Fr. Leo Kinsella
Here is a marriage blueprint that every woman can follow. Happy marriages do not just happen, they are made. It takes three parties to make a good marriage; the husband, the wife, and the Lord. This book is concerned with helping the woman to become “the wife desired”–and therefore loved–that every man worth having wishes to find and keep.
This book sold over a quarter of a million copies shortly after its publication in 1951, and it was read by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. It is a practical manual. It should be read by every woman considering entering the matrimonial state and also by those women who are already married. It can also be read by men who may wish to see what a real challenge it is for a woman to live up to their expectations and how grateful they should be if they are blessed to find the woman of their desires. Father Kinsella penned another book titled The Man For Her, (soon to be published by Loreto Publications), that covers the topic for the man.
When this book was first published in the early 1950’s, one in four marriages in the USA ended in divorce. Today, half of all first marriages end in divorce, and a much higher percentage of second and third marriages find the same end. This means that the majority of Americans are unsuccessful at the most important enterprise of their life, and it follows that the resultant destruction of the happiness, mental stability, and moral character of the majority of the people is the greatest problem that we face as a nation. Of course, the dangers to the salvation and earthly happiness of these people, and to the unfortunate children born of such unions, is where the cold statistical facts become more personal and of immediate concern to each of us. The divorce rates also do not speak to the issue of those many couples who do not divorce, but who nonetheless are not living in what could be termed deeply happy and fruitful marriages. Being a party to an unhappy marriage is one of the most difficult (yet largely avoidable) situations that anyone can endure in life.
Table of Contents
1. The Wife Desired Is an Inspiration to Her Husband
2. The Wife Desired Has Personality
3. The Wife Desired Is Patient
4. The Wife Desired Is a Physical Being
5. The Wife Desired Has a Sense of Humor
6. The Wife Desired Is a Companion of Her Husband
7. The Wife Desired Is Religious
The role of the girl in life is the most glamorous and fascinating in all the world. To the nomads of the East she is the "little gazelle “and to the Japanese the "plum blossom." In the Book of Proverbs she is the "dearest hind and most agreeable fawn." Jewels, sapphires and rubies are her eyes and lips. The softness of a spring morning is in her words. Her smile is as the splendor of the rising sun. Of all the creatures in the world she is made by God the most beautiful. She is the incarnation and summation of all the flowers of nature. No man ever spoke more truth than when he whispered into the ear of his beloved that she was divine. She is an image, a spark of divinity given to us in life as a preview of things to come. She is yielding, helpless, yet divine. To whom God has given much, from her much is expected. Of no other creature is so much demanded. She is to be the helpmate of man; the mother of his children. She is to keep his home, to comfort him in loneliness and weariness, and to bring him back to health when sick.
This appraisal of the part a girl plays in life may seem to some flattering. Yet, it is sincerely made. Actually this judgment of the ladies is more challenging than flattering, for what girl could fail to desire to measure up to this appraisal in the eyes of her husband? Countless young wives have merited from their husbands the esteem that they were the most glamorous and fascinating creatures in all the world. Unfortunately too many girls have failed to do so, and thus experience the misery of an unhappy, if not broken, marriage. The purpose of this book is to show the girl, the young wife, how she may easily have success and happiness in marriage, being in the eyes of her husband "the dearest hind and most agreeable fawn."
The idea of this book was formed in my mind during the last six years as I sat at the Chicago Chancery Office as one of the judges in the separation court. If you wish negative exposition on the subject of the ideal and desired wife, sit in on the Separation Court for a few weeks. The judges in this court obviously meet with only the failures at marriage. In their task of counseling they seldom work with either ideal husbands or wives. As often as not both are at fault. When one is chiefly to blame for their unhappiness, it is just as likely to be the wife. Causes for failure in marriage are pretty equally divided between husbands and wives. Many of the unhappy wives appearing there, failures in the vocation for which God had best suited them by nature, are utterly unaware that they are to blame in a great measure for their unhappy marriage. "My husband drinks." "He stays away from home as much as possible." "He sits down at the tavern with other women." He is always the villain. The poor fellow sits down at the tavern with other women not because he is happy there. He is desperate. He has a nagging wife, or he is practically married to his mother-in-law rather than to his wife. So, foolishly he seeks escape at the local tavern. Things go from bad to worse, and finally an indignant wife presents herself to the separation court demanding a separate maintenance suit. Most wives who have failed and are primarily the cause of their broken marriage do not realize that their marriage is a failure due to their own shortcomings.
