Marriage: is it about you or isn’t it?

roses and rings-marriage

An article going viral on social media lately is: “Marriage isn’t for you” by Seth Adam Smith.  Having got cold feet a year and a half into his own marriage he turned to his father for advice and was told that marriage is about the person you married and about family.  That is:

“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 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.”

His critics have hit back to say that selfishness has become a dirty word and that marriage should be about you.  It should be about finding someone who makes you feel giddy and brings out the best in you.  After all, what if your other half is demanding and abusive?

Hey ho?  Well, Smith’s blog post does not cover every eventuality and every faucet of every relationship type out there!  It’s about learning to give to each other within an already healthy relationship.  It’s about not turning sour something you should learn to fully appreciate.  And how do you appreciate a good, healthy relationship?  By giving to each other, respectfully and unconditionally.

For those who are generous and giving to a fault, learning to be selfish protects you from the wrong kinds of relationships. 

I feel that those who hit out at Smith feel that relationships are the stuff of romance novels and hold unrealistic expectations of reality.  Much of life involves giving: you reap  what you sow.  Scary as it may seem, many should ask: how much effort have I put into this before they question how much return they are receiving.  I agree though, not all farmers are able to harvest a bumper crop at all times, despite the effort sown.  *Sigh*  That is also a fact of life: you win some and you lose some.  True, just because you give within a relationship does not mean that you will receive.  Unrequited love is not just the stuff of poems and forlorn artists.

I do believe that the wider, bigger picture of marrying for family is indeed a healthy view to hold.  It certainly gives one impetus and purpose of marriage, perhaps even giving meaning to life itself.

With Chinese New Year having just gone (31st January 2014 – Happy Year of the Horse!) it might be quite apt to add that the Chinese believe that happiness is having a family.

But, there is always the overhanging shadow about whether marriage is necessary.  After all, a committed couple is a committed couple and do not require a certificate to seal their love and commitment to each other.  What can be done within marriage can be done just as well outside of marriage, no?

My own belief is that marriage allows a relationship to progress that bit further: stepping up to the plate for the building of a family, perhaps.  There are some that view marriage as the destination i.e. time to kick-back, chill and let the relationship coast along in neutral.  Oh, how scary!  Or is it scarier to say that marriage is just the beginning!  I believe, when you say ‘I Do’ that is just the start of it all.  That is when the mutual giving needs to become second nature and appreciated for what it is: a show of love.

Studies have shown that it is the small, daily details that make or break relationships.  The hugs, the compliments, the doing of things for each other, the remembering of what he/she likes… So, it is not without reason that there are wedding games that test the strength of the newly wedded couple’s mutual knowledge of each others’ likes and dislikes which are believed to signal the future health of the marriage!

However, you can’t please everyone.  It takes wisdom to appreciate the daily details of life and to learn how to nurture relationships.  Have you heard?  It takes only minutes to pick up a bad habit, but a lifetime to learn good ones.  Life can be complicated or it can be simple; it can be difficult or it can be smooth.  It really depends on how you start and how you mean to go on: how will you lay your foundations for a healthy, happy and loving relationship/marriage?

I recently watched Channel 4’s Unreported World’s documentary on “China’s Lonely Hearts”.  By year 2020 there will be an excess of 24 million single men of marriageable age i.e. due to the one-child policy, families opted to have boys instead of girls and have caused a lop-sided gender divide.   The featured bachelor in the documentary stated that to be a pair seemed like a natural state, a happier state and he wanted to be paired up.  If you consider that marriage isn’t for you, then consider those 24 million men: would you rather be one of them?  Or do you believe that a relationship need not reach marriage potential?  That marriage is only for those wanting a family? 

I believe Smith’s father dug deep and gave his son great insight.  However, he didn’t say this: appreciate what you have.  Sometimes, we do take for granted what is under our very noses.  We see our partner day in and day out and forget just how much they mean to us.  They become just like the paint on our walls.  Can you name the colour of every room in your house?  Over time we begin to ignore the daily details and trivialities of life and view them as mundane and even insignificant.  That causes dissatisfaction.  Whoops.

Living the dream is, by definition, everyone’s dream.  But what is your dream?  What is your dream marriage?  Do you focus on the grand gestures or the bear hugs?  Studies have shown that in an unhappy marriage, grand gestures count for a lot less than within a happy marriage.  Learning to appreciate is not about grand gestures, it starts with bonding.  After all, as many a blind dater has told us: fabulous location, shame about the company! 

Quite frankly, it’s all about balance, right?  When you give, also learn to take with gratitude.  When you appreciate, show it.  So, is marriage for you?  I say, it’s got to be a match: you must both create a mutual relationship.  I was once told that I think too much and that when talking about other halves, one should feel head over heels and giddy with feelings.  Wow.  Don’t they know that some people just don’t like to be emotionally over-run?  Emotions can be tricky things and I prefer them to grow rather than hit me in the face.

So, how selfish should we be about marriage?  Tough to say.  If you find that your other half is being too giving/generous with you then do say so.  Don’t feel pressurized into giving just because you have received.  This could lead to emotional blackmail.  Really, the giving should be unconditional and from the heart (in an ideal world!) but if you feel blackmailed into returning ‘favours’ speak up.  Does he/she respect your view?  What if your other half doesn’t give easily?  Could it be that they believe they have given but you see it as something they should be doing anyway?  Take heed, not everyone shows love in the same way.  Is doing the dishes without asking a chore or a show of affection?  Some view sharing housework as a show of love.  Do you?  How do you divide the work within marriage?  With so many boundaries to cover, how on earth do you weigh up and calculate whether marriage is for you or not?  I say, if you both learn to give you can’t go far wrong.  Learning to live for others is tough, but don’t give up on yourself, that is, have an ego too!

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