Book Title: The Real Home
The column in the daily newspaper announcing births, marriages, and deaths is familiar, but not until more recently has it been thought best to chronicle another phase of family life, and announce to the public the names of those who have been divorced.
We live in an age when there is a craze on the subject of marriage. It is equaled only by the mania to be released from the marriage obligations after the vows have been spoken.
New York City in 1919 had an increase of nearly fifty per cent in the number divorced, there being thirteen hundred thirty-five couples separated. Divorce increased in California from 1,813 in 1906 to 5,573 in 1916; in Nevada, from 119 to 648; in Ohio, from 4,781 to 7,607....
In 1916, in the United States, there were reported 112,036. The comparison becomes worse when we are told that the total number of divorces granted in the United States is more than twice as great as in the rest of Christendom combined.
“AMERICA’S DARKEST CLOUD”
The divorce problem is called “America’s darkest cloud,” by William Hall Moreland, Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, California. From an article which appeared in the San Francisco Examiner of April 10, 1921, these paragraphs are taken:
“Mining kings, oil millionaires, and war profiteers, grown suddenly rich, have put away the faithful partners of the days of poverty and struggle, and lavished their new-made wealth upon actresses. Selfish women, sacrificing men to their passion for jewels, clothes, and luxury, are encouraged under our laws to sell their bodies to the highest bidder, yet continue to move in decent society as respectable women.
“This is no fancy picture. It describes what is going on to-day all over the United States. Conditions are growing worse....
“If easy divorce continues at the present rate in this country, the ideal of true marriage, as the union of one man and one woman until death shall part, will gradually fade from the consciousness of the American people and be replaced by a kind of barnyard morality....
“In the past twenty years 1,883,000 homes have been wrecked by divorce in the United States. Since there are two people to each divorce, this means that 3,766,000 were separated by divorce in the first twenty years of this century.
“The number of children named in divorce decrees for the past twenty years is 1,138,000. This is to say, a vast army of innocent children were deprived of the loving oversight of one parent or another, being made orphans or half orphans, not by the hand of Providence, but by the selfishness of their parents.”
This concise statement of present conditions is quoted from Collier’s magazine:
“MATRIMONY: Ceremony, parsimony, acrimony, testimony, alimony.” ...
And this voice is from Los Angeles, from the Daily Times of January 29, 1923:
“There were nearly as many divorces as marriages in Los Angeles County in 1922....
“Young people enter into a life contract with less care than they would exercise in choosing a partner to run a peanut stand.
“Sex passion, common to all animals, takes the place of love and esteem. Hence, so many divorces.
“Divorce is increasing in the United States three times as fast as population. At the present rate it will not be long before three fourths of American marriages will end in the divorce court....
“Disregard for the sanctity of marriage, overemphasis of sex, underemphasis of domestic responsibility, lack of uniformity in the law, were among the chief contributing causes that led to the downfall of Rome, of Greece, of Babylon.”
To-day both men and women are “playing fast and loose” with the matrimonial bond. The home totters on its blasted foundation, society is breaking up, and our national existence is in danger.
The home is the source of social, religious, and national life. Time was when no nation more jealously guarded its homes than our own. It is a legacy bequeathed us by our Pilgrim ancestors. Some deride the narrowness and strictness of past years; but they should wait before criticizing too severely, until later and looser ideas produce the homes of worth and people as sturdy and virtuous as did they.
EDUCATED IN DIVORCE
In some of our higher colleges and universities the idea is taught that marriage has no sacredness, - that it is contrary to the higher laws of the spirit to set up a legal relationship as superior to the spontaneous preference of men and women who find in their love a security more sacred than anything the church can create. Here is the proof:
In the Cosmopolitan magazine for May, 1909, an article entitled “Blasting at the Rock of Ages,” written by Harold Bolce, who spent more than two years studying the scope of college teaching, states the situation clearly. He entered classrooms from Cambridge to California in the universities of the country. His information was obtained first-hand.
