Marriage is for me. And you. And the kids. And the dog. | Ask Your Dad Blog

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Marriage is for me. And you. And the kids. And the dog.

Yes. I've read the newest viral post “Marriage isn't for you.” And yes, I like the idea of selflessness and devotion. And I love the idea of dedicating myself and my life to my wife and children. All of those sentiments are lovely. But I am not the sole giver of joy in the marriage. I am also a receiver. And I am not ashamed to admit that when I think about my marriage, and I think about my obligations to my wife and children, I also think about my obligation to myself.

See, if I am not happy, if I am not fulfilled, if I am a bank account with all withdrawals and no deposits, then things are going to get really shitty, really fast. And while, yes, every decision I make is absolutely tempered by the positive or negative effects it will have on my family, I think it is absolutely ludicrous to say that I, me, should not be a part of that equation. It isn't fair to me, and it isn't fair to my family. 

I’m not a martyr; I’m a husband and a father. I am not the savior of the family. I am a part of the family. I am not the solution. I am part of the equation. And EVERYONE in our family has the right to be happy, including me. So yes, marriage is for me. And it is for Stevie. And it is for Duchess and Captain. And what the hell, it can be for our dog, Riley, too.

Stevie doesn't want a husband whose sole focus is providing an endless supply of smiles. Stevie wants a husband who is happy and self-assured, as well as devoted and kind. She wants me to consider myself AND her and our kids. She wants me to be honest with her much more than she wants me to make her smile every day. How do I know this? Because we have talked about what we want out of our relationship. Yes. I have told her what I want, and she has told me what she wants. And together, we work to make each other AND ourselves happy. 

So call me selfish. I am selfish, and I’m proud of it. My happiness is their happiness, as theirs is mine. 

And I’ll be honest with you, we’re pretty damn happy.

End Rant

Dad (John)

See look! We're smiling. Happy AND selfish. 

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  1. This is great. I had the same thoughts reading that article, but you worded it better than I ever could.

  2. Truly written from the perspective of a married man. Accurate on all accounts. Nice work once again John. I too read that other article and didn't quite connect with it that much, however I did agree with some of the sentiments. You do not have to give 100% of yourself over to make your marriage work. Nor should you be asked to. Its about understanding, communication, respect, shared goals, and working-love. The days of puppy love and infatuation are over...and I'll welcome the true love of a well grounded marriage over those transient forms of love any day.

    1. Well said Jason. There were definitely parts of his post that I liked, and he seems like a super nice guy. But you said it perfectly:

      " Its about understanding, communication, respect, shared goals, and working-love."

  3. Thank you. Seriously. That other post made me crazy. This is so much better, and more accurate.

  4. I liked the idea of being a less selfish in our relationships, but I love what you wrote too! It is important to consider yourself in the relationship - not selfish! I agree, that if I can't be happy then I can't bring happiness to the rest of my family. And how are spouses supposed to make each other happy unless they tell each other what they want? I love that you and Stevie talked about it! Thank you for another perspective!

  5. So good! I was really frustrated with the OP you're responding to. In my marriage, we're both happier when we're fully communicating our needs to one another. Thanks for writing this!

  6. Ahhhmaaazzziinng. Nicely done, yet again.

  7. and your followers clearly missed the point of the original blog post.

    1. This is what I was thinking too ... I don't think the original post was trying to say don't be happy. I think some people want / expect to be happy 100% of the time and think that if marriage doesn't provide that then its not worth having. The truth is that noone is happy 100% of the time. Sometimes you have bad days. Sometimes your spouse or your kids have bad days. Marriage is about creating a family for yourself and a foundation for your children (should you choose to have them). Sure, I expect that my husband and I will work together to make our life together as pleasant and joyful as possible. But many people today seem to go into marriage with the attitude that "if things don't work out, if I'm not 100% happy all the time, we'll get a divorce, no harm done." I think that's the wrong attitude, and I think that the original blog post was trying to convey that.

    2. Oh, agreed. I think his point regarding the importance of our obligations in a marriage was well made. I just disagree with his points about selflessness.

      I don't think the post was overtly saying don't be happy. What I took from it was that it was saying that in a good marriage you shouldn't focus on your personal happiness, only your spouses and kids. And then, when you have put all of your energy into making them happy, their happiness will, in turn, make you happy. I don't think that is true. In fact, I think it is probably detrimental to a lot of marriages.

