The Psychology of Sex and Marriage
by Edgar C. Howe, B.A.
Table of Contents
This small volume, which deals with one of the most important and fundamental of all subjects, consists of two parts. The first summarises the doctrine of the New Church on Sex and Marriage, based on Emanuel Swedenborg's book Conjugial Love, and the second treats of the Psychology of Sex and Marriage, based on the doctrine of the New Church.
Though this work has been produced primarily for the use of young people, without as well as within the New Church, it will doubtless be found to be of considerable help to those of maturer years who may read its pages and who are seeking instruction and guidance in these matters. At a time when marriage is widely regarded as a merely natural institution for life in this world, and when immorality is frequently condoned, there is a real need for some presentation of the spiritual principles involved in marriage, such as this book affords.
No attempt has been made to treat of the physiological side of sex, the writers having assumed that their readers will be possessed of a basic knowledge of this subject.
Herbert G. Mongredien,
EditorChapter I. Introduction
The New Church has something to teach about marriage that cannot be found anywhere else. It may be expressed very simply in the statement that marriage is designed to last for eternity. It is not a friendly arrangement between two people which continues only until death puts an end to it. This beautiful and satisfying truth should be substituted immediately in the minds of all New Church people, if needs be, for the popular notion of false glamour masquerading as true love which pictures a man and woman trampling over every consideration for the feelings of others, every moral commandment, and all the dictates of real affection and sound ordinary common-sense, in pursuit of some outward sensual attraction in each other, which has its only excuse in the way a lock of hair curls across a girl's cheek, or in the masterly bad manners of a young man who happens to come along when life seems a little dull.
If it is the romance of true love which men and women want to find, then the teachings of the New Church can give them something which will far transcend such crudities, powerful though their appeal is when decked out with fine words and glittering scenarios.
Anyone with any perception and imagination will be able to see something of the possibilities of this tremendous and marvelous truth, which is not only a wonderful ideal, but is still grounded in the facts of daily human experience, and does not by any means exclude the contemplation of a woman's lock of hair and the right kind of decisiveness in the words and actions of a man.
AN ETERNAL PARTNERSHIP
The first thing to remember, then, in considering the psychology of sex and marriage, is that men and women have been created so that they can enter into marriage and thus into a relationship which may become more and more perfect, at first in this life and afterwards in the spiritual world. When two people become engaged, they should be taking the first step in an eternal partnership. Perhaps this is a sobering realisation, and so it ought to be. On the other hand, it is a delightful thought that the traditional fairy story, about two people who "live happily ever after," is founded on sound doctrine. A married couple who have true marriage love in themselves do live happily ever after, though in some cases they may not realise to the full that they are going to do so until they have left this world. Meanwhile they may have been through many vicissitudes and disappointments, like the people in the fairy story, and may even have had considerable disagreements with each other at times. This truth about marriage is one that is certain to affect our outlook on the whole subject if we take it seriously. It is not merely a dream in a love-mist, but an ideal with practical results.
Before thinking out some of the implications of this, there is something that ought to be said with considerable emphasis about the usual views of marriage to be found outside the New Church. There are, of course, many of them, and they are often very different. The extreme glamour view referred to just now has little in common with the traditional Christian view, which does regard marriage as Divinely permitted though it is a relationship only for this life, after which men and women become sexless creatures, as Christian angels are supposed to be, according to the usual view. But all these differing opinions on marriage have one thing in common; they do not really regard it as a spiritual relationship. It is a purely natural, even physical, arrangement. Not even the Church itself can avoid this implication, for what is spiritual remains after death, and the orthodox view is that marriage is only for this life.
The point that needs so much emphasis in connection with this is that we shall find it difficult not to be influenced by some of these views so long as we live among people who hold them. Often the effect on ourselves will be quite unconscious, and yet mere words, however downright, will certainly be inadequate to explain how powerful and how subtle this influence can often be in leading us away from the true ideal of marriage. The extreme physical romantic view may seem so fantastic to some people that they cannot believe that anyone can take it seriously. Yet it must follow its crazy course through the minds of many inexperienced young folk and misguided older people, otherwise it would not be exploited so profitably by those whose only object is to attract a big public who will pay money for bad films and books. For those who try to live up to some standard in this matter, the only danger in this false view lies in the fact that so many people appear to accept it, and it is natural that we should take notice of something that is very popular. The best way to meet its appeal is not to take it too seriously; its absurdities soon become ridiculous. In any case, popularity does not indicate that a thing is either good or bad. The worst of Hitler's views were very popular in his own country for many years.
From this extreme there are many gradations. Perhaps the greatest danger to the New Church view of marriage is to be found in some of the best books and films, or at least in the well-written or well- produced ones. This may sound a very extraordinary statement until we realise that the artistic excellence of a thing tells us nothing whatever about its moral value or its spiritual truth. Most artists, whether they are painters of pictures or writers of books, or film actors, do not feel called upon to pass moral judgments. They are simply concerned to express either what is in themselves and in other people, or what they see around them in the age in which they live. Of course, what they do express may reveal truth of a kind, for in many cases it will certainly tell us very much about the world in which we live. But we can appreciate this without feeling that we are called upon to surrender our moral standards, not even for the sake of the greatest picture or the finest film or book. Indeed, if we retain that standard, we may be able to appreciate the more clearly what the artist is trying to say, even when his subject does not appear to have originated in heaven. In this respect, it is a good idea to remember the teaching of the Doctrines of the New Church that the inhabitants of hell cannot have the slightest idea of what heaven is like, much less look into it, and in fact, are not aware of what other parts of hell are like, but that the highest angels are able to see all the lower heavens and at the same time look into hell and understand what is happening there. To put it into pictorial terms, anyone on the heights can still look up to greater heights beyond himself, and can also look down and see what he has left behind, but the people in the valleys are far too interested in themselves to bother about anything but their own self-regarding interests. And we should notice very carefully that the angels are not themselves involved in any way in the states of people in hell, and have nothing in common with their feelings and thoughts, although they know all about them, better indeed than such people themselves. It is a very good idea to adopt the same psychological method ourselves, shunning evil wherever we see it, and however it is expressed. It is not difficult to see that this can be a very powerful and useful psychological method of protecting in ourselves marriage love, the "jewel in the crown of human life."
