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Vol. XIX No. 38
19 June 2022


Orson Squire Fowler

Author of Manhood, Womanhood, and Their Mutual Interrelations (1875)

Wrong Courtships Spoil Most Marriages

All ye who court, bungle whatever else you will, but do not dare bungle courtship; because its right management will conduct all to that happiest issue of life, a happy marriage; whilst its wrong is commensurately disastrous. Its august mission is to establish between two that eternal affiliation which will ever constitute them “one flesh;” cement each other’s affections past all possibility of future rupture; and render them one in object, doctrine, feeling, spirit, everything. Young folks, this subject concerns you as much as does a happy marriage. Parents, you have a stake in this matter equal to all your interests in your dear children’s marital well-being.

Some fundamental errors alone could blight the great majority of marriages as now. No minor superficial causes could effect results thus terribly fatal. Only a very wrong beginning very wrongly continued could even prevent all marriages from being superlatively happy; much less mar most of them, and render even the majority of them wretched. So great is the power of love to unite two of even opposite temperaments, fuse those naturally uncongenial, amalgamate those actually repellant, and harmonize even civilized with savage, that only some monster wrong in its very beginning could eventuate thus disastrously to the great proportion of matches. That a wrong selection is not this cause, is proved by the law already established, that love is both self-perpetuating, and self-augmenting that all who once begin, naturally love more and better the longer they live in love.

Love miseries outside of marriage at least equal, probably surpass, those within it. What are our marital cankerworms? What wolves and tigers perpetrate all this dreadful havoc?

Flirting; Courting “Just for Fun”

They are universal, almost. Who can say I never made love, and had none made to me, except to and by the one I married? What means all this street gadding after dark, so common in factory and other towns, but to see, be seen by, and flirt with, the “fellars” and “gals.”

Church attendants, go ye not “to meeting” more to ogle than pray, flirt than adore, worship Venus than Christ, go home with a girl, or be going home with by “a fellar,” than to “Love the Lord”? Ladies, what induces you to dress thus voluptuously, behave so fascinatingly, and comport yourselves thus stylishly? “To win the beaux, admire and be admired by them,” is your practical answer in most that you say and do there. You do not “primp up” and “pretty off” thus for naught.

Parties, balls, &c., are obviously and avowedly “got up,” loved, and conducted to make conquests, “cut out” each other, enamor and be enamored. All coquettes equally illustrate our subject of “making love merely for the fun in the thing;” as well as all encouragements without a marriage purpose. All who court to “have and give a good time” have broken hearts by millions, broken only by the flirtations of their arch deceivers.

Trifling with Another’s Affections, Most Wicked

Inflicting pain is diabolical, except in doing good. All mankind have justly cursed Nero’s cruelty, the “Inquisition,” &c. All wanton tortures of man by man are heinous in proportion to their severity. Yet men who torture women cap the climax of human depravity. Worst of all, how fiendish for young men to elicit only to blight the affections of young women!

Women suffer more than men; and girls most of all. How fearful the effects of affectional blight! Only those who have suffered thus can begin to realize how awful. And even they barely begin. Yet you, flirting culprit, inflict all this on a fellow-being, a child of our common Father. Men should promote the happiness, not cause the misery even of beast, much more of man, most of all of females. Torturing the opposite sex is double-distilled barbarity. Yet young men agonizing young ladies thus, is cruelty the most cold-blooded and desperate men or devils can perpetrate. What intensity of Divine wrath, here and hereafter, can duly punish so great a sinner for so great a sin! If this sin can be forgiven, in God’s name seek pardon first, for you need it most, yet deserve it least. You who have not thus cursed your own future by blighting female love, be entreated never to let any woman even begin to love you unless willing to enshrine her queen of your heart and life forever! A woman’s love is your talisman, her heart-broken moaning, your death dirge.

