Yes, Marriage Actually IS For You

husband and wife

Despite the recent hype that marriage isn’t for you, it actually is. Here’s why.

I’m sure by now you’ve read the viral post by Seth Adam Smith about Marriage Isn’t for You. In the article he states “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?” As the editor of the Marriage section, I debated re-posting it here. But in my better judgment I decided against it because as a marriage counselor I wholeheartedly and fundamentally disagree with it. Here’s why:

Why I Disagree That Marriage Isn’t For You

1) It’s a completely false notion that to be happy in your marriage all you have to do is make your spouse happy. This assumes two things that are not physically possible: 1) that there’s some magic button you can push that can somehow “make” someone be happy. And 2) it assumes that by someone else being happy, it pushes another magic button that somehow makes you happy. The fact of the matter is, no such magic buttons exist. No matter how much you try to “make” your spouse be happy that’s just simply not within your control. And even when your spouse is happy, that doesn’t mean you will be.  As one author recently wrote, that’s why the phrase “happy wife, happy life” is erroneous.

2) Focusing solely on your spouse’s happiness – without regard to your own – leaves you wide open to being bulldozed. As a marriage counselor, I have seen so many spouses who are so wrapped up in making their spouse happy that they don’t recognize that they’re being bulldozed. Sure, focusing on your spouse makes sure they’re being pampered, and they may be happy as a clam, but it’s at an expense that’s harmful to you – which is ultimately harmful to the relationship, too. It’s like the characters in the Eminem and Rihana song Love the Way You Lie. They think that if they can only keep their spouse happy, their marriage (and themselves) will be happy, too – despite how toxic the rest of the relationship is (in the song there’s domestic violence occurring).

3) Another reason I have to fundamentally disagree with this article is because I have seen spouses on the receiving end who are being pampered but are feeling smothered, suffocated and end up feeling claustrophobic because of it. I know what you’re thinking. Who wouldn’t want a spouse who bends over backwards for them, right? Trust me you really don’t.

Think back to middle school when you had that boy/girlfriend who told you they loved you all the time and would say things like “I know you don’t love me as much I love you, but I’m just happy that you love me at all”. Then they’d write notes to you every period and call you every day – just to make you happy.  After so long it just got exhausting. So you broke up with them. And your boy/girlfriend probably went berserk saying things like “what did I do wrong, just give me another chance. I’ll change, I’ll change”. Sure, the pampering was nice for a while. But you broke up with them because you eventually felt suffocated.

Instead of thinking that marriage is supposed to be just for your spouse, a more balanced approach is much better. You are a person. You have wants, feelings, needs and desires, too. As a person, it’s your right to have these needs and wants met in a relationship. If you’re not having them met, the solution isn’t to love your spouse even more in hopes that this will push a magic button that suddenly “makes” you happy.  After so long of “making” your spouse happy you’ll find that the magic button isn’t working because you’re still not happy. And you’re not happy because you’re needs aren’t being met. So instead of focusing even more on your spouse, be assertive. Be confident. Make your wants and needs known. Be willing to meet your spouse’s needs but make sure that you’re also getting yours met.

 ◊♦◊

It Takes Two Whole People To Create a Whole Relationship. If One of You Is Not Contributing Wholly, You’re Creating a Fraction of a Relationship.

I share a mathematical principle with clients that relates well to couples. It is that 1 x 1/2 = 1/2. What I mean by this is that  it takes two whole people to create a whole relationship.  If one of you is not contributing wholly to the relationship, you’re creating a fraction of a relationship. And if you’re pampering your spouse with little regard to yourself you’re not being an emotionally whole contributor. You’re also not giving your spouse the opportunity to be a whole contributor to the relationship, either. And as a result, your relationship suffers – despite your good intentions.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s a romantic idea to love your spouse no matter what the cost to you is. And to some extent I wish a lot more people knew how to selflessly love another.  I can see Seth Adam Smith’s point that a lot of times marital problems occur because you’re thinking too much about yourself and expecting your spouse to do all the work. But in our age of marital fairy tales where one spouse can somehow unilaterally create their spouse’s happiness, I think the article is only perpetuating a perceived notion that’s already damaging marriages.

Photo Credit: Flickr/photographybyjoelle

About Aaron Anderson

Aaron Anderson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He also writes for several publications online and in print all on the topic of marriages, families and men. In his spare time (whatever that is) he is secretly preparing to be the next great chef. You can find him on Twitter @MarriageDr and on Facebook giving great info without the psychobabble.

Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    I would never say that marriage is for everyone. That’s just simply not true. Instead, what I would say is this:

    Your marriage will be what you and your spouse make of it. You and your spouse can create just about any kind of relationship you want. If you see another couple completely unhappy in their marriage, bear in mind that if you get married there’s nothing that says your relationship will be just like theirs. If you see a marriage that’s not right for you, maybe it’s just that KIND of marriage that’s not right for you, and another kind may be.