Possibly it may seem that all this puts the case too simply. Sometimes we can see without much difficulty what is wrong, when some crude denial of marriage love is made, when it is said or implied in a play or a film that it is all the same if a man and woman "live together" whether they are married or not. Common-sense founded on principle, at once tells us that it is obviously not "all the same," and we can make our judgments on that basis. But there are many other cases where the decision is not at all clear cut. Suggestions are made, things implied, hints dropped, persuasively, enchantingly worded, apparently with smiling sincerity, set off with music in the background, and assisted by all the appeal of dramatic colouring and presentation on the stage or within the covers of a book. We are left in doubt, and we ask ourselves what is the truth about these delicate human relationships between man and woman, which have such sympathetic and touching overtones, seeming to come near to the bounds of heaven itself, and yet which are so mixed and varied that the difference between freedom and licence, and between lasting love and temporary passion, is sometimes very hard to see.
There are a number of things to keep in mind in dealing with this psychological problem. The first is that in such a situation it is almost certain that the theme is not "conjugial love," true marriage love as defined in the Doctrines of the New Church, but the love of the sex, or natural love. The second is that in its proper order the love of the sex is not necessarily a bad thing, even in the sight of heaven; indeed it may be the gateway to genuine marriage love itself. The third is that although it is necessary to shun adulterous love in all its many forms, there is nothing in the Doctrines of the New Church which indicates that happiness between man and woman is something to be frowned on. Of course, the opposite is true. The fourth point is that in all probability the play or book is about people who themselves are in doubt, perhaps in far deeper uncertainty than New Church people are ever likely to be, and in that sense the dramatist or author has succeeded in producing a picture of real life. Once again we are able to call upon the psychological principle drawn from the Doctrines and outlined above, and can see that there is no necessity whatever for us to identify ourselves with the people in the play. Yet while we remain observers, and do not consent in our own minds to values and standards that are not of the New Church, this does not imply that we need be Pharisaically superior, or that we remain cold-bloodedly aloof from other people's difficulties. We can still be sympathetic observers.
THE ATTITUDE OF OTHERS
These foregoing paragraphs deal with our possible reactions to books, plays and films, and also to newspaper articles and stories and a whole host of influences which come to us through broadcasting, television and by other means. We should not underestimate their importance. Nevertheless there is another source of ideas on this subject of marriage and relationships between the sexes which is very influential and perhaps of more direct importance and which is frequently more difficult to deal with. I refer to the attitude of people we meet every day. It is almost too obvious to say that their notions and opinions are as varied as they are themselves. Some we meet only once, though in passing they may say or do something that will affect us very much. Others we know so well that we have a very good idea of what they think on all sorts of subjects, and may fear or welcome their influence on ourselves, or may feel that they are such that we remain unaffected by anything they may do. It is very hard to say just how much we are actually affected in our everyday thoughts and feelings by other people, and, except in one respect, there is no need to bother ourselves introspectively to any great extent in order to find the answer. Of course, contact with them is something to be welcomed. It will do us good; we shall learn more about human nature both good and bad, and be able to understand other people's ways and motives with some sympathy. The rough corners of our own character will be smoothed off. We shall not continue to think of self so exclusively. Contact with other people will undoubtedly make us much more useful and greatly extend our interests. To use a New Church term, it will be good for our proprium in many ways.
MAINTAINING A PRINCIPLE
But there is the reservation mentioned above to be noted. We ought not to feel inclined to give up the standards of New Church truth because others do not believe in them. If a thing is good or true, it remains so whether we and others think it is, or is not. To give it up just because others in the factory or office want us to fall in line with their opinions cannot he right. This may lead to difficulties and even to unpopularity, but that has to he faced. It is worth observing, however, that unpopularity of this kind may sometimes be caused by the way we express our opinions quite as much as by the opinions themselves. If we are aggressive, and anxious to impose our view and show up other people at every opportunity, it is not likely that we shall achieve much, except to get ourselves disliked for being self- righteous. On the other hand there is no need to be secretive about what we think. Usually if we say what we mean in a firm but friendly fashion, our views will be respected, even by some people who cannot resist the temptation to make fun of them in a more or less mild way. The importance of a firm but friendly attitude on the question of sex and marriage cannot be over-emphasised. In mixed company where the general opinion is apt to follow the lead of the lowest and most loudly expressed view, it will help others who are apt to waver, as well as oneself. Providing that we do this without being provocative, we shall be ''loving the neighbour" by preserving what is good among them, wonderfully represented in the Word by the acts of the good Samaritan in binding up the wounds of the man who fell among thieves.