      At one point he writes:

      "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?"

      I don't agree. I think we can, and should ask both questions. What can I give, and what is in it for me. At times one's importance will outweigh another, but dismissing the question of "what about this is bringing me joy, enriching me, making my life better?" seems naively poetic to me.

      Selflessness does not exist, and feigned selflessness, in my opinion, is dishonest.

      But Trina! Thank you so much for the comment. You too MathGirl72. I really appreciate your input.

    3. John, the point that Mathgirlz and Trina are stating is correct. I personally like the message of "Marriage is not for me". It didn't attempt to create some bubble. It was stating that if, in our most selfish of times, we can remember that it's not about us instead of justifying our anger, selfishness, etc., then that perspective might help to kick us out of that difficult time.

      It's about becoming the least selfish people we can, recognizing that we will fail but establishing a guideline to live by so that when we are failing we have a foundation to fall back on.

    4. Beth, if he had written what you just wrote, then that would be different. He didn't write that. He wrote:

      "You don't marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. 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. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn't for you. It's not about you. Marriage is about the person you married."

      And he said:

      "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?"

      While those are definitely parts of a marriage, the way he frames his argument within the context of the article spells those statements out as absolutes. I'm glad you took some nuance from them, and it sounds like the piece affected you in a positive way. That is wonderful. But a lot of people didn't pull that nuance from the article, and suppose that I am one of them. Now some have said that I am missing the point... but making a point is the author's job, not mine. If I was the only one who missed it, then that might indicate that it is a problem with me. But with the amount of people who are also "missing" the point, and those who "get the point" having to paraphrase and make additional, extraneous arguments for him, that tells me that he either didn't make his point well, or that he did make his point and a lot of us just disagree with it. Which is fine.

      He seems like a perfectly pleasant guy, and I have no personal issue with him. I just disagree with certain points he very clearly made in his piece.

      Thank you so much for commenting though. Your opinion is valid and it is ALWAYS welcome.

  8. From where I sit (a divorcee who is happily married again to a wonderful man, with parents who were married until 1 of them passed away 42 years later), I completely agree. I've been a doormat before. IT DIDN'T WORK. True, there are times when 1 person has to give more than than other. It happens. The weight and responsibilities shift all the time. Life, after all, is all about change. Unselfish love is wonderful - and possible. But that said, you can't give what you don't have. If you don't have love, respect, and honesty with yourself, how can you share that with someone else? So it's OKAY to love yourself, to respect yourself, to honor yourself, because if you know how to do all of those things for yourself, you know how to do all of those things for someone else.

    1. Yes, everyone should read this comment! Well said

  9. Really well said - it's for everyone, and we give and receive the joy, that's for sure. Otherwise, everyone is pouring forward but who is receiving? That doesn't even make sense, actually. It's like one of those mystery fountain taps where the water only pours outward.

  10. Thank you for writing this. I have read both articles, and I agree with them both because life isn't cut and dry. You have to give all you can to that other person, but you really need to focus on yourself as well. In my relationship, although unmarried, I try to give as much as I can to my partner, and he tries to give as much as he can to me. But at the same time we constantly talk to each other about how we are feeling and what we want; we are there for each other to give, to support, but also to help each other grow and give each other space. While I think the article that went viral is a great wake-up call for people who are just too damn self-centred, you have to approach marriage with a balanced approach or your whole dynamic will be out of sorts. So you give all you can to everyone else, what about you at the end of the day? Finding the fit between sacrificing everything for everyone else and flourishing as an individual is something we all have to come to terms with in the end, because we were ourselves before we were parts of our new whole. I think this is a wonderful article, and thank you for writing it.

  11. You pretty much took everything out of context of the other post. You don't stop thinking about yourself completely when you stop being ALL about yourself. Both people think selflessly and they're capable of loving each other and themselves. It's called sharing. Whatever, you'll get his 15 minutes of viral posts too.

    1. Hi Dessie! I feel like I read the post within the context in which it was given. Like I mentioned, there were some great sentiments in the piece. I just think the primary argument is flawed. I won't type out my whole argument again, but if you read my response to MathGirl72 above along with my post, I think you'll get the gist of it. Either way, you are totally free to disagree and totally welcome to tell me why. I really appreciate it. I don't have a monopoly on the truth, nor do I insist that I am 100% right.