    Don’t listen to people who tell you what ALL marriage is like or tell you there’s only one kind that works.

  2. Marriage isn’t about me or my spouse. Marriage is all about US TOGETHER. If he thinks of me and I think of him we will meet in the middle.
    Don’t forget about yourself ALL the time but from experience, you truly are a happier person when 80% of the time you are focused on others. Thank you for both articles because life can’t be lived on only one of the articles. Both need each other in order to get it right.

  3. Nancy Warner says:

    It take 2-people to make a marriage great and only 1-person to ruin that same marriage. A successful marriage is about the commitment to each other’s requests, goals, dreams, and creating an “us” that is confident, strong, and loving. There should also always be the element of fun as well as respect.

  4. I can’t agree with you more enthusiastically. My marriage was so wonderful that I have PTSD! I tried leaving a career that I loved to work in factory jobs I hated and nothing worked. After we separated I finally admitted that I should have gotten the marriage anulled after a few months when things started being revealed.

    I’m not saying that it was just not working I’m saying I should have run screaming into the night to get away from an insane wife.

    Now i wish I could talk to my son that she programed to hate me.

  5. THANK YOU!!!! I actually made nearly-identical points in a Facebook post when that blog started making the rounds. I live in Utah–Happy Mormon land. It’s where Seth lives. I know several people who know him personally. I got a huge beat down by his friends for critiquing the blog post similarly, and for how “simplified” it was. I acknowledged the sweetness that was at the center of the post’s intentions–but felt that, overall, it was actually quite a harmful post for people in those relationships where they get “bulldozed” (as you put it).

    I appreciate this blog in response, because it confirms to me that I’m not crazy. Here in Utah, the Mormon church’s influence is that marriage is just a happy pill–and once you take it, you’re just happy, happy, happy forever. It’s never okay for YOU to be happy (because it’s always about your spouse…). People don’t work through their problems here–either one side completely collapses, they get a divorce, or they fight at home. It’s one of the reasons we not only have a huge domestic violence rate here, but also, depression.

    Thank you for your well reasoned response!

  6. In the original piece, I didn’t see anything about pampering one’s spouse, nor does the author say that in giving your all to your partner, you will be happy. The truth is, we are inherently selfish, and in focusing on our partner’s needs, we will get closer to “contributing wholly” to the relationship. I’m not sure if the couples you see in your occupation have impacted your negative view of this message, but in my experience, a spouse has an immense impact on their partner’s happiness. Obviously there is no “magic button” you mentioned repeatedly and no one has control over another’s emotions, but the understanding of another’s needs, and the desire and effort to meet those needs are very powerful.

  7. Tom Brechlin says:

    As a guy who has been married for almost 39 years now, I’m of the school that my relationship with my wife is built on our placing the other first. There seems to be a confusion that if we do this, we are giving up who we are as individuals and if you think that, you couldn’t be more wrong. I have my own personality, feelings, dreams, wants, goals and I’ve not sacrificed any of it. I’ve simply aligned all of it to fit into my marriage.

    We also give each other our own space. I have drastically different interests then my wife and she accommodated my interests as I accommodate hers. Example is that she has a sewing room with what you would typically see in such rooms. When I went to a couple of garage sales, I’ve kept her in mind and bought a comfortable chair for her sewing area. I built a countertop so she could spread out het material and patterns. I have my den where when she was out, she bought me a chair and ottoman and last summer, she came home with a new drafting/drawing table. We both put the other first and we both had our own personal needs addressed. It’s a win win.

    I noticed the word “pampered” in some of the responses. It’s not about “pampering,” it’s about thinking of how my thoughts and behaviors may affect my wife and her life. If the two of you are of the same mind, neither of you will lose anything.

  8. Jason Hatch says:

    The previous blog post was a heartfelt, poetic piece, whereas this is a response that feels almost spiteful and to the point, notably the wrong point.

  9. Christina Carrick says:

    I find myself wanting to agree more with this article than the other, but in my heart I can’t bring myself to do it. It’s nice to think it should be more about me, but experience has taught me that truly the happiest parts of my life have been when I’ve lived in service of others.

    For Christians, the call is not only to love our spouse selflessly, but to love all men as Christ loves us, which is perfectly and unconditionally. He lived a perfect life of service and from his example we see that selfless love doesn’t push a happiness button for anyone, but rather it’s the right way to live and the correct way to find peace and joy in life. I truly believe that.

    I can’t help but wonder if your perspective is tainted or enhanced because you’re a marriage counselor. I’m sure there are many people who take advantage of someone who loves freely, but that doesn’t make that person wrong for doing so. And I don’t want to believe that the majority of us out there would respond to unconditional love in that way. When I look to the marriages I admire and try to emulate I see this principle of selflessness at the top of the list of what keeps this couple together and, yes, happy.