An ideal wife inspires. The failure nags. The ideal wife is mature and has cut the apron strings a possessive mother had tied to her. She is weaned emotionally as well as physically. The failure is immature and not sure of herself, so she puts up with the tyranny all such immature people must accept The husband at first might attempt to deal with this tyranny and fight against it. The wife might side with mother, and so there are fights. In time the husband throws in the sponge. He wants to keep the marriage, and to maintain peace so he often slips away to the tavern. He finds some release there. Mother advises the wife that no daughter of hers should put up with such shameful conduct.
In talking to the seniors of a number of girls' high schools in Chicago over the years, I frequently came across the idea that if a girl found the ideal husband, she could feel assured of a successful marriage. Cannot wives be failures? Just as much and as often as husbands, of course. The ideal husband is an interesting subject; but, he is not the subject of this book. I am making a plea to girls to turn from day dreaming about that ideal husband and reflect on their own lives to see whether they cannot prepare to be ideal wives. If a girl becomes an ideal and desired wife, she eliminates about fifty per cent of the possibility of a failure at marriage.
The average thoughtful girl plans for the day when she will be married and happy with her husband. She wants to prepare herself for that day. Her success as a wife will be in proportion to her intelligent preparation. She does not sit back on her oars after marriage either but continues the development of her character and charm all the days of her married life.
I cannot cover all the aspects of the ideal wife for a number of reasons. Yet, I think that the ideas discussed here are essential to the concept of the Ideal Wife. These ideas come from many sources–from ideal wives, whom I have been happy to know and from failures with whom I have had to deal. Some of these successful wives told me their story simply by living ideal lives, and unwittingly gave me the ideas of this book. Others were more willing, perhaps more able, to express themselves. A number of these expressions should have quotation marks around them. to several of these happy, ideal wives I gratefully acknowledge large portions of this work. We could use, we need more of them in this world.
In writing of the wife desired, I hope to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. So, if I mention examples of failures, it is only to highlight the picture of the successful and, therefore, happy wife. Incidentally, being a successful wife is much more fun and there is more pleasure writing about her than about the failure.
Many books have been written on marriage. This is not another. as the reader could expect from the title, the author deals with only the wife and her contribution to marriage. Generally he deals in fundamentals and especially so in the chapter on companionship. It is his experience that most failures as wives were failures because they could not see the obvious and did not use common sense.
The natural and psychological aspect of the wife's part in marriage are stressed, because the author is only too aware that many wives, cognizant of the spiritual and sacramental character of their marriages, fail to put to good use the natural gifts of mind and body.
Fortunately the authors who have traced the importance of the sacramental character are many. The task of emphasizing the supernatural is paradoxically not easy, and we should never relax our efforts in that direction. It would be foolish and dangerous, however, to refuse to consider the natural, the human things which must enter into a happy marriage.
There will be no theorizing in the following pages. After all, there have been and are today countless ideal wives. They are all about us. We have just to open our eyes to see the reasons for their success. Why are they so successful? What qualities of mind and body do they possess? We shall see in the following pages. But just one more reflection before we begin. Lest some timid soul be frightened by the high goal implied in the expression "Wife Desired," let her remember that every vocation in life has its ideal. Without an ideal, a goal in any phase of life, we flounder about inconfusion and misery. During World War II, a number of cases came to the attention of the world, of men living for days and even weeks on rafts in the open sea. They always resented the careless reporting in the newspapers that they drifted. Drifting connotes the lack of a goal. Flotsam and jetsam drift. Inert matter drifts. Human beings do not drift, lest they be imbeciles. These men were fighting against a destiny weaker men would have accepted. they had a goal, Australia or some South Sea island. Day after day they struggled toward it with a courage which would not be denied.