THE POWER OF EXAMPLE
Of course, there is the other aspect of this matter. Sometimes we have to say what we think, but at other times we are not called upon to say anything. Nevertheless, the example of other people is always before us, and their real opinions are constantly conveyed to us by words and actions. When they are false and shallow and evil in intent these things enter our minds, sometimes remaining there, and are often hard to put out. There are five points to remember in thinking of this difficult psychological situation. The first is that such a state of temptation is of Divine Providence, in order that we may be led away from our own evils to a state of spiritual regeneration. Secondly, it therefore follows that we are not necessarily guilty of the thoughts that come into our minds, which arise from the presence of evil spirits prompted from without, but only of the consent which we deliberately give to them. In the third place, we would not react to evil and false suggestion unless there was in us, from heredity, that which responds, and yet, fourthly, we have given to us the power to resist and overcome these hereditary tendencies. Finally, we must remember that ours is not a special case, as we are so apt to think, in spite of appearances to the contrary, for other people have these troubles also, though we may find that hard to believe.
We are not entitled to say that we cannot be blamed for giving way to sexual passion, because the temptation is so strong, and that other people would have had to do the same in our position, nor, on the other hand, are we entitled to make the opposite mistake of saying that because there is so much more wickedness in us than in all the good people we know and respect, the only thing we can do is to give way to despair. Both views should be rejected because they originate in the proprium, and are forms of self-pity.
Before leaving this subject, an example may be helpful. A man or woman who lives a promiscuous life, entering into relations with anyone of the opposite sex when opportunity occurs, will inevitably find many plausible reasons for living such -a life. If the subject comes up for discussion in conversation, such people will make it sound exciting and mysterious and gay, will enlarge upon their adventures, and perhaps end up by scathing references to marriage, asserting that there is nothing in it of any value, frequently in much cruder words than these. If such a person is a good talker, it is sometimes hard to find, on the spur of the moment, the right truths to meet a violent attack of this nature, even in considering it in one's private thoughts. The falsities he uses are like the plague of locusts, pictured in the Book of Revelation, "with breastplates of iron" protecting them, and for the time being carrying everything before them. We shall do well to recognise this, and then reflect that we have no need to believe what he says, because there is beneath his plausible words about chaste marriage a fallacy that renders them faulty. It is simply that he has never tried it himself, and therefore can never know what it is, even if he were to observe all the outward conventions of married life for a while. Hell cannot look into heaven.
These references to the different ways in which we may be influenced by other people's views on sex and marriage have been somewhat lengthy, and it may also be said that they are mostly negative. They do not tell us anything very definite about the teaching of the New Church on the subject, but rather what we ought not to do. No apology is needed for this, however, as the outstanding commandment on the whole subject is negative. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." We should quote it to ourselves whenever we need to he strengthened, for truth is in the fulness of its power in the sense of the letter of the Word, and reflect that it is involved in the teaching that we should shun evils as sins.
It is worth noticing the word "shun." It conveys the meaning that we are to turn away decisively and deliberately. Before we can shun evils, we must, of course, first discover what they are, and see them clearly, but we are not told that the best way to deal with them is to daily with them, think about them continually, and have the lurking fear even when they are not present, that they will soon return to worry us once more. We are not told that morbid introspection is right. On the contrary the plain and forceful teaching of the Word and the Doctrines is that we are to shun evils as sins, which clearly implies that we are to turn our thoughts away from them and reject them. This is the best possible psychology for the situation and can be extremely effective in practice.
To complete this introduction, it will be useful to return to the New Church truth that marriage is for eternity, and to the thought that this belief is certain to affect our outlook on the whole subject if we take it seriously. For example, to a young couple just about to get married it implies that their delight in each other is a kind of wonderful prophecy of a heavenly state in which they will "continually advance to the spring-time of life." To someone who is much older, and who sees youthfulness fading from the body of his or her married partner and the signs of age taking its place, it implies that such things are only a passing phase, and that youth will later on he renewed in the spiritual world, but this time having with it a life-time's wisdom and depth of affection which it certainly did not have in the days of early marriage.
IF the title is to be taken literally, this chapter should include something on the influence of sex from the time of earliest infancy. There is not space to deal with the subject in so wide a field, except to mention two matters.
The first is one that is more or less obvious to every parent, namely that some difference in character between boys and girls can usually be seen from a very early age. These differences become more marked as the child reaches adolescence and approaches the age which is more properly the concern of this book. Parents have a duty in dealing with the problems which arise in the matter of sex instruction at an early age, even before school age. Such instruction can rightly come from other sources also, in particular as part of the child's education at school, but this cannot take the place of the guidance which only a parent can give, A child naturally asks simple, innocent questions, for example, about the arrival of a baby brother or sister In giving a simple, unself-conscious answer, the parent is doing right in implanting knowledge in a sphere of love, and is not offending against any commandment from the Word. The Victorian convention that certain things must never be mentioned has obviously caused an immense amount of mental suffering and unhealthy curiosity, giving a twist to character which may last for life. Of course, it would be equally a mistake to go to the other extreme and give exaggerated emphasis or minute detail in answer to plain questions. A sensible child would be apt to conclude that there must be something curious about a subject if such a fuss is made about it. The common-sense way is to answer the questions as nearly as possible in the same way as questions on any other subject.
