On how to choose a husband: Saving the man with a past
by Corra Harris
Do not marry a man who picks his teeth in the parlor or drums on the table with his fingers, not even if he is a millionaire. Leave him his tobacco, permit him to smoke with his feet on the piano, but do not marry a man who fights his own teeth in public places. It is a habit. He will never break it, because it is an indication of his quality, like the color of his hair.
Suspect any man who does not refer darkly and remorsefully to his “past,” from which you alone can save him. There is something fishy about his courtship if he fails to do this. It is out of drawing with the reverent deceit of an honest lover.
He may never have done an untoward thing. But potentially at least every man has a “past,” even if it is no more than the plumage of his imagination. He is right about it. He feels the truth instinctively. And this is the truth: every man who is saved in this present world is saved by a woman, whatever may be said about those who are not saved.
Therefore, if he never refers to his past, he may have one too lurid to mention, and to which he is determined to remain wedded. Or he may be too conceited to admit his faults, which is the meanest kind of weakness, defended by a vanity that you will find intolerable as his wife, but must endure. “Endure” is a term which belongs in the marriage ceremony; it will last better than the obsolete word “obey.”
Thousands of good men for husbands
There are thousands upon thousands of good men, so well established in their mere virtues that they have nothing to confess. By all means, marry such a man without fear of the monotony we instinctively associate with invincible integrity, because you will be delighted to discover that he has the usual faults and you will have a life’s work endeavoring to correct them.
But whatever you do, do not marry a man who claims to be a saint. He lives too much in his own imagination of himself. He is nearly always an unconscious or a subconscious hypocrite. He will not live up to his professions with you, although he may do it with the brethren.
You may trust him to behave discreetly under circumstances where the normal husband might vary slightly from your ideal of him, but you cannot trust this ignobly perfect man’s charity and patience toward you, his wife.
He will become a sort of malicious omniscience, with eyes fixed upon your faults and limitations. But the Lord himself cannot convict him of his own faults. He will commit pious transgressions against your peace and liberty. He will keep you in bondage to his bigoted prejudices against the most innocent pleasures. He is fundamentally mean, and he has an evil mind. And no law can defend a wife from the evil mind of her husband. It is the most subtle form of tyranny.
The only satisfaction you will ever get of him will be the privilege of saying to your friends, “My husband is such a good man!” And they will agree with you compassionately, knowing well that you and your children are the victims of his righteous persecutions.
Courtship not the same as marriage
Do not infer because a man spends his substance freely for you during his courtship that he will be a generous husband. The oracles of matrimony show quite the contrary. At this point, marriage is always a leap in the dark. The poor young man might have been more generous than this rich one whom you have chosen because he was rich. Just resolve that you will not be skinned by a skinflint husband, and that you will not be extravagant and take your chances.
The safest risk as a husband is a man with three or four of the essential number-nine virtues, not the narrow toe-pinching kind, but the big, fine, gawky ones which make you laugh sometimes. And be sure he has the usual masculine faults to offset your own frailties, which you know you have, but he will not until his vision clears.
At first he sees through the glass brightly, but presently your real shadow falls there. Then you are both in for the matrimonial verities, and it is wise to have a common sinking fund of faults to forgive each other.
You will discover that your happiness after marriage is more frequently renewed by mutual forgiveness than any other way.
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Source publication: Ladies' Home Journal
Publication date: November 1921