The editor summarizes Mr. Bolce’s findings with a note from which these statements are gathered:
“What Mr. Bolce sets down here is of the most astounding character. Out of the curricula of American colleges, a dynamic movement is upheaving ancient foundations and promising a way for revolutionary thought and life. Those who are not in close touch with the great colleges of the country will be astonished to learn the creeds being fostered by the faculties of our great universities. In hundreds of classrooms it is being taught daily that the Decalogue is no more sacred than a syllabus; that the home as an institution is doomed; ... that there can be and are holier alliances without the marriage bond than within it. ... It is time that the public realize what is being taught to the youth of this country. ‘The social question of to-day,’ said Disraeli, ‘is only a zephyr which rustles the leaves, but will soon become a hurricane.’ It is a dull ear that cannot hear the mutterings of the coming storm.”
“It is taught by many college sociologists,” says Mr. Bolce, “that marriage, under conceivable conditions, will pass away, like medieval institutions.” ...
WHY THE INCREASE OF DIVORCE?
Where does the divorce cancer have its root? The answer is, In selfishness. Men and women are “lovers of their own selves.”
A man marries because the personality of a woman pleases him.
He may marry to get wealth.
His wife’s position may give him standing in society.
He may have other reasons, but all are likely to be selfish. It is not true, unselfish love that leads him to marry.
The woman marries a man with money, if possible, one who will indulge her desire for costly and beautiful dress. She wants a husband who will be attentive to her wants, one who will pet and praise her, one who has worldly position. Such objects, too, are purely selfish.
Old-fashioned ideas of home life are no longer popular. To stay at home and care for husband and family is, unhappily, not the ambition of many a modern wife. She must be entertained, must dress and dance, attend places of amusement, and so an apartment is engaged, and the whole scheme of home life is lacking.
First among the causes of divorce are the hasty marriages contracted. A boy and a girl, or a man and woman, meet, are introduced; they laugh and joke, perhaps go to an entertainment or some resort; he proposes marriage, she accepts; and in this whirlwind fashion, without acquaintance or real love, they marry in a few hours, days, or weeks. It does not take long to overcome their infatuation; and in shorter time than it took to become married, they are anxious for separation, if a darker tragedy does not occur.
When a young woman decides between two suitors by tossing up a penny, and in less than a year appears in court with a baby in her arms, asking for divorce on account of nonsupport, what can a judge do but grant it? Probably it is the only thing to be done under the circumstances. But is it not a pity that such an experience would probably not put any sense into a woman’s head, nor would her experience keep thousands of others from thoughtless marriages followed by blighted lives?
So rapidly has the number of divorce cases increased that in some cities a “Court of Domestic Relations” has been formed, and in one of these a certain judge is know as “The Great Reconciler.”
Nearly two thirds of the complaints brought to court are caused by husbands deserting their wives, and investigation reveals that the wives were so incompetent in their home duties that the husbands felt compelled to leave them.
Both men and women are to be blamed, and rarely is the fault found in only one of the parties concerned. But the home life is so largely molded and managed by the wife that she should do all in her power to bring peace instead of alienation. Every divorce is a tragedy.
God made no provision at first for separation. Because of sin, conditions changed. The divorce law given through Moses was not nullified by Christ; He recognized but one cause sufficient for divorce. Even this was not God’s ideal.
“The Pharisees also came unto Him [Jesus], tempting Him, and saying unto Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Matthew 19:3
And many to-day would answer Yes to such a question. But a loving God does not sanction divorce. “The Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.” “For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away.” It is only because of the hardness of men’s hearts that bills of divorcement were ever given. “From the beginning it was not so.”
Paul said, “Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.” This provision was made so that a woman might live apart from her husband where conditions are unbearable or dangerous to life. The choice is given her of remaining “unmarried,” or of being “reconciled.” To “depart” because one is weary of the other and would contract another matrimonial alliance, is neither sensible nor Scriptural. If a man is so brutal as to endanger the life of wife or children, she has permission to depart from him and remain unmarried; the same is true of the husband. But the Christian husband or wife will endure great wrongs before taking such a desperate step....
Divorce is a symptom, a consequence, not a disease, that afflicts our homes. Divorce is death, a result which follows a diseased condition.
