Chapter III. Being Married
At first young married people are usually as self-centred as children, for the bride and bridegroom setting off on their honeymoon can only think of themselves and the delight they find in each other, and the honeymoon itself is a custom which enables them to do this without exciting much comment from other people. There is no intention to say anything here which might imply that this is a state of mind to be regretted! Far from it. Indeed, it may be the means of introducing conjugial love to the young married couple, and in any case no-one wants to look with a jaundiced eye on the happiness of young people. Like children, they are engaged in the fascinating adventure of discovering an unknown universe, in this case the universe circumscribed by their own love.
But would the honeymoon state of mind, filled with careless rapture, be the best equipment for life throughout the years that follow? In some respects, obviously not; certainly not as regards that which is described by the phrase "self-centred." The cynically-minded are always ready to point out that in any case the honeymoon stage quickly passes, and husbands and wives very soon find plenty to quarrel about, for newly-wed rapture is just a passing foolishness and can't last long. It is very satisfying to find that the New Church has a surprising answer to give to this sort of worldliness. Agreed that the honeymoon state of mind cannot last; indeed, that it ought not to last. The best possible reason for that, is that contrary to popular notions, it is not the best possible state of mind in which to remain. There is better to follow; in fact, it is only the beginning, good as it is.
This stimulating thought forms a good introduction to the chapter, but the wedding day and the honeymoon are so important that they ought not to be dismissed in a few words. It is not usual in books on the subject of marriage for anything to be said about the marriage ceremony itself, because such books are written from the secular point of view, with little reference to spiritual realities. In a New Church publication it is possible to say something of real interest and value, so that instead of the service being a nerve-racking ordeal or an occasion for display, it becomes a delightful experience which will always be remembered, and is definitely part of the joys of married life. It may be as well at first to notice briefly one or two purely mundane matters which can easily spoil the ceremony. The bride and bridegroom should not have to bother about organising any part of the arrangements for the wedding day itself. The best man and chief bridesmaid should take over such responsibilities, and should be well instructed previously. The sole concern of the couple who are to be married should be the wonderful experience of the wedding itself. Naturally they will feel nervous to some extent, but they will be very much helped in this if they remember that during the ceremony there is no need to be in any hurry, whatever may have happened before it began. Some people arrive so taut with nervous anticipation that they try to rush through everything, and cannot possibly enjoy any part of the service. Relax your nerves, then, is good advice, and pay attention with a happy interest to the meaning of what is happening, and not merely to the sound of the words, as though waiting for a cue. Always remember that if there is some slight hitch in the proceedings the minister will soon tell you what is to be done, and in all probability no-one else will notice that anything is wrong.
This advice can be conscientiously given because the New Church marriage service is so inspiring and beautiful, and does not contain the forbidding, and even miserable sentiments, expressed in other services that could be mentioned, which are frequently read in a high-pitched monotone at top speed. Indeed, it is quite unusual if some very favourable comment is not forthcoming after the service from people who had not previously known anything about the New Church. The phrase already quoted, "the spiritual and heavenly union of two minds" is the keynote of the service, but it is brought to bear in a delightful way upon the every-day experiences which will be the lot of husband and wife in the future. The states of mind of every bride and bridegroom will vary, but it ought to be possible for them to say afterwards that their wedding was a happy and inspiring experience from beginning to end. They should be able to say to each other that they feel deeply thankful to the Lord Himself that in His
Providence they should have been brought together as husband and wife with the very sphere of heaven around them.
When the newly-married couple go away together after the wedding reception, both will be making a decisive change in their lives psychologically, as well as in other respects. But nothing should be said here to imply that it is a change that need be feared in any way, as some young brides are apt to think. It is a change for the better. The two are on the way to becoming one; love and wisdom in them are to be united for the first time, from the inner mind to the very externals of the body. The marriage state is the state for which they are made, and from which they may regard together the experience of life as they find it, serving uses which before were not possible.
The world is apt to regard the honeymoon period and especially the first night as the time for delight in the body of the beloved. Though the physical aspect of marriage is not our subject, it can be said that the husband receives a wonderful gift in the beauty of his wife in the body, and the wife in the strength and potency of her husband's physical frame, and the physical union of husband and wife is a wonderful and marvelous thing in itself. But of course, it is the expression of love; it implies trust and confidence, and understanding, an unfolding of the mind towards the beloved. If it has none of these things in it, it is something that can only be called by the rightful name of lust, and is likely to be followed by a terrible psychological reaction of disgust or at least by a growing callousness towards the married partner. To anyone not in this unfortunate state, it is in actual fact very hard to separate the act of union from the thought of love for one's husband or wife. The very idea of such conjunction, without genuine affection, becomes abhorrent.