Like the mountain climber most of us may never reach the top, but, when death comes, at least we can say that we died climbing. Perhaps at times in the following pages we shall get our heads into the clouds. We hope so. However, we shall keep our feet on the ground. Even though in life we have to plod through a lot of mud and muck on our feet, we do not have to get down and plow ahead with our noses. We can keep our heads in the clear air and our vision up beyond the clouds ever searching for the full truth and complete beauty that lies out beyond the margents of this world.
Chapter One - The Wife Desired is an Inspiuration to her Husband
John was dead tired as he left work for home late one Monday afternoon. His physical fatigue partly accounted for his low spirits. He felt that he was on an economic treadmill. He was getting nowhere. Married five years, he and Aeleen and the two little ones were still cooped up in a miserable little four room, birth control trap of a flat. And worst of all they had saved pitifully little for their own home It was not like John to quit.
John was not giving up this particular Monday night either. Yet he was worried about the future. He did not seem to be getting anywhere. He had cast about in his mind for some solution till he was in a mental whirl. Should he look for a part time job on the side? Should he quit his job, take the plunge, and go in with Joe Burns on that gas station? He hated to vex Aeleen with these problems. She had the housework and the children. His was the responsibility of decision.
As he reached for the kitchen door knob, he paused. A dark cloud passed over his face. Aeleen had no bargain in him. She was the beauty of her whole school. Intelligent and bubbling over with personality, she could have done much better.
As the door swung open, Aeleen was wiping a bit of spilled milk from the floor. One knee was on the floor; the other balanced Michael, the culprit whose mess she was cleaning up. Her face came up to meet John's. It was all smiling. The hug and the kiss told him that no one else in all this world was as welcome to step through that kitchen door. She noticed that he held her just a little longer than usual. "He needs me this evening more than ever," she sensed. "And what a comfy feeling to know one is needed."
That evening Aeleen fulfilled with colors flying the greatest function of a wife. She was his inspiration. She quickly drove the black devils of defeatism from his troubled mind. Before bedtime he was ready, like Cyrano de Bergerac, to fight giants. Her confidence in him was complete, not that she did not have to chase out disturbing doubts now and then about his capacities. She was much in love with John and knew his love. This mutual love made it easier for her to discipline her mind, so that her whole being evidenced her assurance in him. Come what might, John was her man and he was the best in the world for her.
Thoughts constant and deep have a way of manifesting themselves especially to one spiritually tuned in to the thinker. Aeleen's faith, quietly evidenced in her husband, renewed his courage. He would not fail her. Aeleen was God's manifestation to him of all that was good and beautiful. Like David, the psalmist, he felt that, if Aeleen was with him, who was against him?
Aeleen made him conscious that he was the greatest man in the world for her money. There was no pretense in Aeleen's admiration for John. She loved him deeply. He was her sunshine and the light blinded her from seeing anyone else. It was no effort for her to stifle within her soul any invidious comparisons between John and other husbands seemingly more successful. On the surface, the husbands of some of her acquaintances might be more successful. Some of them obviously commanded much more income. "So what?" fought back Aeleen within herself. "It takes more than that to make a husband. John may not be on fire, nor the most gifted person, but take him for what he is, all in all, he is a man."
From this brief little picture of Aeleen and John, it is obvious that the ideal wife is much more than a companion, a good housekeeper, a good cook, and a good mother. She is an inspiration. Unless she is this to her husband there is danger that all the other fine aspects of her role as wife will be wasted in final failure.
ABILITY OF WIFE TO INSPIRE
The first purpose of this chapter should be to convince all wives that they have been endowed by God with the ability to inspire their husbands. Many wives do not seem to realize their potential power in this respect. It has been a revelation to me to find out how many wives do not have any concept of this important function of a wife. No doubt that is why we are both so unfortunate as to meet at the Chancery.
The world is quite a bit what women make it. If our sojourn here below is a triumphal parade to the tune of swinging music, to women go the bouquets. If it is a forced march through a vale of tears, to our lady friends go the brickbats. On the one hand we have our Blessed Lady. On the other hand we have to contend with Eve. Women have a way about them of sweeping men on to the heights of nobility or of plunging them into the depth of degradation. To women God has given a mysterious power of bringing out the best or the worst there is in a man. History and literature reminds us of a multitude of women who activated this latent force within themselves and thus provided the motivation and inspiration of great accomplishments.
