Read To Mrs. Clarence St. Claire of A Woman of the World, free online book, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, on

Concerning Her Husband

I am sorry that your matrimonial barque meets so many rough winds while hardly out of Honeymoon Bay.

Clarence and you seemed so deeply in love when I last saw you, six months after your wedding, that I had hoped all might go well with you.

I knew the disposition of Clarence to be tainted with jealousy, but hoped you would be able to eradicate it from his nature.

You know his poor mother suffered agonies from the infidelities of his father before Clarence was born.  She had married a handsome foreigner with whom she was desperately enamoured, while he cared only for the fortune she brought him.

While still in the full light of the honeymoon he began to indulge in flirtations and amours, and poor Clarence, during the important prenatal period of life, received the mark of suspicion and the tendency to hypersensitiveness which then dominated the mother.

By the time Elise was born she had passed through the whole process, and was passive and indifferent.

I cannot help a sensation of amusement, even in face of the condition you describe (which is little short of tragic), as I recall the letter Clarence wrote begging me to try and prevent, by fair means or foul, his sister’s marriage to old Mr. Volney.

That was two years before you and Clarence were married.

Elise, we all know, wedded for the money and position Mr. Volney gave, in return for her young beauty.

Clarence and you were ideal lovers, seeing nothing in the world outside of your own selves.

Yet Elise is quite contented, and Mr. Volney uses what little brain he has left to exult over his possession of such a beautiful young wife.

Elise upholds his dignity and flatters him into a belief that he is a great philanthropist and a social power, and in this way she has the handling of his millions, which is her idea of happiness.  She travels, entertains, and poses for photographs and paintings in imported gowns, and there is no rumour of discontent or divorce.

Meanwhile, Clarence, who was so opposed to her marriage because it was loveless, is making a mess of his own love-match, through his jealousy.

You, who knew him to be insanely jealous as a lover, and who seemed to be flattered with what you thought a proof of his devotion, appeal to me now to know what to do with the husband who is destroying your love and your happiness!  Surely, if Elise knew of this she might well say, “He laughs best who laughs last.”

I know that you were absorbed in Clarence for the first year of your married life, and that you gave no least cause for any jealousy, and I know, as you say, that even then he was often morbid and unhappy over nothing at all.

He was jealous even of girl friends and relatives, and if you attended a matinee with one of them, he sulked the whole evening.

This was little more than he did as a lover, and you should have begun in those days to reason him out of such moods.

You imagined then it was his mad love for you which caused his unreasonable jealousy.

But jealousy is self-love, and selfishness lies at the root of such conditions of mind as his.

A woman should say to a man who sulks or goes into tantrums when she pays courteous attentions to relatives or acquaintances, “You are lowering my ideal of you-I cannot love a man who will indulge such unworthy moods.  You insult my womanhood and doubt my principles by your suspicions; you intimate that I have neither truth, or judgment, or pride.  You must conquer yourself, and learn to trust me and to believe in me, or I must decide I am no woman for you to take as a life companion.”  A man should take the same course toward a jealous sweetheart or wife.

A few quiet but firm assertions of this nature, when you were being wooed, would have given Clarence an idea that he could lose you, and that he was making himself ridiculous in your eyes.  Instead, you boasted to your friends how wildly infatuated he was, and Clarence took new pride in his own blemish of character.

Now that you have to live day, and night, and week, and month, and year, with this trait, it seems a less romantic phase of devotion, I fancy.  But you are not wise to grow reckless and ignore the wishes of your husband in all ways, because he is unreasonable.  “Since he is so absolutely impossible to please,” you say, “I may as well please myself.  I have decided to take some of the liberties so many of my acquaintances do, and enjoy life outside my home if I cannot enjoy it within.”

Then you proceed to tell me how more than half your associates drive, lunch, and dine with men acquaintances, and how old-fashioned they consider your scruples.  And you tell me that, despite your rectitude, Clarence insults you almost daily by his unreasoning jealousy of men, women, and even children.

