THE HEART OF WOMAN.
"My wife has fallen in love with another man. She keeps house for me and I am trying to show her all the love I can but it seems to have no effect upon her. I love her dearly and desire to win her back. What should be my attitude toward her and toward the man?" A.J. (who is one of many who have thus written me.)
Goodness knows! Be good and you will know. In other words, be just to all three before you are generous to anybody. Of course that is not easy to do, but it is possible; and it is the only thing you can never be sorry for afterward.
First, get down to first principles. There are three INDIVIDUALS concerned--three separate and complete beings, each with his inherent right of choice. Nobody owns anybody else; nobody "owes" anybody else anything in the way of "duty." Each individual stands on his or her own two feet and makes an effort at least to go where he or she will find the most happiness.
Every one of these three Individuals has made mistakes--he or she has thought happiness was to be found in this place, or that. He or she has made the choice and trotted on his or her two feet to this place or that, only to find happiness was not there as he or she supposed. We don't always know what is for our happiness. But goodness knows!--and all our mistakes work together for ultimate happiness.
In the truest sense there are no mistakes; a mistake being simply a case where things failed to come out as we calculated. They came out right nevertheless. That is, they came out right for our enlightenment. By them we grew in wisdom and knowledge. Next time our judgment will be better.
The wife in this case no doubt thinks just now that her marriage to A.J., was "all a terrible mistake." If so she is making another "mistake." That is, she is thinking what "ain't so." Whatever experiences she has had with A.J. were drawn to her by herself, for her own enlightenment and development. They were all good.
It may be that she and A.J. have gained from their association all there is in it. Doubtless the wife thinks a separation and a new marriage would make her supremely happy. May be it would. May be her judgment is right this time.
On the other hand it may be wrong, as it has been oft before. Many a woman has jumped out of the frying pan of one marriage into the fire of another.
Only time will tell. If this new love is the "soul mate" she thinks, the attraction will be all the stronger and steadier in a year or two from now. If he is not the soul mate she thinks him, the attraction will wane.
I know women who, under similar conditions, have elected to wait; women whose consciences would not allow them to leave a kind husband or young children for the sake of gratifying their passion for another man. I have known these same women to despise a year or two later, the men they had thought themselves passionately and everlastingly in love with. They have never got over thanking whatever gods there be that they were saved from that rash step. I have known many cases of this kind, and have received many letters of fervent thanks from both men and women who followed my private counsel to let time prove the new attraction before severing old ties and making new ones.
And I must say that not one who waited but has said to me, "I am glad I waited"; whilst many who did not wait have bitterly regretted.
A love affair is emotional insanity. Lovers are insane; not in fit condition to decide their own actions. The state of "falling in love" is moon-madness. For the time being the lover's sense of justice, his reason, his judgment, is distorted by reflections from another personality. This is especially so in the woman's case, for the reason that she is generally a creature of untrained impulse, instead of reasoning will.
There is that recent case of the beautiful and beloved Princess Louise who ran away from her royal husband. She thought she loved Monsieur Giron so devotedly that she could bear anything for the sake of being with him. And surely she was miserable enough in her old environment. But when it came to the reality she could not bear the consequences. She wanted her children; her proud spirit winced at the snubs she got; she longed a little for the old life; and familiarity with her soul mate revealed the knowledge that he was not all soul. She flunked miserably and went home to her sick child. You see, she was literally love-sick. Her mind was disordered; a life spent with her soul mate loomed to her so large and dazzling that all other things were as nothing. She couldn't for the time being see straight. She was literally insane.
If she had only waited until the new wore off her passion! Waited until she saw things in their proper proportions and relations to each other; until she was sure she could live the life made inevitable by her change.
That is the trouble;--love-sick-ness blinds her to the truth. When she wakes up by experience of the truth, she wishes she hadn't.
The only safe thing for a woman to do who finds herself married to one man and in love with another is to wait, a year, or two or three years, until time proves her love and she knows in her heart that she can make the change and never regret it, no matter what happens. You see, she can NEVER be happy with the new love as long as CONSCIENCE OR HEART reproaches her for her treatment of the old love. It behooves her to consider well.
Time will prove the new love. In many such cases times reveals the idol's feet of clay. He shows that his love is for himself, not for her. He pouts and kicks and teases like a petulant child. He wants her NOW, no matter how she may suffer in consequence of his haste.
In spite of herself, in spite of her love for the new love, she finds he is not panning out as she supposed. She begins to see his other, his everyday side--the side she will have to live with if she goes to him.
