Wednesday, November 13, 2013
A Rebuttal: "Marriage Isn't for You"
I am certain most of you have seen the viral post by blogger Seth Adam Smith entitled "Marriage Isn't For You." If you haven't, give it a read and then read this. I must have read it myself about 10 times. Maybe more. You see, I kept trying to read it in the hopes that it would come off less douchey and I'd eventually be able to agree with his sentiment. But, it doesn't and I don't (really).
His hook is in the title and is opening sentence. Very clever, Seth, but 'clever' is all the praise I can give you. His marriage philosophy comes from a piece of advice from his father. This advice was given after Seth shares his concerns about marrying his childhood sweetheart; his father tells him: "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." And this is where I went..."Huh?" Then I kept reading and realized it gets even more cringe-worthy:
"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." I seriously had to resist the urge to shout out- OH NO HE DIDN'T. What is almost more shocking is how viral this went, and how many people were like "OMIGOD he's so right!" (in my circle, it was young, non-married women, oddly enough).
Mr. Smith is correct, but only on a small level. Selflessness is certainly key in a marriage; there needs to be give where there is also take. Each partner needs to do their best to try to make the other person happy. You should treat your partner with love and respect and honesty. If you are being a d-bag, you should stop because you are hurting the other person's feelings. These are all real truths. Still, Seth seems to scream from the rooftops, reminding us: "To all who are reading this article -- married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette -- I want you to know that marriage isn't for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love." I get what he's saying; it's a nice message. But it leaves something out. Marriage is for the other person, but it should also be for you.
Our blogger talks candidly about feelings of "fear" and "resentment." He was "callous and selfish." Now, if you are being selfish in that douchey "I-have-all-the-toys-and-you-can't-have-any" way, then you deserve to have your wrist slapped. But, I argue that there is room for selfishness in a relationship; to some degree, there should be selfishness in a relationship. Let me tell you why and how.
My first marriage was to my high school sweetheart (my story is so similar to Seth's) and we were young, terrified, in love, and young. There was some give and take, until it became one giving more and one taking more and then no giving at all. Until I couldn't reach him and he couldn't reach me, and the Great Wall was erected between us. Until we had outgrown each other. Everything was falling down around us. And because, I, like Seth, believe in being totally selfless and have always cared for those around me, I stuck it out. I stuck it out longer than I should have, through our wedding, buying a house, our first jobs. I had so much anxiety and sadness and fear, but we had something to prove, and I was operating under the "Marriage Isn't For You" umbrella. I ignored my own needs and feelings. Self-care went completely out the window. Not too long after the feelings started bubbling, I did things I regret (he did too), and things that hurt him because I didn't want to hurt him and I didn't want to hurt is family. When everything was coming to a head, I called my therapist and said " I feel like I am being selfish, but I am not happy and I think I need some space." She told me, sometimes, you have to be selfish. This is my caution to you all: Selfless is good, but do not ignore self-care.
What Seth fails to point out is that marriage should also be for you; you should be getting what you need spiritually, physically, and emotionally from a relationship. Completely sacrificing yourself, your needs, your feelings to appease the other person isn't love. I'd LOVE to hear Mrs. Smith's take on this. What was going through her head in the moments when he was being a jackass? He claims she showed him an "outpouring of love," gave him a hug and suddenly 'it's all good.' I am sorry. I love my husband, but when he's a jackass, I will tell him so, and not always "lovingly." I will tell him my needs aren't being met. I will tell him he is hurting my feelings, because my feelings are important too. Because this marriage is for me, too.
The other part of Seth's philosophy, about marriage being for family, is even more rage-inducing. First, he implies that every married couple wants children. Newsflash, Seth, some couples are childless (whether by choice or inability) and are okay with that. He also implies that the only way to have a family is to have two married people and they must have children. What about people who have children but never marry? What about single parents and widowers and LGBT people who may not be able to get married where they live? His father's reference to PFO (potential future offspring) came with the question: "Who do you want to help raise them? Who do you want to influence them?" These are fair questions, to be sure. Lots of us who are interested in having children want a partner who would make a good parent. But as I point out in my post on family, many people can become part of a family. Many adults can have an influence on children. It is a rather antiquated notion that the family unit be comprised of married people with children. Ethan and Ophelia and I are a family as we are. We plan to grow as a family, but we are no less a family now because we have no non-furry children, and we were a family before we were married.
So Seth, my marriage is for me and it's for Ethan. It's for Ophelia, our fish, our extended family and for our future children. And friends, I appreciate his sentiment on some levels, I do. Promise. But don't let this, or any other marriage 'advice' dictate whom your marriage is for or what it should be about (like, for instance, this piece of nonsense which deserves its own rebuttal). In the words of my good friend Dove Chocolate: If it feels good, do it.