Are You Relying On Your Partner to Make you Happy?

Earlier this month Seth Adam Smith posted a thought-provoking article on his blog, which you can read here:

The premise of his article, titled “Marriage Isn’t For You” is that you don’t get married to make yourself happy, but to make your partner happy. Love and marriage is all about the other person and you’re not ready for marriage if you are too self-focused.

Smith’s post is probably largely influenced by his Mormon beliefs, but that last bit about not getting married if you’re too focused on yourself is sage advice for people of any or no religious denomination. As for the rest of his post? Maybe not so applicable.

Sometime before his own marriage, Smith was feeling the pre-altar jitters and went to his father for some words of wisdom: “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?”

Extended family approval is not a requirement for marriage, and indeed you might not even be thinking about starting your own when you decide to get married. “Is this the future father/mother of my children?” may not be the most important question you need to be asking yourself when thinking about if your loved one is the one. Compatibility, chemistry, and mutual attraction are just a few of the factors that should supersede the importance of how great a parent your partner might make some day. Smith’s claim, of course, doesn’t even address couples who may not even desire children.

Furthermore, not every relationship is striving for marriage and this does not make them any less valid. Marriage cannot fix a problematic relationship and having children will not make rough patches in your marriage go away. (In fact, it is far more likely to exacerbate existing issues and create new points of contention!)

Smith writes: “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?’”

There is a difference between being 100% dedicated to your partner and what Smith is suggesting: that you entrust your happiness to your spouse-to-be. Ideally, both people should be happy when going into a marriage, and should indeed be thinking of how they can offer their future spouse their unconditional love and support. However, ultimately each partner is responsible for his or her own happiness. Certainly your partner should be a positive element that contributes to your happiness, but he or she is not responsible for it. That’s a weighty responsibility to unload onto someone! No one is responsible for your happiness, but you! If you’re not thinking about your own happiness, how are you going to be aware of all that your spouse does to try to make you happy? Not taking responsibility for your own happiness is a way to avoid introspection and truly understanding yourself. Self-reflection and insight in what happiness means to each of us is the best way to understand your own emotions and life goals.

Smith’s blog post is written from the perspective of someone who is married, for someone who is considering marriage. What his theory fails to account for is falling in love in the first place. How do you meet your future Mr. or Mrs. Right if you’re not being an active agent in your happiness?



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