Friday, November 8, 2013

Actually, Marriage is for (Both of) You

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."  


  1. Yes! Marriage should be for both of you. I just followed this link over from FB and had to comment....consider it as a voice from your future if that helps you get over the fact that I've been married longer than you've been on the planet...but a couple of weeks ago I celebrated my 36th Wedding Anniversary and wrote the blog post. I do believe that marriage today should be for both of you or why are a few other things if you are willing to accept the link...

    1. Congrats on your anniversary! My parents have been married longer than I've been alive, but only by a few years. :)

      I followed your link and loved the advice you had to share. The parts about focusing on your partner's positive attributes and letting your partner see you at your best more than at your worst really resonated with me. Obviously a relationship isn't sunshine and sprinkles 24/7, but focusing on the good promotes an overall positive attitude.

      Thanks for commenting! If you're interested in future posts, feel free to like me on facebook Finding My Virginity or follow me on twitter @belle_vierge.

  2. This is AWESOME! I KNEW there was something off about that article but I couldn't put my finger on it. You have summed it up perfectly.

    1. It took me an embarrassing number of rereads, plus reading the two reactions I quoted, for me to figure out exactly why it troubled me so much. I obviously had to share my revelation as soon as I discovered it!

  3. I've been waiting for a feminist response to that. Honestly, I didn't like it much at all.

    My favorite response (as a Christian) has been this:

    I saw a comment there:

    "As a woman AND a domestic violence survivor, Smith's article made me cringe because it's the well-meaning false message I heard just need to love him more/respect him more/pray for him more/have more faith/have a servant's heart. His abuse towards me was not because of something I failed to do (i.e. sacrifice myself in my marriage). Quite the contrary...I was so willing to sacrifice myself for him (preserve my hope for marriage) that I almost didn't leave and seek my own safety and well-being and that of my son."

    LOVE your response. Will be facebooking/tweeting :)

    1. Thank you for sharing the link. I've come across even more rebuttals since posting this one. It's reassuring that I'm not the only one who felt this way. The language just struck me as SO similar to words used to keep women in abusive relationships. I'm glad you like my response!

  4. I'm so glad that you wrote about this article today. I actually emailed it to Sam on Wednesday when I first read it because like you, I liked it on the surface (selflessness etc) but the more I thought it the more it started to bother me. The idea that marriage is for one person just didn't click with me. Surely it should always be about what's best for both parties? x

    1. Right?! Like, woohoo selflessness, but the way Seth articulated it just felt so wrong. There's so much that Beau and I compromise on. There are so many times that one of us puts the other person's needs first. But my health ALWAYS comes before him. I love him, and I would do almost anything for him, like not live in France, but my needs in regards to eating, sleeping, minimizing stress, not moving from the fetal position (when I'm really in pain) will always be my priority. That does not make me selfish. That means I'm in-tune with my physical needs and capabilities. That's just a tiny example of how taking care of yourself is not a selfish deed.

  5. Love your post. But since I've gotten out of a relationship with someone who was a) abusive and b) mentally ill, I've even become uncomfortable with the phrase "s/he makes me happy." Kind of like "she was raped," which sounds like something passive, almost an accident, rather than "He RAPED her."

    A better word choice, IMO, would be, "I feel happy when I am with him/her." Because you can (and I have) wind up with the other person's mental/emotional state thrust upon you as YOUR responsibility, "You're making me so unhappy/upset." And you might, in fact, be picking a fight, OR you might simply be standing up for yourself and maintaining a healthy boundary.

    *I* make me happy. I feel happier. more valued, more respected, more loved, when I am with other people and they treat me with kindness and respect, but it is no one's job but mine to make me happy.

  6. yeah, that post rubbed me the wrong way, too. A marriage is a partnership. Period. Dot. End of story.

    1. Right?! All the best relationship advice I've ever read has been about being a team, working together, making compromises, etc. Making it solely about the other person (and future children? and in-laws? but not you?) is just unhealthy IMHO.


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