I just read a blog that seems to be going viral right now, reposted on WP and FB by several friends. The blog is titled “Marriage Isn’t For You”, written by a young man who wants to share the advice given to him by his father as that young man struggled with the questions any one has while engaged — is marriage for me? The advice, in a nutshell, was that marriage (and love) is best when it is about the other person.
I and a lot of people can’t help but agree. In principle I do wholeheartedly agree. And it was good advice at the time it was given.
As usual, I couldn’t help but throw my two cents in. My comment:
The advice you received is good advice to build a marriage on, in my mind a restore point that you can come back to at any place along the marriage continuum. I have been married 21 years, with two kids, and experience has taught me that the only way to be in it for the long haul is to learn to put self aside. That seems to really be what you were told. Put self aside. Not an easy thing to do, especially since there will be times when it feels like that is all you are doing.
So you need to learn to say to yourself that it’s OK for marriage and fatherhood to be about you now and then. It really does need to be. The advice you received is only part of the picture. You also got married because you found someone who you know wants your marriage to be about you. You know her well enough already that you know she has learned that, that she will be able to come back to that point you are at now.
What I just said may be difficult to understand for those who don’t have the experience. Trust me. It’s true.
It doesn’t take much knowledge about me to understand my reasoning in the comment. For years I have struggled to accept not being a priority, the concept of marriage being about the other weighted too much in the direction of my spouse. While I understand and even relish the role of provider/husband/father, I have come to the point where it just needs to be about me now and then. That is not selfish. No one can exist without reward.
Why do I have a vision of myself guarding a red stapler right now?
Sometimes you have to reward yourself. After 22 years of marriage, advice my own father gave to me becomes more and more true each day — “Son, if she isn’t going to make it about you at all — and she doesn’t in my opinion — then you have to just make it about yourself. Find ways to make yourself happy. Do your own thing.”
This past weekend was an example of what I have learned — sometimes it’s OK to reward yourself. In a marriage where my own thing isn’t always acceptable, even viewed as a sin, I just need to do what I want to do. Go out with the guys. Have that beer now and then. Ride my bike. Go somewhere without my wife or family. This weekend I went on a trip five hours away to southern Indiana for a mountain biking trip with two friends, Jim and Jon. We had an absolute blast. It was my last hurrah, my surgery postponed until the middle of November so I could take the trip. We did what we wanted to do, which was ride our bikes off road five and a half hours on Saturday, five hours on Sunday. Boy, did I need that.
And trips like that is what may help my marriage to survive another 22 years. My wife has had to learn to encourage me to do things like I did last weekend, have my own time, accept it. Years ago I would have spent the weekend and the days leading up to it living a guilt trip before I even packed my bags. I came home to perhaps might be the first time in quite a while where I felt this whole thing might just be about me too. I need that. Every husband, every wife, needs that. Do we need to reciprocate? You bet. But if we’re not getting it back, even the strongest won’t survive.