Love and Marriage, Sacrifice and Happiness

I’m getting married in a few months. In 127 days, to be exact. And when you’re engaged to be married, as the countdown dwindles, you start asking yourself important questions about what it means to be married and what makes a good marriage.

So what is marriage about? And what’s required in order for one’s marriage to not end like many (is it most now?) who do get married?

An obvious answer is that marriage is about love. Most of us, at least in the modern United States, get married because we love someone and we want to spend the rest of our lives with them. But saying that marriage is about love doesn’t provide a full explanation of what marriage entails, because we need to know more about this thing called “love”. Especially love that spans decades.

A popular notion that I’ve noticed many endorse and live out is that love is not about you, but rather about selflessness.

And to a certain extent, this is true. But this line of thought can go too far.

For example, one article that I recently read on this subject said:

I heard a married man on TV say (regarding whether or not he was going to stay in his own marriage), “I shouldn’t be with someone if I’m not happy.” It’s an attitude many people have, and hearing it made my stomach turn. What an accurate reflection of the self-centered society we live in, everyone believing their main goal in life is their own personal happiness. What a small and shallow way to live.….Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you….It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving — and then doing it all over again.

(http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/marriage-isnt-about-your-happiness#VZ0YDZcDg1FLOacF.99)

This is a dangerous slippery slope.

When we tell people, especially women, that a good marriage is not about them, but rather about sacrifice, and that their happiness doesn’t matter, it sounds paternalistic. It sounds oppressive.

This line of thought can prevent someone from recognizing that their relationship is unfairly unequal. Sometimes, no amount of self-sacrifice can make a relationship work. Sometimes, you shouldn’t continue to self-sacrifice. There are reasonable limits to what is required of you to make your relationship work.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you should call it quits just because you’re unhappy in the moment. There are rough times — times when you don’t like the person that you’re with, times when you put in more than they do. You’ll get in ugly fights, and you’ll have to suck up your pride. You’ll have to sacrifice. You’ll have to forgive.

But your happiness matters, too.

Because love isn’t about forgoing all of your interests for other people.

As in everything good, there is balance to a good marriage. You will give your time and energy to other people. But you will also take. And it’s okay to take. And it’s okay to want to be happy in your relationship.

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