  10. I think you missed the point of his blog post. Our society has become largely built on the notion that everything has to be about your self. Does it make me happy? What’s in it for me? He said he was the one being the 1/2 (taken from your mathematical equation). While his wife was focusing on the person she loved, he was focusing on himself. He realized that he needed to be more selfless and took the appropriate steps. This is his story, not everyones. This works for him and a lot of us can learn from it. There is too much selfishness in our lives. Jumping on this person for saying he found a way to be happy, and that is by makikng someone else happy, is ridiculous. He is not counseling people how to live in their marriages, he is telling us what works for him. Yes, you missed the point of his story.

  11. Thank you. I saw (mostly single) people oohing and aahing over the Marriage Isn’t For Me piece on Facebook, and so I read it, and I thought it was one of the dumbest things I’d ever read. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for learning how to listen to and appreciate your spouse and consider things from her point of view, etc. (these aren’t exactly new ideas). But that piece went way beyond those good points to saying marriage isn’t supposed to make you happy, only your partner. Crazy! Does that guy approach sex the same way? Sometimes I think things like that essay are just generated to see what kind of drivel can become popular via Facebook.

    • Christina Carrick says:

      (I’m only posting this as a reply because the page isn’t allowing me to post this as my own comment)

      I find myself wanting to agree more with this article than the other, but in my heart I can’t bring myself to do it. It’s nice to think it should be more about me, but experience has taught me that truly the happiest parts of my life have been when I’ve lived in service of others.

      For Christians, the call is not only to love our spouse selflessly, but to love all men as Christ loves us, which is perfectly and unconditionally. He lived a perfect life of service and from his example we see that selfless love doesn’t push a happiness button for anyone, but rather it’s the right way to live and the correct way to find peace and joy in life. I truly believe that.

      I can’t help but wonder if your perspective is tainted or enhanced because you’re a marriage counselor. I’m sure there are many people who take advantage of someone who loves freely, but that doesn’t make that person wrong for doing so. And I don’t want to believe that the majority of us out there would respond to unconditional love in that way. When I look to the marriages I admire and try to emulate I see this principle of selflessness at the top of the list of what keeps this couple together and, yes, happy.

  12. I’ve read Seth’s article and generally agree with all that you’re saying here, Aaron. I also see where Seth is coming from when he says “Marriage Isn’t for You.” You’re right, it’s a warning against selfishness. The desire to pursue pleasure is human nature and my experience has shown that humans naturally sway towards seeking happiness. We seek and return to experiences that are reinforcing in some way. Speaking in terms of a relationship, if this natural tendency to seek happiness is unrestrained I am sure you can see how it might cause damage. I believe Seth’s overall point was a warning against our natural tendency towards selfishness. I’m unsure how you made the connection between Seth’s message and the idea that one spouse can “unilaterally” create their spouse’s happiness. Although he didn’t explicitly speak for or against this notion, I did not perceive him going in that direction at all. What he’s saying is this: keeping you own natural desire for happiness in check will lead to a happier marriage overall. Surely, you must believe this to be true and see it play out in your professional experiences…

  13. Brandon McBride says:

    Can we just agree that marriage is about US? Most people here seem to be arguing one way or the other, as if the two articles are separate issues. They really aren’t. Aaron focused on one side of the issue while Seth focused on the other. I’ve been bulldozed and smothered and I’ll say that Aaron’s statements are very real. And so are Seth’s – I’ve been there as well. Truth is, I think most people are hating on Aaron and loving on Seth because Seth’s article is more altruistic while Aaron’s article focuses on the reality of the situation, which is important, because that’s where we live – reality.

    Marriage isn’t just about me. It isn’t just about my wife, either. We entered into it knowing that it would be better for the both of us. US. Marriage is for US. It should unite us, not divide us into a me/her. This isn’t an economy where wealth (or happiness) given to one means wealth (or happiness) taken from another.

    Balance in all things is mandatory to a happy lifestyle and is more difficult to achieve than one would think. Also, it’s important to recognize the difference between perceived inbalance and actual imbalance in a relationship.

    • Jean Gardner says:

      I am getting married in 48 days, and this EXACTLY what I was thinking. I didn’t totally agree with either article for the very reason you just said. We need someone to write a viral article about how you must have balance in every relationship, and in marriage relationship more than any other. Thank you!

    • I agree. A happy marriage is about balance. It is like the phrase “it takes two to tango.” I was in a marriage where I felt like it was all about her. I kept getting told that I needed to quit thinking about myself and focus on my wife. It eventually ended in divorce because there was an imbalance between her and me.

