I was displeased to see that this dreadful thing, Marriage Isn’t for You, is making the rounds. This is one of those overly-chipper-but-somewhat-nebulous posts that’s hard to disagree with on the surface, mostly due to its lack of any depth. I mean, how many of us haven’t been selfish or been hurt by someone else who was being selfish? And really, isn’t there some truth to the fact that marriage isn’t a solo pursuit? So what’s wrong with this article?
For starters, I don’t really want marriage “advice” from someone more than ten years younger who has a fraction the time put into his marriage that I have. I mean, I’m certainly willing to listen to people younger and less experienced than I am (provided they aren’t saying utterly stupid things). Naturally, I do prefer that the person offering their expertise have more knowledge of a subject than I do. I’m perfectly fine with the fact that my gynecologist, for example, is eight years younger than I am. She’s been to medical school; I have not. So when she does an exam, I’m not all like, “Hey, are you sure you’re doing that right?” If I’m getting marriage advice, I don’t want it second-hand filtered through a guy who’s barely past his honeymoon. That’s not to say that newlyweds and young adults have nothing to offer. But if you’re going to tell people what to do, you’d better be able to back that up with some credentials, or people with a lot more experience are going to tell you you’re full of it.
Anyway, aside from Seth Adam Smith’s adorkable lack of real-life experience, I just can’t get behind his words. In particular, this stood out to me:
No, 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?”
Right. Because 1. there’s such a thing as a “true marriage” (as opposed to all those fake ones going on? I dunno); and 2. it’s not at all co-dependently creepy to fixate entirely on the needs of someone else. It’s possibly his use of “never” here that strikes me the wrong way, but there’s something deeply obsessive and weird underneath those words.
Seth follows that up nicely with a vague story about how he was being “selfish” and it caused major problems. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. It could have been anything at all, from not pulling his weight in household chores to spending fifteen hours a week watching Internet porn. He gives no indication about what made him so utterly, appallingly selfish, nor why his wife had to “soothe his soul.” He uses strange, vaguely religious terms (his heart was “callous” and “hard”) to not really tell us anything. He’s not clear on what his wife actually did, either. We know she was “soothing,” but what is that? Like ointment?
After this cryptic story, Seth assures us that marriage is about family. Gee, thanks for that–I wasn’t clear. I thought maybe marriage was like a corporate merger only with sex. Actually, I’ll bet some corporate mergers also involve sex, so it’s probably not that different. Oh, wait . . . I guess a lot of us have been confused about it; thanks, Seth, for clearing that up!
At the end, we get the lovely sentiment that the more we give, the more we receive. Which is ironic, since Seth just spent a whole page detailing why marriage isn’t about us. So why should we care if we get anything in return? I mean, it’s not about meeeeeeee! He’s not forthcoming on the details of what the payoff is, either. Do we get the satisfaction of a job well done? A cookie for effort from the spouse for not being a jerk? Or is this supposed to be like, “You live for me, I’ll live for you, we’ll both be happy” kind of a thing? I’m also not getting where the love from “thousands” of other people comes into play here. It sounds more like Seth just didn’t know how to finish his article so he gave it the Hollywood extended ending treatment–not much to add to the story, but aren’t the special effects cool?
Anyway, it’s not that I want to advocate for being a total ass to your spouse. Of course being completely self-centered is a terrible way to treat people. But that seems like common sense, not something to turn into your life’s Guiding Principle or whatever. It really is okay to want to be happy. There is nothing wrong with expecting your relationships to be mutually satisfying. If my husband didn’t make me happy, I wouldn’t have married him. If I didn’t enjoy my friendships, I wouldn’t hang out with those people. Do I operate based solely on what’s going to please me? No, but neither do I operate solely on what’s going to please someone else.
Strangely, in telling us this story, Seth somehow manages to undermine his point–that marriage isn’t about us–by making it entirely about him. I’m going to give him a few years to figure out that there’s a happy medium between expecting relationships to feed you and expecting to meet others’ needs to the exclusion of your own. Hopefully by that point, he will have a story or two about what he’s done for his wife, rather than what she’s done for him.