A MODERN PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY
As regards the second matter, it is necessary to say something about a modern theory of psychology which may trouble some parents, and also young people who have reached the age when they are ready to think for themselves. The distinguished psychologist Freud has made many important contributions to modern thought, notably in pointing out the predominance of the will, and the part played by the "unconscious" in human life, but he has also made many assumptions in his theories which have not been confirmed by experiment. Not the least among these is the notion that the sex instinct deeply affects mankind even in earliest infancy. Undoubtedly there is some truth in this, but the notion has been expounded by popular writers on psychology and given an exaggerated importance out of all proportion to its worth. Peculiar interpretations of innocent infantile acts are made, such constructions no doubt doing very great harm in the minds of many people who do not understand the issues involved. Unfortunately this kind of journalism is eagerly devoured by many people who seem to think that psychology is the oracle of our time, the latest, and therefore the best guide we can find. They do not realise that it is only in its infancy, much less that the leading psychologists of our time disagree entirely on the causes of quite elementary processes of the mind, a fact of which the psychologists themselves are well aware; indeed, they differ violently about the nature of the mind itself. Freud's theories have already come under very searching and even damaging criticism. It is more than probable that in fifty years time many of his ideas will be classed as absurdities, just as the oracular pronouncements of some thinkers of the last century are to-day. It should be noted that the above warning is not an attempt to prove that modern psychology is worthless. It has made some very useful contributions to the sum of knowledge, particularly in testing skills and natural abilities, and no doubt it will make many more. But at present practically all its theory is open to question, and we shall be very mistaken and very foolish indeed to prefer it to revealed truth. Going back for a moment to certain behaviour of children, said to show the pre-eminence of the sex instinct, it is worth mentioning that such behaviour can be explained in other ways just as easily and perhaps more satisfactorily. These remarks provide the opportunity for referring to a state of mind which affects some young people as they are growing up. Either from natural shyness or from an environment in which such matters as birth and physical conjunction of man and woman are not mentioned, they want knowledge on such things, but feel much too shy to take the steps to get it. It is surely good advice to them to make up their minds that there is nothing whatever inherently wrong in knowing about such things. They should get themselves used to this truth, and imagine themselves in the position of a medical student or nursing probationer, who must have such knowledge professionally. It will not be difficult then to go to someone whom they can trust to give the right answers in the right way. It will be easier still simply to go to the medical book section of one of the branches of such a firm as Boots and buy a book or pamphlet on the subject. Incidentally, the assistant who takes the money will already have sold dozens of such books as a matter of course, and will not regard the purchaser as a creature with strange inhibitions! The worst possible course of action in this matter is to say and do nothing about it, but let one's curiosity revolve round and round in one's mind until it becomes almost an obsession. Common- sense enlightenment, sought with the best intentions in the attempt to educate oneself, is the answer to this problem. And when the desired knowledge has been found, one's preoccupation with the subject will tend to disappear and can best be forgotten.
MAKING A CHOICE
There are many things which might be said about the choice of partner, which seem to be so obvious that there should be no need to put them down in print, as for example that someone who is fond of a quiet homely life is not suited to a person who is fond of a gay social environment, with plenty of money and amusement. Strangely enough, however, such choices are sometimes made most unexpectedly by people who one had every reason to think would have had more sense. While reasoned arguments in cold print are not likely to move people in that state of mind, clearly it will be as well to think the matter over even in its most obvious aspects.
What is the first thing to note as an essential in making the right choice? The answer surely is that long before the question of making a choice of one's partner arises, the right attitude should be present in one's mind. If it is, when the time for decision arrives, there will be some basis much more useful than mere infatuation or impulse to work upon. Even if the decision in some cases is a sudden one, it will really be the culmination of a long process, the fruition of something genuine and lasting. How can the right attitude be developed? The answer may be drawn from the Doctrines of the New Church so that there cannot be any mistake about it. It will grow just so far as there is the desire to make one's marriage the centre of "conjugial love," so that it becomes the "spiritual and heavenly union of two minds," choosing one's partner with that wonderful end in view. Everyone can see that this implies that each individual must make his or her own choice, for "consent makes marriage" (CL 299) and yet at the same time, such a choice should never, for example, be a wilful wrong-headed defiance of a too strict parental control, or made from any other motive of a similar kind. It is not possible to legislate for every case, but wise judgment does indicate that the people getting married should always make the final decision themselves, and yet should seek advice from those who know them well and will help them, in the vast majority of cases from their parents.
Again, it seems obvious that it is essential to get to know the other partner very well, to find out something of his or her interests, likes and dislikes, and compatibility of temperament and manners. In this also it is not possible to lay down an invariable rule, but it is a fair presumption that people with similar viewpoints in these things will co-operate better in marriage life than those who have little in common. Perhaps it will be said that these are externals only, as indeed they are, but many people who have afterwards married first found their interest in each other awakened by a liking for some congenial work or recreation in which they were able to share. The "performance of uses" can be a wonderful way of "uniting the mind" of one with the other. In this and other cases, externals may indicate something much deeper.
A COMMON FAITH
It is the definite teaching of the Doctrines of the New Church that one of the causes of internal cold in marriage is that one partner has religion, and the other has not. No logical argument is needed to prove this, nor to show that if one partner has one religious faith and the other another, there cannot be any sort of internal unity, though there may be a measure of external agreement. Some may feel inclined to question this nevertheless, and many have disregarded it in practice, but it must surely be the case that if there is disagreement on the most fundamental beliefs that a man or woman can hold, marriage as a spiritual institution cannot progress. It contains from the beginning an element of profound disagreement which can show itself even in outward things. There is also the teaching to be borne in mind that "internal cold" is also present when both partners reject religion.
