steel is like glass. Community of mind, and community of interest, are like the shifting wind compared to the union of body and blood.

Now, moving on from my three postulates, observe, if you please, the operation of an extraordinary law.

Rarely do women of a given type actually attract' similarly constituted ftien. I have seen the most remarkable instances of this—as numerous as remarkable, so striking, indeed, as to suggest almost a subversion of what would at first sight appear to be a natural process. I select from each category.

A marries B. A is a woman of broad and refined instinct, having a mind in constant operation, and interests, both musical and literary, which have surrounded her with a brilliant coterie. She is a poor housekeeper ; she dresses only passably, and generally in exotic bursts of color and design; and the element of motherhood is entirely lacking. B, her husband, was designed for fatherhood. He is full of sweet communicableness; he has a childlike simple directness of manner; his very gestures betray affection; having none of his own, someone else’s child is generally perched on his knee : and his eyes are full of plaintive longing.

C marries D. C is a woman of extraordinary social charm I She has the peculiar attribute of making people Sig. 2.

want to do things for her. She is never happier than when using her gifts of wit and appreciation (the latter being the greater gift) in circles which visibly brighten at her approach. She has children who reflect her graces: she is the personification of delicate womanly beauty. D, on the other hand, is a mental and temperamental recluse. He loves his wife, often to an unreasonable exactingness, but he grudges her the natural outlet for her qualifications. He likes things rather than people, and invariably expects the latter if interested to make the first move—if not interested, it is a matter of indifference to him.

E marries F. E is a reproductive woman, full of natural ease and softness, looking at the world with large, brown, fawn-like eyes, in which one may see the pictures of childrens faces. She desires nothing more than her own brood and that wherewith to clothe and feed them. She is content with little, submerging herself in a deep instinct and a vast desire. One could imagine her unmoved under almost any glow, so long as it missed her family. She is frankly born to be fruitful and populate the earth ; it breathes in every gesture and characteristic. F is an unmitigated prig—a lean, narrow, unbending person, in whom the natural essences of man have dried up and corroded into acidulated selfishness: so accentuated a type that one is prone to give thanks at least for its unproductiveness. He cannot forget himself long enough to make a sacrifice, much less contemplate a sequence of them, for family reasons.

In all these cases the influence wielded upon the man was believed by the woman who wielded it to be the exercise of her own individual characteristic—intellectual, social or reproductive. Is it reasonable to suppose that each man responded to an attribute so diametrically opposed to his own? Not at all! The real influence—the one the man really responded to—was the call of sex, no matter what Amazonian unction the women took unto themselves.

Now, bear with me a little while while

I speak of that much misused word— love. I hold that very rarely indeed does any love whatever exist before marriage, or indeed in most cases until sometime after marriage. If you admit that there is anything in my argument about the call of sex you must admit this last, or else you put yourself in the grievous position of confounding the two. The call of sex is not love, but merely the communicable condition which properly precedes it.

I put it to you fairly. Let any man who has been married for some years and who loves his wife, compare his condition and his interpretation of her with that which he experienced shortly before, at the time of, or even sometime after his marriage. A little reflection will show that it is quite a different thing. You may answer that it was always love, only now it is deeper and stronger. ^ I reply that there is no comparative in love. What you were really doing up till quite recently, supposing you to be married three years, was only answering the eternal call, just as the bull-moose goes plunging through the underbrush toward the distant bellow of his mate. There is nothing destructive to beauty or happiness of life in this ; but, on the contrary, if you will only admit its verity, you will be relieved of many torturing self-questioning moments, and liberate your best understanding to a fuller appreciation of your real happiness and privilege.

I maintain that there is nothing on earth comparable to the delirious fascination of falling in love with one’s wife. The coast is clear of all the vexatious interruptions of your courtship; you are (or think you are) master of your own house : your proprietary (you think it is proprietary) position gives you long and intimate seasons for love seeking. On the other hand, the hunting season of your spouse is over—the greatest question is settled; and, if she is a woman of sense, she will exhibit a capability of receiving your devotion incomparably more delightful than the quasi self-defensive timidity with which your first advances were permitted (or encouraged).

Don’t you see, my friend and three-

year Benedict, that if your pulses no longer bound at her step, and her caresses no longer make you deliciously light-headed, and if (however revolting the thoughts, she has slipped down a step or two from that giddy niche in which your ardour placed her—all these things merely mean that you are tired of plunging through the underbrush? You were not constituted, and no man is, for a continuous performance of this description. But what you have done is to reach that point from which you may embark on an absorbing journey of exploration and education—the exploration of your wife. So far, you have known comparatively little of her: now is your opportunity to prospect a baffling human hinterland !

You must, however, if you would voyage securely, remember that you aré a marked man. Do not interpret me as suggesting that your captive is timorously trying the bars of her cage, searching your face in order to welcome every evidence of affection, and delicately adjusting herself to the new surroundings in which you have placed her. Not at all! Not for a moment! My friend, she is sizing you up! You are a marked man—marked no less than when she listened to your approaching plunges !