We have seen trees die in summer time. But the tree with its whispering leaves and swinging boughs, its greenness where the shadows lie hidden all day, does not die all at once. First a dimness creeps over its brightness; a leaf sickens here and there and grows pale; then the whole branch feels the approach of death. At last the signs of weakening life all disappear, and the dead tree stands holding out its stripped, stark limbs, - a tree still, but in ruins.
Wedded love dies like that. The life, so joyous at first, does not perish all at once. First a hasty word shadows it; a sharp answer deepens the shadow. One or the other is thoughtless, and this is misconstrued. An unintentional neglect is magnified and made real. A remark is misinterpreted. Through such avenues the devil brings in discord and makes room for all his infernal brood.
Soon love becomes reticent, confidence is broken. Noiselessly but surely the work of death goes on until nothing is left of the once happy union. The tree is dead which once tossed its green branches in the sunlight, and whose leaves trembled in the breeze.
A clergyman tells this story, illustrating how distrust and alienation may end:
“One day a pretty girl broke impetuously into my study, crying. She held out a twenty-dollar gold piece to me, and sobbed: ‘I’m going home to mother! Peter and I have quarreled! He said that I might go home and stay if I was going to keep on being such a baby, and he gave me this gold piece to pay my fare!’
“Then she threw her pretty self into a big leather chair and began to sob. I knew I should have to wait for the story until she was quiet. And as I realized that she herself would soon be a mother, my heart wept for her. Whatever the trouble was, to her it was tragic. The gold piece lay on the floor where she had dropped it, and neither of us had picked it up.
“It seemed that Peter, as we called him, - for I had married them and to me they seemed almost like my own children, - had stayed out until after midnight the night before; where was a very unusual procedure for staid, domestic Pete, whatever he might have done before he was married.
“A quarrel had followed his arrival home – much to his surprise. An explanation was demanded. Pete, being an independent American, whose record had never before been questioned, could not quite stand this. If he had stayed out all night, he would never have thought of a human being’s questioning him. She should have trusted him.
“‘You are nothing but a couple of foolish children!’ I said, when I got them both together, after telephoning to find Pete. ‘And you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.’
“I addressed myself to Peter: ‘Pete, you especially ought to be ashamed to worry Betty now!’
“Then I turned to poor, dejected, tear-wet, but lovable Betty, and said, ‘Betty, you ought to be ashamed not to trust Pete, no matter where he went –‘
“‘That’s what I told –‘ broke in Peter.
“‘You keep still, Pete!’ I said to him, and he left his sentence incomplete.
“‘If he loved me’ - began Betty, in her turn.
“‘And you keep still, too, Betty!’ I added.
“Then I asked Betty to go out of the room. I wanted to talk with that rascal of a Peter
“He looked down at the gold piece on the floor, and blushed.
“‘You ought to blush over that twenty-dollar gold piece!’ I said.
“‘I thought she was just bluffing about going home and that I’d try a little bluff myself,’ he confessed.
“‘And she was just game enough to take you up and call your bluff?’ I said.
“‘She was! I might have known she would.’
“‘What would you have done if she had gone?’ I asked.
“‘I should have been the most miserable man in the world, and the most stubborn for about a day.’
“‘And then?’ I asked.
“‘And then I would have crawled to the ends of the earth and back for her!’ he said, banging his fist on my desk.
“‘Where were you, Pete, last night?’
“‘Why, I was at the Y. M. C. A., arranging with the fellows for an indoor meet.’
“‘Then why didn’t you tell her?’
“‘She had no business questioning me. She ought to trust me.’
“‘Then I called Betty back into the room and told her where Pete had been. She was ashamed, and would have apologized, but started to cry and laugh instead; and then, before she could apologize, Pete was beginning to apologize, and then something happened that even this frank narrative must leave for the imagination. I myself looked out of the window at a rosebush.
“When I turned around, it was to say: ‘You are nothing but a pair of foolish youngsters, anyhow. Now go home and be happy!’
“As they were walking out, I called their attention to the twenty-dollar gold piece lying on the floor.
“‘Put it in the missionary collection; I don’t want it any more,’ declared Peter. ‘It might have carried Betty away from me!’
“We all three laughed; and they left the gold piece there for me to use.”
But not all quarrels of married life end so happily. Tattlers and busybodies do their part in the work of alienation; there is no friend to help bring about reconciliation; and too often final separation results.
