The Lord says in Matthew 19:9, ‘‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery, and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.’’ Hearing this the disciples respond, ‘‘If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.’’ If the marriage bond cannot be dissolved, they thought, it is not good to marry at all.
But why not? Evidently because so many marriages are sour, uncongenial, unhappy, and unsatisfying, and it is evidently better to be single than to be trapped in a bad marriage. ‘‘Better half hanged than ill wed,’’ as an old proverb aptly says. But understand, the God who created marriage, and has dictated that the marriage bond should be permanent and indissoluble, never intended that that permanent bond should be unhappy or sour. God is good. God is love. Marriage is one of his best gifts to the human race, and his design for marriage is that it should be a union of supreme and unmingled happiness. God says, ‘‘Rejoice with the wife of thy youth, … and be thou ravished always with her love.’’ (Prov. 5:18-19). This is not a picture of drudgery or misery, nor a picture of unsatisfied longings, but of complete satisfaction. This is God’s design for marriage.
And not only is this the design of God. It is also the dream of the whole human race. But it is a dream which is too seldom realized. Why is this? I believe one of the main reasons is just this, that you cannot be always ravished with a love which does not exist. I believe that most people who marry in our day are not in love when they marry. They likely never have been in love, and do not know what it is to be in love. They may have some strong romantic or physical desires towards their partner, but those desires are not love. Every man is in love with femininity, and I suppose every woman is in love with masculinity. Such love may give them strong desires towards any and every attractive person of the opposite sex, but it is another thing altogether to be in love with a particular person. And let us be very clear here: love is the only thing which can make a satisfying marriage. And I am not talking about spiritual love, nor about friendship, nor about brother-sister love, but about romantic love. I am talking about the love which can only exist between masculine and feminine souls, and which is based upon the mutual attractions which naturally exist between masculine and feminine natures. That love, I repeat, is the only thing which can secure a satisfying marriage.
But there are some very dangerous doctrines afloat in the church concerning this love. Some hold that it is unnecessary, or transitory, or deceptive, so that it is not worth troubling yourself about it. Others hold that it is some way tainted or polluted, and call it by the debased name of ‘‘lust.’’ What is needed, they say, is divine or spiritual love. Others teach that ‘‘love is a choice,’’ or ‘‘love is a decision,’’ and that any man may thus love any woman, if he simply chooses to do so—-and whenever he chooses to do so. If he does not love her today, he may choose to do so tomorrow. Others teach that this love is to be experienced only after marriage—-that it is impossible, or that it is wrong, to feel or possess it before marriage.
Now I am bold to say that all of these doctrines are false, and not only false, but very pernicious, for wherever these doctrines are believed and acted upon they will fill the world with unhappy and unsatisfying marriages.
Some of these doctrines hardly need to be refuted. We all know by nature that romantic love cannot be secured by a decision. We all know by nature that it is not possible to fall in love with every man or woman we know. Towards some we feel no attraction at all, and could not if we spent ten years trying. Towards others we may feel a weak attraction. Towards others we feel a very strong attraction. Even this is not love, though it is the foundation for love. It is a plain fact, and a fact which we all know by nature, that we cannot fall in love with every person we know.
But observe, if it is true that a man cannot fall in love with every woman he knows, or at any time he chooses, and another fact that love is the only thing which can give him a satisfying marriage, then the most important thing is to secure that love before we enter into marriage. Know what that love is, and know that you have it. Without the certainty of that love, you will be nothing better than a fool to marry at all. It is carelessness or ignorance on this point which produces so many unhappy marriages, even among the most godly and spiritual of Christians.
An old proverb says, ‘‘Marriage is a lottery,’’ implying that we cannot know beforehand whether our marriage will be good or bad, happy or miserable. Alas, this proverb is true if we marry without securing those things which will secure a good marriage. No one makes bad marriages on purpose, yet bad marriages are more common than good ones. No one makes dull or unhappy or sour or unsatisfying marriages on purpose, but they fail to take those steps which will prevent them. This makes marriage a lottery indeed
But to suppose that marriage is necessarily a lottery is in fact to reproach the God who created marriage. Does God require you to enter into a permanent relationship, to be parted only by death, with no way to know whether you will be happy in it or miserable? Does God require you to make this permanent commitment as you would buy a lottery ticket, taking the risk of a life of misery or drudgery, for the chance of a life of happiness? No one who believes in the goodness of God can believe any such thing. Man has made marriage a lottery. God did not make it so. Man makes marrriage a lottery by ignorantly or carelessly entering into it without first securing those things which will secure its happiness.
Those things are simple enough, and there are only two of them. Those two are love and character. Without love, marriage will be drudgery, or worse. Without character, love will not be very likely to survive. We must have love to make a good marriage, and character to preserve it. Both of these things must be secured before marriage, or they will probably never be secured at all. This is especially true of love. If you marry someone of the wrong character, that may be changed. The ungodly may repent and be converted. The lazy may repent and become industrious. Those who marry a partner of bad character, hoping for a change after marriage, are very foolish, but still such a change is possible. But love is another matter. If you know a person well enough to enter into a marriage engagement, and are yet not in love, it is almost certain that you never will be and never can be. It is no time to think of making a good marriage when you find yourself in a bad one. You cannot add the sugar after the cake is baked.
And understand, it is altogether proper that we should be in love before we marry. The Bible says, ‘‘And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. … And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. (Gen. 29:18 & 20). This was no tame friendship, nor spiritual love, but romance. This burned in Jacob’s heart for seven years before he married his beloved Rachel.
But as we said earlier, we fear that most couples who marry are not in love, though many of them doubtless think they are. Good marriages are rare. Divorce is common in the church as well as in the world, and among those who have too much character to think of divorce, unhappy, unsatisfying marriages are more common than happy ones. I believe there are two reasons for this state of things. One reason is that many who started out with a delightful and satisfying marriage, by their own carelessness or lack of character have lost it. But many others have married without ever securing the ingredients necessary to make a good marriage. Ignorance, often coupled with bad teaching on the subject, have left most young people simply in the dark as to the nature of true romance, which is the one ingredient absolutely necessary to make a good marriage.
But you simply cannot afford to be ignorant here. Next to your choice as to whether you will serve the Lord or the devil, your choice of a marriage partner is the most important choice you will ever make. Your choice to hold on to your sins, or to repent of them and serve Christ, will determine your happiness—-or your misery—-for eternity. Your choice of a marriage partner will determine your happiness—-or your misery—-for time. But this choice will reach into eternity also, for the kind of marriage which you have will be one of the biggest factors in determining your spiritual course, and your effectiveness in the service of your God. Yet in spite of the almost unparalleled importance of this matter, most young people set out to find a marriage partner just about as a troop of four-year-olds would go shopping for the ingredients to make a cake. A recipe they have never seen. They have some notions—-many of them vague, many of them wrong—-about what goes into a good cake, but probably only a good streak of luck would enable any of them to come up with all the right ingredients. Many of the cakes thus made would be inedible. Others would be tolerable, but certainly not delightful.
Now when we come to speak of the bond of marriage, it is a plain fact that the only kind of marriage which can satisfy you is the delightful kind. I once heard a man speak of having a ‘‘successful marriage.’’ What is a ‘‘successful marriage’’? One that does not end in divorce? One that is not full of fighting and nagging? Is that all? Who wants a ‘‘successful’’ marriage? It is natural, probably unavoidable, that people should dream of marriage, but folks do not dream of anything so cold as a ‘‘successful’’ marriage, but of a delightful marriage. They dream of a piece of rich, moist cake, covered all over with thick, creamy frosting. And my advice is: dream all you please, and then . . .
W A I T.
Wait until you are certain that you have found the fulfillment of your dreams.
I, of course, am very well aware that ‘‘WAIT’’ is the very last word which many of you wish to hear. You have waited too long already. You have pressing physical and emotional desires which are almost overwhelming. They obtrude themselves upon you at all times, in every circumstance and activity. Whether you converse, or work, or read, or pray, those desires are always present, always powerful, always pressing for fulfillment. In short, you are burning, and Scripture says, ‘‘It is better to marry than to burn.’’ (I Cor. 7:9). And yet I ask you, What kind of marriage do you want? A marriage which will satisfy those desires, and end your burning, or a marriage that will leave you burning still? Any marriage which does not thoroughly fulfill your dreams and thoroughly satisfy your desires will leave you burning still. Though you may not know it, you need a marriage which will satisfy and lay to rest all of the physical and emotional desires which belong to your nature—-desires which you may not even recognize or understand if you are young. I repeat it, then: WAIT. Wait until you know what it is that you need in a marriage, and, if you do know it, wait until you are sure you have found it. To wait and burn for a few months or years now will be hard, no doubt—-but not half so hard as it will be to spend the rest of your life wishing you had waited, while you burn for the fulfillment which your marriage fails to give you.
Now, when I speak of the fulfillment of your dreams, I am speaking of the dreams of your heart—-the dreams which are common to the whole human race—-romantic dreams. If you are dreaming of a woman who can read Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, play the piano by ear, and type a hundred words a minute, I wish you luck—-but you may find all of that in a woman and yet have a marriage which is barren and unsatisfying. If you are looking for a man of the purest character and the deepest spirituality, I hope you find him—-but you may secure all that and yet lack the main ingredient which is necessary to make a good marriage.
The main ingredient is romance. Romantic love! This is the thing which alone can satisfy your heart. This is the thing without which marriage is drudgery rather than delight. The most important thing to secure, then, before you ever think of marrying, is to be in love.
Understand, now, to be in love with someone is an altogether different thing from loving that person. You may love a thousand people at once—-and indeed, you ought to—-but you can be ‘‘in love’’ with only one. In the nature of the case, it is not possible to be ‘‘in love’’ with more than one, at one time. That will appear very plainly as we proceed. We are talking here about two different kinds of love—-what I call generic, or general love, and romantic love. When I was a student at Bible school I had a bad case of the romantic kind for a certain girl, who, however, had no such interest in me. This girl had a roommate, a little Korean girl, who had a very hard time getting along with her. This Korean girl, who was very vocal, was vociferating one day about her roommate, and affirmed emphatically, ‘‘Is impossible to love her.’’ I responded, ‘‘But I love her.’’ With a sweep of the hand, a curl of the lip, and a look of disdain, she snapped back, ‘‘That different kind of love.’’