  14. How about this? Marriage isn’t about overly generalized one-liners. I am not married, I am not even dating, but even I know that when you live your life according to one-liners and over-simplification of complex issues, you end up with problems. Saying marriage is not about you is overly simplified, but so is saying it IS about you.

  15. AARON,

    I originally read your article and to be honest it was a source of surprise you would take Seth Adam Smith’s @SethAdamSmith article the way you did.

    I can see the frustration I had was misplaced, for that I forgive myself and apologize to you.

    However, playing the Social Network game, is a bit tricky. Finding a good viral storm to attach your work to is just helpful to your work, right!?! Wrong, it is a shame opening your message by taking advantage of and hitching your work to a viral storm’s wagon. You are more creative then this, create your own storm.

    Why have I come to this conclusion? Respectfully, I do believe you missed the point. Seth Adam Smith was being selfish, his Father woke him up. Seth then explains his lesson: “he means marriage is not about him – it’s about his wife, Kim, and their family”

    With Him as part of Their Family. So, he is taken care of as I am sure you agree. Your examples are of a completely different context. It’s not about you its about giving of yourself. 1. The Beatles said it 40 years ago and we still don’t get it, certainly; your retort to Seth proves this mis-premise.

    That is the major problem with Americans, to which I am one and accuse myself. We always want to stand up for ourselves. Stand up for your Wife, Your Mother, Your Family, they’ll have your back. Become one with your Family in thinking of the whole. That’s the best message one can take away.

    Seth wrote his lessons of being married to share. Enjoy that manifestation of this Spirit into Human that created a wonderful expression of marriage and shared it with the world. What courage! Talk about that, anything else to be written about or less is selfish

    1 This has never stopped making sense, timeless.
    “And in the end
    The love you take
    Is equal to the love you make.”

    – LENNON, JOHN WINSTON / MCCARTNEY, PAUL JAMES

    • Yes, Marriage is partly about US, the part that exists between the partners, but it is also about each individuals. As Terry Hargrave says, love in marriage or other committed relationships is not so much about one individual or the other, nor is it about both individuals forming an us. It is not about two becoming one, but instead about two becoming three. In a healthy relationship, there is you, me, and us.

      If we see relationships as just for me, or just for you, then we are too selfish. If we see marriage and relationships just about “us” then we are too sacrificial. Instead, it is a balance of all three identities. This is why marriage is more than just the sum of its parts. Something new is created that didn’t exist before.

  16. I’ll chime in here as a family therapist myself (North Carolina). I’d say that we can take a lot from the contextual and restoration therapy approaches that can help us with reconciling these two articles.

    I agree with the both/and sort of argument, but I’ll take it one step further. Love is not about what we do for others nor is it about what we can gain for ourselves – love is actually about the establishing of a self-identity. Trust, on the other hand, IS about what we can get for ourselves and what we can do for others. Trust is the balance between give-and-take that exists in relationships. What I do for another and what I expect another to do for me is an issue of trust, NOT of love.

    Trust is a way of relating, a series of actions and behaviors, which exist separately from feelings of love and attraction. That is not to say they are completely unaffected by one another; indeed, love and trustworthiness mutually inform one another very much. The main point I want to make that I think most of everyone here misses is that trust is about achieving fairness in terms of give-and-take. It is hard and takes a lot of work, but it can be done for the most part (we can only really be trustworthy about 90% of the time – as we’re human and incapable of getting it right every single time).

    The interesting thing, and one of the main reasons I say that love and trustworthiness mutually inform one another, is that love is one particular thing that can be given and taken in relationships, but it is not the be-all end-all of relationships. That responsibility lies with trustworthiness.

    I hope this comment is a helpful reframe for this debate which is, quite frankly, clouded up with a lot of misconceptions.

  17. I think there are good and bad things from both articles.

    There is generally one thing that gets in the way of a healthy marraige: SELF
    You see, when my wife and I got married we came into a covenant/agreement that our lives were no longer our own. There is a pre-set that I no longer live for myself, and she has the same pre-set.
    Therefore, we have individual goals and aspirations that we support each other on, but also have things we would like to accomplish together as a team. For example, we know we want to serve God together and being together we can do more for Him. We know that ultimately there may be indivdual things we have to lay down for the good of the TEAM goal.

    Couples should have individual goals, but they need to have something to strive for TOGETHER. That is what has helped keep our marriage strong anyway.

    Some of you might enjoy this saying from a good friend of mine:

    “A man will die three times in his life: 1) When you give your life to Christ 2) When you get married. 3) When you have children.”

    Well, I die daily and its an honor to do so.

  18. I respect that you are voicing you’re opinion but I agree with fellow commenter, Vaughan G. when he said that it seems you have fallen into an either/or debate vs. a both/and. Certainly not all of your words are false or unrealistic from your experiences with marriage counseling… but the points that you are trying to make do not align with the logic in the article “Marriage Isn’t for You.”