Here is another story that may help those whose lives have grown uncongenial; it is told by Clinton Dangerfield in the Woman’s Home Companion for June, 1917:
“‘You had no right to say what you did!’ she cried, stormily. It might have been their sixteenth or the sixtieth quarrel; he had long ago lost count. But as it reached its unendurable climax, he rose from the daintily set breakfast table, his food scarcely touched. Eleanor rose as soon as he had done so, saying bitterly, ‘I suppose you’re going off without your breakfast just to exasperate me!’
“He flung back some violent answer, much like hundreds of others he had made before in those frequently recurrent disturbances which well-bred people so scrupulously reserve for their nearest and dearest. Then he stalked from the room, and went away to his office. But the day was a miserable one. Anger is a fiercely reactionary form of indulgence.
“Being a lawyer, he forced himself into his usual kindly professional air, and into an apparently personal interest in the woes of his clients.
“In this way the morning passed; then came a tasteless luncheon, and the afternoon opened with more clients – to the same assumed interest. When he found himself facing the last one of the day, it was with a feeling half of relief that the world for the day was over, half of wretched distaste that he must go home and finish out the quarrel he had left. He knew perfectly well it would come up again in some way that very night.
“This sort of thing had been going on now for three years; they had been married five. Applied maxims as to the folly of getting angry with a woman, with any one indeed, had all failed him. He became conscious that he was thinking too much of his own affairs, that he was staring too absently at his last client. The latter, his law matters satisfactorily adjusted, was indulging in some personal reminiscences induced by Ashfield’s kindly manner.
“‘It’s for her sake I’m afther bein’ so glad I won,’ the old man was saying, happily. ‘Thirty years of good toimes we’ve had togither, Rosy an’ me. She’s made this world so plisant to me that I’m afther fearin’ I’ll niver want to lave ut, barrin’ she shud go first.’
“The lawyer was conscious of a sudden, genuine interest. ‘You are talking of your wife?’
“‘Of who ilse cud I be talkin’?’
“‘You say you’ve had thirty years of happiness with her? I suppose she’s one of these yellow-haired saints.’
“‘No, sor. Rosy an’ her folks have all been red-headed, an’ by the same token, had the highest of timpers.’
“‘And you have been happy with her?’ asked the lawyer, skeptically.
“The old man answered, frankly, ‘Nather of us was happy the first five years. Sure, throuble began almost in our honeymoon. It was just six months afther we married that Rosy flung a fryin’ pan at me. It was just siven months afther marriage that I bate her. Sure we scandalized the neighbors!’
“‘What changed it?’ the lawyer asked, more skeptically still. ‘Did you get afraid of each other?’
“‘There’s no scrap of ‘fraid in ayther of us, sor. An’ things was goin’ from bad to worse, an’ me gittin’ so I couldn’t do me ditchin’ dacent, because of thinkin’ over me quarrels, nor take any peace goin’ home, whin it come to me I might take counsel of Johnny Milligan, the very ould wise man that lived beyant us on the hill.
“‘Tis said the woman shud be the peacemaker,’ I growled to Johnny whin I finished me talk to him.
“‘”’Tis said wrong,’ says Johnny, says he. ‘Tis the man shud handle all sitterwations. There’s four magic words,’ says he, ‘which control an’ subdue women,’ says he, ‘no matter what timper they are in; same as certain magic sounds will quiet a frantic horse. These four words, they niver fail; but they are hard to pronounce whin a row is on,’ says he, ‘onless the man raymimbers how he is the shooperior, an’ ‘tis his own fault if he doesn’t say thim.’
“‘Give me the words,’ says I.
“‘”’Use thim when ye’re angriest,’ says Johnny; ‘use thim whin they strangle ye. Cough ‘em out! Choke ‘em out! – But out they must come!’
“‘So ould Johnny got up, and he writ thim four words on a piece of paper for me; by the same token, his fist was so crabbed I near never read thim. An’ when I’d puzzled thim out, me jaw dropped, an’ I’d no faith at all, raymimberin’ the fryin’ pan an’ what Rosy was whin she fell into a rage.