That there are two different kinds of love is a fact which the whole human race knows by experience, so that there should be no need to say a word on the subject. But alas, many of the popular teachers of the modern church have darkened counsel on this subject by words without knowledge, teaching as though these two kinds of love are but one. This is a hyperspiritual notion, which requires people to deny the obvious, and which leads in the end to disillusionment. The distinction between these two kinds of love is as plainly seen in the Bible as it is in the universal experience of the human race. First Corinthians 13 sets forth generic love. The Song of Solomon sets forth romantic love. If you need proof that the two are not the same thing, consider the following:
Romantic love says, ‘‘Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love.’’ (Song of Solomon 2:5).
‘‘Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse: thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.’’ (Song of Solomon 4:9).
‘‘Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me.’’ (Song of Solomon 6:5).
Such things have no place in generic love—-no place in I Corinthians 13—-but they are the very life and breath of romantic love. Such things have no place in the love of a friend, regardless of how much you may love that friend. It is not a question of the degree of love, but of the kind of love. You may have the greatest possible love for your friends, your parents, your children—-such intense love that you would die for them—-yet you can never say to them those things which we have quoted from the Song of Solomon. Such things have no place at all in friendship or family love, though they are as natural and as necessary as breathing in romantic love.
Clearly, then, it is possible to have very strong generic love toward someone without having any romantic love at all. This is as it should be, and must be. But generic love, however strong, can never make a good marriage. That kind of love cannot fulfill your dreams. It cannot satisfy your heart. You must have a different kind of love. Your heart aches for romance, and can never be satisfied with anything less. This is a fact which no one would question were it not for the fact that hyperspiritual notions on the subject have been spread through the church by popular teachers. Such notions may take various forms, which range from merely ignoring romantic love (as though generic love were the only kind there is), to fearing it (as though it were something illusionary or deceptive), to despising it (as though it were unsatisfying or transitory), to depreciating it (as though it were something carnal). The great George Whitefield obviously took the last viewpoint 250 years ago, when he wrote in a letter proposing marriage: ‘‘You need not be afraid of sending me a refusal; for, I bless God, if I know anything of my own heart, I am free from that foolish passion, which the world calls love.’’
In our own day, I once heard a speaker on a national evangelical radio program, discoursing on how to tell if you are in love. His whole presentation was from I Corinthians 13, and though he said many true and wise things about generic love, not one word did he say that had anything to do with his subject, how to know if you are in love. He said enough, however, to make it clear that he believed that what is usually (and rightly) regarded as being ‘‘in love’’ is transitory and unnecessary.
Friends, I am here to inform you that true romance is neither carnal, nor unsatisfying, nor unnecessary. It is the most delightful and satisfying gift of God to man, and certainly one of the purest and noblest. A whole book of the Bible is devoted to it, and it is the soul and life of every marriage which is anything more than empty routine or mere drudgery. And more, I intend to show you shortly, on the basis of experience and Scripture, how you may know whether you are ‘‘in love.’’ But before that we must establish a couple of other points:
First, if romance is not mere generic love, neither is it mere physical love. The physical love which belongs to marriage may be the frosting on the cake, but it is not the cake. That romantic love is not mere physical lovemaking I prove by two self-evident facts. First, you may have a physical relationship where you have no romance at all, as a myriad of unhappily married couples could tell you. But it is equally true that you may be deeply in love without having any physical relationship at all—-without so much as ever touching each other. True romantic love may be fully developed and ‘‘strong as death’’ long before you ever touch each other. Indeed, it ought to be. Love is not in the body, but in the soul. It is not physical, but emotional.
The real ecstasy even of the physical relationship does not lie in the physical realm at all, but in the deep and tender intimacy of heart and soul with your own beloved. Without that intimate union of heart and soul, which is the essence of true romantic love, the physical union of male and female will be as insipid and unsatisfying as food without salt, or perhaps I should say, cake without sugar. You will partake of it, because you need it, but you will find yourself involuntarily (and unavoidably) longing for the something that you know is missing, even though you may be unable to define what that something is. You will still be burning and languishing for love.
The next thing I must establish is that romantic feelings—-even strong romantic feelings—-are no proof of being in love. Romantic love, like generic love, comes in varying degrees, ranging anywhere from very weak to very strong. When your romantic feelings towards one person have reached a certain point of strength, you may properly be said to be ‘‘in love.’’ What that point is I shall tell you shortly. Here I shall only insist that you may have some degree of romantic feelings towards a dozen persons, or a hundred, and not be in love with any of them. You may have very strong romantic feelings towards several persons at once, and the only thing it proves is that you are not in love with any of them.
I now proceed to give you a few tests by which you may know if you are in love.
Romantic feelings consist primarily of delight in and desire for a person of the opposite sex. A man may have such feelings for any and every attractive woman, and not be in love with any of them. When he is in love, all of those feelings are centered in one person. She rises, in his eyes, above every other woman he knows or can imagine—-and so far above them that she is in a class by herself. She is not merely the best among many—-not merely the prettiest flower among the flowers—-but ‘‘the lily among the thorns.’’ ‘‘As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters.’’ (Song of Solomon 2:2). The lily is attractive. The thorns are not. So attractive, so charming, so appealing, so captivating, so enchanting has she become to him that she has despoiled all other women of their charms. An old French proverb says, ‘‘Satisfied love sees no charms.’’ A man in love is satisfied with one woman, and sees no charms in any other. He surveys the whole field, and says, ‘‘There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled is but one.’’ (Song of Solomon 6:8-9). That is, she is in a class by herself. There is no other woman like her. So charmed, so enchanted, so enthralled is he with her that no other woman can attract him. Queens? Concubines? Virgins without number? All the cream of the crop, no doubt. All charming and beautiful, all fit for a king. But they are all nothing to him. He has no interest. He has found his own love, and she ‘‘is but one’’—-in a class by herself, the lily among the thorns—-and he feels from the depth of his soul that, so long as he can have her, he neither does nor can want anything that any other woman has to offer. This is the acid test. This is the proof that he is in love.
A man, then, who has trouble making up his mind between two women is certainly not in love with either of them. When he is in love with one, the other will be out of his thoughts. If he has dreams or desires for any other woman, he is certainly not in love. If any other woman can draw his heart, he is certainly not in love.
A man who is in love is willing to take his beloved as she is, without any change. He may be very well aware of her faults and foibles, and yet he wants her still. He is willing to commit himself to a lifetime of the most intimate closeness to her just as she is, without any change in her ever. Of course, if she has faults and defects in her character, you wish to see those faults removed, and to see her become everything she ought to be. Nevertheless, you would rather have her, with all her faults, than any other woman on earth. And you would rather have her just as she is, faults and all, than not to have her at all.
And this test we may take a step further. If you are in love, you will not only take this woman just as she is, but also ‘‘for better or for worse.’’ Suppose her health fails. You would rather have her in sickness than any other woman in health. Suppose she gains twenty-five pounds. You would rather have her overweight than any other woman trim and shapely.
And I must mention here that one of the woman’s deepest needs is for security, and every real or imagined defect in herself, especially every physical defect, tends to make her insecure. She goes about to remedy her supposed defects with clothes and cosmetics and curlers and diets and exercises and who knows what, and yet her insecurity remains. The only thing which can totally remove that insecurity is a man’s love, and a man who is in love with her can give her such security that she can bask in it, swim in it, sink in it, forget even that she has any need for it—-and all this while all of her defects remain.
And with this I must pause and turn aside a little. The tests of which I have spoken, and those of which I am yet to speak, concern how to know if you are in love. I have written generally from the man’s viewpoint, assuming that the same things will be true from the woman’s side, and that women will easily make the proper applications. From the woman’s side, however, arises another question of supreme importance, namely, how to know that a man is in love with you. From the woman’s side this is the most important thing—-the one absolute essential. All of a woman’s deepest needs revolve around being loved—-being attractive, being needed, being appreciated, being acceptable, being everything to the man who loves her, and being secure in that love. While a man’s deepest need is to give love, a woman’s deepest need is to receive it, and in this they stand related to each other exactly as Christ is related to the church. From both sides, then, the most important thing to secure in the marriage relationship is that the man be in love with the woman.
Now to come to the point: a woman’s heart cannot be satisfied by a man who is not in love with her. A man who loves a woman might possibly be satisfied with the actual possession of her, though her love for him is deficient, for his satisfaction is in giving love, but a woman—-no way. A woman must have a man’s whole heart, or she will be continually tormented with insecurities, or with jealousies, or with vague and undefined longings for things which she needs but does not fully understand. How, then, can you know that a man is in love with you? I believe that the best test of this lies simply in his ability to make you secure—-to make you secure in his love, secure in your acceptance with him, secure in the certainty that you are the fulfillment of all his dreams, secure in the certainty of his absolute satisfaction with all that you are—-to leave no doubt in your mind that you do absolutely ravish and satisfy his heart. You must know that he is absolutely satisfied with you—-that you are the only woman he wants or can want. A man who can give you this certainty and this security is in love with you—-unless he is a very good liar, or you are very naive and shallow, which may very well be the case if you are young and inexperienced. But if you are experienced and thoughtful enough to know and understand your own need for this security, and you find a man of sterling worth and integrity who can completely meet that need, you may be confident that that man is in love with you. Any man who cannot meet that need is not in love with you, and to marry such a man is to consign yourself to unfulfilled longings for the rest of your days.
