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Marriage Isn’t For You
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Summary: Seth Smith blogged that he realized marriage was not for him. This entry summarizes his view and responds to it.

After a year and a half of marriage, Seth Adam Smith came to realize that marriage is not for him. In his blog, he relates that as he was planning to marry his high school sweetheart he began to worry, “was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?”

  
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He tells how he took his doubts to his dad, who responded, “Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy; you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all 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 about the person you married.”

Seth relates, “It was in that very moment that I knew that Kim was the right person to marry. I realized that I wanted to make her happy; to see her smile every day, to make her laugh every day.”

Such selfless advice resonates deeply with our culture of Christian selflessness and the ideal of each of us being a servant of mankind. It is, however, a simplification. We do not marry simply to make another person happy, but to make us happy together. No wife is going to be fulfilled by a man who is eager only and always to please her. Love is about reciprocation, and pleasing and serving must go both ways for there to be respect, tenderness, and equality.

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So yes, marriage is for you; it’s for you, your spouse, your children; you must attempt to make the family stable, strong, tender, and make sure that everybody is happy. You do not do this by pretending a concern for your own happiness is “selfish,” but in realizing that your happiness can be interrelated to the happiness of your wife and children. This is no clean binary of selfishness versus selflessness – it’s both. You need to take care of yourself and also your wife; your wife, and also your children. Marriage is about you, but not only about you. Marriage is about us, marriage is a We.

Marriage is a skill, and there will be moments when you feel neglected, mistreated, disrespected, ignored, invalidated. To deny those very real feelings with the words, “well this isn’t really about me, now is it?” will only build hidden resentment that will come out in ways you can neither predict nor prevent. You cannot take your own happiness out of the equation or pretend that “I will be happy so long as my spouse is happy.” It doesn’t work that way. You must have the courage to admit to your spouse when you are unhappy, and trust she won’t be too defensive, that you both realize you can grow together to become stronger and happier.



So while Seth claims “selfishness demands, ‘What’s in it for me,’ and Love asks ‘What can I give,’ it would be more rounded to say, “Love asks both how can I love myself and how can I love others.” They are by no means mutually exclusive. They are often the same thing. The self, after all, is a beautiful thing, and when we love our spouse we love her self. We want her to love herself too, just as she loves ours.

There is no simple formula for a happy marriage such as “marriage isn’t for you.” Marriage is a skill, a relationship that requires attention, practice, devotion, and the persistence to work through inevitable failures rather than giving up or pretending your pain doesn’t matter. You’re in it for both of you.



 

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