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Ill-Assorted Marriages
by [?]

Matters are not much better when the superiority is on the woman’s side. It is delightful to see a husband who is proud of his wife’s cleverness, and good-natured men are pleased by his innocent boasting. The most pleasant of households may be found in cases where a clever, good-humoured, dexterous woman rules over a sweet-tempered but somewhat stupid man. She respects his manhood, he adores her as a superior being, and they live a life of pure happiness. But, sad to say, the husband is not usually good-humouredly willing to acknowledge his partner’s superiority, and in that case the girl’s doom is a cruel one. She may marry a gross, stupid lout, who begins by yawning away his time in leisure hours, and ends by going out to meet companions of his own sort. By and by comes the time when the ruffian grows aggressive, and then the proud girl has to bear brutalities which rack her very soul. Steadily the work of degradation goes on, and at last the brutal man becomes a capricious bully, while the refined lady sinks into a careless draggletail.

I have traversed many lands and seen men and cities, and know that the cruel work which I have described goes on in too many quarters. The ill-assorted marriage is made more wretched by the occasional glimpses which the man and woman get of happy homes. The loveliest sight that can be watched on earth is the daily life of a well-matched couple. They need not be even in intellect, but each must have some quality which gives superiority; such people, even if they have to struggle hard, lead a life which is almost ideally happy. The great thing which gives happiness is mutual confidence, and, when we see man and wife exhibiting quiet and mutually respectful familiarity, we may be fairly certain that they are to be looked on as most fortunate in the world. By an exquisite natural law it happens that mentally a woman is the exact complement of the man who is her proper mate, and her intellect has qualities far finer and more subtle than the man’s. Among hard City men it is a common saying that no one would ever make a bad debt if he took his customer home to dinner first. That means that the wife would instantly measure the guest’s character with that lightning-footed tact which women possess. No man ever yet was completely successful in life unless he took women’s counsel in great affairs; and, when a man has a wife with whom he can consult, his chance is bettered a thousandfold.

To see a household where love and unity reign drives ill-matched folk to madness. The man declares that his friend’s wife makes the felicity; the woman praises the other husband; and the unhappy souls grow jealous together, and hate each other more cordially by reason of the joy which they have seen. All sorts of evil ends come to these wretched unions–in every workhouse, asylum, and prison the traces of the social catastrophe may be seen; and, even when the misery is hidden from general view, the tragedy is shocking to those who can peep behind the scenes and look at the bad play. A very wise man has said that “success is a constitutional trait.” The phrase is a profound one. A man who is born with “constitutional” power of choosing the right mate is all but assured of success, and a woman has the same fortune; but, in addition to the power of choosing, both man and woman need training; and we cannot call a civilised being properly trained unless he has some idea of the way to set about his choice.

The cases in which idleness, or pique, or dulness drives a man or woman to take alcohol are numerous and loathsome. Women who start married life as bright, merry, hopeful creatures become mere degraded animals; and the odd thing about the matter is that the husband is always the last to see the turn that his affairs are taking. A woman’s name may be in the mouths of scores of people before the party most concerned wakes up to a sense of his position and is faced by a picture of helpless and lost womanhood. If the man falls into the alcoholic death-trap, we have once more a spectacle of dull misery which may be indicated but which cannot be accurately described. The victim grows hateful–his symptoms have been scientifically described by one of the finest of modern physiologists–he is uncertain in mind, and vengeful and revengeful. His wife is obliged to live with him, under his rule and power, but she finds it hopeless to meet his wishes, desires, fancies, and fantasies, however much she may study and do her best to oblige, conciliate, and concede. To persons of this class everything must be conceded, and yet they are neither pacified nor satisfied; they cannot agree even with themselves, and their homes are, literally speaking, hells on earth.