Men left to themselves too long tend to become rough, brutish, and even evil. I saw enough of this in the Army during the two years overseas with the same outfit. There was something vital missing in the lives of these soldiers. It was the influence of their mothers, their sisters, their wives, and their sweethearts. The deterioration of the soldiers overseas was slow and gradual but still very definite. The great mass of mankind finds it pretty difficult to climb very much above its environment. An all-male environment is not good for a man over a long period of time. God never intended for the average man to so live. Eve appeared on the scene soon after Adam.
The ideal wife gives comfort and encouragement when needed. She is wise with a woman's intuition, so at times she pricks his pride subtly to enable him to rise to some particular situation. Always he has her understanding. She shows her sympathy without being sorry for him. Above all, she never allows him to feel sorry for himself.
There are times when she senses that her best contribution is silence. Her presence is all she can give, and it is all he needs. He is upset, out of sorts, confused, and angry with himself. She will not add to his turmoil with advice or suggestions. Patiently she waits, until he comes down to earth.
Sometimes she is at a loss for what to say or do to help him. So she says and does nothing. Her best efforts at inspiration and encouragement may meet with failure and even rebuff. She is human and feels the hurt, but valiant is the word for her. She can be blue and down over his lack of response, but because she is strong of heart she bounces back with resilience for another day and its tasks. She does not run and hide from problems. If an understanding must be reached over some situation or other, she does not hesitate to thrash the matter out with him. Yet she never needlessly worries him. Some wives worry their husbands into an early grave, they themselves remaining around to collect the dividends of lonely old age.
A good responsible husband was in the habit of going to his office Saturday mornings, even though he had nothing to do there. He said that he just sat at his desk and read the newspaper. "If I stay home my wife will figure out a hundred things for me to do.
When he "cried on my shoulder" about the energy of his wife in planning his Saturdays his quandary was extreme, for he had just retired and no longer had an office to which to escape.
In every home certain tasks must be performed by the husband. The grass needs cutting, the storm windows have to be put up, and so on. The husband worth anything is aware of these chores properly befalling him. He does not have to be reminded of them, or worse, nagged about them.
Things around the house will get out of kilter. An electric socket needs attention. A wheel has come off Junior's wagon. Because the wife is on the scene all week she will be more aware of these varying little jobs requiring a man's attention. Her objective is to get these odds and ends repaired. Her method will depend on her personality, her intelligence, her understanding of her husband, and her tact or lack of it.
She may use the direct approach based on the fact that honey catches more flies than vinegar. "Dear, I'll love you all day long if you fix the toaster."
The indirect method has its successful adherents. For our example, we will imagine that it is high time a particular Saturday morning that the window screens were up for the summer. While the man of the house sleeps late his wife quietly clouds the bedroom with DDT. If her husband complains, as he awakens, she innocently explains that she did not want him to be eaten by mosquitoes as Patricia Ann was during the night. She never mentions the screens. But it is easy to imagine that the idea of screens is slowly seeping into her husband's befuddled cranium.
The shrewd wife is well poised enough to know better than to try to outshine her husband. If she happens to be married to a man of inferior intelligence or education, she will best give evidence of this fact by avoiding the slightest indication of superiority. Indeed, any wife's intellectual ascendancy over her husband could be questioned were she dull enough to strive to lord it over him. If she is clever, she will from time to time approach that big man of hers with some terrific problem which is way beyond the capacities of her little brain. "Dear, what do you think I ought to do about this situation? It has me baffled."
"What is a wife expected to be," any woman might object to the above advice, "a wishy-washy dumb Dora? Is she forever and a day supposed to play up to her husband?" Of course not. Much better if she would play with him. A wife does not have to be an open book to her husband. It does not hurt to keep him guessing once in a while.
A real man likes to picture his wife as one with spirit and bounce. Because she is intelligent with a mind of her own, she knows when to maintain a principle, when to be roguish and sportive. Gifted with imagination she can give herself to the game of intriguing her husband. Always she is exciting and vivacious.
The wife loves a little compliment here and there herself, so she knows the value of this form of encouragement. Incidentally, in most marriages heading for the rocks the couples exchange no compliments. Just the opposite is true between people who seem still to have some sort of possessive love for each other. I do not suppose there exists a married couple who could not concentrate upon and draw up a list of each other's shortcomings. The wise wife knows that there is no future in this mean indoor sport. She counts her blessings. She makes her husband's good points the foundation upon which she strives to help him build improvements.
