Though not perhaps completely relevant to the nervousness of the housewife, it is not without some point to touch on the “neurosis of the engaged.” The freedom of the engaged couple is part of the emancipation of youth in our time. Frankly, a love-making ensues that stops just short of the ultimate relationship, an excitement and a tension are aroused and perpetuated through the frequent and protracted meetings. Sweet as this period of life is, in many cases it brings about a mild exhaustion, and in other cases, relatively few, a severe neurosis. On the whole the engagement period of the average American couple is not a good preparation for matrimony. How to bring about restraint without interfering with normal love-making is not an easy decision to make. But it would be possible to introduce into the teaching of hygiene the necessity of moderation in the engaged period; it would be especially of service to those whose engagement must be prolonged to be advised concerning the matter. Here is a place for the parents, the family friend, or the family physician.
Men and women as they enter matrimony are only occasionally equipped with real knowledge as to the physiology and psychology of the sex life. That a great deal of domestic dissatisfaction and unhappiness could be obviated if wisdom and experience instructed the husband and wife in the matter I have not the slightest doubt. The first rift in the domestic lute often dates from difficulties in the intimate life of the pair, difficulties that need not exist if there were knowledge. That reason and love may coexist, that the beauty of life is not dependent on a sentimentalized ignorance are cardinal in my code of beliefs. He who believes that sentiment disappears with enlightenment is the true cynic, the true pessimist. He who believes that intelligence and knowledge should guide instinct and that happiness is thus more certain is better than an optimist; he is a rationalist, a realist.
TREATMENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL CASES
It is obvious that what is largely a problem of the times cannot be wholly considered as an individual problem. Yet individual cases do yield to treatment (to use the slang of medicine) or at least a large proportion do. The minor cases in point of symptoms are very frequently the most stubborn, since neither the patient nor the family are willing to concede that to alter the life situation is as important as the taking of medicine.
Most housewives are nervous, both in their own eyes and in those of their husbands, yet rightly they are not regarded as sick. They are uncomfortable, even unhappy, and the way out seems impossible to find. I believe that even with things as they are, adjustments are possible that can help the average woman. It is conceded that where the life situation involves an unalterable factor, relief or help may be unobtainable.