    The author, Seth Adam Smith, never once says “to be happy in your marriage ALL you have to do is make your spouse happy.” He never mentions any magic buttons of any sort that can make either person in marriage happy. He never said that you should “focus solely on your spouse’s happiness – without regard to your own.” He never advises anyone to smother, suffocate or bend over backwards for his or her spouse – the article is not written to teach us to be an unhealthily codependent. He also never leads us to believe that marriage is anything like a Disney movie, which you have alluded to in a comment below.

    He is talking about a healthy mind-set that can be helpful in the commitment we have to marriage. A commitment that is made between and by both spouses. A promise to be true to your partner in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to honor and love your partner all the days of your life. Does this sound like a place for selfishness? No. If you want to succeed together in marriage a selfish mindset can no longer exist. Selfishness is defined as an excessive or exclusive concern with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well being WITHOUT regard for others. How does one fulfill marital vows without regard for their spouse? It seems very contradictory. Our choices, our actions, our words affect someone else now, not just ourselves. This doesn’t mean you lose the right to make yourself happy – that is where your article “Yes, Marriage IS Actually For You” gets skewed from the original message.

    In marriage, you’re still an individual with separate wants, needs, likes, hopes and dreams. Being married doesn’t exclude you from fulfilling those things while also working to make your spouse happy. If you and your spouse are fully committed to marriage and living unselfishly…you will naturally build love, trust and security, which can be a powerful tool to help each other find happiness in both marital and personal endeavors.

    It is not going to be a fairy-tale. The truth is marriage is hard work with endless amounts of trials to overcome, sacrifices to be made and compromises needing to be found. Seth understands this first hand as he shared a personal account of a time when his “heart had been hardening with a mixture of fear and resentment…” He was callous and selfish. His wife continued to love selflessly. Yes, she could not force him to be happy but that did not mean it would be acceptable to set his needs and happiness aside. This is the important message. She stood by him and comforted him and with that selfless example he remembered what marriage is really about.

    Marriage will always have moments like this on both sides of the relationship… moments when someone falls short of their promises. Moments when your spouse is struggling and you may feel as though you’re standing alone pulling most of the weight. It would be easy to let the selfishness desires take lead but that is when you just can’t. That is the time that wedding vows should hold true the most. You will be eternally grateful when you spouse does the same in return.

    The article “Marriage is Not For Me” has reminded us that it takes great will power to overcome the selfishness of our natural man. It is and will be a constant struggle. We will forget and need reminding. So thank you, Seth Adam Smith, for so kindly sharing this powerful lesson in marriage.

    • Holly, You said what I was thinking better than I could have said it myself. Thank you.

    • Aaron, you need to see what Seth was getting at. His entire point was that the only way for us to be happy is by serving others. It makes them happy, which in turn makes us happy. Try being of service to your wife sometime – no questions asked. Then I’ll think you’ll really understand what he meant.

      Shame on you for making it a debate. The need for people to put others down and “disagree” with everything other people are saying is outrageous.

      • I must disagree Ashley. There are “emotional vampires” out there that are black holes of unhappiness and can suck the life out of you if you dedicate yourself to “serving them”. Aaron makes a good point that you must be fully met by your partner or resentment rather than happiness will occur. Aaron makes a good point that it must be a win-win proposition or the “math” will not work. Your shaming Aaron and disagreeing with him makes your final statement very revealing of your lack of personal integrity rather than Aaron’s.

        • Most of the people disagreeing with Seth’s original article have tried to justify an argument by saying that it’s unrealistic, fluffy, unbalanced and unhealthy. What you fail to realize IS an article that is encouraging that very balance and health marriage requires to be successful. It IS an article for the so called “emotional vampires” on the taking side. It’s a reminder, if not wake-up call, to those spouses who are not loving and/or giving equally. Seth pretty much admits that he himself was THAT person and that is why this article has earned it deserved respect and appreciation! He was able to realize this imbalance during his resentment and selfishness and he changed! He discovered this powerful outlook on marriage and found the balance that you all are arguing that he has discouraged. He has in fact encouraged that balance and many, many people were able to read that.

  19. There’s another important human truth here, that the original article gets entirely wrong:

    We know enough about ALTRUISM, from a psychological perspective, to be able to say that even the most altruistic among us are doing whatever we are doing FOR OURSELVES, and not really for others.

    The idea that we can ever eliminate egotism from the equation of our inter-relationship behavior is a false one.

    Someone might say: But what about a parent’s selfless sacrifice on behalf of his or her children?

    The answer is pretty simple: If parental love was actually SELFLESS, therapists would be out of business. There is no such thing as truly selfless love.

    Someone might say: But what about Jesus…or the Buddha…or [insert favorite spiritual figure here].

