Monday, December 16, 2013

Marriage Isn’t For You; Marriage is For Us

A few days ago, my 19 year-old son asked me if I had read a blog post which had gone viral.  The post is titled Marriage Isn’t For You and written by Seth Adam Smith.  At approximately the same time my son was asking me about the article, his girlfriend happened to message me a link to it and asked for my opinion.  I was curious what this post was all about and took the time to read it multiple times and ponder it for a couple of days.  I asked my husband (of 26 ½ years) to also read the article. 

I offered my son and his girlfriend a different viewpoint:

It’s true that marriage isn’t for you.  We should not enter into a marriage for what we can get out of it for one’s own self.  Marriage is giving and taking.  Humans are full of selfish desires and quite skilled at doing whatever is necessary to preserve their personal well-being and happiness.  No one needs marriage to accomplish those goals and absolutely should not enter into marriage in order to fulfill them.  Unfortunately, many people do make the mistake of looking to their spouse to be their source of constant happiness. 

In the Marriage Isn’t For You article, the author mentions that his father said some things to him that made a difference in his viewpoint of marriage.  I agree with the following things his father stated about marriage:

“Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you… your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you…

Marriage is not all about you, and it is not for you

Marriage is not all about the other person and it is not for them either. 

Marriage is about a couple.  It is for a couple.

Marriage is for the “us” of that couple. 

Marriage is for a couple as it embarks together on their present and future life’s journey.

Marriage is a union of two people becoming as one.  That was God’s intent from the beginning: “and the two shall become one”.  In marriage, two single individuals complement and complete each other. 

Secondary to marriage being about the us, marriage also involves others.  Others are the extended family members who are also part of the marriage union.  Others are the children of the married couple, the grandchildren, and so on.  Even though there is an aspect about others in a marriage, marriage at its root must be about the couple as one—the us.  Because when family members are distant in relationship or in geographical miles or they die, and when the children of the marriage grow up and leave home, that couple is left with each other—us.

In the same manner that we should not enter a marriage for self-gratification, we should not enter a marriage with a focus solely on gratifying the other person and carrying the responsibility of that person’s happiness.  Love is a complicated thing, full of joys and sacrifices.  In love, we are certainly to look out for the best interest and well-being of the person we love.  But there must be a give and take on both sides.  I think it is a mistake to expect our spouse to carry the responsibility of our constant happiness upon their shoulders.

Because Marriage Isn’t for You went viral, it concerns me that Seth Smith’s viewpoint focuses on marriage being for others and his spouse’s happiness being his responsibility.  It concerns me that such a focus will lead a person entering into a marriage to be under the false impression that it is their spouse’s responsibility to make sure they are happy and stay happy.  It concerns me that spouses will have the mentality, “I married you to be happy, and now my happiness depends on you.”  That’s a burdensome expectation to place upon someone else.  Such an expectation can easily lead to the death of a marriage.  Happiness is not something to be had at all times.  If something that may make one of the spouses “happy” leads to the detriment of the couple (the us) or their family unit, then that factor must be re-evaluated and a different decision considered for the ultimate good of the us and the family. 

Personally, I do not feel it is my husband’s primary duty to make sure I’m happy.  And I would not want to place that burden on his shoulders.  I look to Michael to be my intimate partner in life, in joy, and in sorrow.  In our marriage, Michael demonstrates his love for me by watching out for my best interest, helping me, encouraging me, advising me, supporting me, protecting me, taking care of me, working alongside me, and being my faithful companion and lover. I also trust him to respectfully tell me when I need correction in my behavior or direction.  And I show my love for him in a similar manner.  Ultimately, we both look out for the best interest and well-being of us as a couple.  We are both committed to spending a lifetime together through thick and thin, highs and lows.  It is something we do for us first and foremost and for our children and family secondary. 

The greatest joy and happiness in a marriage union will come from mutual respect, commitment, and the love described in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.

Image source:
A strong, long-lasting marriage involves that kind of love equally flowing back and forth from husband and wife.  It's not an overnight, microwave speed type of love.  It is a love that is always growing and developing.  It is a love that surpasses physical passion and the worst of trials.

My marriage has not lasted over 26 years because Michael has focused on making sure I’m always happy or because I’ve done the same for him.  Our marriage has lasted because we have experienced life together, committed to us and to togetherness.  Our marriage has brought love, dislike, laughter, tears, mistakes, forgiveness, lies, truth, silence, communication, sickness, health, pride, humility, doubts, fears, impatience, patience, happiness, sadness, uncertainty, hard work, perseverance, and much more.  While Michael and I desire each other’s happiness and do things to please each other and bring happiness to the other person, we both understand that it is not either of our primary responsibility to each other.  The love described in 1 Corinthians 13 is.  No, we don’t do that love perfectly.  Our marriage is as imperfect as we are and has come a long, long way from the moment we initially said “I do”.  For the past 26 years, we have acted on a commitment to walking through life’s journey together and loving and working through all the imperfections together. 

And ultimately, at the heart of it all, God holds our marriage together.  It’s His accomplishment in our lives.  For that, we are beyond grateful.

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