And oh, what caution a woman needs here! Your whole happiness in marriage depends upon this. You must stand on solid ground here, and not on dreams or imaginations. A man gives a giddy girl a dime, and she carries off a dollar, the other ninety cents being manufactured by her own imagination. He tells her she is beautiful—-which he might say with equal sincerity to a thousand other women—-and she jumps to ‘‘He loves me!’’ Worse yet, a man may say explicitly—-and sincerely, too—-‘‘I love you,’’ when he really does not love her at all, and does not know what love is. He only loves feminine beauty and charm, and loves it wherever he finds it. He finds it in her, and gives her a dime, and she makes a dollar of it. She marries him with that dollar in her pocket, but soon enough finds that it is only a dime after all. The thing which she thought would satisfy her heart is the very thing which will never cease to torment and make her miserable. He is not in love with her, but with women. She is but one among many. Others draw his heart as well as she. He is not satisfied with her, and if not, she can never be satisfied by him.
But some women will find that their difficulty lies on the opposite side. The naive and inexperienced girl may take every dime for a dollar, but when she has mistaken dimes enough for dollars she is likely to become disillusioned and cynical, and despise a real dollar as a dime. It is just ‘‘man talk,’’ and she cannot believe it sincere. Thus she protects herself from getting hurt, but this will not alter or eliminate the need of her nature to believe in the sincerity of such talk. She needs the dollar as much as every other woman does. Her real safety does not lie in a sullen cynicism, but in the wholesome caution which results from an intelligent understanding of the matter. And yet I am bold to say that a man who is in love can expel such cynicism from the heart of a woman, and genuinely persuade her that in his eyes she is the most charming thing on earth—-and it will be the greatest pleasure of his life to do so.
It would seem a shame to the male sex, however, that any woman should have occasion to protect herself by building up a resistance against such talk. But men act instinctively and ignorantly in this, doubtless intending to give pleasure to women by such talk, and certainly not intending to harm them. Yet I insist that no man has any right to give a dime to a woman until he is prepared and able to give her the whole dollar. To do so is only to deceive her. And yet men commonly hand out such dimes to women—-and it may be to several different women—-when they have neither ability nor intention to give them the dollar. Why do men do this? It must be understood that the deepest satisfaction of a man’s heart lies in telling a woman of her charms, as indeed the deepest satisfaction of a woman’s heart lies in hearing of them. A man ought to reserve that pleasure until he can find complete satisfaction in so speaking to one woman, whose charms have enthralled him, and eclipsed the charms of all others. But in this day of loose relationships, and little understanding of the workings of true romance, men are as careless with their compliments as they are with their kisses. Some women also beg as it were for such dimes, by depreciating their own beauty or charms to a man. When this is done it requires a great deal of self-denial on the man’s part to withhold the dime which she evidently wants, and which he would find as much pleasure in giving as she would in receiving.
Thus by both men and women the emotional as well as the physical delights of love are indulged where love itself has never yet existed. An old proverb says, ‘‘Ne’er again such bliss as love’s first kiss,’’ but neither men nor women reserve their kisses until they are in love, but pass them out to anyone with whom they may have a dating relationship. Why do they do this? Because they find pleasure in it—-though by indulging in that pleasure they rob themselves of a greater pleasure to come, if they would but save ‘‘love’s first kiss’’ till they have found love. And as they do with the physical pleasures of love, so they do with the emotional pleasures. Men find pleasure in telling a woman that she looks nice, as she finds pleasure in hearing it, and many of them indulge that pleasure casually, even where they have no thought or intention of any romantic relationship. If they proceed to a dating or romantic relationship, a man will indulge in that pleasure much more freely, probably little understanding what effect this will have on a woman’s heart. Women need to be well aware of this, and not take such delicious talk as any indication of love. This is no dollar, but only a dime. It means nothing more than this, that men delight in feminine beauty and charm, that it is a great pleasure to them to tell a woman of her charms, and that they lack either the understanding or the character to reserve that pleasure until they can truthfully indulge it without restraint towards one woman.
But to return to the tests by which you may know if you are in love. Any man who is in love with one woman would rather wait (if need be) to possess her, than to possess any other woman immediately. (And girls, any man who comes to you with ‘‘now or never’’ is certainly not in love with you, and if you value your own happiness you will ‘‘now’’ tell him ‘‘never,’’ and be glad you have been delivered from him.) There may be any number of legitimate reasons why your beloved may not be able to marry you immediately, one of the most likely of those reasons being that she is not fully persuaded that she wants to marry you at all. Real love will not pressure her on that point, but be willing to take whatever time is required to secure her on a basis that will insure her happiness as well as your own. And if her heart is already secured, and there yet remains some necessary period of waiting before marriage, a man who is in love would rather wait, however long he must, in order to possess her, than to think of abandoning her for any other woman. Though he may be burning as much as any other man for the physical intimacy of marital love, still he would rather wait to receive it from her, than to think of receiving it from anyone else. He really has no interest in receiving it from anyone else.
Another test is this. When a man is in love with one woman—-and here I speak only from the man’s side—-when a man is in love with one woman, he is possessed by a compelling and overpowering desire to tell her so—-to let her know it, and insure that she believes it and feels it. The deepest need of his heart is to make her feel that she is the most beautiful and the most desirable woman on earth, to make her secure in his love. To tell her of all her ravishing charms is the purest delight and the deepest satisfaction of his soul. A woman may have but little capacity to understand this—-and but little capacity even to believe it. More, a man may have no capacity to understand this if he has never been in love. This is a matter of extreme importance. If a man feels no compelling and overpowering desire to tell a woman of her charms, to persuade her that she is absolutely ravishing and that he is absolutely satisfied with her, he is not in love with her.
But very great caution is needed here, for those reasons of which I have spoken at length above. A man may speak with perfect sincerity to a woman of her beauty and her charms when he is not in love with her at all. He might speak in the same tone, with equal sincerity, to ten women at once, or think the same kind of thoughts concerning another woman at the very time he is speaking them to this one. It is a much different thing to be in love than it is merely to be ravished with feminine beauty and feminine charm. If a man finds delight in a woman merely on the basis of her femininity—-that is, merely on the basis of what distinguishes her from men—-this is no love at all. It is love for femininity, but not love for her. He may find the same delight in a hundred women at once. Love is not charmed merely with her femininity, but with her individuality, with her personality. Love, in other words, does not delight merely in what distinguishes every woman from men, but in what distinguishes one woman from all other women. Not that any man will be able to define what that is. Most likely he won’t have a clue. Still, he will feel from the depth of his soul, there is no other woman like her. There is some undefinable something about her which no other woman possesses. No other woman could ravish his heart as she does. When a man is overwhelmed with this feeling, and overwhelmed also with the compelling desire to make her feel it also, then he is in love.
These are the acid tests. Anyone who is in love can pass them all, with colors flying. If you cannot pass them, you are not in love. If you cannot understand them, you have never been in love. If you are in love, you will most likely feel that most of them are too easy, too low, too cold, to tell half the tale. Your love is fervent, ardent, intense, ‘‘strong as death,’’ burning with ‘‘a most vehement flame.’’ ‘‘Many waters cannot quench love’’ (Song of Solomon 8:6-7), and you are sure that your love would burn through deeper floods than these. If you must spend seven years at hard labor for your beloved, as Jacob did, they would seem but a few days to you (Gen. 29:20)—-though the seven years of waiting for her might seem to be as many decades. She is mixed up—-and here I am adding some further tests—-she is mixed up with all of your thoughts on every subject. You can never get enough of her company. You have a deep need to share everything in life with her, and nothing is complete until you share it with her. You need to give your whole heart to her. You are certain that she was made for you. Your heart is ravished by everything she is, everything she has, everything she does, everything that pertains to her, every thought of her. You need to ravish and satisfy her heart. You need to so convince her of her charms and your love that she can absolutely rest in it and bask in it. You can never be satisfied until she rests and trusts in your love. She is the fulfillment of all of your dreams, and you cannot imagine that you could feel towards any other woman as you feel towards her.
‘‘Ah, yes!’’ you say, ‘‘now he is talking my language.’’ Then you are in love, and there is no doubt about it. You do not merely burn to possess a woman, but to possess this woman, and you feel from the depth of your soul that no other woman could satisfy you. This is love!—-‘‘vehement flame’’—-‘‘strong as death’’—-and necessary as breathing. This love is the life of every marriage which is worthy of the name. If you don’t have it, then I tell you again—-WAIT. ‘‘Till death do us part’’ is a long time to spend in a marriage which is a mere lifeless routine, or a positive drudgery. The God of love who created marriage designed it to be always ravishing, continually delightful. And you can secure such a marriage, if you are careful to secure love. To marry without it is to lock yourself into a prison, from which you cannot get out, and where you will languish away for the love you need, but cannot get.
But someone will ask, Would it not be possible to pass all of these tests, and have nothing more than a bad case of infatuation? And my answer to that question is an emphatic yes.You have probably heard solemn warnings about the dangers of infatuation, but I dare say you have never heard any solid instruction on what infatuation is, or wherein its danger lies. Ignorant and hyperspiritual teachers often assume that true romantic love is mere infatuation, and reserve the name of love for the generic or spiritual kind, thus teaching people to fear or despise the very thing which is all-important to their own happiness. And even if you find a teacher who will recognize the necessity of true romance, he is still more likely to bewilder than to instruct you, by giving you strong cautions against something called ‘‘infatuation,’’ which he neither defines nor describes.
What, then, is infatuation, and how can you distinguish it from love? Here I must be bold, and affirm that infatuation IS love. You will find it so defined in any good dictionary—-only observe, it is foolish or unreasoning love. To be infatuated is to be deluded, deceived, beguiled, misled, duped, gulled, befooled. Its opposite is to be sensible, prudent, sane, judicious, wise, rational, reasonable. All this you may learn from a good dictionary. You may be infatuated with a doctrine, a religion, a political party or candidate, a building or location, or any number of other things. That infatuation consists of a strong liking or passion for that thing, which is foolish precisely because it exists in ignorance of the real nature of the thing. You are either ignorant of what the object of your fondness is, or of what it should be. Romantic infatuation may proceed from either of these causes, but it is ignorance one way or the other. If you are young or naive, you may very well be ignorant concerning what your own needs are (or will be). If your own needs are fully developed, and you know them well, you may yet be ignorant of the real nature of the object of your love. In either case it is foolish love, founded upon no more than imagination or delusion. Its opposite is sane, judicious, rational love—-love which is based upon a solid foundation of real knowledge.
