Why keep marriage facts a dark secret? (1934)

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Why keep marriage facts a dark secret?

The belief that a couple taking vows would soon see and understand everything is held a shopworn idea to be abandoned

By Helen Welshimer

For some reason, until recently, marriage has been regarded by many people as a relationship whose formulae should be kept secret from prospective brides and bridegrooms. There has been an ethereal belief that once the nuptial vows were taken the two who had been joined in wedlock would suddenly cease to see through a glass darkly and know all things.

They did not, of course. They stumbled blindly often as not. Sometimes desecrated marriages resulted. Now at last intelligent people are taking a sane, healthy attitude toward this most potent of problems.

Couple kissingThe New Jersey Methodist Episcopal Church’s Social Service Commission recently urged its pastors to instruct prospective brides and bridegrooms in all aspects of marriage. It asked especially that all available information on sex relationships be presented because “we realize that physical maladjustments are responsible for a large proportion of divorces.”

Lawyers must pass the bar examination before they can plead their cases in their states’ courts. Nurses have their Regents’ examinations, and medical men have a right standard of qualifications to meet.

Yet, when it comes to marriage, there has been a prevalent belief that the less two people knew of the roles they were going to enact the more successfully they would enact them. All of which is as absurd as it is improbable.

Basic knowledge is essential

The very secrecy that has clothed marriage and sex has given them the furtive cloak they wear. Basic knowledge is essential in any undertaking, whether the practice of law, medicine or marriage. Fitness for the new role also is important. More stringent marriage laws requiring physical fitness and a comprehensive knowledge would ensure greater marital success.

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The same group of clergymen who asked for more information on marriage and its duties also deplored the fact that the ease of divorce, and the publicity given the breakdown of marriages of socially-prominent families, tend to give an air of irreverence to the relationship.

The ministers have suggested their own cure. If knowledge were disseminated, laws were tighter, more people would succeed in marriage. The divorce dockets would be cleared earlier in the day.

After all, decency, integrity, a sense of privacy and responsibility thrive in the sunlight. Evil lurks in the darkness created by ignorance. There is nothing sensational or stealthy in a rational approach to sex.

The public is weary of peoples’ blunderings. It is tired of the unhealthy misdemeanors flaunted on the screen, stage and in books as sex interpretation. It wants lurid knowledge that will foster beauty and rightness and good taste. Secrecy has defeated the very ends that it was supposed to accomplish. But sunlight and fresh air will kill germs easily.

Real marriage

An English play, “The Distaff Side,” which has come to Broadway, has won almost universal approval because of its gallant, tranquil acceptance of life and its problems. Dame Sybil Thorndike, the famous English actress, is cast as a middle-aged woman whose marriage has brought her so much happiness that now, though her husband is dead, she lingers in its glow — yet never fails to take a sympathetic, constructive part in the play of life.

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Commenting, after her performance one day, on the character which she portrays, Dame Sybil said: “I should like to be more like her. We all have enormous personal ambitions when young, and we learn as the years go on that we must give up something. We begin to round our lives.”

That, after all, is part of a real marriage. The surrendering with grace. It comes only with a deepening, widening knowledge.

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