From the psychological point of view, when two people first live together as husband and wife, their words and actions surely ought to be experiments in tenderness and consideration, and in ways and means of showing their willingness to help and delight each other. In some cases it will mean assisting each other to overcome shyness and reserve, with the patience of affection. In others, it will require good-humoured restraint. Some adjustments will be inevitable, but in most cases these should not be difficult unless one or both of the people concerned have started their married life with greatly exaggerated ideas of the perfection of the other - and of themselves. Of course, this is leaving out of account all those people whose outlook and character are deliberately and openly selfish, but they are not likely to read this book in any case. No doubt people who marry later in life than is usual may find that adjustments are more difficult, though even here everything depends on the character of the individuals. If one has been used to doing a thing in a particular way for twenty or thirty years, it is not so easy to change simply because someone else prefers it done some other way, when each way may be equally effective. And this can apply just as much to habits of thinking as of action. On the other hand, in later life some people lose the impetuous intolerance of their youth. It is only possible to suggest very general rules in these things, and there are always plenty of exceptions. A different kind of adjustment has to be made in the case of two people between whom there is a wide difference in age. The older partner will tend to be more fixed in ways and outlook, for the will and understanding will have been more completely formed. The mind of the younger partner will not have been shaped so definitely. It is likely that the former will have to set out to be more adaptable and the latter more tolerant and patient.
Articles and books on the subject of marriage frequently leave the impression that it is so fraught with serious possibilities that it is bound to be rather a grim business. New Church teaching on the subject has nothing in common with such gloom. Of course it is serious in one sense; so much so, that we are quite justified in saying that it should be approached with profound reverence. Yet with this reverence there can be, indeed, should be a sense of innocent delight and happiness. "Conjugial love is fundamental among all good loves." "All the blessings, satisfaction, joy, gladness and pleasure that can ever be conferred on man by the Lord the Creator, are gathered into this human love." (CL 68.) These sentences from the Doctrines of the New Church may rightly be described as sweeping statements, yet they are justified and we may rejoice in them. We are also told that the joy of living together as husband and wife increases with those in true marriage love, for the reason that they love each other with every sense. Even casual observation of the ways of lovers and married people, not to mention personal experience, will confirm that there is this wonderful association of child-like delight with marriage - if confirmation is needed! With this thought we return to the point of view expressed at the beginning of the chapter; that the honeymoon stage, delightful though it is, is only the beginning of wedded happiness. In fact, genuine marriage love does not then exist, but the natural love of the sex, directed to the loved one, is present. Nevertheless this is the means by which conjugial love is implanted, so that later, with those in true marriage love, conjunction of minds increases, and friendship with it. (CL 214.) "Friendship is as it were the face of love."
It may be as well to notice one or two characteristics which are reflected in the practical relationships between man and woman in daily life. For example, in CL 160 it is stated that "inclination to unite the man to herself is constant and perpetual with the wife, but inconstant and recurrent with the man." If a happily-married couple who have a genuine affection for the teachings of the Church as applied to life, were asked if this were true, there is little doubt that they would say that it was, but if they were asked to explain why or to give instances they would probably find that extremely difficult. In fact, it is a matter of "common perception" with them that whatever the wife happens to be doing, the thought of her husband and his regard for her is always present in the background and is frequently the spring of her actions without her realising it. Her husband is certainly not aware of this, and may be surprised on occasions at the inexplicable behaviour of that unaccountable being, woman. Her moods and her curious logic are not always along the lines of his masculine reason. It might be as well on such occasions if he reminded himself of the teaching of the New Church that, where there is real conjunction, "the wife is endowed with a perception of the husband's affections and with the highest prudence in moderating them." She is concerned with her husband's affection and state of mind and not with an impartial weighing-up of some matter which seems to her to have no practical interest. He, on the other hand, is interested in his work and in many other things, and very often in the solution of difficult problems for their own sake, and when for some reason he pays great attention to such matters, from inclination or necessity, the thought of his wife is temporarily put on one side. He has to be led back to this, so that the marriage partnership is preserved and strengthened. The strong masculine tendency to self-assertiveness and self-intelligence is purified of self, and turned in the direction of the wife, to the spiritual benefit of both.
