A friend of John Kuhns was asked some questions about marriage and what the point of it is.  This was his response:

I think you are right that marriage is becoming less and less meaningful these days. People seem to think of marriage as just a very-committed relationship. When you are in a very committed relationship then the next step is to get married. I think this approach misses what marriage is really supposed to be about. Marriage is supposed to be an INSEPARABLE union where two people become one person. This is shown symbolically by taking the same last name and such things.

Marriage is when two people commit to give their lives to each other for the rest of their lives. The love that makes marriage work is not a feeling of love. If it was, then feelings come and go and so would marriage. Marriage love is a DECISION to value the other person as highly as yourself. So if something is wrong with them then you work on fixing it as much as you would if it was yourself.

But people don't think this way. People think you get married just because you are in love (feeling). Then the feeling goes away for a time (because of stress at work or concerns with children or whatever) and people decide they made a mistake and get divorced. Many times they try to work things out but because their view of marriage is based on feelings unless those "in love" feelings come back soon they despair and decide their marriage is hopeless.

I was thinking about love feelings recently and I realized that when you are in love you can be completely selfish and think you are being so loving. See, when you are in love then these feelings make you want to do nice things for the other person. The feelings make beautiful words flow from your mouth. The feelings make you sweet and kind and giving to the other person. But you aren't really doing it for the other person - you are doing it because it makes you feel good!

BUT that is not true love! Love is self-giving. That is, when it does not benefit yourself and only the other person you still do it. Say your loved one is sad. If you have no feelings for them at the moment then you might not feel like sitting down and talking with them about their problems. You might want to watch TV or a movie or do something fun. It's what you do when you don't feel like it that shows what you really are - selfish or self-giving.

So I think people should not marry until they are both willing to commit to never divorcing each other. That is, to never give up on each other. Then the wedding vows like "for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health" mean something. And if such a view makes you put off marrying - well, I think that's better. It's better for marriage to be honored by all and for lesser commitments to be easily seen as less.

Now, once you do have a marriage like that then the difference is night and day. Suddenly, you have stability. A wife is no longer afraid of her husband leaving her for someone younger/prettier as she gets older. Hopefully more true conversation goes on since no one is scared the other will leave them. And children can grow up happily secure in their parents' love. Mommy and Daddy will always be there as a shelter from the storms of life.

And then again, it is that decision kind of self-giving love that makes everything work. There's no adultery because both spouses know that it's not in the best interest of the other. Screaming and anger stop because both realize that behavior just makes people sad and scared and doesn't help anything. (If you think about it, angry outbursts are really just to make you feel better - not to fix anything.)

And to really be unselfish you need God. I NEED God to make me a good man in my marriage and with my children. So marriage is hard but it is also VERY rewarding. The first years of my marriage were very hard in many ways (I HAD to get OUT everyday and take a walk and cry out to God to HELP me) but God brought me through and now I am in some of the richest days of my marriage life (7 and a half years old now).

There's a quote I really like: "All noble things are difficult." See, it's noble/heroic because it's difficult. If it was easy then anybody would do it. But because it's hard then that's why nobody's doing it. See, in life, we are frequently given a choice between the "easy beginning/hard end" and the "hard beginning/easy end". If we are lazy or scared we take the easy way only to find it ends REALLY hard. But if we are courageous and take the hard way we will find there's a beautiful life there if we will fight for it.

Now, I don't want to say that I have a perfect marriage or that I am always loving and never selfish. That is my goal but just yesterday my wife was down and depressed and I elected to avoid her and not deal with the un-fun problems there. Not good - I'm aiming to be braver from now on.

Well, that's probably long enough, :)
May God bless you all and give you LIFE,
-John
 

Posted by Jon Daley on January 17, 2007, 9:11 pm | Read 50069 times
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Hi, I came across this and it certainly made me think. I am having a rotten time in my marriage. 10 years later, 2 little kids, lots of frustration, bad communication from day 1, and yes, the feeling of being in love is long time gone although I do love my husband. Do not like him though.

I like how you mention the fact that being in love makes one feel good, therefore it is a selfish feeling that has nothing in common with loving someone in a totally unselfish manner. Yet, when life gets tough, who doesn't like having someone being selfishly in love with us?
Posted by marina on January 18, 2007, 1:00 am

You make some excellent points about what marriage IS and IS NOT.

"The love that makes marriage work is not a feeling of love. If it was, then feelings come and go and so would marriage. Marriage love is a DECISION to value the other person as highly as yourself...."

You later talk about 'true love,' and that, to me, is an ideal--and not the element of the type of love a marriage demands, in spite of the often evanescent feeling, as you were describing it.

"BUT that is not true love. Love is self-giving. That is, when it does not benefit yourself and only the other person you still do it."

The love you were describing is more accurately defined as "unconditional love," I'd think, though. The connotation that the term "true love" holds is a bit more idealistically sappy and romantic--a love that does incorporate that feeling and transcends that agreement involved in maintaining a marriage. Within that ideal, that feeling of love does persist forever, it never does fade. Who am I to be bold and declare it unnattainable? I won't do that here, although I've been guilty of it before. (Sometimes I can be a bit extreme.) But to be more accurate, it'd probably suffice to say it is rare, if not impossible. So even in its absence, a married party is obligated by the vows they took to make it work anyway. That's only part of why this marriage thing is risky business.