The ideal wife does not mother her husband. Yet she knows that he stands alone only with difficulty. Physical or mental pain may drive him to her. She knows how to accept him then with feeling. There is an erroneous idea abroad that women can stand pain much better than men. This is nonsense. I have seen men in military hospitals overseas suffer in silence. I have seen them die painfully in the line of duty without a whimper. Many nurses have told me that their experience is that men suffer and bear pain just as well as women. Then whence comes this widespread false concept? It comes from the observation of our fathers. As children we received our first impressions of men from our fathers. And our fathers were notorious for raising a terrible howl of pain when anything happened to them. Why? Simply because our mothers were nearby.
Toward the end of his days a man can look back upon his life and find no greater accomplishment than his full success as a husband and father. All his varied activities possessed significance, really meant something only in relation to his role as husband and head of the house. If he had great success in the cheap sense of the word and became very rich, but was a failure as a husband, what contentment is there in the last recollections of his life? What success, real or fictitious, can compensate for his failure as a husband?
No woman can escape sharing her husband's misery or his contentment and peace. If she has contributed to his making, to her comes the reward of real happiness. No wife hurts her husband more than she hurts herself. No wife makes her husband happier than she makes herself.
Lest anyone think that sly reference is here being made to unfaithfulness on the part of wives, let us clear the decks of any such obstructions to understanding what is meant. I believe that I am in a good position to make the statement that, relatively speaking, very few wives are unfaithful. Men have much more cause to hang their heads in shame on this score. However, there are other ways in which a woman can bring out the worst in a man, other ways in which she can drive him to distraction, if not to destruction.
The ideal wife never nags. Nagging of a husband can be just as destructive to a marriage as unfaithfulness; and it is much more common. Nagging may be slower in bearing its evil fruit, but the final parting is none the less bitter. "The stroke of a whip makes a blue mark, but the stroke of a tongue will break the bones. Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not so many as have perished by their own tongue." (Ecclus. 28, 21.) Nagging is the opposite of inspiration. An inspiring wife uplifts her husband. The nagging wife tears him down in whose eyes he should never be torn down–his own.
Since a nagging wife is such an abomination and since God has endowed her with the ready faculty of inspiration, why do we have so many wives who fail partially or completely in this respect? Before I give what I think is the answer to this vital question, let me mention briefly a very small group of wives. I suppose that there have to be just so many sour grapes in every vineyard. Some women are congenitally cantankerous, fault finding, carping, and shriveled souls, who need no reason or explanation for their nagging. This type should be included in the long list of evils from which we ask God to deliver us. Every man-child should begin at a tender age to pour out supplications that he never cross her path. He who falls into her clutches must endure a ball and chain type of existence seldom suffered even in concentration camps.
One cheerful thought in this connection is that God never allows nature to go too far out of balance. He never allows birds to die out so that insects and worms take over. He also sees to it that there are always enough insects and worms to keep the birds fat and happy. This shrew type of wife, thank heavens, is not too numerous. I like to think that she generally attracts her counterpart, the male scoundrel.
Most women who nag their husbands do so because they love their husbands. And the reason why wives are more prone to nag than husbands is that wives love more than husbands. This sounds very paradoxical, and it is. Yet it is true.
Love has many peculiar and even unexplored phases. When a woman loves a man, she creates an ideal of him in her mind. She can find no wrong in him. For a time the fierceness of her love may blind her to reality. Sooner or later she begins to notice discrepancies between the ideal and the reality. He is not neat around the house with his personal belongings. He could be more punctual for meals. At least he could telephone and warn her of any unavoidable delay. Her paragon of all virtues, her idol, begins to show his clay feet. He has a lazy streak and does not help her as much as he could around the house. These and similar shortcomings, even defects of character, pain her because she loves him and wants him to be perfect. She hopes that Mother or the neighbors have not observed these failings. Perhaps she begins her campaign by whining at him. His unfavorable reception of this startling innovation in their heretofore unperturbed connubial bliss spurs her into more direct attack. She relates his faults to him and scolds him. Like a school child he is put on the carpet and lectured. The old boy does not take to this procedure and strikes back with a few pointed criticisms of his own. Unless she is on guard, her chagrin at failing to improve the object of her love soon grows into resentment. She is in danger of becoming a chronic nagger.