“I have about made up my mind to be less prudish and enjoy myself, as I am sure Clarence cannot be any more jealous than he is,” you say.

Now since you have asked my advice in the matter, I can only urge you to reconsider this last determination.

So long as you are, according to law and in the eyes of the world, the wife of a man, you cannot escape comment if you are frequently seen in public places alone with another.

Were you to look into the hearts of other men who ask you to dine, drive, or lunch alone with them, you would find a feeling of increased respect when you decline, although they may show only disappointment on the surface.  I know that many wives of unblemished reputation accept courtesies of this kind from masculine friends, and I of course understand that circumstances may arise which make an occasional acceptance proper.

But the fewer such occasions, the better and the safer for the married woman.  The man who is perfectly willing his wife should appear frequently in public with other men does not fully appreciate the dignity of her position or his own, or else he has lost his love for her.

The fact that your husband is jealous without reason is no excuse for giving him reason.  The moment men know that a husband is inclined to jealousy, he falls in their estimation, and they are seized with a desire to aggravate him, while they sympathize with the wife.

The sympathetic friend of the abused wife is a dangerous companion for her.  He may mean to be platonic and kind, but almost invariably he becomes sentimental and unsafe.

Once in a thousand times the absolutely happy wife of a husband she respects as well as loves can enjoy a platonic friendship with a man who respects her, and himself, and her husband.  But even that situation is liable to prove insecure, if they are much together, owing to the selfishness and weakness of human nature when the barriers of convention are removed.

But the unhappy wife must take no chances with Fate.

She must either decide to accept her lot and bear it with philosophy, or escape from it and begin life over, after the courts have given her the right to reconstruct her destiny.

You know all that entails.  It is not a pleasant process.

If your love for your husband is entirely dead, and you feel that he has forfeited all right to your sympathy, pity, or patience, then break the fetters and go free.  But if you feel that you are not ready for that ordeal, and that you must still remain living under the same roof with him, and continue to bear his name, then do not join the great army of wives who are to be seen in public restaurants and hotels dining tete-a-tete with “platonic friends” over emptied glasses.

You can but make trouble for yourself and add to the misery of your husband by such a course.  In your particular case, I feel that your knowledge of the jealous disposition of the man you married renders it your duty to bear and forbear, and to try every method of reformation before you resort to the very common highway of divorce as an exit from your unhappiness.

A woman has no right to complain of the fault in a husband which she condoned in a lover.  And a man has no right to complain of the fault in a wife he condoned in a sweetheart.  Yet both may strive to correct that fault.

Insist upon having women and men friends who can be received at your home in presence of your husband.  Make Clarence realize how he belittles himself in your estimation by unreasoning jealousy.  Give him to understand that you want to love him and respect him, and that you have no intention of lowering your standard of behaviour, because he is constantly expecting you to.  Tell him it mortifies you to find greater pleasure away from him than in his presence, yet when he insults you with his suspicions, and destroys your comfort with his moods, you can no longer think of him as your girlhood’s ideal.

Ask him to try, for your sake, to use more common sense and self-control in this matter, and to help you to restore the happiness which seems flying from your wedded lives.

Do nothing to aggravate or irritate him, but do not give up your friends of either sex; this is but to increase his inclination to petty tyranny, while it will in no sense lessen his jealousy.

And when you are alone, endeavour to think of him always as sensible, reasonable, and kind.

By your mental picture you can help to cure him of the blight he received before his birth.  It is the task set many a wife, to counteract the errors and neglect of mothers.

Look to the Divine source for help in your work, and remember the lovely qualities Clarence possesses when he is not under the ban of this prenatal mark.

Love him out into the light if you can-and I believe you can if you are not too soon discouraged.

It is a nobler effort to try and create in your husband the ideal you have in your mind, than to go seeking him elsewhere.

Be patient and wait awhile.  Such love as you and Clarence felt in your courtship and early marriage cannot so soon have died.  It is only sleeping, and suffering from a nightmare.  Awaken it to life and reality and happiness.