Have you seen the latest viral post from a smug newlywed telling everyone else how to have a successful marriage?
I know, I know. There have just been SO many viral posts from smug newlyweds that without a time frame, you probably can't guess which one I plan on rebutting.
This weekend, I noticed several friends and family members share a blog post, "Marriage Isn't For You" by Seth Adam Smith. Eventually, I gave in and read it.
On the surface, I liked it. Marriage shouldn't be selfish. I can dig that.
But something held me back from sharing it. Something about the post just felt off to me.
Only by reading two criticisms was I able to pinpoint why Seth's post troubled me.
Abi at Adipose Rex writes:
"Telling someone that “a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, ‘What’s in it for me?’, while Love asks, ‘What can I give?’” is a form of gaslighting; it reinforces the idea that even if they’re suffering, well, happiness isn’t the point of being married, is it, and you don’t want to succumb to the “Walmart philosophy,” do you?"
At Her Journey of Hope, the blogger writes:
"It may sound great initially to talk about putting others first, because it is good to care about others and reach out and give of ourselves. Relationships require a mutual giving and taking and it can be really beautiful.
The dark side is that this so-called selfishness is that it is usually not "selfish" at all. It's usually self-care, being happy, doing things you like just because it's fun. True selfishness, as my friend pointed out, is a lack of caring about others, and to best care about others, we have to take care of ourselves."
These two bloggers illustrated the main reasons the viral post makes me uncomfortable.
1) The language is similar to justification used to control women in abusive relationships
2) It promotes an unrealistic standard of selflessness that is usually unevenly applied towards women
The post is written by a man, about advice from his father, on why he should get married. Seeing the advice in a different context, from a male point-of-view, is why I struggled to notice these two specific problems.
I had to cut myself off from an abusive relationship with my twin brother. Only recently have we reached a superficial point where we can text and email about extremely unimportant topics like iPhones. I haven't seen him since February, and I won't again til March. There are some people who thought I was selfish for cutting him out of my life, but I was protecting myself. Protecting yourself against abuse is not selfish.
If marriage were only for someone else, I would have ended up with the first guy I ever kissed, who had had feelings for me for a long time, who all our friends and family wanted me to date. Marrying Joe wouldn't have been for me--it would have been for him, for our friends, for our family--and I would have been miserable. That is exactly what Seth is advocating.
If marriage were primarily about future children, Beau wouldn't be with me. I have Crohn's Disease. His mother has Colitis. Any future child of Beau and me will probably have Crohn's or Colitis. If children were Beau's biggest concern, he would be dating someone younger and healthier (and more inclined to have more than one pregnancy).
But neither of us is that selfless. Yes, we love each other. Yes, we both routinely put the other person's needs first. But I'm dating Beau because he makes me happy. The fact that I make him happy too is why we're so perfect for each other.
Wanting to be happy is not selfish. Wanting to be happy in a relationship is not selfish either.
Like with most of my relationship posts, I wanted Beau's opinion on this. I asked him to read the article so we could discuss it together. He summed it up perfectly.
"Love is about someone else. But marriage is a mutual commitment between two people."