The poor victim of a nagging wife was met at the kitchen door on return from work with a complaint about something or other instead of a little hug and a kiss. "You are late. The supper is all cold. I suppose that you stopped off for a few beers."
"What's the use," he thought to himself, " here I was detained by the boss about a better job at the shop and a raise in pay. By golly, I think I'll have a few beers tomorrow night. With her I have a credit of at least two beers."
The history of the nagging wife is a desperate effort to kick her husband upstairs. He usually ends up at the bottom flat on his face. To escape her sharp tongue he fabricated now and then. Through his first successes at keeping peace by this mean method he was deluded into thinking he had the solution. Soon, of course, his false way of life boomeranged. He was trapped in his lies. He lost her confidence and esteem. Then he was inclined to avoid her as much as possible. His walk down to the corner drug store for a paper in the evening was an escape.
One evening he ran into several old school friends at the entrance to the tavern next to the drug store. He enjoyed the half hour or so in the tavern that evening. Everyone was congenial. Everything was very pleasant, very different from the atmosphere back at the house. He was slapped on the back a time or two by old acquaintances. "How are you doing, Joe? Say, by the way, I hear you're going to be foreman soon over at the shop. Nice going. Keep it up. Always knew that our star half-back would get somewhere."
Later that evening husband and wife had a fight. "Are you going to become a tavern bum?" was more than he could take. He slept poorly the rest of the night and went off to work the next morning sullen. The boss and he had another talk about the promotion. He hoped that the boss did not mistake his dull and unenthusiastic demeanor as a lack of confidence. Or was he confident in himself? He was definitely on edge as he returned home again. Soon after supper he went off to the tavern feeling sorry for himself, and a tavern is no place in which a man can safely feel sorry for himself.
This husband was now in a pattern well known to counselors on marriage: a nagging wife and a husband seeking escape and consolation in drink.
A wife must never nag. It is one of the great sins of a married woman. Anybody could understand if she had fallen in a bad moment. Few of us are perfect. Yet one sin does not make a vice. There is no possible excuse for her becoming a chronic nagger. A wife will never succeed in kicking her husband upstairs. She may lead him upstairs, entice him, joke with him, and inspire him. By nature she has been endowed with the equipment to do this. It has been frequently said that a man must have a woman behind him. The real truth is that every man must have a woman in front of him.
Everybody likes to be the object of good-natured kidding. It is a sign of popularity. It rubs our vanity the right way. I did not sufficiently realize what was going on at the time, but now when I look back on my boyhood, I realize that my mother was a clever wife. She joshed and poked fun at my father. We children got a big boot out of it. In fact, the most pleasant recollections of my youth were these sallies into the foibles of my father. Down inside, my father really enjoyed the game, even though he may not always have let on.
Now I realize that there was a method in all my mother's banter. Often she was putting over a point, a point which carried danger in it and could not be handled except in a good-natured kidding way. She was accomplishing the same objective as a nagging wife. But what a world of difference in the method and the success arrived at.
No one likes to be taken for granted. In any human relationship a little sign of appreciation goes a long way. Life does not have to be a hard pull uphill all the time. To know that someone, especially the one we love, values our efforts sends us off with our heads in the clouds. The wife who is wise enough to show her husband appreciation for all his efforts will keep his heart fixed upon her. With a fixed heart he will have a free hand to do the things a responsible head of the house must do. That is why, as Chesterton has pointed out, Christ said, "My son, give Me thy heart." With his heart securely fixed on Christ the disciple had a pivot from which he could swing through all the complexities of life without losing his purpose. Appreciation gives purpose and motivation to a husband. It is one form of inspiration.
Some years ago a couple came to my attention whom I always have remembered. They illustrated the importance of a wife's making her husband realize that she valued him. The wife had to leave her home and care for her sick mother. She was gone for a month. She and her husband rented without a lease, wondering from week to week whether they would have a home for themselves and their three little children. While she was gone, he fell upon a good buy in a fairly new home. He said that he regretted the transaction was made while she was away, but the opportunity came then. He felt that it was his responsibility to do something about their living conditions. Having failed twice to locate her by phone he closed the deal.