These considerations ought to be taken into account far more than they usually are. When people fail to consider them, the results are often pathetic, especially when the religious education of children becomes a bone of contention in the family.
No true psychology of marriage could ignore these vital matters, for there is in true marriage love an order by which it ascends and descends (CL 302). As is explained clearly in the first part of this book, when two people are betrothed, the mind of the one should be united with the mind of the other, so that a marriage of the spirit is effected before that of the body.
AN ESSENTIAL CHANGE
All engaged couples who are sincere in their love for each other are able to detect one psychological result of their endeavours. As it is put so beautifully and accurately in CL 304, "Their souls disengage themselves from unlimited love of the sex and devote themselves to one, with whom they look to an enduring and eternal union, the growing blessings of which are spurs to the hope which constantly renews their minds." Nevertheless this disengaging process is not always easy, especially with the man, even when his affection for his loved one seems to be quite sincere. Each person has to fight his own battle in this matter, of course, and each person can find his own armour of truth if he wants to do so. It seems to be the case that sexual desires vary very greatly with different people, and we are not always in a position to judge others in this respect. Nevertheless, for the sincere New Churchman both the ideals and the warnings put before him in Swedenborg's work Conjugial Love cannot fail to help him. Even a reading of Swedenborg's experiences in the spiritual world sometimes helps by giving us an idea that will meet our own particular psychological difficulties. For example, he tells how he met a husband and wife from the celestial heavens, and in the course of conversation he asked the man if he could look at any other woman besides his wife, since their union was so close. The man replied that he could, but as he and his wife were united in their souls, it was as though they looked together. "When I look at the wives of others I look at them through my wife," (CL 75). An ordinary individual still living in this world, and still unmarried, cannot hope to reach such heights as that, but he can look at other women as his fiancee would, and it will certainly help him to purify his thoughts and affections and send them in the direction he would prefer them to go.
It is the teaching of the New Church that during betrothal, i.e. before marriage, it is not allowable to be united in the body. If this is done the physical is put before the spiritual and is implicitly considered to be more important. Thus the true order in marriage love is liable to be destroyed, for in this as in all things, the natural should be under the rule of the spiritual.
SOME "FALSITIES FROM EVIL"
People who have no spiritual ideals will think that this is not very important, and those who think of happiness only as the fulfilment of bodily desires, especially in sexual sensation, will think it is rubbish, and being carried away by the self-intelligence and love of dominion which goes with evil, will try to persuade others to think the same. Their arguments are disposed of, as soon as we reflect that the desire of the body brings its own slavery with it when it gets out of control, and the minds of such people are chained and fettered so that they cannot think otherwise. They are simply not in a position to see the truth of the matter at all. It is true that their arguments are easily disposed of in this way, but we have to be careful that they do not succeed in arousing the evil affections which are in us, as in them, by heredity. We have to do what they have no intention of doing; shun such evils as sins. One form of excuse for laxity and reversal of the right order in marriage conjunction which is advocated to-day ought to be noticed. It is said that if people live together before their wedding, this "trial marriage" will show whether they are going to live happily together later on. If it is not successful then they need not proceed with the wedding. The answer to this is that such a trial marriage can never be a genuine trial at all. The essential of true marriage is that it is a permanent relationship, and the thought of permanency should be present from the beginning. When it is present all sorts of adjustments can be made without much difficulty - and often with great reward - simply because both partners assume without question that their permanent relationship as husband and wife requires it. If the relationship is only a temporary one, either or both parties may decide that the effort is not worth while, and even when things are going well, they must both have a sense of insecurity about their own and each other's feelings, for neither belongs to the other, as husband and wife do. Incidentally, this is one reason why the loosening of marriage ties in any society is difficult to control. Insecurity is apt to breed insecurity.
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.
THE MARRIAGE SERVICE
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.
TWO MINDS INTO ONE
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.
THE RIGHT PARTNER?
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.
The relation of marriage to the love of children is defined so that there cannot be any doubt about it in the following passage from Swedenborg's Conjugial Love (68).
"All joys from first to last are gathered into conjugial love on account of the excellence of its uses above that of any other love. Its service is the propagation of the human race and of the angelic heaven therefrom."
These words remind us once again that marriage is a heavenly and spiritual institution, and the question of having children ought to be settled with that in mind. Again, this will sound very idealist to some people: it is setting up a standard of perfection which is difficult to follow. But is this really so? The answer is that it is only the case if people are so much concerned with worldly considerations that they cannot see any other. The New Church point of view on the question is the way to freedom, even if it brings heavy responsibilities with it. It gives parents who love their children from a spiritual affection a freedom from the many doubts and restrictions of the spirit that are the lot of any thinking parent in the critical age of change in which we live. They are able to take the view that, while they will do all in their power to give their children everything that is possible in the way of food and clothing, education and accomplishment, yet the giving of these things is not an end in itself, but the means to a greater end, which is that they shall eventually enter heaven, "the Lord's Kingdom." What a relief it is to know that a parent's labours will not be in vain, and are not merely an effort to provide one's children with things that will only be of any consequence for the few years of life on this earth, and that the children themselves are only things of time, who will live out their brief span and be snuffed out like a candle, as their parents were before them. Instead of that gloomy view, there is the thought present that in each baby there is the possibility of an angel.