Now let us be very careful to define exactly what romantic infatuation consists of. If you are infatuated, you are deluded, deceived, misled, befooled. The question is, Deceived about what? The common notion seems to be that infatuation consists in being deceived about the reality, or the nature, of your own romantic feelings—-and that I absolutely deny. It is pretty hard to deceive the human race on that point. You know very well what romantic feelings are, and you know their intensity and their reality.
The question remains, then, Deceived about what? The answer is: Deceived about the real nature of the person who has captured your heart. Romantic infatuation is love indeed, but it is love which is based upon but little real knowledge, and a great deal of fantasy and imagination. The difference between infatuation and solid romance does not lie in the nature of the feelings involved—-for they are the same in either case—-but in the nature of the foundation upon which those feelings are based. Real and solid romantic love is based upon a real and thorough knowledge of the object of your love. Infatuation stands only on ignorance and imagination. ‘‘In love’’ you may be, but you are not in love with what the girl is—-for you really don’t know that—-but only with what you think she is, only with a romantic image created by your own heart.
This is infatuation, and because the world is so filled with false notions about it, I must insist strongly and repeatedly that the feelings involved in it are of exactly the same sort as you will find in the real thing. So far as the feelings go, infatuation is the real thing. It is real romantic love, but based upon an imaginary foundation, which is likely to crumble or evaporate when you actually know your lover.
Let me try to illustrate this. Put yourself in the place of Jacob on his wedding night. Seven long years he has labored to possess his beloved Rachel. At last the night of ecstasy has arrived, but under the cover of the darkness Leah is substituted in the place of Rachel. Jacob, however, knew nothing of that, and believed it was his own Rachel. Can you suppose there was any defect in Jacob’s feelings on that night? Did he not find the purest delight and the deepest satisfaction in the long-awaited fulfillment of his dreams? No doubt he did—-and precisely because he was deceived,precisely because he thought the woman in his arms to be something other than she was. So long as he remained in the dark, his feelings toward her could remain as deep and powerful and satisfying as anyone could desire, but the morning light dispelled them. So long as the imagination remained, the feelings remained—-feelings of as pure and true and deep and strong romantic love as ever burned in the heart of man. But as soon as he discovers who and what this woman really is, those feelings are all gone. But understand, the whole of the problem lay in the false and imaginary foundation upon which those feelings stood. There was nothing at all defective in the feelings themselves.
And here lies the great danger of infatuation. This is why an infatuated person may be able to pass all of the tests, and prove to himself that he is in
love. He is in love, but not with a real person. He is in love with a fantasy, an imagination. The real person he does not know.
Let me explain how this infatuation may come about. Most people crave romantic fulfillment. They have a heart full of dreams about the way it is supposed to be, or the way they wish it to be. A man carries about in his heart a fantasy woman of his dreams. He meets (or merely sees) a beautiful woman, and it is ‘‘love at first sight.’’ She immediately becomes the woman of his dreams. He unconsciously transfers all of his dreams to her. She becomes—-in his mind, not in reality—-the embodiment of all of his dreams, and thus he finds in her all that he has ever craved. This is not reality, but only a good case of imagination. The fact is, he knows almost nothing of what she really is. He knows what she looks like (and in that category she may really be the fulfillment of his dreams), but of her real self, her soul, her personality, he knows little or nothing. If at this point, as so often happens, he proceeds to a physical relationship with her, to hold and caress and kiss her, he may court her for months and yet have only a very superficial acquaintance with her. The thrill of physical contact, coupled with his imagination of what she is, blinds him to all the real facts, or may cause him to deny the real facts. And this may also be true if he refrains from physical contact with her, if he spends his time with her in such ways as leave him really ignorant of what she is. When he actually gets to thoroughly know her, he may be thoroughly disappointed, with both her personality and her character. This may spoil even the physical attraction which he felt towards her, and if this does not happen until after marriage, he will find himself in a very sad plight.
The cure for infatuation (whether it is a religion, an organization, or a woman you are infatuated with) lies in a thorough knowledge of the object of your love. If you thoroughly know your partner, and yet your feelings remain as strong or stronger than they were before—-if you know the real person, and find the real person to be all that the fantasy could be—-if you have spent much time in close contact with your partner, and find that the better you know her, the more you like her—-then you have nothing to worry about from infatuation. This is reasonable, judicious, sane, solid love, and the opposite of infatuation.
But one thing we must understand here. When I speak of close contact, I am not speaking of physical contact. It needs but very little time to know the body of your partner. All that there is to know of the body you may learn in ten minutes, but most of that knowledge you have no right to, until you ‘‘know’’ your partner in marriage. And until then you certainly have no need to know it, for if you take the time and the proper course to thoroughly know and love her self, which is her soul, it is a simple impossibility for you to be disappointed with her body, when you at last take her to yourself. Remember, it is God who requires you to abstain from physical intimacy until you are married, and God does not require you to commit yourself ‘‘till death do us part’’ to a mere chance of satisfaction. To believe such a thing is directly to impugn the goodness of God. An ungodly man once told me that he had proposed to a woman, and added, ‘‘It was really a foolish thing to do. I hadn’t even been to bed with her—-didn’t even know if I would like her.’’ But such talk is as foolish as it is wicked. God requires of you a lifetime commitment to a partner whose body you are forbidden to see or know until after you have sealed your commitment, and the same God has provided the way for you to absolutely secure your satisfaction before you ‘‘know’’ your partner in physical intimacy. The thing which will secure this is love. A man who is in love cannot be anything but perfectly ravished with the physical form of his beloved, regardless of how shapely or unshapely she may happen to be. He is ravished with her form not because it is shapely, but because it is hers. This is directly contrary to the thoughts of the world, but this is the way of love, and the way of God.
I repeat, then, when I speak of close contact, I do not refer to physical contact. Love is not secured by physical contact. Love is not a union of bodies, but a union of souls. The union of male and female bodies you may have without one molecule of love. The one thing absolutely necessary to fall in love is to know the soul of your partner. The soul is the real self—-the personality—-the unique individuality. Man is a soul, who has a body, and has a spirit. All three are of immense importance in marriage, but the soul is supreme. I now proceed to examine in detail the place of each. I begin with the soul. You are a soul, and when you fall in love, you do not fall in love with a body, but with a soul—-with a person. Mutual love is a union of souls, or personalities.
Romantic love consists of feelings of attraction and delight between persons of the opposite sex, feelings which are based upon their difference in sex, feelings which they cannot feel towards a person of the same sex. Every human being is like a magnet, having within itself a power of attraction, and around itself an aura of attraction, capable of drawing to itself the opposite pole of another magnet. When two such opposite magnetic poles come close enough together, each exerts its own drawing power upon the other, until they are drawn together and united as one, held together by nothing other than the powers of attraction which by nature lie within themselves. This is how people fall in love.
Love is not ‘‘a decision,’’ as some ignorantly affirm. When those powerful magnetic forces are drawing you, you need not decide to be attracted, and you cannot decide not to be—-except only by deciding to keep far enough away from that magnetic field. That decision alone can keep you from falling in love, and that decision you can make—-and certainly in some cases ought to make, as when you know that the character of the person who is thus drawing you is no good, or if either you or the other party are already married to someone else.
Now there are two things which must be understood about these powers of attraction. The first thing is, they do not lie primarily in the body. Those attractions between the sexes which belong to the body are indeed real and powerful and delightful, but they are not to be compared with those which lie in the soul. The physical attractions alone cannot permanently secure your hearts to each other, precisely because they are not sufficient to satisfy your hearts. Good-looking people, you know, get divorces just as often as plain ones. If you were a mere body, a mere body might satisfy all of your desires, but you are a soul, and will never be satisfied with anything other than a soul which answers to yours.
I will again speak from a man’s viewpoint, believing that a woman’s experience will naturally correspond. The powers of a woman to attract a man’s heart consist of two things, beauty and charm. Beauty is in the body. Charm is in the soul. And however real and powerful the attractions of a woman’s body may be, those of her soul are much more powerful, much deeper, and certainly more satisfying. I am well aware that the men of our day may be generally ignorant of this. Their physical desires, powerful enough by nature, are continually inflamed by a wicked and perverted world, which makes everything of the body, and wantonly displays it everywhere, so that men have become completely preoccupied with women’s bodies, and suppose that to be the all-important thing. They have likewise become completely preoccupied with their own physical needs, to the point that they are ignorant that they have any needs any deeper than those of the body. But those deeper needs, which lie in the soul, will make themselves felt, and a man will learn that mere physical intimacy cannot give him the satisfaction which he supposed it would. Why do the marriages of beautiful and shapely women break up, the same as the marriages of the plain women? Obviously, the most ravishing beauty of the feminine face and form is not enough to satisfy and secure the heart of a man. He needs something deeper than this. What he needs is love—-a deep, tender, ravishing, satisfying bond of soul with a person. Without that, the most ravishing physical beauty on earth will very soon be found to be empty. Any man who expects to find any deep or abiding satisfaction in the physical realm is greatly deceived, and will be greatly disappointed. A soul cannot be satisfied by a mere body. A man needs a woman, not merely a female body.
The next thing which must be understood about those magnetic powers of attraction which draw men and women together is that they are largely subjective and undefinable. You cannot define those powers, and they do not consist merely of objective qualities, but also of subjective perceptions. They certainly have a basis in objective qualities, but that basis, by itself, is wholly inadequate to explain the thing.
