II. The second alternative is one of sullen submission. If one hates to “row,” to be “nagged,” he, she, submits, but with a bad grace, consumed constantly with an inward rebellion, which destroys love, leads to cowardly subterfuges, deceptions, and separations.
III. The third outcome is open rebellion, and the results of this are too well known to need elucidation—for whatever they may be, they are disastrous to the peace, happiness, and content of the family relationship.
Yet to show how hard it is to classify actual cases in any formal way, let me here introduce what I wrote long ago about a couple whom I have visited many times. It is a husband and wife who are both geniuses—far above the ordinary in several lines. They have money—made by their own work—the wife’s as well as the husband’s, for she is an architect and builder of fine homes. While they have great affection one for another, there is a constant undertone of worry in their lives. Each is too critical of the other. They worry about trifles. Each is losing daily the sweetness of sympathetic and joyous comradeship because they do not see eye to eye in all things. Where a mutual criticism of one’s work is agreed upon, and is mutually acceptable and unirritating, there is no objection to it. Rather should it be a source of congratulation that each is so desirous of improving that criticism is welcomed. But, in many cases, it is a positive and injurious irritant. One meets with criticism, neither kind nor gentle, out in the world. In the home, both man and woman need tenderness, sympathy, comradeship—and if there be weaknesses or failures that are openly or frankly confessed, there should be the added grace and virtue of compassion without any air of pitying condescension or superiority. By all means help each other to mend, to improve, to reach after higher, noble things, but don’t do it by the way of personal criticism, advice, remonstrance, fault-finding, worrying. If you do, you’ll do far more harm than good in ninety-nine cases out of every hundred. Every human being instinctively, in such position, consciously or unconsciously, places himself in the attitude of saying: “I am what I am! Now recognize that, and leave me alone! My life is mine to learn its lessons in my own way, just the same as yours is to learn your lessons in your way.” This worrying about, and of each other has proven destructive of much domestic happiness, and has wrecked many a marital barque, that started out with sails set, fair wind, and excellent prospects.
Don’t worry about each other—help each other by the loving sympathy that soothes and comforts. Example is worth a million times more than precept and criticism, no matter how lovingly and wisely applied, and few men and women are wise enough to criticise and advise perpetually, without giving the recipient the feeling that he is being “nagged.”