If you read blogs or go on Facebook or even watch the news, you've probably heard about the post written by Seth Adam Smith, Marriage Isn't For You. In the post, Mr. Smith writes thoughtfully and sincerely about his brief (1-1/2 year) marriage and the advice his father gave him about what marriage is for:
...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 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 about the person you married."
Having been married for 24 years, I have a little more experience than the author about what makes a marriage work -- and not just my marriage, but the marriages of the people around me. And one thing I know for sure -- if you spend your life and your marriage trying to make someone else happy before you yourself are happy, you are doomed to fail. It's one thing to compromise, but it's a whole other thing to put someone else's needs and desires before yours on a daily basis, diminishing yourself in the process.
And about the raising kids thing -- of course it's important to choose a partner with whom you would want to have children. But something must come before that -- you must be in love. When I fell in love with my husband, I didn't dissect the way he was raised and decide if the parenting skills he learned while growing up would fit with my ideal image of a father -- had I done that, we might never have married. Not that he was raised poorly -- quite the contrary, he and his brothers and sister are all successful, admirable people who are clearly products of good parenting.
But here's the catch -- he was raised very differently than I was. And yet together, we were -- and still are -- a good parenting team.
However, the biggest thing that bothers me is this notion that marriage isn't for you, it's for the person you married.
Marriage isn't for the person you marry. Marriage is for... the marriage. Marrying is deciding that the two of you, together, are more important than either of you alone. Marriage is a partnership, not a sacrifice to the altar of someone else's joy. Marriage is a long-term commitment to going at it as a team, not a long-term commitment to ensuring someone else feels good all the time. There will be days when marriage will be so out of balance that you'll believe you're sucking the life out of your spouse, or that they're draining you of all substance. That's ok. That's what marriage does. And that's what marriage is.
I would tell my children -- if they asked -- to marry because you love someone who loves you back. Marry because you can't imagine being without this person. But most of all, marry because this person makes you happy. If someone is making you happy, chances are you're doing the same for them. But never, ever give up your own happiness on a regular basis to ensure someone else's.
That will ruin a marriage.
Previously published on Empty House Full Mind