Have you seen the "Marriage is not for me" article? It's been all over Facebook the last few days.
The article's author has been married for 18 months, and he had this aha moment: "Marriage is not all about me."
For the most part, he's right on target: stop being selfish. Put the other person first.
It's a good principle. I like it.
But like a lot of good principles, I feel like it needs an asterisk.
For example: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."*
*Unless you get hit by an 18-wheeler. Then, regardless of your excellent nutrition, you will need a doctor.
We all know that there are those relationships where you love the other person, and the 18-wheeler plows you down anyway.
Sometimes there's abuse.
"Nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. Source: Commonwealth Fund survey, 1998" (http://www.aardvarc.org/dv/statistics.shtml)
Sometimes there's addiction.
Sure, there are the kinds of addictions we've known about for years, like alcohol and drugs. Those are still problems in some cases. But these days, internet addiction is absolutely rampant.
Just the other day, I ran across this TED Talk, by Gary Wilson. He reports that recently, researchers were hoping to study the effects of internet pornography addiction on young men. But internet pornography exposure is so pervasive that they couldn't find a control group.
That's a fairly significant cultural moment, relationship-wise.
If you're in one of those situations, you've probably already tried throwing love into the black hole, and it hasn't worked.
- You're still getting hit.
- You're still being yelled at.
- You're still hearing that you're unloving because you don't want to be hurt during sex.
- You're still waiting for him to stop looking at internet porn, and look at you instead.
Please know that you are not responsible for your spouse's bad choices. EVER.
If there is abuse, if there is addiction, if there is bad behavior, THAT is the problem.
That is what needs to be addressed, and the abusive, addicted, badly-behaving person needs to do the addressing. (Twelve Steps, Celebrate Recovery, therapy. Pick one and get started.)
Marriage, ultimately, is supposed to be for us, together.
It's true that marriage is not just for me and my needs. I need to love and consider the other person, for sure.
But it's not just for the other person, either, and we have to be careful that we're not enabling abuse or addiction in the name of love.
Love is not a magic wand.
It never trumps free will.
It won't manipulate a happy ending.
The other person gets to choose, and sometimes they make go on making bad choices.
That is terribly, deeply painful.
It sucks. It really does.