    The answer to that one is even simpler: When you arrive at the state of egolessness of a Jesus or a Buddha…give us a shout out, OK?

    You’re not egoless – in any part of your life. Period. Full stop.

    Trying to demand that from yourself, setting that up in your head as an ego ideal to live up to, is just a mind fuck. You’re really not helping yourself, your partner, or your relationship to say that the relationship (marriage or otherwise) is not for you.

    How many blogs and articles have you read (particularly from women who’ve gotten divorced, but also from men) where the bitter complaint was that she lost herself entirely as she tried to give her all to the relationship, and to her children. Getting back to a healthy balance of concern for self and other was an arduous journey – often initiated by the end of the relationship, and the beginning of several years of reparative therapy.

    If you want a spiritual quote on this one, here’s an oldie but goodie from the Rabbi Hillel:

    “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, who am I?”.

    • I would add that Jesus was also not egoless. But this is what he said about what makes him happy: this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

  20. Ruth Gianos says:

    Last year my husband and I were visiting a marriage counselor to help us have a “happy relationship”. During a visit I realized that my happiness, weather I’m married or single, is my choice. I choose to be, or not be, happy. No one person is solely responsible for my happiness but me. Any happiness I feel from my husband is just icing on the proverbial cake. And the same works for his happiness. As a wife, I cannot make his choice to be happy. I can add to it but the ultimate choice to be happy is his.
    This honest realization has made me, and therefor us and the relationship, happier.

    • Hi Ruth,
      Do you think it is possible for your spouses thoughts, words, and actions toward you to make you UNhappy?

      It’s not a trick question…I agree with your realization. However, becoming “unhappy” with how you are treated implies that they are capable of at least stopping the “unhappy” behavior….possibly even doing and saying things that cause feelings of attraction, contentment, or even happiness.

      What do you think?

  21. I think you’re not looking at what Seth is saying completely. You’re looking at it as if only 1 person in the relationship is viewing marriage as “not for you”. If both people make marriage about the other person, then won’t both be happy? Yes someone who constantly dotes on the other person in smothering ways will get old fast but I feel like if you’re getting married and are actually right for each other, you know what makes each other feel loved and not smothered. 5 love languages anyone? If you know the way they feel loved, they’re not gonna feel smothered by it. They’ll want that. Not the same love language every time but a nice balance of their top 3 would be a good start.

  22. I’m going to toss out an idea and say that both Seth and Aaron are right. As crazy as that sounds, go back and read both articles back to back. Seth tells you to love your spouse unselfishly, that the marriage isn’t about you, it’s about living for your partner. Then Aaron reminds us that while we are to love unselfishly, we shouldn’t also forget about ourselves. Someone else cannot truly make a person happy, true happiness comes from within. A marriage should be with someone that sees this inner light and enhances it with their own. As Shakespeare wrote in his play titled Hamlet… from Polonius to his son Laertes, “To thine ownself be true, and it shall follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” (Act 1, Scene 3). So if you appreciate and love yourself, you’ll be able to appreciate and love someone else completely. And that is what would make a marriage for the BOTH of you.

  23. Its a blend of both articles. Is marriage all about getting MY needs met? No.
    Is it all about ME meeting all my spouses needs? No.
    Is it about a mutual understanding that BOTH need their needs met by their spouse? Yes!
    Couples today enter a marriage EXPECTING the spouse to meet THEIR needs and that will kill the relationship faster than you can look up a divorce lawyer online. Both need to be communicating, sharing their needs, and hopefully, their spouse loves them enough to want to help them meet those needs.
    A pastor once said that if both are willing to Give AND to Receive, then he would guarantee the marriage. I expanded on that and added, Both need to be willing to Forgive AND to be Forgiven, and also to Serve AND Be served. Love is one way, its a choice, its YOUR choice. A relationship is mutual, its love both ways, both choose.

    • Totally agree with you, Ron.
      Authors sometimes purposely take contrary positions to popular ideas to attract our attention and readership. Aaron’s article covered the “opposing view” well and gave sound advice for very wise reasons.

      Combining the two as you suggest gets to the balance needed.

      As we all know, achieving the perfect balance is much easier said than done. That’s why I think both partners better be primed and ready to treat the marriage as 100%/100%….not any of that 50%/50% crap.

      The reality is that there WILL be MANY times where one partner will need to give more than they are receiving. The alternative to this is an obvious downward spiral of negativity and resentment.