Now is the husband's chance. She knows his every-day side, from experience; she has tried it in weal and woe. If he rises to this occasion the Ideal Man, he stands a fair chance of winning from his wife a deeper love than she has yet given any man. He may catch her whole heart in its rebound from the idol with feet of clay.
To a husband in such a position I would say, Be kind. "There is nothing so kingly as kindness!"--and true kindness under this most trying condition will in time win even a recalcitrant wife's admiration and love--IF the two are really mates. If they are not real mates; if they have outgrown their usefulness to each other; the sooner they part the better. To hold them together would only be another "mistake."
Because a man and wife were mates five or ten years ago is no proof that they are mates today. We are all growing, and it is often literally true that we "grow away" from people.
Every loved one who goes out of our lives makes room for a better, fuller love--unless we shut ourselves in with our "grief."
It is said that Robert Louis Stevenson fell in love with the wife of his best friend. He told his friend frankly, intending to leave the city. His friend questioned the wife and found she reciprocated Stevenson's love. Stevenson stayed with his friend in Paris and the wife went to her father's home in California. A year later, the attachment between his wife and Stevenson still remaining, the friend applied for a divorce. Then he and Stevenson journeyed all the way to California together, where Stevenson was married to the ex-wife. The ex-husband attended the wedding, and that same evening announced his engagement to a girl friend of Mrs. Stevenson.
I glory in the friendship of those two men who refused to allow the unreasoning caprices of love to sever their love for each other. A separation and remarriage like that is a credit to all parties concerned. It is the quarrels and estrangements which are the real disgrace in cases of separation and remarriage.
John Ruskin was another man too great and too good to resent love's going where it is sent. He had married, knowing that her respect and admiration but not her love, were his, a beautiful and brilliant girl much younger than himself. They lived happily a number of years. Then Ruskin brought home the painter, Millais, to make a picture of his wife. Artist and model fell in love. Ruskin found it out, and refused to allow his wife to sacrifice herself for him. He divorced her and gave her to Millais, and the three were life-long friends.
If I were a man in such a case as A. J.'s I should treat my wife as I would a daughter. I would treat her as an Individual with the right of choice.
Many a daughter has rushed headlong into a marriage which her relatives opposed and she regretted at leisure.
If someone grabs you by the arm and pulls hard in one direction you are forced to pull hard in the opposite direction, or lose your balance and fall. If a daughter is pulled away from the man to whom she is attracted, her Individuality rebels and she pulls toward him harder than she would if let alone. She chooses to follow the attraction which at the time is pleasanter than that between herself and her frowning relatives.
Remembering this I would free daughter or wife and trust to the God in her to work out her highest good. I would believe that whatever she chose to do was really for her highest good. If I really loved her I would prefer her happiness to my own.
And in it all I should be deeply conscious that whatever is, is best, and that all things worked together for MY best good as well as for hers.
Whatever appearances may show to the shortsighted, the real TRUTH is this:--Justice reigns; the happiness of one person is not bought at the expense of another; the law of attraction brings us our own and holds to us our own in spite of all its efforts to get away; it never leaves us until, THROUGH SOME CHANGE OR LACK OF CHANGE IN OURSELVES, it has ceased to be our own.
A man's "mental attitude" toward the other man in such cases as A.J.'s should be the same as toward other men--the attitude of real kindness toward an Individual who, like the rest of us, is being "as good as he knows how to be and as bad as he dare be."
This does not mean that the husband shall allow himself to be used for a door mat, nor held up for the ridicule of the neighbors. A sensible father expects his daughter to observe the proprieties. The daughter of a sensible father is more than willing to meet these expectations. In the same way a sensible husband will expect his wife to see no more of the lover than "society" permits her to see of any man not related to her. No sensible American woman will jeopardize her good name under such circumstances. She will control her feelings until she has proved her new attraction and been duly released from the old. If a woman will not conduct herself in a self-respecting manner the sooner she leaves the better for the husband. As for herself, she will learn by experience--as Princess Louise did.
Love is the mightiest force in creation. It will not be gainsaid. But it can be controlled. To pen it up too completely brings explosion, devastation. To give it too free rein means madness with no less devastation. To direct it within reasonable limits is the only safe way.
It takes a cool head and steadfast heart to meet such emergencies as A.J.'s. And eye hath not seen nor ear heard the "Well done" and its attendant glory, which enters into the heart and character of the man who meets such condition and conquers--himself. Not once in a thousand lives has a man such opportunity to prove his godship and bless himself and the world.