Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships– Essay III: The Stories We Are Told
As we look from the vantage point of the early 21st Century, there have certainly been major shifts in the ways in which intimate relationships and in particular marriages are viewed. The advice that was offered in the popular media of the time about how to be successful in marriage now seems both very dated and ironically unchanged. At the turn of the 20th Century, everyone was expected to get married. Women, in particular, were expected to find value in life primarily through their intimate and enduring relationship with a man. Writing for Cosmopolitan magazine in July of 1902 (33, 323-8, p. 323), Rafford Pyke declared that “marriage is confessedly the most profoundly important event in a woman’s life. It is an event to which she is always looking forward from the days of her very girlhood.”
Yet, women were also assumed to be naive and vulnerable to the guiles and passions of men. The young, pathetic and inexperienced woman, according to Pyke, is “credulous, confiding and utterly without experience.” Hence, she must remain always on guard against the lure and destructive forces of sexuality, looking instead for the presence of deep love. She must be able to distinguish between “the mere flutterings of girlish emulation, and the great elemental throb which reads the soul with the birth pangs of immortal love.” In order to ensure this quality of love, it is essential that young women enter first into a platonic friendship with a man that they respect, this relationship eventually blossoming into love, if there is a solid basis of immortal love.
A 1912 article written by Washington Gladden for Good Housekeeping (April, v. 54, pp. 483-491) similarly emphasizes the importance of friendship during the courtship period of a relationship: “marriage, at its best, is the sacrament of friendship.” Married couples should be first and foremost “comrades.” According to Gladden:
. . . if they were of the same sex they would find it a joy to live together. . . There are many families in which passion often flames and sentiment frequently flourishes from which a real friendship is sometimes sadly absent. These are husbands and wives who often convince themselves that they love each other dearly, who are not nearly so good friends as they ought to be.