To meet even more thoroughly the criticism that all this is too ideal, it should be said with emphasis that the New Church attitude does not require us to live in a sentimental, too-indulgent dream as regards children. It requires us to recognise the realities of human nature, which has an innate tendency to be self-regarding and evil, as well as having undisclosed possibilities of good. In fact, the New Church attitude gives every little detail of life with children in the home a significance that it could not possibly have otherwise. Dressing a baby, helping him to walk, teaching him to talk, and later on to write and to read, helping a growing boy or girl to reach out to new experiences and new ways of doing new things, even doing the daily washing, or the mending, or paying the bills, each of these things are uses contributing to the great end of the child's creation. They all have to do with this natural world, but help to fulfil a spiritual purpose, which illuminates and inspires merely mundane things as nothing else can.
SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
These few sentences help to show that bringing up children is, for New Church parents, essentially a matter of religion in daily life. Potential parents, those who are thinking about having a family, can also think about the matter in the same way. Is it a good thing to have children in this world where there is so much evil? If it is, what is the right number to have? What about the difficulty of providing for them? Is it better to have one or two, well looked after, and well educated, or a number who will probably not have these advantages in so great a degree? Should birth-control be practised?
A writer of a book such as this would be insulting the intelligence of his readers and, in a sense, trying to take away some of their freedom by giving ready-made answers to some of these questions. Circumstances in every case are different, and it is far better for people to work the answers out themselves from principles of truth. It is to these therefore we must turn, and try to think from them.
By implication, something has already been said about the first question listed above. It may be that evil in the world will affect our attitude in bringing up our children in innumerable ways. We shall certainly have to adapt ourselves to the situation which it creates every day, as for example, when it appears in our children, in ourselves, in other people whom they meet, when it affects our lives as a result of war, economic competition, accident, illness and many other things. In spite of all this, the truth remains that it is by means of children that the heavens are peopled. We may add to that also, that it is by means of them that our country and the human race are enriched, and that the life of the little circle in which we move is enhanced. If we hold strong views regarding the way human beings should live together in harmony and mutual uses, our children give us the best opportunity of teaching these things to others. And, above all, they may be the means of increasing the influence of the Lord's Church on earth, which in the long run is the best way of serving our neighbours that we can think of.
THE SIZE OF THE FAMILY
As regards the question of the right number to have, it is again pointing out the obvious to say that parents must decide for themselves according to circumstances. Nevertheless, it is really essential to add to this that the decision must be "from principle." Recently it has been the custom to leave these two considerations out altogether, and some people who are prepared to include them, allow circumstances, which may mean their own inclinations, to govern principle. In such a decision, it is very necessary not to allow short-sighted or self-regarding motives to masquerade as concern for the welfare of one's family. How many people, for example, have decided that their position in life cannot possibly allow them to have more than one child, because they can only afford to look after one properly, when the truth is that they thus deprive their only child of the companionship and happiness which he would have had in a larger family for the sake of a number of things which in no way compensate him? There are others who say these things, when their real object is to see that they themselves have a car or some other possession for which they have no particular use apart from their own pleasure. It is possible, however, that the number of these people is frequently over-estimated. Probably the object in many such instances is to avoid work rather than poverty. It can be said at once that such an attitude is the reverse of spiritual and to that may be added the judgment that when such a view is widely accepted, society is well on the way to degeneracy, since it prefers lazy comfort to use, and has no faith in Providence, denying that there is such a thing as influx into effort.
Is there, then, no room for prudence in bringing up a family? Must it grow irrespective of material requirements and of the need for children to be properly cared for and educated in religious and secular things? The teaching of the New Church is that Providence works through human prudence, and that prudence in the case of parents includes proper provision for the spiritual, moral and natural needs of their children. Thus it is that parents must balance these things out for themselves.
Perhaps a remark of a mother of four charming children, illustrating the New Church principle of influx into effort, may fittingly bring this discussion to an end. "When you have one child, you wonder how you are going to do all the work. You think the same when you have two. When you get to four, you wonder why you grumbled when you only had one, and simply can't imagine how you managed to fill in your time when you had none."
There is no direct teaching on the subject of birth control in the Doctrines. Nevertheless there are principles to work from, which should be taken to heart much more than they are. "The first end of conjugial love is the procreation of offspring." (CL 385.) Such is the right order in this matter, and we should notice very carefully that children should be the fruit of true marriage love, which itself is a union of husband and wife, complete in soul and body. Children who are born when there is no real union, whether within legal marriage or out of it, are not, from one point of view, the true fulfilment of the Divine purpose, though Providence regards their final happiness in the same manner as in the case of other children. In other words, there should never be children who are unwanted from any reason whatever. Every psychologist will confirm that the "unwanteds" make up a great proportion of his patients. This implies that, as far as is practicable, prospective parents should have children when their mental attitude and natural circumstances are favourable, and should try to remove fears and reservations which make a baby unwelcome in the family. Unfortunately it is very easy to be deceived by too great a regard for one's own comfort, so that the decision not to have children, though physical union continues, is nothing but the result of selfishness. It is obvious, however, that there are circumstances which may forbid the increase of a family, and yet which may not forbid physical union, itself the product of a real and genuine love. Physical conjunction of man and wife has the procreation of children as its greatest use, but it serves other uses also. It seems reasonable to conclude that each use should be served, and it is for each married couple to decide how this may best be done, being very much on their guard against being led away by merely selfish desires.