Without question some of those charms which attract each sex to the other lie in the physical appearance. But the old proverb which says ‘‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’’ is the absolute truth. Jill is a beautiful woman, and she draws Jack like a magnet. But John, while admitting Jill’s objective beauty, is not drawn to her. Plain Jane draws John like a magnet, while Jack can see nothing in her. Now try to explain all of this. Jill’s objective beauty is not the whole explanation even of Jack’s interest in her, for he knows a hundred others as beautiful as she, but none of them attract him as she does. And as for plain Jane, John knows a hundred more beautiful than she, but he is not attracted to any of them as he is to her. There is something about her—-something intangible, something unexplainable—-which no other woman possesses. What is it?
You will say, It is something in her personality. Very likely—-and yet I will not admit that this is the whole explanation, for on the basis of appearance alone, at first sight, the same woman may be very attractive to one man, and not at all so to another, or she may very strongly appeal to one man, and only weakly to another. There is something subjective and undefinable in all of this, and I make no attempt to explain it, though I insist that it is of the utmost importance to recognize it. I will explain why shortly.
When we turn from the body to the soul, we find exactly the same thing to be true. You cannot define the powers of romantic attraction which lie in a woman’s soul. There is undoubtedly an objective basis for them, both in the traits of feminine charm as such, and also in the personality traits of each particular woman. Yet that objective basis remains inadequate to account for the attraction (or lack of it) which exists between particular persons. Why are certain particular people irresistibly attracted to each other? Doubtless God understands this, but I can no more explain it than I can the workings of a computer. It is simply ignorance to try to explain it on the basis of like personalities (or unlike personalities), common interests, objective personality traits, or anything else objective. Ellie has a vibrant and pleasing personality, which attracts many. Nellie has a dwarfed and cold personality, which attracts but few. This is objective. Yet some men find cold Nellie attractive, but not warm Ellie, while others find neither of them attractive, and still others are attracted to both of them. None of this can be explained on the basis of anything objective.
The significance of all of this is found in the necessary conclusion that it is not possible for a man to fall in love with every woman he knows, nor for a woman to fall in love with every man she knows. Many persons of the opposite sex simply lack the charms necessary to exert any romantic pull upon your heart. You know this. Everyone with a little sense and experience knows this, and no one would deny it unless they were taught to deny it. Unfortunately, people are being taught to deny it, by means of hyperspiritual notions, such as that romantic love is the same thing as generic love (which you can and ought to feel towards all), or that ‘‘love is a decision,’’ which you can make when and towards whom you please. Thus people are led to marry on some other basis than that of true romantic love, and may thus be led to marry a partner with whom they cannot fall in love—-a person towards whom they feel little or no romantic attraction, and thus they are led into barren, empty, unsatisfying marriages—-for there is nothing either physical or spiritual which can take the place of that delightful and intimate bond of soul which constitutes true romance.
How do you get that bond of soul? There is one thing absolutely essential. You must spend time together. By this means you will discover and be drawn by those powers of attraction which lie in each other’s souls
—-or, you may feel the lack of those drawing powers, and be convinced that you should be looking elsewhere. But supposing that you have found one of those persons—-and there are many of them—-who does in fact possess those undefinable somethings which can attract and captivate and hold and satisfy your own soul. By spending time with that person you will place yourself within the aura of those magnetic powers, and feel your heart drawn and held more and more closely to their source. All of this may be considered the lower part of romantic love, and it may all be secured merely by being close together in almost any kind of circumstances, observing each other, listening to each other, with little of direct personal intercourse. Though this part of romance alone may easily pass all of the tests of being in love, it may often be one-sided, and it may not be very secure. There is, however, a higher level of romantic love, which goes beyond feeling the drawing power of those latent romantic attractions which you did not create. It consists of creating intimate and exclusive ties and bonds between your hearts. It is in this realm that romance becomes stable and enduring. Amnon’s love for Tamar (and the Bible says that he loved her), belonged obviously to the lower of these spheres, and though it was obviously very strong, it was also obviously very unstable (II Sam. 13:1-4, 15-16). But understand, I am not implying that this lower sort of romance is of no value. On the contrary, it is absolutely essential, It is the foundation. Romance cannot exist without it, nor would it be worth having if it could. Nor, in the absence of those romantic attractions, would there be any possibility of establishing, or even of wanting to establish, those intimate ties which form the deeper part of love.
Those ties are also to be created only by spending time together, and this must be time spent in direct personal communication with each other. By that means, little by little, your hearts and souls will be knit and entwined together by a thousand little ties—-little understandings, flirtings, teasings, little looks into each other’s eyes, little shared moments, shared thoughts, shared bits of your hearts—-until together you have established an intimate and exclusive bond of mutual love which is ‘‘strong as death.’’
Now observe two things about this process. First, this is a union of souls, not of bodies. All of this process may take place—-and ought to take place—-while you religiously refrain from touching each other. Next observe, this union of souls is the essence of romantic love. This is love itself. This is the all-important thing.
Be careful, therefore, not to deceive yourself on this point. The mere fact that you have spent much time together guarantees nothing. The first question is, How have you spent that time? You may spend every evening for months together hugging and kissing (if you are foolish enough to do so), or watching movies or playing tennis (if you are worldly enough to do that), and yet not know each other at all. To know each other you must spend time talking—-and not talking about the news or the weather, but about yourselves, and about everything which interests and concerns you. Thus only can you sound the depths of each other’s souls, and really know each other. When you have sounded the depths of each other’s experiences and memories, hopes and fears, likes and dislikes, dreams and aspirations, then you may consider that you thoroughly know each other. This cannot be done in a day or a week, and until you have done it you are foolish to think that you have laid any solid basis for enduring love. You may be infatuated to the depths of your soul, and lose it all when you enter the depths (if there are any) of your partner’s soul. If, on the other hand, the deeper you go into that beloved soul, the more ravished your own soul becomes, you have got the real thing, and no doubt about it.
We must next consider the body. I have doubtless said enough already to convince the reader that I do not regard the body as the most important thing in marriage. That place unquestionably belongs to the soul, or personality. Yet the body is of very great importance also. To come immediately to the main question, Should you marry someone who is not physically attractive to you? The answer is absolutely not—-no way
—-never. Why not? For two very good reasons:
First of all, marriage is a physical relationship. ‘‘They two shall be one flesh.’’ This is physical. All of the dreams of the whole human race about marriage, whatever else they may include, are dreams of an intimate and delightful physical relationship. The Song of Solomon is full of this. This is marital love. To marry someone who is physically unattractive to you is to throw away all of your dreams at once. It is to throw away any hope or chance of the ravishing delight which marital love is designed to be (and which your heart needs it to be), and to take in its place a dull or distasteful drudgery.
In the second place, if your partner is not physically attractive to you, this is proof positive that you are not in love. You cannot be in love with someone who is physically unattractive to you, nor can someone you are in love with be physically unattractive to you. In the nature of the case this is impossible.
But someone will ask, What if it is the will of God that I should marry someone who is not attractive to me? And you may as well throw in a second question: What if it is the will of God that I should marry someone I am not in love with? I answer both questions boldly, such a thing is not and cannot be the will of God. In the first place, if God is good, and if he has created marriage for your good, then it cannot be his will that you should enter into a marriage which cannot fulfill its purpose. And in the second place, he has told you what his will is in this matter. ‘‘Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times, and be thou ravished always with her love.’’ (Prov. 5:19). You can neither be ravished always with a love which you do not possess, nor satisfied at all times with a face and form which is not attractive to you. The Bible also says, ‘‘she is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord.’’ (I Cor. 7:39). ‘‘Only in the Lord’’ is the only restriction which the Lord places upon you. Beyond that, it is his will that you should marry whom you will—-or, in other words, someone who is pleasing and attractive to you. No man or woman wills, or can will, to enter into a life-long commitment to the most intimate physical relationship with someone who is not in their eyes physically attractive. To kiss, and caress, and fondle, and embrace, and lie in the embraces of someone who is not attractive to you—-this is not your will—-and therefore it is not the will of God, according to the plain scripture which we have just quoted.
But we have not yet told half the tale. Physical attractiveness comes in varying degrees, from very weak to very strong. It is not enough that you find some degree of physical attraction in your partner. Nothing will do but an intense attraction. This is especially true from the man’s side. Nothing will do but that his own woman should be, in his eyes, the most attractive woman on earth. Nothing short of this will satisfy either his heart or hers, and it would be the extreme of folly for a man to enter into marriage feeling disappointed or short-changed—-feeling that he didn’t get quite what he wanted, so to spend the rest of his days trying to be satisfied with someone he isn’t satisfied with, and, in spite of all of his trying, involuntarily wishing he had done otherwise. It is utterly impossible for his heart to be satisfied in such a bond, and equally impossible for him to satisfy hers.
The Song of Solomon gives us the God-inspired ideal of marital love, and in that book we find both lovers very much occupied with the physical attractions which lie in each other. This is much more prominent from the man’s side, as we would expect—-for the physical side of marriage is usually more important to a man than it is to a woman. The man therefore in the Song of Solomon is more taken up with what she is, while she is more occupied with what he does to her, but there is plenty of occupation from both sides with purely physical attractions.
‘‘Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair.’’
(‘‘Fair’’ is the old word for ‘‘beautiful,’’ or ‘‘good-looking’’).
‘‘Thou art all fair, my love: there is no spot in thee.’’
‘‘Thou art beautiful, O my love.’’
‘‘How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!’’
So speaks the man in this picture, again and again. Again and again his eyes run over her ravishing face and form, and he delights to speak of ‘‘thy cheeks—-thy neck—-thy hair—-thy teeth—-thy lips—-thy temples—-thy breasts—-thy tongue—-thine eyes—-thy thighs—-thy navel—-thy head—-thy stature,’’ etc. Thirty-five times he makes such references in a brief book of eight short chapters, filling less than four pages in my Bible.
The bride does the same—-though not nearly so much of it, she being more often occupied with what he does to her. She speaks of ‘‘his head—-his eyes—-his cheeks—-his lips—-his hands—-his belly—-his legs—-his countenance—-his mouth.’’