I do admire that, and I respect it. But I don't want it. I want to be free to abide by my whims, acknowledge a situation for what it is, and act in accordance with that as I go, aware that at any moment, it could all change. A marriage, however, demands the dismissal of such whims in the name of mutual agreement to forever, no matter what. And that "no matter what" business is quite a bit of pressure--far too much for me. Some call that commitment-phobic. I don't mind.

That said, I do believe there's something to be said for the validity of other types of love aside from unconditional. That missing element does not necessarily make love less true, (to me, that is--I understand that idea could seem ridiculous and take a bit of arguing, but I'll leave it at that anyway.) It just makes the love unsuitable for the sustenance of a marriage. The quest for true love and the pursuit of a successful marriage are quite arguably drastically different things, as you insinuated:

"People think you get married just because you are in love."

And I love the summing up of marriage as a vow "... to never give up on each other."

This is a big dang deal. This is nothing to be taken lightly. Many in our society have forgotten that, and the problem lies in that we as a society continually fail to make that distinction as our fascination with falling in love grows.

Don't get me wrong--as I was getting at before, there's definitely something to be said for the feeling of love and allowing relationships to grow out of that. But, as you emphasis, this is not what a marriage depends on, and should thus not be used as the basis of its survival.

There's even something to be said for being selfish, I believe. It's been a personal declaration of mine for years that I never want to get married because I very consciously want the freedom to remain selfish. I'm a self-proclaimed serial monogamist who sincerely believes that "it" works as long as "it" works and who has no desire to push anything any further than that. Enjoy it for what it is while it is, and for what it was when it's gone, but when it's gone, move on. This is inaccordance with the feeling of love. I'm a fan of it, fickle as it may be.

Many people take this serial-monogamist approach, but are not so honest or self-aware to acknowledge that they're doing so. That is, many enter into a union based on little more than the feeling of love, in the hopes that this ideal will be sustained for all eternity and that it is this that will make thier marriage work. But no feeling can accomplish that--just as you stated--only a significant amount of work and drastic level of dedication and committment can. But out society has become one who gives up and parts ways when that feeling does not suffice, and this is where we've gone wrong in calling this union and that a marriage, all willy-nilly: When we consider that a defining component of marriage is that all-important "forever" requirement, a marriage that ends was never a marriage to begin with. Is that fair to conclude?
Posted by Memphis on January 18, 2007, 2:18 am

marina: Yet, when life gets tough, who doesn't like having someone being selfishly in love with us?

I don't know - that sounds odd to me. Perhaps if you are comparing not being loved to someone loving selfishly, it would be better, although even with that, I am not sure.

I haven't really liked John's thought on "selfish" love, though I haven't had anything to say against it. I would like to think that I am not loving my wife for my benefit, but it seems hard for me to objectively prove that is not the case, as there are certainly an uncountable number of benefits of Heather loving me.


Someone found this article by searching for "Adultery or true love" in Google, and my heart aches for this person. Since this article has been posted for less than twelve hours, the odds are pretty good that it was one of you who searched for those terms, and I have been thinking about marina and what she said about her marriage - and I am thinking that cannot be the right answer - that it might look all glittery and shiny, and that some guy appears to love better than her husband, but what will happen in ten years (or perhaps way less than that) when the glitter has faded?
All of the other searches were just for "marriage", so it might not be marina, but someone was searching for that.


Memphis: I am glad to hear that you aren't getting married, at least not in immediate future - as you said, some think the same way you do, but get married anyway. As for your question about whether if a marriage ends, was it really a marriage - I think the answer is that it was a marriage, it did happen - you can't ignore or annul it (a friend had to get an annulment from the Catholic church to pretend like she wasn't ever married before, and she thought that was pretty silly, I think she said something like, "Yes, it did happen, yes, we did make mistakes, but it happened".

I question the "ideal" of wanting to remain selfish - certainly there are lots of people who think that is the only way to live, and the only way society can sustain itself - Ayn Rand has totally missed the goals and point of Christianity (I assume she is trying to attack Christianity in, "Atlas Shrugged"), but there are lots of people who agree with her, or at least think they do.

I think that being a Christian and having faith in a savior who redeems all of life changes the entire thing - obviously, I don't have a good perspective on what it means to be married when you aren't a Christian, or what sorts of questions go through one's mind. I know from my own life that our faith has brought us together more than anything else - and we tend to be more on the side of feelings shouldn't fade, and smile at each other when people talk about how they're sure that the feelings of love must have faded since we have been married five years.
Biblically, I have enjoyed Proverbs 5, and though it is a "command", I don't find it a burdensome one. "rejoice with the wife of thy youth", I suppose I am still young (30th birthday coming shortly!) so perhaps I will have different thoughts as I grow older, but I read verses 15-21 with joy, and thank God for the wife He has given me.
Posted by jondaley on January 18, 2007, 7:34 am

You beat me to it... I was planning to post this same letter on my blog. :)

Posted by Peter on January 18, 2007, 9:10 am

"adustyframe" wrote a letter to her new-sister-to-be and I thought it was quite good. You can read it here: Advice to the new bride (or groom)

Posted by jondaley on May 9, 2007, 11:41 am

I don't know what it means on marriage in US. I love children. The very reason for me to get marriage one day will be to have my own children.
http://www.idovideo.tv/blog/

Posted by angus on July 4, 2007, 3:51 am
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