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Helene Stöcker, "Marriage as a Psychological Problem" (1929)

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Thus from recent discoveries in biology and sociology, and with a more profound and objective psychology of sexual differences and with a clearer knowledge of the mind, we can build up a higher ethic for the creative transformation of our lives. Out of the fleeting temporary intoxication of the senses, out of passion, we can make an enduring relation between man and woman. We wish to get beyond mere nature. We wish to attain civilization, we wish to attain a permanent union, in which all human faculties, sensual, mental, and spiritual, will be united in a higher synthesis.

One point, which in my opinion is of very great importance in relation to happiness in marriage, is often ignored. Every age has its marriage problem. Discussions of marriage during recent decades usually give the impression that it is only young people who are concerned in the solution of sexual problems. All problems are problems of puberty. It is a welcome and important step in the direction of human maturity that at last the young people are being allowed what is necessary for their healthy sexual development. The young people will certainly not allow the enlightenment they have won to be taken from them again. But, in addition to the other revolutions which we have witnessed in recent years—the revolt of women, the revolt of youth, the revolt of the workers—there is another revolution which is essential for the increase in human happiness and achievement. This is revolution of the middle-aged. A revolt is necessary against the deplorable convention that imposes a premature sexual death on human beings. At present human beings unfortunately accept this with the same patience as they do the penalty of death inflicted undeservedly and foolishly by war. We must fight against the convention, which is part of the double standard of morality, that human beings, especially if they are women, are regarded as dead, as no longer fit for life and love, when they are only at the middle of their lives. Has anyone ever tried to calculate how much vital energy, how much joy of life, is destroyed or injured or made impossible in this way? How much creative power is wasted? How many voluntary deaths, how much of the premature senility of admirable human beings is to be credited to this barbaric superstition?

The marriage problem for young people is comparatively simple. Young people have already, by actual practice, and with the support of modern sexologists such as Judge Lindsey, Alexandra Kollontai and others of our movement, created, so to speak, a system of companionate marriage.

Life is still before the young people. If a love union or marriage is broken up, this is naturally much easier to bear than it is in cases where there is nothing before the individual but a slow progress towards the grave. The advice of the French philosopher not to waste the years of love is fortunately usually followed. But we must learn to accept without prejudice the epoch-making discovery of psychoanalysis which is fundamentally a platitude: namely, that the need for love and the capacity for love—which indeed are a part of the instinct for life itself—accompany us from the cradle to the grave and require fulfillment if the character is to be adequately adjusted.

As we try to be fair to young people we must also try and be fair towards those who are no longer young. Many desirable changes have already taken place. Not only has the span of life been increased but also the span of love. This change must go further in proportion as care of her body, satisfaction in a vocation which she has chosen for herself, and increase in mental and economic independence make woman into a personality centered in herself. Such a woman can spread pleasure and attraction around her like a man of creative capacity. This development will depend also on the extent to which men learn to love the whole personality of women and not merely their sex.

[ . . . ]

We find around us today marriages and permanent love relationships between men and women in which, in spite of suffering, disappointments and temporary difficulties, such as are always likely to occur, love is in no way diminished by age; certainly not by middle-age. The sexual embrace is only one expression of love.

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