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Lola Landau, "The Companionate Marriage" (1929)

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If, however, the man of today continues to seek the woman of yesterday, his creature, the pliant helpmate, he will be bitterly disappointed not to find her anymore.

Marriage and its value as the cell of community is threatened with crisis. For new ideas of marriage have not yet caught on. What is permitted today? Nearly everything. But what is truly good? What is bad? The warning signals of inhibition no longer function. Everywhere, however, one notes the confusion, the aimlessness, a tortured seeking, and in between, the impotent smile of flippancy.

In his book, Companionate Marriage, Ben Lindsey, the American juvenile-court judge, has attempted to save marriage from this chaos by lending it a new form. As impossible as it is simply to transpose his reform proposals into our European conditions, he nevertheless offers fruitful suggestions from his socially critical point of view. Lindsey would like to introduce, alongside permanent marriage, the companionate marriage as a second legal form of marriage. Companionate marriage in his sense denotes the lawful tie between two young people who, in the first years, use birth control to avoid having children, so that they can check carefully whether their respective characters will match harmoniously in the long run.

If the first rush of love has passed and the young people have been disappointed in their expectations, then the companionate marriage can be dissolved quite easily. All that is required for divorce is a simple, mutual agreement. Nor is there any obligation of support, since they have no responsibility for children and the wife has continued in her occupation. If, however, the two people live happily with each other, then after a certain trial period they can change their companionate marriage into a family marriage and fulfill their desires for children.

[ . . . ]

The marriage of the future will perhaps be the companionate marriage, but in a much broader sense than Lindsey’s. It will mean not only a childless trial marriage for young people but the ever-maturing challenge to live a full life. It will reestablish in another form its original idea of community and grow into a fruitful cell in the overall cellular state. It will unite the woman, with her informed views and matured heart, to the man as a comrade, and two free personalities will march along the same path toward a great goal, allowing the uniform beat of their steps to blend into a single rhythm.

Source of English translation: Lola Landau, “The Companionate Marriage” (1929), in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. © 1994 Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press, pp. 702-03. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Source of original German text: Lola Landau, “Kamaradschaftsehe,” Die Tat 20, 11 (February 1929), pp. 831-35.

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