Husband and wives must therefore learn to be good comrades. Most of married life is co-operation—the doing of a job that ties up with a corresponding job your partner is doing; the making of endless decisions about issues large and small’ adapting your schedule to the needs and wishes of husband or wife; sharing limited resources; playing fair and trusting the other person to play fair. Marriage is a searching test of our maturity as persons. The self-centered man or woman is ill fitted for such an enterprise.
Nearly all of us go into marriage with a great deal to learn and a good deal to unlearn. It is not easy to live the shared life, which calls again and again for personal sacrifice in the interest of the other and a continuity of harmonious relations. But by the same token marriage offers tremendous opportunities for personal growth. Anyone can live alone—there is no need to consider others. It is the capacity to live at close quarters with someone else and keep one’s head and temper that marks the mature person.
Marriage will either make us mature or bring to us the bitter fruits of our immaturity. The issue is decided by us. If we are eager enough to learn, honest enough to admit our mistakes, loving enough to forgive, marriage will be a process of continual growth toward increasing happiness. If we are rigid and inflexible, refusing to be molded by new experience, and resisting the changes that we are called up to make, we shall destroy our own chances of deep happiness and those of our partners as well.
There are strong reasons why, in our own personal interest, all should strive for good comradeship in marriage. There are even stronger reasons why we should do so for the sake of our children. Most of us learn, for good or ill, our first and most important lessons in human relations from our parents. We watch the way they behave, and we act or react accordingly. It is no exaggeration to say that most of the emotional disturbances that send men and women to the psychiatrist’s office are the direct or indirect results of what immature parents did to them. How can parents teach their children the art of living harmoniously with others if they themselves have failed to achieve any real comradeship as husband and wife?
The quality of the relationship in a family is profoundly influenced by the quality of the relationship between the man and woman who head it. If they can honestly strive to achieve a pattern of smooth co-operation in their life together, their children will be given every incentive to co-operate in the same spirit, as far as they are capable, at each successive stage of growth.