The first Sunday his wife was home they went out for a drive. He intended to surprise her. As they were driving around, he suddenly stopped in front of their new home. Her curiosity at his action turned to grief on being let in on the secret. As she sat in the car looking at her new home she began to moan and groan that she did not like it. Why did he do it? Why did he not wait until she came back? For a moment he sat there crestfallen, not knowing what to say or do. He expected elation and was prepared for a pat on the back. He made an effort to recover his confidence and suggested that they see the inside. She would like the arrangement of the rooms and closet space. As they went from room to room, she continued her manifestations of disappointment and even resentment that she had no say in the choice of their new home. It was a bad day for both of them, how bad neither of them were to realize for several years. On that day he got the idea that his wife did not appreciate him. The idea continued to grow.
When we talked over their problems, their estrangement, and the future of the children, they had been separated for over a year. By that time he was all through and living with another woman. He had found someone to give him appreciation. There is always someone around to give it if the wife does not. "The big boob," every woman is saying who reads this, "should get everything coming to him." Perhaps he was something of a boob, but his wife had always loved him, still did, and wanted him back.
In justice to the husband in question, we should remember the circumstances prevailing when he bought the home. However, to make all wives happy, let us suppose that he made a terrible mistake in buying a home without his wife's knowledge. The deed was done. What did she profit reminding him of his mistake? Was it wise for her to carry a grudge, to give him the idea that she considered him unfair or incompetent? Did her duty of inspiration cease because he was guilty of the worst possible judgment ?
She was an excellent wife and mother in some respects, but she failed completely in the important function of inspiration. She told how she had never thought of it but now realized her big mistake, her shortcoming. This woman was not the nagging type, at least not habitually so. She took her husband for granted. She felt that she was doing her job well. She assumed that he was. She did not assume a thing when they were courting. If wives worked just half as hard and wisely at keeping their husbands as they do in getting them, the divorce mills would go out of business. A husband needs his wife even more than she needs him. With a little intelligence and verve she can keep him easily.
The ideal wife is ambitious for her husband, not for herself. Through inspiration she gives ambition to her husband. He is spurred on to do big things for her and wants no reward other than her appreciation and the look of pride for him in her eyes. Here again wives must heed the words of Christ. If they would save their souls, they must lose them. If they would save their marriage, if they would have all that goes with a successful husband, they must lose themselves and their ambition in their husbands.
A wife is on thin ice who is ambitious for herself, the husband being just the necessary means of realizing her ambition for wealth or social position. These self-seeking wives are not interested in promoting the success of their husbands for the sake of their husbands but for their own sakes. This type of wife is inclined to overreach herself. By goading her husband on beyond his capacities she shows her hand to him and loses his love. He may have to admit that she has a strong possessive love for him, a love for him for what she gets out of it. But he is not carried into seventh heaven by this contemplation of his hard, scheming, driving wife. He begins to feel that he is but the stepping stone for the fulfillment of her ambition.
An example of a wife over ambitious for herself may help illustrate the danger of confusing this possessive love for genuine love and inspiration. The couple met at a large city hospital where the young woman was a nurse. She held a position of importance and through the energy of her personality carried considerable influence. She fell in love with a young medical student. Through her connections with the staff of the hospital she had her friend placed with the hospital as a student intern. She promoted him at every step, even to the extent of considerable financial help. She hovered over him like a mother bird. Marriage and the release of her pent-up emotions only seemed to urge her on in smoothing the path before her coming young doctor husband. She had visions of his rising quickly to a position of pre-eminence on the staff. She would be the fashionable wife of the outstanding young doctor of their community. And he would be all hers. She was still in the process of pulling strings to make him acceptable to the hospital which might admit his patients, when he announced determination to return to his home state. He wanted to begin slowly with his own feet on the ground, meriting by his own ability and energy what success would come his way. With great show of reluctance she acceded to his plan. Back in his home town things did not progress rapidly enough for her. They set themselves up too elegantly for beginners. Money was running out, her money, which she had saved and inherited. She criticized him for not trying harder. He countered that he could not make patients come to him. After all, it would take time. Be patient. After four or five months she forced him to abandon his own meager beginnings and come back to the big city. There she knew her way around. She would make certain that the hospital accepted him. During the time of his efforts to get set up again she prodded him unmercifully. She even degenerated into a nagging wife.