      • Steve, I like your point..100%/100%….not any of that 50%/50% crap… I’ve always wondered about the fact.. If we all only gave 50% of ourselves.. what are we doing with our other 50%??? Seems to me the back door was left open for those people.. I give 100% of myself in my relationships.. I will go above and beyond for my partner just to see him happy… I can never make him happy.. but to see him smile when he finds a note hidden, makes my day…. I’m blessed I’ve met a partner who would do the same… thats why marriage or in my case relationship isn’t for me.. it’s for him! And on his side.. marriage/relationship isn’t for him.. its for me! We’re in a society which has abused and over analyzed the ‘self love’ and ‘self worth’ aspect to satisfy their egoes.. then it becomes ‘you don’t do this for me, so I’m not going to do this for you’. Thats frankly childish.. and only resentment would be created.. hence an inevitable break up down the road… It’s simple.. if both partners don’t give their all.. then they weren’t meant to be together..

    • Aaron Anderson says:

      Beautiful point, Ron.

  24. Anna Brown says:

    I agree with Aaron. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make men like me by pampering/smothering them, thinking it would keep me from getting rejected. Actually it got me abused because people treated me with as little respect as I gave myself. My fiancee even now tells me to stand up for myself more and not worry about him so much! I often think I’m ‘being Christian’ by being selfless, but God doesn’t call us to destroy ourselves for others. What He created in US is beautiful, wonderful, and worthy of nurture also.

    I know what Seth was trying to guard against – I’ve seen countless people get divorced because they ‘just weren’t getting anything out of the marriage anymore’ or because the initial thrill of the relationship faded. But I think we do a disservice when we tell people the only way to be happy is to completely ignore ourselves. Not only is that impossible, it’s not the way God wants us to see ourselves (and it’s not the way HE sees us). We have to care for others AND recognize that we deserve care before we can find a healthy relationship.

    Just my $0.02

  25. I think the only nugget worth mining from Arron’s is: “It Takes Two Whole People To Create a Whole Relationship. If One of You Is Not Contributing Wholly, You’re Creating a Fraction of a Relationship.”

    I feel like Aaron is pretty much using a textbook strawman fallacy to make his point. Why? Because he makes 3 points which are nothing more than personal opinion and only address part of Seth’s bigger picture. Had Aaron thought a little more about Seth’s article, particularly the part about paradoxical reciprocation, he would see his argument against Seth is only half an argument because it relies on Seth’s method/article being carried out by only one person in a marriage. Therefore, this is classic strawman. He cannot defeat the actual argument, so he creates a weaker version and attacks that.

    Had Aaron addressed his 3 points as though BOTH parties in a marriage were attempting Seth’s theory, he would have a valid argument. Since he does not, he has a strawman and thus loses credibility in my book.

    In regards to his 1st point, right in his first sentence he assumes only one person is applying Seth’s theory and and forgets about the paradoxical reciprocation. If reciprocation is not occurring, then that person is in the marriage for them and not the other – proving Seth’s theory correct.

    Arron’s 2nd point relies SOLEY on only one person applying Seth’s theory to the marriage and likely would be correct if that was the case. However, Seth’s article wasn’t written for one side of the relationship, he directed his comments to both sides and if both sides participate, neither would get “bulldozed”.

    To his 3rd point, if someone is feeling “smothered, suffocated and claustrophobic”, then a serious breakdown in communication is occurring and should be corrected. Seth’s article wasn’t about smothering your spouse, it was about setting aside selfish desires as part of “loving them” and in return, that person setting aside selfish desires to give love back. This creates a win-win relationship rather than a win-lose or lose-lose. Seth never said have a miserable marriage by never doing anything YOU want to do. You still have desires and wants and needs. Seth’s point was to make sure you put the other person before yourself and paradoxically, that person will do the same and you both will be happy… But it takes 2 and it takes work and it takes communication.

    Aaron’s analysis is fundamentally flawed and relies on the strawman fallacy to win the debate – a big no no.

  26. I agree with Aaron here. I think Seth raises great points, but he operates on assumptions about how the world should be; his viewpoint exists in a hypothetical perfect world, which one cannot pull from and apply to reality.

  27. Which is precisely what Vaughn was saying. Adding the “balance” factor.

  28. I agree with Vaughan. I also think that you’re over simplifying what Seth was saying. If people were more considerate if each other together, the marriage works better. You’re BOTH being more selfless, therefore you’re both happier. It’s when one person takes advantage of it that it becomes “bulldozing.”

    • Aaron Anderson says:

      Hey Cal, it does take two. I agree wholeheartedly with that. And ideally it would be nice if both people were being selfless to create a happy relationship. But as we agree on, it takes two. If only one person is being selfless it usually means they’re being bulldozed. A balance betweeen selflessness and assertiveness (and the wisdom to know the difference) is the best approach to marriage.

      • I agree with Aaron. We all are human beings and individuals with our own thoughts, needs and desires. If we forget about this and only focus in our partners, sooner or later we’re gonna damage ourselves and our relationship. Yes, It’s good to be selfless and considered with your spouse, but you also have to be this kind to yourself. I think you can achieve this balance with communication and love, but I’m not saying that it’s an easy task. It takes a lot of work and to be honest with yourself (maybe that’s the tricky part) and with your partner.

