No, Marriage Truly ISN’T For (About) You
It comes as a pleasant surprise to see so many people sharing the column that Seth Smith wrote in his blog (if you have not read it, here you go: http://sethadamsmith.com/2013/11/02/marriage-isnt-for-you/). In it, he used the rather vague headline — some serious SEO at work there — in order to draw in various different readers. The bitter and scorned thought they were getting more ammo to add to their tired bloviations on social media. Those who are envious and jealous of their friends who have spouses and children probably thought it would be a puff piece to assuage their feelings of loneliness. Those who write for a living and understand what a powerful tool that a carefully constructed headline can be knew better than to jump to conclusions and actually read the content before formulating any sort of opinion one way or another; something that very few of my readers tend to do nowadays, it seems.
However, I loved the piece. I echo the sentiments, which I have done many times in this space over the years.
I have expressed some of the obstacles that men and women face in dating/courting and utilizing discernment in order to sift through all the bad apples and counterfeits in order to determine who is best to become teammates with. Here are some of the columns that I have written surrounding this sentiment (and always, feel free to subscribe for further postings from this column):
Too often, people (this is not a mudslinging zone for men or women to hurl their heavily biased generalizations at the other based upon three or four experiences in their entire lives) seek to enter relationships for selfish reasons. They are intensely attracted to someone physically and envision torrid sexual relations with them, which is a short-sighted deal for a multitude of reasons — not the least being that the flame ALWAYS dies down at one point, then what do you have? They are drawn to them because of status (moreso women than men, but men do it also). They are drawn to them because they have material wealth (both women and men do this, and men do it a lot more than some would think, and women do it a lot more than they are willing to admit, despite claims to the contrary even in some of their own lives). Whatever the case may be, you rarely hear — or more importantly, observe — someone going out with the intention of seeking to be a valued plus to the other person’s life, for the sake of the betterment of the other person overall. You know, the very reason people should marry?
If you are not chiefly focused in this pursuit, then stop even desiring to get married. Get back on the superficial dating carousel, sleep around (for those whose primary focus is sex), dig for gold with purposeless and foundationless “relationships,” but stop declaring that you want to get married.
BUT I NEED AND WANT SOMEONE WHO MAKES ME HAPPY. If you are expecting someone to make you happy, you are placing a burden upon a human being that cannot be fulfilled. For one, a person’s happiness is their own responsibility. Happiness is relative and subjective, and given its subjective nature, it is obvious that the feeling can both be wavering, fleeting and impossible to gauge at all times. That responsibility isn’t even GOD’S BURDEN, because He gives you the free will to make choices, the culmination of which either leads to your happiness, demise or bipolarism. The choice is yours, but not the responsibility of the person you seek to marry. So stop seeking to place that burden on someone else.
I HAVE TO BE WITH SOMEONE WHO CAN MAKE ME LAUGH. Again, this is subjective. Some people find dry, crass humor appealing. Some like slapstick humor. Others like anything that is a shared perspective (from which the basis of laughter arises; do you ever realize that the people — usually family and longtime friends — who are closest to you often don’t even have to say anything or barely genuflect at all, but the shared perspective and experiences are what breed laughter, not simply the ability to be a walking Saturday Night Live (when it was funny in the 80s, not now) improvisation act. Who doesn’t love to laugh? However, placing this burden on someone else is ridiculous. As previously stated, shared bonds, perspectives and experiences breed laughter. Social scientists have quantified this. Understand this and stop placing undue expectations upon people when considering what SHOULD be a lifetime covenant.
SEX IS IMPORTANT. This is a dicey proposition for many reasons. I won’t take a stance on celibacy, abstinence and “test driving,” because like everything in life, communication is key. You cannot expect someone to please you sexually if you are unwilling or incapable of expressing what pleases you — whether verbally, or through bodily signals. Besides, sexual fulfillment is like a buoy in the ocean. The correlation between sexual fulfillment and a healthy, lasting marriage is strong early, but is rather divergent as time goes on, as other things become the focal points in building stronger teamwork and a tighter bond.