But some of you are thinking, all of this is delightful, but is it possible? How could I, a plain or puny man, eclipse the handsome and muscular men around me? How could I, a plain and poorly built woman, eclipse the beautiful faces and figures which are all around me? Maybe if we were stranded alone on an island of the sea—-but here, with so much of feminine beauty all around me, and all around my man, how . . . ?
Well! There is an all-sufficient answer to all of those ‘‘how’’ questions. The answer is, ‘‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’’ We are not talking about that objective beauty, which exists in the face and form of its possessor, but of the subjective kind, which exists in the eye of the beholder. ‘‘Beauty’’—-the objective kind of beauty, beauty of face and form—-‘‘is vain.’’ It is empty. It may be no more than ‘‘a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout’’ if it is found in a woman who is without discretion (Prov. 11:22). It secures nothing. It is true that external feminine beauty will absolutely inflame a man with the most overwhelming desires, but for all that it is not sufficient to ravish his heart with the deepest kind of satisfaction. It is not sufficient to permanently hold his heart, and therefore it is not sufficient to give to any woman the security that she needs. And does she not know that in time her beauty will fade? What security will she have then? She must have something deeper than this.
Moreover, that objective beauty is totally unnecessary. The subjective kind of beauty, which is in the eye of the beholder, will actually and permanently secure all of those things which the objective beauty fails to secure, for the beauty which a man sees in his beloved will endure and increase even when her actual external beauty fades. And this subjective beauty, the beauty which a man who is in love sees in his beloved, may be found in the plainest woman on earth, and be just as ravishing in her as it could be in the most beautiful. What, then? Is this subjective beauty mere imagination, in the heart of the beholder? Certainly not. It is real and substantial. The actual face and form of his own beloved really do thoroughly ravish his heart, and there is no imagination about it. Every man who has ever been in love knows this to be the absolute truth, and does not need any explanation as to how it can be. It is certainly better experienced than explained, but for the benefit of those who have never been there, I will give as full an explanation as I can.
Both men and women usually fail entirely to recognize the distinction between objective and subjective beauty, and the failure leads both of them into false and foolish ways. Women endeavor to make themselves attractive by means of a thousand kinds of external adornment (many of which actually make them less attractive), and they remain insecure in spite of all of their endeavors. They fail to understand that there is a deeper beauty, flowing out of the ‘‘hidden man of the heart,’’ and that that deeper beauty will actually secure for them the things which their external beauty and adornments fail to obtain. Men, too, naturally attracted as they all are to external feminine beauty, fail to understand that that ‘‘beauty is vain’’ while it lasts, and is destined to fade with time—-unable to satisfy a man’s heart while it lasts, and destined in time to fade away, taking with it whatever has been based upon it.
A man will go after the pretty girl, and marry her with a love based upon nothing deeper than his delight in her external physical beauty, only to discover too late how empty that beauty really is. The plain girl he passes by, though she may have within her exactly what it will take to thrill and ravish and satisfy his soul for the rest of his days. The pretty girl, of course, may ravish his heart likewise, but her pretty face and shapely form are no guarantee of it. But he supposes they are, and pays all of his attention to her. The plain girl is not on his list, and he will not consider her, or ever get close enough to her to find out how really beautiful she might become to him. Such a view of things is as foolish as it would be for a man to go shopping for some delicacy, and buy a beautiful and ornate jar, without any regard to the contents. He might, by a good stroke of luck, obtain something really delicious, but it is just as possible that he would get something bland or distasteful. The plain jar he passes by, though it may in fact contain the most delectable delicacy on the shelf.
Oh! that I might impart to men a little wisdom,that they might see the folly of such ways. There is pleasure in looking at and handling the beautiful jar, but it is nothing to be compared with the pleasure of enjoying the contents. No honest man could pretend to deny that there is great pleasure in seeing and handling and possessing a beautiful female form—-even if he has little or no knowledge of the personalty within it. But that pleasure is nothing to be compared to the pleasures of mutual love between your soul and the soul of a woman. AND—-and note this well—-when once you have secured the higher pleasure, in the emotional realm, of mutual love with a woman with whose soul you are perfectly charmed, then the lower pleasure, in the physical realm, will be absolutely assured to you—-for when a man falls in love with a woman, the external shell in which she dwells in some mysterious way becomes to him the most attractive feminine form on earth, regardless of how plain she may have appeared to him before, and regardless of how plain she may actually be as a matter of plain fact.
And here the plain girl actually has the advantage over the beautiful. The beautiful girl has more suitors, none of whom may either know or care whether she has a soul. If she is very shapely, they may scarcely know that she has a face. The plain girl’s suitor is more likely interested in her real self, and she is therefore more likely to find real love. Nevertheless, she must exercise all the same caution as the beautiful girl, for many men merely settle for a plain woman because they cannot get a beautiful one. This is very common, and in this case the plain girl will certainly have less in her marriage than the beautiful girl who was married for her beauty.
Here, then, are the facts. If you marry for the delights of the body, and fail to secure those of the soul, you will get little of either,for you will very soon find mere physical intimacy to be stale and empty without love. But if you secure the delights of the soul, in mutual love,you will get both—-AND you will get all of the physical delights of love in an intensity which would never have been possible without that emotional bond, and in a package which will keep them always fresh and delightful.
But a man asks, ‘‘How could I be ravished with the beauty of a woman who isn’t beautiful? This makes no sense.’’ I answer, Fall in love with her,and you will be so ravished with her beauty that you won’t know what sense is—-but it will all make perfectly good sense just the same. ‘‘But this,’’ you will say, ‘‘is exactly the problem. I can’t fall in love with a woman who is not physically attractive. I can’t even want to.’’ And that is undoubtedly true. And yet I am telling you that if you would but condescend to get close enough to some of those plain girls to discover that they have souls as well as bodies, you might find yourself falling in spite of yourself, and find in one of those plain girls a beauty that will ravish your eyes for the rest of your days.
Understand, I am not telling you to marry a plain woman while she remains plain in your eyes. I am not telling you to settle for a woman who is not a ravishing beauty to you. I am not telling you to try to be satisfied with a woman who does not satisfy you. I am not telling you that physical beauty in a woman is not really important. It is not only important, but absolutely essential. You know this in your own heart, and cannot feel otherwise, try as you might. You know that you cannot have any romantic love for a woman who is not physically attractive. The whole human race knows this. It belongs to your nature to need an attractive woman, and none but the hyperspiritual would question it.
It is not only hyperspiritual teaching, however, which opposes or slights a man’s need for an attractive woman. No one displays more persistent antagonism to this element of human nature than plain women. They will pout and fret over it, and perhaps storm and rage if it is mentioned to them. They bitterly complain that this is not fair, and defiantly declare that any man who attaches so much importance to external beauty is not worth having anyway. Yet in the depth of their own soul they need to be beautiful in the eyes of a man.
Sister, forget all about what a man may want or need, and consider what you need yourself. If a man who must have an attractive woman is not worth having anyway, why do you spend so much time and money on your hair and your face and your clothes and your figure and your adornments, trying to make yourself as attractive as you can? Are you trying to attract a man that is not worth having? The plain fact is this: whatever a man may need, you need to be a ravishing beauty in his eyes. You will never be content or satisfied without this. You need to eclipse all other women, or you will be plagued continually with insecurities and jealousies. You know that this is the truth, and it will remain the truth in spite of all of your opposition to it. And further, it is truth which is absolutely essential to your own happiness and security.
I know you think that just the reverse is true. You think that this takes away all of your chances for happiness and security. But you think this only because you fail to understand the real issue. You fail to distinguish between objective and subjective beauty, and you fail to understand that the pretty face and shapely form cannot secure the happiness of the woman who has it. Your thoughts are, if a man must have a woman whose beauty outshines that of all other women, then what hope is there for any but the cream of the crop? How can the plain woman eclipse the beautiful?
Say—-have you ever wondered how the moon can eclipse the sun? How can that little ball of clay eclipse that great orb of light, into which we might pour ten thousand moons, and they all be swallowed up and consumed, and the sun itself remain unchanged? How? Only one way. The moon can eclipse the sun because the moon is closer to you.Nor do you need a moon to eclipse the sun. A little wisp of cloud in the sky can do it. You can do it with your own thumbnail, if you hold it close enough to you.
And here we have come to the grand secret. Romantic charms are just like a magnet. A man may be attracted by the charms of a thousand different women, precisely as a magnet will attract the opposite pole of any other magnet. But the closer two magnets are brought together, the stronger the attraction, and if they are brought close enough together, they will draw each other irresistibly, and unite together as one. A man may be drawn by the romantic charms of a thousand women, but when he becomes close enough to one woman, the attraction of her charms is so strengthened that she eventually eclipses all other women, and robs them all of all their charms in his eyes. I shall endeavor to develop this in more detail in a moment. But first, a few more words to the plain women. What I am telling you is that you can eclipse the beautiful women. You—-with your plain face and your thin, straight hair—-you, with your deficient or misproportioned figure—-you, without ever losing or gaining one pound or curl or freckle, can be the most ravishing woman on earth, and as a matter of fact, you will be, to any man who is in love with you.
I am not talking about being prettier. That is not the issue at all. Some women have beautiful faces by nature, and some have plain faces. It is not possible for the plain woman to be prettier than the beautiful woman, but neither is it necessary. The point is, when a man is in love with a plain woman, her plain face becomes to him more attractive,more appealing more alluring, than the prettier face of the beautiful woman. Likewise, some women are more shapely by nature than others. Gaining or losing a little weight may work wonders for some women, but still it remains impossible for some women ever to possess the shapely form which other women have by nature. But neither is it necessary. A woman who is ‘‘built like a boy’’ will yet have the most attractive and alluring form on earth in the eyes of the man who loves her. When a man loves and marries a plain woman, it is common for tongues to wag, and people to wonder what he sees in her. The fact is, her soul has ravished his heart, and that ravishing soul has transformed her plain external shell into the most attractive feminine form on earth in his eyes.