      Thanks so much for your comment. I hope you'll keep reading. I'm fairly confident we won't always disagree :)

  12. From the OG himself.

    "Smith has received criticism from some readers who fear that he is forsaking his needs to tend to someone else’s, but he insists that misses the point. Both he and Kim retain their identities — she’s a planner, he’s spontaneous — but nurturing each other only strengthens their capacity to love."

  13. Bravo. I completely agree. I hated that post and how often it was constantly in my newsfeed (my mother in law even emailed it to me!!) because the whole thing made me roll my eyes. I never would think of myself as selfish but I'm also never going to put my husband and his happiness above my own. Because if I'm unhappy - he's probably not happy either. I had also recently read a post that was secrets to a successful marriage and it said to love your spouse more than your kids and that's something else I won't get behind.

    1. My mom once said that kids come first when they are young, but eventually your spouse has to come first again. My son is a year old, so he currently comes first. However, when his little butt gets older, that will slowly change.

    2. I know I'm going to sound terribly rude saying this, and I apologize in advance, but I have to say, if you put your happiness before your husband's... I question whether your marriage is going to last and I understand why your mother-in-law emailed that article to you. You should value your spouse's happiness more than yours or equal to yours, at the very least. I don't think you'll have a successful marriage in the long run if you always put your happiness before his.

      And if you are unhappy, he still might be happy. And if he's unhappy, you still might be happy. His happiness doesn't necessarily depend upon yours.

  14. As much as I'd love to be happy 24/7 I'm quite certain I'd end up in an endorphin laden coma with a big smile on my face. Moderation is key. Family life is a myriad of experiences. The big picture though, can indeed be one of happiness.

  15. Agree completely. I also like the sentiment of the original post, and think we can all benefit from trying to be selfless more often, but it's a dangerous road to resented martyrdom. I went to a church, when I was in high school, that taught the selfless, submissive wife role to the girls. Men were to take care of their wives, and wives were to honor their husbands. The problem that developed was a group of young women who sought only to be "good" wives and "good" mothers, and when they acheived these goals, they lost themselves. They lost the woman their husband fell in love with, and they lost the woman their kids should've been looking up to. Husbands suffered too, as they sought to support their families financially they lost the ability to be supportive emotionally and spiritually and mentally. They lost the man that thei wives fell in love with. We have to remember that the "family" is made of parts, and will always be made of parts. It doesn't suddenly fuse into a homogeneous entity. The parts all have to function for the whole to be successful, and if you let your part atrophy, the whole family suffers.

  16. Marriage is supposed to be based upon unconditional love. Happiness is a condition (to be happy, you have to have something happening). Therefore people who feek like they have to be happy to in a relationship will leave when their spouse doesnt make sonething happen. Unconditional, selfless, love brings about joy which is a much deeper, stronger sense of love for self and others. Two joy-filled, selfless people will love unconditionally and beyond the limits of superficial happiness. They choose love over personal comfort. That's what makes a marriage last.

  17. Yes. I have told her what I want, and she has told me what she wants. And together, we work to make each other AND ourselves happy.

    In ONE sentence you summed up how I see marriage working. Nice.

  18. I think, or at least the way I read it, the "Marriage Is Not For Me" article is saying at least some of what you're saying as well. I believe that author was saying that he wants to make his wife (and future family) happy...and that that makes him happy in return. I absolutely LOVE making my husband happy, making him smile, making his day go from bad to good,etc. And his happiness adds to my happiness. We still make all of our decisions together. We are a team - that goes without saying. But we just love making each other happy. Seeing him smile makes my heart light up!

  19. If somebody is self assured are they concerned about wether deposits are being made in to their bank account? Does one need to receive deposits to become self assured? Maybe a child, but surely not an adult. When I'm concerned about receiving and getting deposits, that's when I get unhappy. It is when I forget myself and put the needs of my wife and children before my own, like a big boy and with a good attitude, that I am the happiest. It goes with the 'lose yourself/find yourself' principle. How could that even be possible? Its a paradox, but I know its true because I have experienced it myself.

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