But before you start making assumptions, keep reading.
I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until we decided we no longer wanted to be just friends. (I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.)
Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached our wedding day, the more I was paralyzed by fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?
Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad. Perhaps each of us have moments in our lives when it feels like time slows down or the air becomes still and everything around us seems to draw in, marking that moment one we will never forget. This was one of those moments for me. With a knowing smile, my dad said, “Seth, 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. 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 is not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”
It was in that moment, I knew that Kim was the one I wanted to marry. I realized that I wanted to make her happy, to see her smile every day, and to make her laugh for the rest of our lives. I wanted to be a part of her family, and my family wanted her to be a part of ours. And thinking back on all the times I had seen her play with my nieces, I knew that she would be a great mother. I wanted to build our own family together.
My father’s advice went against the grain of today’s “Walmart philosophy”, which is if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one. 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 dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”
A year into our marriage, my wife showed me what it meant to love selflessly. For many months, my heart had been hardening with a mixture of fear and resentment. Then, the pressure built up to the point where neither of us could stand it and emotions erupted. I was callous. I was selfish. But instead of matching my selfishness, Kim did something beyond wonderful — she showed an outpouring of love. Laying aside all of the pain and anguish I had caused her, she lovingly took me in her arms and soothed my soul. I realized that I had forgotten my dad’s advice. While Kim’s side of the marriage had been to love me, my side of the marriage had become all about me. This awful realization brought me to tears, and I promised my wife that I would try to be better.
To all who are reading this — married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette —I want you to know that marriage isn’t for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love.
Seth’s full story can be read on his blog here.