THE PRESENCE OF CHILDREN
This chapter is not intended to be a full discussion on the upbringing of children, but is only an attempt to say something of the place of children in marriage. There is a whole chapter in Conjugial Love on the conjunction of marriage love with love for children which is dealt with in Part I of this book. It describes the two "universal spheres from the Lord," a sphere of procreating and of protecting what is procreated. The sphere of love for children may be with the evil as well as with the good, but with them it is a love of themselves reflected in their children, a fact which sheds an illuminating light on human nature. The chapter also shows that spiritual and natural causes can join together marriage love in parents with love for children, and that with those people who have in them that which is spiritual, love of babies and children is from what is interior, but it is really only external with those who are natural.
Experience goes to show that if a love of children is present, they will be a blessing, in spite of the responsibilities, worries, and exasperations which are the lot of most parents. It is true that going short to provide for the children is not a very happy experience, that sleepless nights and long-drawn out concern for them when they are ill can be very wearing, and that when one of them decides that his breakfast looks better on the carpet than on his plate the situation becomes infuriating almost beyond control, yet they bring happiness which can come by no other way. They take thoughts and affections away from self, and the very act of giving one's energies unconsciously solves many of one's own psychological problems. It is in this case much more blessed to give than to receive.
Yet the fact is that one receives much. The smiles and gentle cooing of a three-months-old baby are the means by which we may receive the sphere of the celestial angels who are present with it. What a privilege for a parent to have! In teaching them stories from the Word, and later on something of the inner meaning of the glory of the sense within the letter, who can say where the line between giving and receiving can be drawn? There are even more obvious things to be taken into account. Often the care of parents for children has been outdone by that of children for parents. Always there may be the thought that the Lord has through us created immortality in our sons and daughters.
Marriage love is something which has to grow, and it grows as a result of care and nurture. It is something which has to be achieved. As in all other worth-while things, this requires effort, and it implies that there will be difficulties to overcome.
Such difficulties can both be under-estimated and overestimated. It will not do to imagine that a general acknowledgment of the need for repentance and an acceptance of the New Church faith will clear away all obstacles, and the necessary adjustments of character on the part of one or both married partners will come to pass of themselves. Something much more definite than that is required, and possibly the effort that must be put forth will be required over a period of years; not continuous effort, of course, but nevertheless a watchfulness on oneself which should not be relaxed.
On the other hand it is an even bigger mistake to be looking for trouble, to anticipate circumstances that will be too much for married happiness; and to imagine that some unkind fate stands by ready to upset things as soon as they begin to go right. This sort of attitude creates the very conditions for unhappiness, which will almost certainly be ascribed by the people concerned to circumstances, when in reality the fault is in their own mental disposition. Unconsciously they select from every-day experience the little things that make for trouble, and let opportunities for good pass them by. To say this, is not to ignore the fact that circumstances can sometimes be crushing and even tragic, through no fault of anyone, but it is also quite certainly a fact that a persistently negative attitude will make things much worse even in this case. Briefly, we should neither indulge in the silly pastime of counting chickens before they are hatched, nor jettison the future by our own hopeless attitude. It is for us to do the best we can in all things in the light of the truths of the Word and then leave the issue to Providence. The critical phrase in this last sentence is "to do the best we can." How do we know what is best, and how do we make ourselves do it?
CAUSES OF DISAGREEMENT
In the unregenerate states in which most of us are, some misunderstanding and even differences are apt to arise between husband and wife on occasion. For example, when the husband has a great deal of exacting work requiring considerable concentration, and is perhaps worried about it, his wife's endeavour to distract his attention from it to things which seem utterly trivial and ludicrously domestic gives him the feeling that she is only concerned with herself. She either will not see or does not care that he is already overburdened and simply hasn't the energy to take a tremendous interest in things that do not seem to matter in the least. It seems to him as though her partnership with him is altogether too possessive. In order to have him and his whole attention, she is ready to break him.
To take another example, the wife who has had the attention and the love of her husband since the days of their engagement, has unobtrusively given everything she has to make him happy in return, perhaps without thought of her own needs, becomes disappointed and then secretly mortified to find that his attention is so much elsewhere that he hardly notices her presence. He may not deliberately hurt her feelings or be unkind, but he seems to grow more and more indifferent, and she can forecast with certainty that when he comes home he will go through the rituals of a happy household without putting meaning into any of them. In time her mortification becomes bitterness.
These examples are comparatively simple, but in a quite average household such instances may in actual fact be very much more complicated. In the first example, the wife may be predominantly selfish, and she may be quite deliberate about it. Yet in some cases she may seem to be so by a natural disposition which is purely external and not her real self, or because she had a very unaffectionate home life up to the time of her marriage, so that her longing for affection has for the time being got the better of her good sense. Or it may be that she is not quick enough "to put two and two together" so that she understands what her husband's difficulty is. In all these instances, she does not really want to upset her husband and irritate him to the point of exasperation. Thus the tension between the husband and wife is indeed caused by the wife's overeagerness from some quite innocent cause, and yet a word or two from him at a time when he was not too busy would have put matters right long before they had got out of hand. Instead, his neglect may be as much responsible for the unhappiness as his wife's bothering stupidity. In this particular instance there may be another variation. The husband may be in the right, but it is possible that in the past he has similarly ignored his wife and devoted his whole attention to something that was certainly not deserving of it. Perhaps he has regretted it, and said so, but even then he can hardly be surprised if his wife expects it to happen again when the circumstances seem to be similar.
