What I need to know Before I Say " I Do"
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Ought I to marry?" is not a simple question. Its answer is full of a thousand complications. For the great majority of people it is one of the three most importantquestions that are ever answered or left unanswered in a whole lifetime. The other two are "What is my main purpose in life?" and "What is to be my occupation?" They are old questions, but
"Ought I to marry?" is new. In the old days everyone was married as a matter of course. Perhaps in the future the main question will be, "Am I fit to be married?"Ought I to marry?" is really three questions in one. First, "Have I a right to marry?" Second, "Is it wise for me to marry?" Third, "Is it my duty to marry?" You say, perhaps, that these questions are your own business and nobody else's,but you are wrong. They are somebody else's business, and the somebodies else are a good deal more numerous than you think. The first somebody is the man or girl whom you want to marry. Will it be good for him or her to marry you? The next somebodies are the children whom you and your mate may have. They have a right to be born with a good inheritance, to be reared in good health, and to be well trained in a happy home. Your children's children, too, will have a right to bless you or curse you, according to your way of answering the question,
"Ought I to marry?"But even your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are not all the somebodies who are vitally concerned with your answer. Hundreds of people will be helped or hindered by your home, by the kind of person you become under its influence, and by the kind of children who go out from it. You and"he," or you and "she," are certainly the ones most immediately concerned in the question "Ought I to marry?" but your children's stake in the matter is even greater than yours.
Now for the three questions which are implied when you ask, "Ought I to marry?" First, "Have I a right to marry?" Every young person should ask this question. Fitness includes several aspects, among which the first is physical. The most inexcusable unfitness is venereal disease. There is no meaner crime than for a young man to acquire venereal disease by reason of weakness of will, and then pass it on to an innocent girl and perhaps to unborn children. Physicians say that in spite of so-called modern prophylaxis and supposed cures, syphilis is still alarmingly common, and other venereal diseases are rampant. A person having any of these diseases has absolutely no right to marry. Even if he is pronounced cured, he ought not to marry until a physician pronounces him cured beyond danger of recurrence.
For this reason the strictest premarital examination by a competent physician should be required. Marriage should be contracted only after such a physician has given both man and woman a clean bill of health. This is desirable as a means not only of creating a public opinion which will express itself in laws, but of giving both parties a feeling of security. No matter how completely they may trust each other, it is well to have a physician verify the trust.
Another reason for a complete physical examination before marriage is to determine whether it is possible for both parties to have children. Sometimes expert medical advice and treatment make all the difference between a childless home and one that has the happiness of a well-rounded family. In every marriage children should be an essential feature—the most essential feature in the long run. In many countries sterility is sufficient grounds for divorce. In an ideal civilization probably no marriage would be permitted between a person who appears to be sterile and one who appears normal. The sterile would marry the sterile, and the fertile the fertile. Even in our civilization what right has anyone to doom his partner to a childless marriage?
The overwhelming majority of people want children. Only the highly exceptional and pitiable woman is without this desire. The normal man feels it almost as strongly as the woman when once the little hand of his own child clasps his finger. Of course unforeseen conditions may unexpectedly make one partner to a marriage sterile, but that is another matter and by no means prevents a happy marriage. In certain cases, too, it may be allowable for a fertile partner to marry one who is known to be sterile. That should never happen, however, without the fullest knowledge on the part of both,and without full time to think the matter over quietly and in complete freedom from the emotional strain caused by the loved one's frequent presence.
Many childless marriages are rendered not only happy but very useful to society by the adoption of children. It should always be remembered that from the standpoint not only of family life but of old age and of society in general,children are the most important result of marriage.