      • I’m going to throw my 2 cents in the mix. I think that elements that would perhaps unify both themes from Seth and Aaron is 1) what you think love is and 2) your self-responsibility in the relationship.
        1) love, even sacrificial love may mean “taking one for the team” but I do not think it means that you ever allow yourself to be bulldozed. A person who truly loves recognizes that there needs to be boundaries and limitations. Its the whole- you can feed a man a fish or teach him to fish paradox. I think we often think a true or perfect love never means disappointment, contention or what not. But if there is selfishness on one side of the relationship their probably will always be some of that. However, what Seth point brings about is an integrity of thought.There are no guarantees. But by truly putting someone else first (and doing what is best for them, which may mean leaving them) you are maintaining your integrity to the relationship.
        2) Happiness is 100% up to the individual its true. You cannot make someone happy. But you can sure make it difficult for someone to be so in a marriage if you are acting self-ishly or you are unhappy (I think if you’re a self-ish person like me you’re more likely to be unhappy). I agree with Aaron that you need to be a 1. I believe there is a difference between recognizing that YOU need to be happy in order to make your spouse happy and being selfish in a relationship. It isn’t about being bulldozed.
        If you want to guarantee your happiness for the rest of your life the safest bet is to never love and to never be vulnerable. Marriage is risky. If you get married, do it because you are willing to be selfless in order to help make everyone win.

        • Aaron Anderson says:

          Love your last point there, Becky: Recognize that YOU need to be happy in order to make your spouse happy. That’s another side of the dice that me and Seth both didn’t address. You shouldn’t rely on your spouse to make you happy. It’s nice when they do but ultimately your happiness is up to you. And when you can be happy, you can be present for your spouse and help them be happy.

          I also loved your point about marriage being a risk. So if you’re going to do it. Do it with your eyes wide open that you’re willing to be selfless in order to make everyone win.

  29. Thank you for this post, for setting some of this straight. So many of my friends have posted this “trend” article, and upon reading it, I felt unexplainably disturbed. So I wrote my take, too.
    http://racheltoalson.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/marriage-actually-is-for-me/

  30. Seth Adams was making a beautiful point about selflessness. That is all…. An unusual point in today’s world. I think you realize that too… I

  31. dinomax55 says:

    What I got out of Mr Smith’s article was that the kind of love that makes a marriage work is a sacrificial love.. A love that seeks the other spouse’s benefit, not necessarily their happiness. Sure, no one should be a doormat, or smothered, but a sacrificial love intends to find that happy medium.

  32. I think the fundamental danger here, which it seems you have fallen into, is to make this debate an either/or debate instead of a both/and. You have good points, but not as many as Seth Adams. There is a fierce power in what he has written, a call to unselfish greatness, which your post seems to have detracted from. It did not need to. It could have embraced the awesomeness of his post and built on it further. Brought balance without detracting from it, maybe.

    • Aaron Anderson says:

      Thanks for the thoughts, Vaughn. I agree that his is a beautiful article. But Disney movies are beautiful movies about love and marriage, too. It doesn’t mean they should be set as a standard for what marriage really is. I would say that HIS article is the one detracting from the truths of marriage. It’s very misbalanced that all you have to do is focus on your spouse to have a happy relationship. It takes two. I was hoping this article would put some balance into the hype.

      • Unfortunately I will have to agree with Vaughn, Aaron. The fundamental principle Seth tried to point out was just that – unselfish love. Although your bring practical realities to light, it’s good to sometimes let certain things be. Not that we are naive about the realities we would face but because sometimes other factors and emotions have so much more power in keeping things together.

      • I feel like Seth Adam Smith was mostly making a point about sacrifice in a relationship which is VERY necessary. You can’t both have everything you want all the time because, try as you might, you won’t both always want the same things. Yes, you have to take turns sacrificing, but you have to be willing to sacrifice and learn to let that sacrifice build your relationship rather than create bitterness because your needs aren’t being met. I agree with Vaughn. There has to be a balance.

    • Sarb Mahli says:

      Vaughn… Thank you! Ppl have huge expectations of their partners where they become victim like personalities. Never would I or my partner lower our self love to just give selflessly.. self love must be first before you can give another.. otherwise we’d be visiting marriage counsellors!!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Isn’t For You” by Seth Adam Smith went viral. In the aftermath, the inevitable backlash pieces began making the rounds. I suppose one sees what he or she wants to see from Smith’s essay, […]

  2. […] ), and then the ones that flat-out disagreed (“Yes, Marriage Actually IS For You http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/yes-marriage-actually-is-for-you/, and “5 Lessons I Learned From My Divorce (And Why Seth Adam Smith’s Advice In […]

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