In the second example, the husband's increasingly callous indifference may indeed be due to conceit and love of having his own way, or simply to a selfish love of comfort, even though he may profess high ideals at Church meetings. It may be due also to reaction from over-indulgence in the physical pleasures of marriage, which was all he really intended to get from it or put into it. In all these cases he is undeniably in the wrong, and not to be excused. In some instances, however, his growing indifference may be the result of his wife's continual pampering or may be a reaction against her never-ceasing watchfulness of his every movement, the result, as she sees it, of her love for him, but making him feel that he is imprisoned as soon as he is in her company, so that his share in their partnership must at all times be passive if trouble is to be avoided. In such cases the wife's perception of her husband's affections has never been used for his good, though the appearance is the contrary. She has merely used it to dominate him, and thinks herself a martyr when he does not react exactly as she thinks he should. She is at least partly responsible for his indifference.
What is to be said of all this? How can any sort of advice be given in a book, when obviously individual cases differ so much and can only be dealt with individually? And who is competent to give it?
There are a number of very valuable things to be said about them all, as it happens, and the authority for saying them does not rest upon the wisdom of the writer of this or any other book, but upon the rational authority of the Doctrines of the New Church.
PRINCIPLES IN PRACTICE
One thing that should be said at once is that in the great majority of cases no advice need be given except that which is drawn from the truths of religion relating to regeneration. Certainly no clinical advice is necessary. In other words, it is of the Divine Providence that the married partners should themselves solve their difficulties as of themselves in the light of truth from the Word. In fact, the very attempt to make an effort to put things right will be of immense benefit spiritually. It is, indeed, this effort against the pull of psychological circumstances in ourselves, that gives us a sense of freedom. In the case of husband and wife, it makes them feel that their harmony is real when it is at last achieved.
In the attempts which are frequently made to-day to make married life psychologically easy, this truth is often forgotten. In some cases it is never thought of at all. The tendency is to assume that psychological comfort should be achieved at all costs. Nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of an easy life, in marriage as in other things. The result is that people who advocate this, even quite eminent authorities, tend to look towards separation, or even divorce, as a straightforward solution of difficulties between husband and wife. They do not seem to see that the clear and definite way to overcome such problems is not easier separation, but better husbands and wives. As was mentioned in considering so-called trial marriages, if the idea of possible separation is present from the beginning, it is certain that in some cases the people concerned will not trouble to make the essential effort to rearrange their lives. It can be said that many such marriages are failures before they have begun.
We should face the fact that psychological ease is not necessarily the best way of living together as husband and wife. Very often it is not the happiest way to live. It is only a short-term policy, and frequently is merely a matter of taking the line of least resistance. It may mean that certain definite causes of future trouble arc allowed to go unchecked and lead on to inevitable disaster. In this as in most things the brave way is the best, and a fine-spirited attempt to re-establish good relationships may succeed where "charitable" tolerance will certainly fail.
As has been said, differences appear in every marriage, and in the great majority of cases can be resolved by the husband and wife themselves. Sometimes, however, matters get beyond this stage, in which case it is sound advice to try to consult some person whom both can trust and who has some understanding of their problems. Since this book is written mainly for New Church people, or at least for those who are interested in the New Church approach to the subject, it is hardly necessary to add that ideally such a person should be someone who holds to spiritual principles. When the differences reach a stage of deadlock, an outsider can often make suggestions of a useful kind, not so much because he may happen to be cleverer than the husband and wife, but because his own affections are not involved.
The value of the New Church principle that influx is into effort should be pointed out here. If there is unhappiness, and things are allowed to drift, it is only commonsense to conclude that it is extremely unlikely that they can get any better. But if some real effort is made to start again, to look at the cause of differences from a fresh point of view, with the positive intention to settle them, and with the recognition that it is part of "the life of religion" to do so, then at least there will be some hope. There will be that basis into which Providence may operate, and frequently in such instances some new solution, psychological or otherwise, comes to light, and usually it is so simple that the two people concerned wonder why they haven't been able to see it before.
THE "ETERNAL TRIANGLE"
So far no word has been said in this chapter about the possible intervention of a third person into the lives of a married couple, with whom one of them falls in love. It may perhaps be thought that the "eternal triangle," without which the money-making efforts of many film magnates, authors, publishers and others would be considerably less successful, ought not to obtrude itself into such a book as this, where a religious interest and motive is assumed in the reader. It certainly ought not to follow the popular example and take a place which it does not deserve, but on the other hand it would be either self-righteous or stupid to ignore so important a problem.
It is fairly certain that even differences which do not appear to be connected with a third person, do in fact often refer indirectly to such a person. A very unfavourable comparison is drawn between one's husband or wife and some other member of the opposite sex, and in such comparisons there is all the charm of novelty without any of the drawbacks of day-to-day stress and strain. The man or woman making the comparison does not often stop to think that the novelty would have worn off in this case also after a few years of married life. Nor does he or she stop to think that there may be undisclosed faults in the new love, perhaps worse than those of which so much complaint is made regarding husband or wife, whose virtues also are forgotten, sometimes in favour of virtues which are problematical and may possibly be described as "flashy." A whole-hearted attack on one's psychological processes, when the urge to make such comparisons is present, can be very revealing.