Consequently, if an old and weatherbeaten prospector may tender a word of advice to a young one—never betray yourself. If you know the weak joints in your armour—guard them assiduously; and if you dont know of any, you are lost. Let no outburst expose you to subsequent bland but penetrating questionings. You are being tried in a fire the flame of which is so intense as to be invisible. Your business insight, your professional skill, are nothing to the scrutiny you yourself are undergoing. Above all things, remember that' passion generally dies in a woman long before it has ceased to burn fiercely in a man, and she is left moving about in a new world of restless conjecture to which you have contributed both what is acceptable and what is not.

By about the second or third year of marriage you approach dangerous

ground. You are probably still emotional, in evidence of which at this particular period a man very often looks fatuous, but very rarely does a woman. Your caresses are accepted, but without the former gratification. You must at once grasp the fact that women are emotionally limited. The springs of abandonment soon run dry, and in their place is a more placid but infinitely less responsive calm. The marvel and the mystery are over. This period is a difficult one, because, now, for the first time, two attributes must be reckoned with—her craving for admiration and your own male sense of possession. I submit that most incipient matrimonial differences may be traced to these sources.

The love of admiration is the outward and visible sign of her inward and feminine mission. Remember, Benedict, what it was she wakened in you. Only one answer could you frame to that Siren song. She merely voiced the paean of her searching sisterhood: and that voice is still as natural to her, now that its end is accomplished, as it was on the day—or perhaps long before the day—you commenced your royal plunging. She wanted to be admired—if not by you, then at all events by someone. Have you grasped the truth that she still wants this perennial privilege?—more, that she claims it as her inalienable right? It is an appetite of the sex, and it is so rarely appeased by the offerings of one individual male, be he ever so fatuous, that we speak of such cases as if they had historical prominence.

And as to the other stumbling block, your sense of possession—my friend, in the language of the Bowery, forget it! You do not possess at all—you are possessed! Once grasp that fact, and you have the key to happiness—nay, even more, the^password to peace. The matter is entirely one of your own intelligence. I must admit that you are more or less constantly doing things the doing ^ of which fortifies you in this obsession. But why does this sense need so much bolstering? Why do you feel a certain gratification, enlargement of the chest and straightening of the

shoulders? Simply because, in your dual community, you are the weaker vessel! Does your wife pat herself on the back when she fills some wifely office? I dont think so. She is too busy arranging that you will do what she wants you to do, and do it under the impression that it is what you yourself want. And the extraordinary thing about this is that you will both be perfectly satisfied. Now, confess ! can man who is born of woman ever rise to such subtlety?

You will at once appreciate the link between what we call jealousy and this sense of possession. Male jealousy is merely inability to realise that female love of admiration is, as before said, rarely content with the adulation of an individual. So variable is the sex that it is almost out of the question for any individual to provide at all times all the various kinds of admiration a woman demands. Female jealousy, on the other hand, is the suspicion or belief that another woman is voicing more sweetly the feminine call. This is equally observable in the ballroom, the Dorcas society, or the moose-trodden shallows of northern lakes.

But, you ask, what happens when a creature of such enormous potentialities fails to arrive at her natural port, and looks ahead baffled and unsatisfied? Must not these energies evidence themselves in some direction?

They do. Consider for a moment the militant suffragettes—and, mark you, I mean the “rioting, incendiary, policeman-hitting, window-missing suffragetts. Was there ever a more notable instance of misdirected energy? Their ranks may be classified—I was going to say roughly—as follows:—Happily married, one third of one per cent; unhappily ditto, ten per cent; sentimentally wounded, four per cent ; “line busy, please ring off!” eighty-five and two-thirds per cent. The happily married woman is militant because—well, there are so few of her it doesn’t matter. The unhappily married because she desires to embarrass her husband. The sentimentality wounded through motives of revenge; and the eighty-five and two-thirds per cent because it af-

fords them an-opportunity of emotional ecstasy otherwise unobtainable.

“Very unfair,” you say. My dear sir! although I anticipate your retort, I have yet, though a mere male, to understand why a woman should prefer a month in jail to the society of her husband, even should her husband raise no objection; and I fail to see that the frenzy of setting fire to other people’s houses is the best means of remodelling the Married Women’s Property Act.

But let the procession roar past, Benedict, and consider for a moment certain basic truths—conjugal guide posts, so to speak—the which, if you learn to recognize and follow, will lead you safely and comfortably through a maelstrom of marriages.

I counsel you, first, against a superconsciousness of your ego. You are not it. You once thought you were. Chronologically, you were twenty years late. Your ego became submerged when you donned your first long trousers. Y ou have* doubtless observed that refined and wistful dalliance with which your cat regards the mouse it has caught and is about to swallow. You have also noted the complacent attentions she bestowed on lips and whiskers immediately after the glandular contortions of the throat during which her captive disappeared. My dear sir, that wistful dalliance typifies your courtship —yours! the glandular contraction is your honeymoon—yours! And, for the sake of a future so united, after you have disappeared, rival the mouse and do not endeavor to make your presence felt.