And this is not imagination, but reality. Understand, the world is full of plain people. They are the most common sort of people on earth. Many of them, you must be aware, are happily married. Many of you, who read these lines, must marry a plain person, or not marry at all. And it is a fact that you may marry a plain person without sacrificing one whit of the physical and emotional pleasures of romantic love or marital happiness. But you are asking how such a thing could be.
It is a strange thing, but it happens often. You meet a person who at first sight appears very plain, or perhaps positively homely. At that point you probably suppose there is no way you could have any romantic interest in that person. You do not choose to pursue any relationship. But if circumstances should happen to place you close together, and you begin to know that person, a strange thing begins to happen. You experience that union of soul which is love.In a little time, perhaps unaccountably to yourself, and maybe in spite of yourself, you begin to have romantic thoughts and feelings towards your friend. And then happens the most mysterious thing of all. That face which before appeared to be so plain now appears to become attractive, you know not how. Your relationship deepens, your romantic feelings ripen, and before you know what happened to you, you find yourself perfectly ravished with the physical appearance—-the face and form—-of your beloved. You have fallen in love, and your falling was not the result of the physical attractiveness of your friend. It was the charms of the soul which captivated your heart, and those inner charms somehow transformed the outward shell into something irresistibly attractive.
I may not be able to explain this transformation any better than you can. I can tell you that the transformation did not take place in the face and form of your lover, but in the eye of the beholder, but you may wish to dispute even this. You may look back with the eye of memory to that plain face which you used to know, and then look at the irresistibly attractive face which now ravishes your eyes, and be ready to swear that it is not the same face. Then you saw only the external shell. Now you see the soul in it, and the soul imparts its own glow and beauty to the face and form, the same as a burning light bulb does to the lamp shade which covers it.
It is a plain fact that even physical beauty (or at least some part of it) lies deeper than the skin. An attractive face makes the rest of the body attractive and alluring, whether it is perfectly shaped or not. But what is it that makes the face attractive? The largest part of facial beauty resides in the eyes. Especially is this true of the subjective beauty which is all-important in marriage. Now the eyes are the windows of the soul. A dead body has eyes, the same eyes it had when it was alive, but all of the beauty and warmth are gone out of them. Howsoever attractive they may have been when animated by a living soul, that attractiveness is all gone when the soul has departed. And that same soul lends its own beauty to more than just the eyes. It imparts its own glow also to the lips, and the whole countenance, indeed, to the whole carriage and bearing. This is the full explanation of how a plain person can be transformed into a very attractive one.
There is no danger of falling in love with anyone who is unattractive to you, so long as that unattractiveness remains. But neither is there any danger of that unattractiveness remaining when you have begun to fall in love. Physical attraction is an absolutely essential part of romantic love, and you cannot have the whole without having all of its parts. Failure to understand this leads both men and women to needless and foolish worries. I referred above to an ungodly man who entertained the foolish and wicked notion that it was not wise to propose to a woman without first going to bed with her to see if he would like her. And while no godly man would think such a thought, it may be that there are godly men who fear that they may be disappointed with the physical form of their bride when their night of intimacy arrives. To such a fear I need only say, if it is possible for you to entertain such a worry, it is certain that you are not in love. Any man who is in love knows that the body of his own beloved will absolutely ravish him—-and not because it is the most shapely of feminine forms, but because it is hers. He is in love with her—-with all that she is and has and does—-and his love for her assures that her body will be to him the most attractive and desirable feminine form on earth. He knows this, and it is not possible for him either to doubt it or to be disappointed in it.
But it is not usually men, but women—-insecure as most of them seem to be—-who are plagued with such worries. A woman does not worry that she will be disappointed with the man she loves. Her worry is that he will be disappointed with her. But if the man is in love, this is an absolute impossibility. Listen to the language of a man who is in love: ‘‘Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.’’ (Song of Solomon 4:9). Understand, there is nothing at all in a piece of chain which can ravish the heart of a man. Let him see the same chain in a store window, and it will not affect his heart at all. Let him see the same chain on the neck of any other woman, and still his heart is no way affected. But let him see the same chain on her, and his heart is ravished—-swept away—-transported—-with love and delight and desire. This, ladies, is not imagination, but the most sober and earnest reality. The heart of a man who is in love with one woman is ravished by everything about her—-by one of her eyes—-by one lock of her hair—-by one button of her blouse. Such a man cannot be disappointed with her physical form.
Love is the key, which assures not only that you cannot be disappointed, but also that your satisfaction and delight will continue unabated at all times. That love is in the soul, not the body. It will remain, even when the body decays with age. A man’s satisfaction is not based upon the size or shape of a woman’s physical features, but upon the love which unites the souls. Though the beauty of the body will unavoidably decay with time, the beauty of the soul, and the bond of love between your souls, may grow richer and deeper and fuller as time goes on
—-and this it is that will secure your physical delight in each other, long after the beauty of youth has faded away.
I turn now from the body to the spirit. The spirit is the seat of conscience and character, choice and commitment. It is the seat of godliness and spirituality. Concerning the spirit let me plainly state two things at the outset. First, I do not believe that the delights of marriage lie in the realm of the spirit, excepting perhaps only a very small part of them. The delights of marriage lie primarily in the body and in the soul. But, secondly, we are not therefore to conclude that the spirit is of no importance in the marriage bond. Just the contrary. The fact is, in one limited sense the spirit is the most important of all. Though I believe the spirit to be of little consequence to the making of a delightful and satisfying romantic bond, it is all-important to the keeping of it.
I have used above a jar of delicacies to represent a marriage partner, the jar standing for the body, the container in which the delicacy is kept, while the contents represent the soul, the personality, the real person which dwells within the tabernacle of clay. The spirit may be represented by the cap or seal on the jar. Now observe, a jar may have a perfectly good seal, and yet contain nothing which will give you any pleasure. It may contain ripe olives, for which you care nothing, or pickled pigs’ feet, which you positively dislike. You would be foolish enough to go shopping for a delicacy, and take home a jar because it had a good seal, without any regard to the contents. Much more foolish to make a lifetime commitment to the most intimate physical and emotional relationship, on the basis of character or godliness or spirituality, without reference to the charms of the body and the soul. The hyperspiritual are likely to take just such a course, and so find themselves married to a partner in whose soul they fail to find any of those masculine or feminine charms strong enough to form a sufficient basis for a delightful and satisfying romantic bond. In plain English, they may find themselves married to a partner they cannot fall in love with. Sad indeed will be their plight, for there is nothing in the realm of character or spirituality which can begin to take the place of the romantic charms which lie in the body and the soul. And those romantic charms cannot be created. They belong to the nature of the individual, and if they are not there by nature, the best character on earth, with the deepest spirituality thrown in, will not create them. To someone else, indeed, she may possess romantic charms enough to stop the stars in their courses, but this is a subjective matter, and if she does not possess such charms in your eyes, you will make the greatest mistake of your life to marry her on the basis of anything which lies in the spirit.
On the other hand, you would be a fool also to take home a jar of your favorite delicacy, or ever to taste of its contents, if you knew that the seal was bad. In like manner would you err to marry a woman for her romantic and physical charms, without any reference to her character. Indeed, you might marry the most ravishing woman on earth, whose charms take your very breath away, and your marriage be a disastrous failure if her character is no good—-not to mention, if your character is no good. No doubt you will find the delights of marital love ravishing and satisfying enough while they last, but they are not likely to last very long without some character to sustain them.
Romantic love consists largely of desire—-which the hyperspiritual are pleased to disparage as lust. In plain English, there is a strong selfish element in romance. A woman wants something from her man, and a man wants something from his woman, There is nothing wrong with this. No man marries merely to give happiness and satisfaction to his partner, nor any woman either. Every man and every woman on earth who marry at all do so with a view to their own happiness, and those teachers are very far astray who try to define love as ‘‘seeking another’s welfare without motives of personal gain.’’ Imagine Jacob saying to his beloved Rachel, ‘‘Seven long years I must labor to make you my own, but so intense and powerful is my love for you that those seven years will seem to me but a few days. And please understand, my love for you is entirely unselfish. I have no motive to gain anything for myself by marrying you. I am laboring solely to secure your happiness.’’ Poor Rachel would doubtless be greatly insulted by such courting, and would very rightly spurn such a lover. The selfish element in romantic love is both right and necessary, but this can create a difficulty if it is not accompanied by a sufficient degree of that generic love which ‘‘seeketh not her own.’’
Romantic love is the most delightful gift of God to man, and those who have it ought to guard it as the apple of their eye. It may grow cold. It may be destroyed—-not by any deficiencies in either the body or the soul of your lover, but by deficiencies in the spirit, that is, by lack of character. Selfishness, irritability, untruthfulness, unkindness, harshness, thoughtlessness, laziness, failure to keep promises—-all such things will eat away at the foundations of real romance. Especially is this true from the woman`s side. Remember, romantic love consists of both delight and desire; and while I would contend that the greatest part of that delight is elicited by the charms which reside in the body and the soul, yet some part of it belongs to the realm of the spirit. Some part of romantic delight consists of admiration, which is elicited by those traits which lie in the spirit. This is especially important from the woman’s side. A woman needs a man whom she can respect and admire, and any lack of character in the man she loves, such as is calculated to destroy her respect and admiration, will little by little destroy her romantic feelings. When those are gone, all the delights of marital love are gone, and all that is left of the marriage is an empty shell. From the woman’s standpoint then, it is absolutely essential for her to marry a man of true, tried, solid, and steady character. To marry a man without that is almost to guarantee your future unhappiness, though you may be absolutely ravished and transported with his romantic charms at the present moment.