This, of course, is the ideal. Its permutations and combinations among married people are unending. It assumes a high degree of regeneration which few of us attain. Nevertheless it is present to a greater or lesser degree in every state of regeneration of husband and wife. Frequently these differing characteristics of the two married partners, in the unregenerate state in which most of us are, cause some misunderstanding and even difference between them, and something will be said about this in the last chapter of this section. It is only necessary to mention that in the great majority of cases these differences are nothing more than the results of the disclosing of the natural tendencies towards love of self and love of the world which are present in us all. We should remember that this disclosure is Providential, and is the very means by which we may be led to the life of regeneration. We should be able to see the implication in this; it is that we are allowed to come into these states only so far as we are able to meet them and overcome them. Another instance of the reflection of the differing characteristics of husband and wife in the relationships of daily life may be seen in reference to this teaching that the inclination of two partners to be united is constant with the wife but recurrent with the husband. It rests simply in the fact that when the two are parted, it is very often the case that the wife is far more conscious of the separation than is the husband. It is true that during a long absence the man's loneliness may on occasion be almost catastrophic, and yet he is able to forget home if he is immersed in some urgent task, or even if he is successfully amusing himself. His thought of his wife is, in fact, recurrent. With the wife it tends to be constant even when her attention is apparently absorbed in another matter.
Considering again the statement that with those in true marriage love conjunction of mind increases, and friendship with it, it is interesting to notice that when a husband and wife who love each other are "talking things over" the man will perhaps propound some problem having moral implications that is bothering him. Possibly it may come out that he has been unable to solve it for some time. The result of the conversation is that the problem becomes clearer, and possibly a solution of it is found. Yet it is not the case that the wife will immediately give the answer ready-made to her husband. Much more often by a few practical remarks which touch his affections she will enable him to solve it himself. In such a case she is plainly in the love of his wisdom, and in this instance conjoins her love with his moral wisdom.
It should be pointed out here that when "each loves to think and will as the other does," so that two may become one, very much more is implied than that they should agree about the external arrangement of their lives, as for example, what food they like to eat, whether they like or dislike gardening, the theatre, and a host of other things. In fact, they may not have precisely the same views of these things, and yet have a deeper union in the things of the mind and spirit. They will have a similar outlook on spiritual and moral things, which will, of course, affect very greatly the use they make of their lives and of the worldly advantages they may possess. To give an illustration, the wife's consent to a particular course of action may not be forthcoming, perhaps in the spending of a fairly large sum of money, judged by the amount of the family resources, and she remains unconvinced until the husband's "moral wisdom" is able to show the use of so doing. The probability is that opposition from then onwards will cease, to be succeeded by co-operation! Such illustrations, however, though they may help in understanding what the Doctrines of the New Church have to say about the conjunction of two minds into one, are apt to be too academic, and even unconvincing, when given apart from "real life." One needs to have actual instances either in one's own experience or in that of friends or relatives. This very fact serves to show that though it is possible to talk and write about such matters, they do not have reality until they are experienced in some way, and it is certain that only the delightful and salutary experience of happy marriage, based upon spiritual principle, can tell us of the conjugial union. It is all very well to know about such things by means of our understanding, but it is not until one's own will, with all the affections that proceed from it, is itself involved that the understanding is really enlightened.
This chapter can fittingly conclude with the consideration of a problem that engages the minds of some people, both men and women, after marriage. Everyone realises something of the difficulty of answering before marriage the important question "How do I know that I have found the right partner?" Something has already been said about that. But it occasionally arises after marriage. Most often it is quite easy to see the origin of it, though not always quite so easy to see that it is returned immediately to its place of origin, to hell. But there are other times when the thought arises from rather different grounds. People find a doctrinal difficulty mixed up with some personal problems. They see that Providence is concerned with the choice of one's partner, as with all other things, but they also know from the Doctrines of the New Church that we are given a freedom to do things as of ourselves. And so it is, that even though there is no point of difference of any consequence at all in the home, the young husband or wife asks the question, thinking that he or she perhaps in some way may not have made the choice that would have been the right one. Might there not be someone who would more exactly suit one's particular personality? The mistake in this point of view is in thinking that outward married happiness and conjugial love itself are ready-made, and that the only thing that the married partners have to do is to find each other, after which all will be well. Of course, that is not so. Both states have to be achieved, the one flowing from the other. It is foolish and even dangerous to plague oneself with such doubts when the right course is to look forward to the purpose of married life with the partner of one's choice, and to the increasing possibility of real spiritual union that it implies. The rightness of the choice can only be proved by the use we make of it as the years pass by. It is the only proof worth having.