Secondly, I would warn you against beginning any sentence with: “But

don’t you remember?—you said—” The use of any such phraseology on your part is madness—a flying in the face of Providence. My dear Benedict, may I draw a parallel? There are two kinds of electrical current—direct and alternating. In the former, the individual impulses all travel in one direction ; in the latter, their direction alternates at the rate of from twenty to sixty times a second. Your wife is alternating current.

Thirdly, never surprise her. The act

may induce a long forgotten pulsation in your stiffening arteries, but woman is an anticipatory rather than a reflective creature. The delights of prospection are so engrossing that there is, as you perhaps have concluded, but little time for looking back. Furthermore, a surprise is a good deal of an assumption on your part, and the well-bred house-broken husband never assumes.

Lastly, there is the attitude about your friends and relations—and this subject is so delicate that I already hear the ice begin to crack. As a Benedict, your standing is entirely different from that you enjoyed before you were rounded up. To women, you have ceased to be a possibility. To bachelor survivors, you may still be a good old chap, but your outline is growing more and more indistinct; and as for the other Benedicts, they no longer regard you with their former admiration—a gaze like that of the cow’s burdened pony when he stares at a wild mustang across the prairie ridge. To all these people your entity has developed a new phase, and the same treatment as formerly would not be suitable. By one riotous act you have relegated them to a secondary position—and, Benedict, they all know it—and you know it— and, more important, your wife knows it!

And may I here suggest that friendship calls for the highest intelligence of the married man. You must admit that you have become more than formerly a creature subject to moods. You are elated or depressed, convivial or reclusive, objective or subjective, communicative or silent, as the mood seizes you. Have you ever considered that’ it is unreasonable to expect the same friend to respond at your demand to whatever mood may dominate you? Have you not often been disappointed in Smith for being indifferent and obtuse? Undoubtedly you have. The solution, Benedict, is to classify your friends. Subdivide them into sections, and card-index each section with its governing quality. Then, by a species of mental requisition, each circle will respond to your advances with exactly what you require, and its individual

members will hail you as one whose intuitive perception has been actually heightened by marriage.

One moment ere we turn to the final and less monitory paragraphs of this revelation. I am perfectly willing to stake my reputation as an* authority on matrimonial subjects that it has at one time occurred to every married woman, however saintly she be, how well she would look as a widow.

. Benedict, steel your nerves and be comforted. I assure you that it has nothing to do with you. It is merely the unconscious tribute of the sex to the greatest thorn in the side of the questing sisterhood. A little widow is a dangerous thing to a woman as well as a man, because she destroys the economic balance of supply and demand. She. is a sentimental rover, who cruises the high conjugal seas with potent letters of marque. Therefore, Benedict, should her flag swim into your own horizon, read your sailing orders over again, and then keep your eyes glued to the compass, with thankfulness for that state of life to which it has pleased your owner to call you.

Now, if there is a publisher who is man enough to give you the opportunity of progressing thus far, turn the shield, and consider the privileges of captivity. You will remember it has been pointed out that your wife induces in you the desire to do what she wants done, and makes you believe that that is exactly what you yourself want. My very dear sir! Don’t you see that it doesn’t matter in the íeast, so long as you continue to believe that? If you do what you believe you want to do, the source of your belief is negligible.

Ponder for a moment upon another point. You must be aware that you have contracted an enormously powerful alliance. You are linked to a creature full of tremendous potentialities. Her interests are your own : she has for you an instinct both maternal and protective. True, she can down you in any argument, no matter how just your cause may be—but does not this stiffen your confidence in her powers? Should you not welcome the co-operation of one who can in an instant confound

your most logical protests and leave you gasping in spluttering if indignant helplessness? If, Benedict, such a cooperation as this is not to be welcomed, teh me, pray, what do you want?

Also, you are safe against further assaults by that indomitable sex, to the most attractive member of which you have capitulated. Your wife will take care of that for you. This is now her self-imposed and bounden duty, and she will even make it her pleasure.

Then there are your affairs. Do you believe in intuition? By this time you must. Have you not experienced countless instances in which your wife knew intuitively that you could afford —not necessarily for your own use— certain articles of apparel and adornment? You were not sure about it— in fact, you rather demurred; but subsequent happenings proved that you were entirely mistaken, and you could and did afford them. My dear sir !

And, above all, there is atmosphere. This is a term largely used by visitors to picture galleries—a good, safe term, of all-round utility. It carries with it something more than a suggestion of sympathetic understanding, whether you understand anything about a picture or not. This is why I use it here. Can you get atmosphere without a woman? I trow not. Observe the middle-aged bachelor when he strolls by your house and the blind is half-way up. Your wife is sitting with wrinkled brows over her accounts; you are sitting with wrinkled brows over your wife. The contemptible things will not balance. She appeals to you. Your very best self suddenly stirs within you, and you say something absolutely irrelevant to a domestic audit, and there passes between you that which makes it entirely unimportant whether any account ever balanced or noh The bachelor, glancing in, as all bachelors do, at the psychological moment, observes what has taken place and «trides on, his cigar glowing verv fiercely and emitting short volcanic unmodulated puffs. What has affected him is atmosphere !

And now, Benedict, please refer to the first paragraph of this revelation.