“I never asked her to love me; then how am I to blame?” By often escorting her to church, concert, picnic, party; by looking so blandly and seeming so happy with her, as if you could not bask enough in her affections; by your actions, which always “speak louder than words;” and many like means, you solicited hers in return; until, reluctantly, confidingly, she took you at your act. By thus inviting her affections, you proffered her your own far more than any words could proffer: else actions are only farces. Your gallant attentions on their very face assured her, that if she would reciprocate your love, you would continue to love her alone for life. How outrageous to solicit and accept hers without returning your own. He is far less a robber who asks a merchant his price for specified choice articles, seems satisfied, and takes the goods, but sneaks out with “I never promised to pay.”

You injure her relatives. After her doting parents have done their best to fit her to become a superb wife and mother, you visit her as a suitor. They tolerate your visits only as such. If they supposed you came merely to fritter away your and her affections, they should and would bar their doors against you. Their being her natural protectors makes it their bounden duty to see that all her lovers come, not as wolves in sheep’s clothing, but only as genuine marriage candidates, or otherwise eject you indignantly, even violently, just as if you assaulted her virtue. In this false disguise you win only to break her heart, and then turn traitor. Confidence between friends should never be betrayed; much less between the sexes; last of all between lovers.

Female flirtation is almost as bad. After coquettishly inviting and allowing a man to love and caress you, how wicked to agonize him by his causeless dismissal? Be not so cruel.

Every girl should steel her heart against all affectional overtures, unless and until accompanied by proposals. Her love is her all; so that she should “set her face as a flint” against all forms of courtship, unless first certain that her affections can and will be reciprocated, and eventuate in marriage.

Woman should guard man’s love likewise? Shall she allow him to wait on, and proffer marks of special regard, when she has no intention of marrying him? She may not do him as great a wrong by allowing his attentions as he her by proffering his “just for fun;” but does she not do him a wrong no true woman should ever inflict on any man? The mere fact of receiving his special attentions practically encourages their continuance, and promises her own in return. Neither sex should allow any affectional manifestations till affianced. Commitment first, then love.

Liberties during Courtship.
They Kill Love

Purity always enamors, while sensuality disgusts the opposite sex. Purity in woman is doubly attractive, and sensuality repellant. Liberties kill love. Let the experience of every courted woman attest whether all kinds and degrees of sexual freedoms she ever permitted any man to take with her, did not obviously deaden his love for her. What though she yielded reluctantly, just to oblige him, and only at his most earnest solicitations—the more earnest the better for our argument—what if her whole being shrank from them, yet they killed his respect and affection for her, however great both. And he despised her more the more she tolerated, even if they did not extend to intercourse; and if they did, they killed it, because of necessity mutually unsatisfactory.

All sexual familiarities breed contempt. Girls note:—“I tried two years in vain, while courting my wife, to get her to kiss me; but she would not, and I married her because she wouldn’t. I wouldn’t marry any girl who would. The more she wouldn’t, the more I wanted to marry her; for I wanted kisses from one whose kisses were exclusive.”

Bear that lesson ever in mind, all ye who court, and tremble whenever you violate this sexual law. Courted females, make “Hands off” your motto. Say practically or literally:—“Seal our love by engagement and marriage, and all I have and am is yours to possess and enjoy; but till then ‘touch not, taste not, handle not,’ lest our blissful affections perish by wrong usage.” The fact is, “Right is right,” and blesses, while wrong is wrong, and curses.

Put and keep yourself on high ladylike ground. Show your admirers that however freely you manifest your intellectual, literary, moral, religious, domestic, and all other qualities, yet that you hold your love too choice and sacred to be conferred, even in the least, except on your affianced husband, and that no semblance of passion can be extorted till after engagement; and this “high- toned” stand more than all else will exalt you in their estimation, increase their admiration, extort proposals, and bring them upon their bended knees in solicitation. All worth having will go and sell all to obtain such.

Sexual freedoms belong only to marriage. They have no part nor lot in courtship, none till after betrothal; none even then till love is sufficiently matured to justify and prepare for the earlier steps of that parentage which constitutes the only ultimate of sexuality—love and marriage. Love lasts. Passion is fitful, and wanes or perishes with indulgence.

Abstinence till after marriage is the only policy, and best for both, the female especially.

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