Wednesday, 11 February 2015

How some marriages used to be

Here are two links that describe marriages that are not modern marriages.

First, this is billed, not without reason, as "a chilling glimpse into the horrors of marriage counselling before feminism". Here's an example:

"In March 1957, in the case of ‘Josh’ and ‘Elsa’, Elsa reported that Josh hit her after he came home late from an office party. In the course of her description of their relationship, Elsa tells the counsellor that when their daughter Sally was born: ‘Josh showed plainly his disappointment that the baby wasn’t a boy.’ ‘When the baby and I came home,’ she added, ‘I stayed in bed and let him prepare his own breakfast. He was outraged and yelled so furiously all the neighbours heard him.’ Elsa told the counsellor that she was absolutely miserable in her marriage: ‘When [Josh] abuses me in the presence of our children, when he humiliates me before the neighbours, I want to curl up and die. There is an ache deep in my chest, in my heart. I feel physically sick.’

The counsellor wrote that Elsa was ‘jolted and shocked when I told her she was partly at fault’. This wife needed to be convinced out of her own self-righteous understanding of the situation, the counsellor argued. ‘If she wanted a serene family life, she would have to learn to give Josh what he wanted from their marriage and thereby help him control his temper.’

It's an interesting article and we can read it and enjoy the pleasant sensation of feeling that we do things much better nowadays.

My second link is a bit more difficult. It is an article from 1939 entitled "I Married a Jew" which begins:

"My husband's father and mother are Jews. My parents are both what Mr. Hitler would be pleased to call 'Aryan' Germans. I am an American-born girl, and the first to defend my Americanism in an argument; yet so strong are family ties, and the memory of a happy thirteen-month sojourn in the Vaterland a few years ago, that I frequently find myself trying to see things from the Nazis' point of view and to [find] excuses for the things they do—to the dismay of our liberal-minded friends and the hurt confusion of my husband."

The problem here is not a lack of feminism - the marriage appears to be a happy and an equal one. And in defence of the author, I am quite sure that she would not have been so apt to see the Nazis' point of view had she known all that we know about them now. Nonetheless, there is something very much not of this time about passages such as this:

"Our hottest argument concerns the question whether there exists such a thing as a Jewish problem. Ben [the author's husband] is ready to discuss the separate differences between Jews and Christians, but when I lump them all together as constituting the world's Jewish problem he flares up. Oh, there's a problem all right, he allows, but it concerns only the Jews, and he'd thank the Gentiles to mind their own business and keep their hands off. To which I reply, 'How can we ignore it when it concerns us as much as the Jews? How can the host ignore the quarrels of the guest in his house?' To which Ben answers with some heat; 'We are not guests; we are good citizens of the countries in which we live.'

... [I reply:] Instinctively [the Jew] desires first the welfare and advancement of his own people. So long as a country gives him a living and lets him alone, he doesn't much care what happens to it. When things go well, he stays; when things go wrong, he packs up and moves to another country. Where is the Jew who says, 'My country, right or wrong'?

'All right,' says Ben, 'but can you blame us? Outside of England and America, what country has ever made us feel we could belong?'

'You are right,' I reply, 'and I don't blame you. I should feel the same if I were Jewish, But what does this prove? That a Jew is, with few exceptions, first a Jew, and second a citizen of the country where he happens to pitch his tent. After two thousand years of living with Gentiles he still retains his identity as a Jew—as an alien, if an alien means one who has not been absorbed into the main stream.'

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