And this leads us to three considerations of extreme importance, especially for a woman. First, it is absolute folly to marry a man before you thoroughly know him. It is a true proverb which says, ‘‘Marry in haste, repent at leisure.’’ Marriage is a lottery indeed if you marry a man without a thorough and intimate knowledge of his character—-and you know there are not many winners in a lottery. You must make it your business to know him in every situation, and to resolutely refuse a man who cannot pass the test of character. How does he treat his parents? How does he speak about them? Does he pay his bills? Does he keep his promises? Is he proud, boastful? Is he careful to speak the truth, or does he exaggerate? Does he lose his temper? Is he lazy or industrious? Is he stable and steady, or always changing? Is he kind and considerate, or thoughtless of others? Remember that now, and especially in all of his dealings with you, he has his best foot forward. Any deficiency which you see in his character now is probably only the tip of the iceberg. You will doubtless see much more of the same after you are married. Now is the time to scrutinize his character from every angle, in every circumstance, and be satisfied concerning it, or you will be a fool to marry him at all. You ought by all means to be thoroughly satisfied concerning his character before you establish any romantic relationship with him. You ought never even to consider a man until he first passes the most rigid test of character.
Secondly, you ought not to trust your own judgement in this matter—-especially if you already have romantic feelings towards the man. ‘‘Love is blind’’ is a true proverb, and love will be almost certain to blind you to the defective character of a man. Your parents or your pastors will be a better judge of the matter than you can be yourself, and you will be wise to trust in their judgement.
Third, you are in particular danger here if you are young. If you are young you probably have only vague and insufficient ideas about what kind of character is necessary in a man. Of course you think you know, as young people usually think they know much more than they do, but as you grow older and wiser you will gain a much truer understanding of the matter, and then you may be saying, ‘‘If I had only known!’’ A godly woman once told me, ‘‘If I had known what spirituality was, I never would have married my husband,’’ and there are doubtless thousands who think such things who would never say them. The younger you are, the more need you have for caution in the matter, and the more need to depend upon the judgement of your elders. This may be reason enough to postpone marriage until you are older and wiser. At any rate, you ought to proceed with the utmost caution, and in prayer and dependence upon God. A ‘‘giddy girl’’ may be transported to cloud nine by the charms and attentions of a man, but when she has married him and finds that she cannot admire or respect him, her strong romance will all evaporate.
But precisely as bad character will work to destroy real romance, so good character will work to preserve it. Kindness, gentleness, consideration, integrity, unselfishness, yieldingness, forgiveness—-all such traits will work to preserve the precious romantic bond, and they may in some measure work even to enhance it. This is especially true from the side of the woman. When a woman marries a man she vows to submit to him and follow him. He becomes her head. It is absolutely essential to her happiness to have a man of such character that she may absolutely trust him and unquestioningly follow him. It is true that a man’s character may be changed, but it may be that the only effectual way to change it will be to lovingly but firmly inform him that you cannot marry him, or continue in any romantic relationship with him, because you cannot approve of his character. Such dealing may lead him to solemn reflection and real repentance before God. But you must be as cautious as you are firm. A mere reformation in order to secure your love will not answer your end at all, and will probably last only until you say ‘‘I do.’’ Cases of this nature are very common.
This leads me to a sidelight, which I will insert at this point. A woman will have a hard time of it if she marries a man who is beneath her in character or spirituality, as indeed she will who marries a man who is beneath her in intellect or depth. The woman not only is the weaker vessel: she needs to be the weaker vessel—-or, to state it in a way which may better please the ladies, she needs a stronger vessel to look up to and lean upon. This is so in the physical, the emotional, and the intellectual spheres, and it is equally so in the spiritual realm. I would not pretend that a man must be above his wife in all of these areas in order to secure a good marriage, but as a general rule a woman will be happier if her husband is in general superior to her. Women of great holiness and deep spirituality, then, (as well as women of great natural endowments), will be very limited in the choice of men who are capable of being a real head to them, and providing for them the spiritual and masculine strength requisite to give them deep and permanent happiness. Let them exercise the utmost care to find a man big enough to satisfy them. Some women seem to exist for the Adoniram Judsons and the C. H. Spurgeons of the earth, and they are not likely to find any deep or abiding happiness in lesser men. The woman was created ‘‘for the man’’—-made to revolve around him—-and all of her own deepest needs find their fulfillment in so doing. But the earth will have a hard time trying to revolve around the moon. She needs a sun to provide her orbit, and a great woman needs a great man to secure and satisfy her heart, as every woman needs a man bigger and stronger than herself (and not merely in the physical realm) to give her the security and satisfaction her heart craves.
To return: the masculine and feminine charms which form the foundations of romance, and which make it delightful and satisfying, lie primarily in the body and the soul, but those traits which serve to make it secure and enduring lie largely in the spirit. But young people usually begin at the wrong end, and erect a pyramid upon its point. They look first at the body,and finding that to be pleasing and alluring, they are likely to inquire no further, but hasten to possess the prize, without concerning themselves with whether the soul is as charming as the body, or with whether the spirit is good or bad. As Samson did, so do they. Samson ‘‘saw a woman of the daughters of the Philistines,’’ and went immediately to his parents, saying, ‘‘I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.’’ (Judges 14:1-2). He knew nothing of her soul, or real self. As for the spirit, he ought to have said, ‘‘She is an ungodly Philistine, and therefore I will not consider her.’’ But he looked only at the body, and that being appealing, he must have her. So do the young people today. And if they happen to have the good sense (or the good luck, as is more likely to be the case) to go deeper, and find themselves equally ravished with the personality of their partner, so that they have in reality fallen in love, they may then find it impossible to believe that anythingcould weaken or destroy their romance, and they are prone to regard the cautions of the more experienced as the croakings of disappointed cynics, who never experienced the ravishing love which they possess. Surely they were made for each other, and no faults in their lover’s character could do any damage to the delightful love which they have found.
Such a proceeding is of course very unsafe. They ought to begin at the other end. When a man finds himself drawn to a woman, or when a woman finds herself courted by a man, they ought to look first at the spirit of the prospect, and put the character to the test, and if that fails, to disqualify that prospect, and refuse to proceed any farther. Such a step ought to be taken at the outset. If you wait until you are emotionally involved, you may very well be both unable to judge objectively of your lover’s character, and unwilling to take the steps you ought to take.
One final word on character: it is a fairly easy thing to determine that a man’s character is bad, or at any rate, not good enough. On the other hand, to determine—-and that with such certainty as to make you willing to commit all of your earthly happiness into his hands—-that a man’s character is acceptable, this is a much more difficult thing, and it will take a great deal more time. The absolute necessity of the case is that you know your partner well,and it will of course be best if you know him well before you proceed to establish a romantic bond with him.
Having spoken at length on the nature of true marital love, I must speak a few more words on the necessity of it. Many there are who will readily grant that true romance as I have described it must be a very delightful thing, who will yet contend that it is not a necessary thing. Folks might have a good and satisfying marriage, they suppose, without any such delightful romantic relationship. I, of course, contend just the contrary. I contend that the human race has romantic needs which cannot be supplied by anything except romance. We know that ‘‘It is better to marry than to burn.’’ That is, plainly stated, there are certain needs which burn within us which can be met by nothing else but marriage. And so in the very chapter which Paul begins with ‘‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman’’—-in the very chapter in which he encourages folks to remain single in order to wait upon the Lord without distraction—-in this very chapter he also writes, ‘‘Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.’’ It plainly appears, therefore, that his exhortations to celibacy are only for those who have ‘‘no necessity’’ to marry at all, but have a ‘‘gift of God’’ to remain continent and contented in a single state. (I Cor. 7:7, 37). Such folks might be satisfied with any marriage, or no marriage, precisely because they have no compellling romantic needs—-but they are exceptions. The general rule is that ‘‘every man’’ and ‘‘every woman’’ ought to marry, because they need to. But what they need is not mere marriage, but the kind of marriage which will actually satisfy their needs.
Those needs lie partly in the body, and partly in the soul. ‘‘It is better to marry than to burn,’’ and in the normal development of both masculine and feminine natures, that burning is neither merely physical nor merely emotional, but both. A good marriage, a satisfying marriage, is one which actually satisfies both of those needs. It is doubtful that many could be found who would have the hardihood to contend that a marriage could be called good if it were devoid of physical intimacy or physical satisfaction. All men of good sense would pronounce such a union to be a marriage in name only, for it would fail altogether to answer its end. But can the human mind be sunk so low as to suppose that the only end of marriage is physical? Is man a mere animal? The real fact is, a marriage which fails to meet the romantic needs of the partners is as defective as one which deprives them of physical satisfaction. ‘‘It is better to marry than to burn,’’ but men do not burn—-and much less do women—-for mere physical satisfaction, but for love, and any marriage which gives them the one without the other will leave them burning still. ‘‘It is better to marry than to burn,’’ but it is better to burn single than to marry and burn anyway. Will anyone be so bold as to contend that any kind of marriage will satisfy the burnings of the human race? How then will you explain the prevalence of adultery and divorce? It is not satisfied men who turn to such things, but men who are burning for something which their marriage fails to give them. What is it? Certainly not the physical intimacy of marriage. That they may have in abundance, but it fails to satisfy them, precisely because it is with a partner with whom they have no satisfying bond of romantic love.
But I must conclude. I have rambled down this lovers’ lane in a very unsystematic fashion, turning aside to explore many by-paths, but I make no apology for that. I want my readers to understand romance, to know what it is and whether they have it, and therefore I show them as many facets of the gem as I can. In summary, two things are absolutely necessary for a good marriage, love, and character—-love to make the marriage good, and character to keep it good. And observe in both cases, it is the man’s love, and the man’s character, which are of supreme importance. The woman’s love comes naturally as the response to the man’s love. It will thrive under his loving treatment. The man’s love must come first, and stand solidly upon an absolute delight in and abiding satisfaction with what she is. His love for her will sustain her love for him
—-unless she cannot trust or respect or admire him. The woman must follow the man, and submit to him. She must therefore be safe and secure in his character as well as in his love. It is the man’s love and the man’s character which are of supreme importance in the marriage, but it is in the woman’s supreme interest to secure them, and to secure them before marriage. ‘‘Wedlock’s padlock,’’ as an old proverb says, and this is exactly as God has willed and ordained it. Do you believe this? Then by all means take the utmost precaution to make sure that you have what you need before you lock yourself in.
o Finis o