Marriage is not man-made. For those who do not believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible can have their beliefs (and if they are contrary to this Christian perspective, then feel free to express them, knowing that they will be taken as face value only, or keep them to yourself). Marriage is an institution given by God as both a symbolic and literal representation of the relationship between God and His Church, the Body of Christ, Christian believers. As such, a man knocks at the heart of a woman, and makes a physical appeal to her. She has the choice to accept and allow him in (which is also why men are designed the way they are physically and woman are designed as receptors) or reject him. However, should they both agree, they give one unto the other. Submission is a duality, not a one way street. Both men AND women who have a problem with even the mere mention of the word “submission” simply fail to understand what God commands from both husbands and wives concerning submission. How someone can call themselves a Christian, claim to understand Biblical submission and have a problem with it is about as ludicrous as someone who eats fast food three times a day wondering why they are fat, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and probably a few other maladies. It is purely antithetical thinking.
Marriage is not the place to seek fulfillment in selfish endeavors such as material gain, sexual pleasure, non-stop emotional (keyword: non-stop) crutches, and placing the needs of the other on the back burner. The fact that being selfless is not an innate trait for humans should tell people off the bat that marriage is going to be a ton of work from the get-go, and that’s even with two like-minded, selfless individuals involved, two becoming one. So imagine if you have one or both being selfish-minded? Train wreck is inevitable. Selflessness is a learned behavior, and unfortunately for many, it isn’t learned without painful trials. Some people are just goodly by nature, and further cultivate that goodliness into being selflessness, making marriage a rather seamless proposition for them. For others, without the bumps in the road that life brings via broken relationships, loss of life on the part of people close to them, illness, isolation, loneliness and loss of material things, they never truly understand selflessness. And even once a person understands selflessness, it is a constant coat-check of sorts, because the human nature is first selfish and self-preserving in its innate state. However, at the end of the day, if you want to save yourself (and someone else’s life who your selfishness will likely ruin) some headache and heartache, assess your motives for wanting to be with someone else in the first place — much less marry someone — because if you enter it selfishly, you WILL regret it in the end, unless you fall off the horse and realize that you must change for both your own good, and for the good of your spouse and the marriage itself.
Too many people, if you put them on sodium pentathol (or catch them with their guard down regarding candor) and ask them why they want to get married will tell you some things that cause you to be aghast and make you want to flag them down to stop there in their tracks. I have watched people enter into marriage who I knew to be selfish, and I have seen them completely ruin the person’s life who they married. It is not a pleasant sight. Part of the reason that I have intentionally not been active dating at all in the past couple of years is because I wanted to a) check myself top to bottom, examine my motives for everything ranging from what I find attractive physically and why or why I would or wouldn’t pursue this or that woman (as those motives are in stark contrast in 2013 compared to what they were in 2003, for instance), and b) there is no way you can discern properly the virtues of one person if you are nailing down three and four others at a time in bed. While I don’t have any real regrets from my old lifestyle, I knew for sure that when the time to give it up came, that I left it alone with no desire to turn back. That has been two full years now, and I see clearer when it comes to examining the worth and character of a woman now than I ever have in my life. That is no coincidence. Not everyone can undergo such an abrupt change in lifestyle in good faith, and while there is “maintenance” involved at times, the lifestyle itself has to be put in the past in order for you to focus on one person and properly examine their character and merits.
In the end, no, marriage is indeed not for you, if you are selfish in pursuits. If you are focused on the betterment of the other person (and if they are focused in kind for you), then, yes, marriage is for you. Your happiness is contingent upon you and no one else. The marriage bed is undefiled, and the desires that you possess should be articulated (people do not read minds and not many are known to be telepathic in ability, despite the expectations of some). Additionally, saying what you are and aren’t going to do (particularly if it pleases your spouse; the limit being inhumane and truly demeaning — not the “demeaning” in the sense of a haughtily-minded person who thinks that engaging in certain actions are “beneath” them, demeaning) has no place in the marriage bed. Your desires will be fulfilled if you are with an equally selfless person and you have communicated what fulfills you sexually, and vice versa. But when you enter into a relationship saying that you will not engage in reasonable sexual acts, you can just about guess that there will be friction, and sometimes that will lead to cheating. For those who are at least decent enough to talk it out, there will be a few uncomfortable conversations about the issue. Either you budge, or you realize that you are being completely unreasonable down the line and only find out later that being selfish has no place anywhere in a marriage, even sexually.
Everything that encircles a healthy, lasting marriage points to selflessness. Go with that understanding or remain single. It’s that simple, folks.