When they talked to me, he would have no more of her. She was driving him to distraction. Obviously, she was going to pieces. On several occasions she had shaken him out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night to tell him how she had done something for him over at the hospital. Once she gave him the pre-dawn information that she had just cleaned the walls of the kitchen. The implication always was "What are you doing? Why don't you do something?" She had lost whatever poise she had and was becoming frantic.
On being asked why he married her, he replied that she seemed to be capable and efficient. He thought that she would be a real helpmate during the early, hard years of getting started. Actually she had never given him a chance, he felt. He could see the growing contempt in her eyes for his failure to measure up to her ambitions. He admitted that she still had a queer, possessive love for him. This appraisal of her mood was correct, for she tearfully expressed her desire for his return. She wanted him for herself and was miserable without him. This unfortunate woman did not love her husband for himself. Proof of this was evidenced by her attempts to harm him after their separation. She stooped to efforts at discrediting him in his profession. She had spread stories damaging to his character. At the same time she pleaded in a frenzy with me to help her get him back.
It was difficult to explain to this wife how she had failed to inspire her husband. Had she not done everything a wife could possibly do to promote her husband? She could not see that her overmastering ambition was the undoing of her chances for happiness. She expected and desperately wanted affection. Yet she drove him on with contempt in her eyes for his inability or lack of desire to come up to her expectations. Patience was wanting in her, the patience founded on a love of her husband for himself and not for what he might do for her. In her life she manifested all the outward works of an inspirational wife. The inner spirit was lacking. She married to satisfy her own desires and ambitions.
A young man unconsciously looks for the qualities of his mother in his wife. Foolishly he may give expression to comparisons. We are all familiar with the refrain, "Mother made the best apple pie ever eaten." It may be strange, but seldom do these encomiums paid to mother produce in the wife a warm glow of affection for her husband. On the other hand, the young wife is inclined to expect her husband to mirror her father, especially if he was a real man. Her father did things this or that way.
The ideal wife guards against this usual idealization of her father. Her husband is another man There are other ways of doing things beside the way her father did them. Father is a fine man. Yet it would be a dull world if all men were similar to him. The sensible wife does not try to mold her husband after him. She is not inspiring her husband to develop his own abilities and personality by so doing.
Mr. X did not seem to be the type of man who drank to excess to escape reality. He seemed to be more of a social drinker. His reality appeared to be a very pleasant one from which no one would want to escape. He enjoyed many blessings. His wife was an attractive woman. They had several exceptionally beautiful daughters whom they both took great pleasure in displaying on many social occasions. Although his salary was not fabulous, it was considerably above average and ran into five figures. They made a handsome couple as they sat in their box at the race track. Their daughters added to the picture. They surely were the envy of the crowd. Yet all was not well. In fact, his wife was on the verge of calling it quits. She never knew when he would come home or in what condition.
He had no complaints against his wife and wanted to keep the marriage. He promised reform, willingly admitting that he had been giving her a rather hard time. His position was of the type which readily could be the occasion of an excessive amount of social drinking. He had let it get out of hand, was going to put a stop to it, and would quit completely if necessary.
Several months went by, and then the word came from the wife that his reform was short lived. Several weeks after they had been down to the Chancery he was back to his heavy drinking.
After getting more familiar with the couple, I began to be a little suspicious that his reason for drinking lay with her. It is not often that an excessive drinker has not one single complaint against his wife. Was she such an ideal wife that even her half-drunk husband could find no fault in her? Or was he hiding something which stung him deep down inside? In all outward appearances he had been a very successful man. He was regarded in a wide circle of friends and acquaintances as a polished man about town. Was some one missing in this group of admirers?
From a reliable source, not usually available, the information came to me that he never had her esteem, admiration, and inspiration. She had a rugged, masterful sort of father, a real two-fisted he-man. She worshipped him as a child and young woman. As a young wife she compa
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