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November 5, 2013

BEAM: The martyrdom of marriage

— Blog sharing spreads like the common cold on social media, and one in particular this week has given me headache.

A guy named Seth Adam Smith penned an entry on his website sethadamsmith.com called “Marriage isn’t for you.” The tricky linguist chose an ingenious title for his essay, because, as you find out after perusing the piece, that heading is meant to have a double meaning.

Good ol’ Seth, who has been in wedded bliss for a year and a half, doesn’t actually mean to degrade marriage. In fact, he’s going to tell you how to make your union better, in part, by heeding the advice his father gave to him.

What did daddy tell his little man?

“Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy ... Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married,” said his father as related in Seth’s blog post.

Wait a second. The main goal of any marriage is to make your spouse happy?

Say what?

And to think I thought it had something to do with love and companionship.

Sure, Seth’s premise might work for some couples, and more power to them. But not every relationship follows the same trajectory. As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks. And, my relationship for one, definitely follows more of the “What you talking about, Willis” frame of mind.

Here’s my main problem with the Seth’s assertion: No one else is responsible for your own happiness except you. That’s right. YOU.

True contentment starts from within and radiates outward. If I’m only dependent on others like my husband, children or hot movie stars to bring me joy, then my bliss will fluctuate.

From the other perspective, if your only goal is to make someone else happy, you can lose sight of your own needs and wants. Once you live wholly for another, that loss of self can’t always be good.

Now I’m not saying bringing happiness to another isn’t a rewarding, wonderful thing. It is. But that shouldn’t always be the focus of a marriage, especially if only one spouse is the one doing all the giving.

Relationships thrive on give and take. The best resolution happens when neither side feels like they are shouldering most of the burden.

Look at it this way: Remember how the flight attendant always warns adults, in cases of emergency, to put on their oxygen mask first before attempting to aid others? Otherwise, you just pass out, unable to help anyone.

It’s the same thing with relationships. Your own house needs to be in order before you can make someone else happy. Only you know how to do that. Don’t call every instance of that selfishness. It’s self-preservation, and in the long run better for all those involved.

In all honesty, I didn’t marry my husband because it would make him happy. Mutual respect and love were the cornerstones of our decision to wed. He and I are together because we help one another to achieve our personal bests and to become better people.

Oh yeah, and we love each other. That’s enough for me.

So, in actuality, Seth, never allow another person to determine your self-fulfillment. Only you can control that. Yes. YOU. And marriage is about you AND your spouse. Together, through communication, compromise and love, happiness will be found.

Martyrdom for another shouldn’t be common place, but the exception to the rule. Leave these fairy tale notions of complete sacrifice for love’s sake to Disney.

Believe me, you don’t have to be to an Evil Queen to understand that love can survive a little common sense egotism now and again.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at adbeam47@aol.com

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