In our increasing individualistic society, arguments are constantly seen as signs of impending doom in a marriage. However, Brendan Malone suggests that arguments are what make marriage so great.
Not long after we got married (within a fortnight in fact) my wife and I had a rather heated argument about whether the rice should be kept in the top cupboard, or the bottom cupboard of the kitchen in our newly rented Auckland flat.
We eventually got over ourselves and made up, but I still remember my wife later wondering aloud whether this argument was an ominous sign that we had made the wrong decision to marry.
No, that argument wasn’t a portent of impending doom. It was simply a classic example of the messy practical reality of marriage in action.
That argument, and the subsequent apologies, surrendering of wills, and ceding of personal wants is precisely what marriage is supposed to look like.
The problem is that we live in a culture that has become both very individualistic, and at the same time, also very focused on controlling things and eliminating any hint of difficulty or suffering.
Such ideas are a total anathema to successful and authentic marriage, which is precisely why we are plagued with such high rates of divorce and so many people unwilling to even commit to marriage in the first place.
Marriage is not meant to look like the unrealistic portrayals that dominate the romantic movies—you know, the one where marriage is the perfect happy ending where two people get what they want and then the credits role, and it is definitely not meant to look like the more recent Hollywood trend where sex and sexual experimentation solve all marital problems.
And marriage is not easily quantifiable and controllable like a managed project, or a contractual negotiation between two parties.
No, marriage is messy, and personal, and that’s precisely the way a healthy marriage is meant to be.
Marriage is about a relationship between two human persons who have totally surrendered themselves to each other for life, warts and all, and while Neil Sedaka may have tried to tell us that breaking up is hard to do, in actual fact he was totally wrong. Breaking up is rather easy to do when compared to surrendering yourself to another person for life—why do you think so many marriages end in divorce?
Intimate human relationships are not meant to be neatly ordered and highly controlled things. They are complicated and intricate affairs, and the more invested you are in each others lives, the more intricate and complicated this web usually becomes.
This is where selfless commitment becomes so vital, because it is the very thing which makes this total surrender possible and which ensures that the messiness of marriage becomes something redemptive, transformative and maturing for the spouses.
If you are committed to your spouse for life, then there is nothing at all to fear from the messiness of marriage. In fact, it is a great opportunity for the both of you to be challenged about your self-centredness, have your rough edges chipped away at, and to truly become better people through the whole process.
In such a self-absorbed, personal autonomy obsessed culture as ours where else are we afforded such an amazing and ongoing opportunity to grow in maturity and become better human beings outside of the messiness of a truly committed marriage?
Oh, and if you’re wondering, no, my wife and I no longer argue about such trivial things as the storage arrangements for food items. While it definitely hasn’t finished with us yet, the messiness of marriage has matured us well beyond such petty self-interest.
This post originally appeared at The Leading Edge.