“‘Fer an exciption, we had no quarrel that night, an’ toime mornin’ come, I was more doubtful than ivver of Johnny’s prayscription. But that next avenin’ whin I come home, we both flew into a rage over how much buttermilk the pig ought to have -–yez wouldn't belave, a gintlemand loike yez, what schmal things Rosy an’ me wud quarrel over. But into a rage we flew; an’ I wuz about to say the worst things I cud – whin I raymimbered ould Johnny and what he’d wrote for me, an’ how he said they’d be hard to say in a quarrel – an’ they wuz hard! I thought I shud choke on them; but I looked Rosy full in the eye, an’ I said thim – out loud an’ distinct.
“‘She had just flung an outrageous remark at me, and wuz about to fling another, whin she heerd the words. Her lips parted; but nothin’ disagrayable come out. She stared at me; she flushed; she hesitated. I seen me advantage; me good angel prodded me. I said thim agin. She tucked her head down an’ sidled away from the pigpen tords me. ‘Oh, Tim,’ says she, ‘I didn’t mane to be nasty!’ says she. ‘Feed the pig as much buttermilk as ye loike.’ But I must be goin’, sor.’
“‘No hurry, Ryan. Did they always work – the words?’
“‘Always, sor! An’ I’ve been no mizer with the prayscription; I give it to more than one felly in difficulties with his wife.’ They both rose. The lawyer blushed, but he said with a dry little smile, ‘Give me the words.’
“‘Wid a thousand blissin’s, sor! But they must be writ. Passed by word o’ mouth the charm is lost.’ He added with Irish tact, ‘I see yez want thim for one of yer frinds.’
“That night Ashfield was called by telegram to a place five hundred miles away. He returned a week later, with the story of old Johnny only a hazy remembrance.
“Eleanor’s nerves and temper, the smoother for his week’s absence, kept sweet the day of his return – until that night, when a difference of opinion concerning a rug she had purchased (of a color he especially disliked) brought on a storm that was the fiercest of their whole married life.
“They stood in their attractively furnished library, their feet on the offending rug, their tall, distinguished figures drawn up to full height, the woman passionately resentful, the man white with anger.
“Suddenly, born apparently out of nowhere, a few sentences flashed vividly before him:
“These four words – they are hard to pronounce whin a row is on, but they niver fail. ‘Tis the man’s own fault if he doesn’t be afther usin’ thim.’
“Ashfield shook himself; his hands clenched. He made a wild effort, but his lips were soundless. Those bitter powers inside were murdering the magic four. Then suddenly, impetuously, looking the angry woman before him straight in the eyes, he flung out desperately the sentence they made.
“They sounded grotesquely out of place to him in the midst of this wild quarrel; but he heard himself saying them clearly and distinctly, his eyes on hers:
“‘Dear, I love you!’
“As the unexpected sentence fell on her ears, she stared; then she flushed. It sounded strangely sweet to her, strangely powerful, that sentence, flashing out in sheer gold from the base metal of their quarrel. A throb of remorse brought tears into her eyes. She had just wounded him all she could over a foolish thing like a rug! And yet, even in the midst of their mutual anger, he could, out of his greater man’s strength, his greater generosity, his greater kindliness, say the sentence most beloved of all sentences by every woman!
“Like calming music, the words sang in her soul; her anger receded before them – then died utterly. How big he was! How good that he was of finer clay than she! She bowed her head; tears came into her eyes. She faltered slowly:
“‘Oh, Robert! After all, why should I fuss about the hateful old rug? Let’s send it back, and exchange it for some color we both like.’
“He held out his arms mutely, then smiled down on the tear-wet face she lifted, and bent to kiss it.”
There’s a lesson in the story. There are thousands of breaking hearts in the world, hearts starving for kindness and love. Misunderstandings and differences have separated husbands and wives, and instead of joy and the peace they anticipated in married life, they drink the bitter cup of disappointment. Distrust and hatred take the place of confidence and affection. It is a sight to make angels weep. There are homes drenched with tears, eyes that stare into the blackness before them, seeing no ray of light, hearts that refuse to be comforted, children who look on in wonder, while homes are wrecked and ruined.