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Marriage Isn’t For You: A Response

November 25, AD 2013 24 Comments

A few weeks ago, an article titled “Marriage Isn’t For You” popped up all over my newsfeed. Of course, I clicked because when I want to do something well, I read about it. We’re three years into our marriage and I still read every scrap of matrimonial advice I can lay my hands on, because, well, I’ve got a lot of learning to do.

At first glance, Mr. Smith’s reflections seemed like a basic summary of a Christian marriage theology: die to yourself and serve your spouse. A quick read was enough of a kick in the pants to get me off the computer and into the kitchen to make my husband breakfast. Something bothered me about the article, though. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it until I went back for a more thorough study.

First of all, I think Mr. Smith’s story was completely well-intentioned. As he puts it, the “Walmart philosopy” pervades our culture. We love what makes us feel good and toss what doesn’t. We are so saturated with the spirits of entitlement and selfishness, that the idea of living and dying for another is a completely foreign concept.

Mr. Smith writes: The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear…Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?

When Mr. Smith voices his concerns, his dad’s response is a bit scathing: 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.

Perhaps dad could have been a bit gentler, but his advice was spot on, right? Wrong.

The desire for happiness isn’t selfish, it’s human. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the longing for happiness is universal: “We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.” The Catechism takes it even further. Not only is the desire for happiness common to all man, it is a desire placed in us by God in order to draw us into communion with Himself – the source of all happiness (CCC 1718).

It follows that the more closely we walk with God, particularly through the living out of our vocation, the more happiness we will find. Not ease, comfort, or pleasure, but true happiness which will culminate in the lasting happiness which is Heaven.

The Catechism explains that it is the hope of happiness which purifies our actions and sacrifices, saves us from discouragement, and enables us to love freely. By the hope of happiness, we arepreserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.”

Got that? The longing for happiness saves us from selfishness and leads us to love.

Our culture desperately needs  the lesson of self-sacrifice, but more than that, we need to hope for a joy the world cannot give. We need to hope that our marriages aren’t doomed and we need to hope that we will find happiness in faithfulness.

Mr. Smith Senior meant well, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. He should have told his son to set aside his anxieties and pray, as Tobiah and Sarah did, for a long and happy life, because the desire for happiness isn’t selfish — it’s the beginning of holiness.

Note: The title of the article is problematic in itself. Marriage IS for you, your spouse, your children, the world, and most of all, for God.



Filed in: Married Life • Tags:

About the Author:

Elizabeth Hoxie is a 2010 graduate of St. Vincent College where she studied Catholic Theology and biology. She is a freelance health and nutrition by trade and amateur theologian when both children nap simultaneously. She lives with her family at Beale, AFB in sunny California where her husband serves in the United States Air Force.

  • Darren Anderton

    Insightful thoughts from a fellow member of the Bearcat Nation!

    • NathanandElizabeth Hoxie

      Go bearcats! When did you graduate?

      • Darren Anderton

        I haven’t! I’m currently a sophomore studying biology and entrepreneurship.

      • NathanandElizabeth Hoxie

        My husband and I both graduated from the biology dept. Great teachers! I’m pretty sure I had a class with one of your brothers…Shane and Craig?

      • Darren Anderton

        The very same!

  • Darren Anderton

    However, I do think the words “Happiness” and “Joy” are too often used synonymously. “Happiness” has a more worldly connotation caused by happenstance, whereas “Joy” seems to be more in line with your argument: the ultimate happiness of the soul.

  • Sharon

    I do think the man’s father was correct, though, in a very important way. It seems to me that happiness, or joy as Darren says, is a byproduct of doing the right thing and making the right choices. Self-sacrifice is usually not a lot of fun in the moment in which it is required, and many people today take that as an excuse to choose personal “happiness” over personal responsibility – and in the process, they cause a lot of serious unhappiness for a lot of people, as is the case of people abandoning a marriage because it doesn’t make them “happy”.

    • hat

      And which gender initiates divorce 70% of the time?

  • James Toups

    Elizabeth, I appreciate your thoughtful response. I do believe Christ wants us to be happy in this life. It is not however a promise. He promises eternal happiness if we faithfully follow him. I think we must be careful today as we use the word “happy” in modern times. Many many marriages today dissolve because one or both are not “happy”. Marriage is a selfless act of completely giving oneself over to another. It parallels the first step toward holiness. That is giving oneself over to Christ. The first step to holiness is not pursuing happiness. The first step to holiness begins with humility and selflessly giving ourself to Christ completely. When we do this happiness comes next even in great struggles.

    • hat

      Your preaching will not change anything. Marriage is dead. Completely. Less and less people are getting married every year.

      • James Toups

        Truth is not preaching, it is simply truth. God Bless.

      • hat

        So once again, how do you propose to revive marriage?

  • NathanandElizabeth Hoxie

    I used the word “happiness” in this article in part because it was
    used by the original author, but also because, as you have all pointed
    out, the world has hijacked the term. By secular definition, happiness
    is essentially a good feeling. In the Church’s eyes, however, happiness
    is a state of being. The CCC defines happiness as “Joy and beatitude
    over receiving the fulfillment of our vocation as human beings.” With
    that definition in mind, I don’t think it is a stretch to say we will
    find happiness in this life to the extent that we align our hearts with
    Christ’s (through selflessness, generosity, humility, etc.). Secular
    people often comment on the visible happiness of holy people such as
    JPII and M. Teresa. We know their lives were tremendously difficult and
    full of suffering, yet they were inarguably happy. Obviously, perfect
    happiness is the beatific vision.
    In an effort to encourage
    others (especially the young!) to behave morally, we say over and over
    again that the right thing isn’t always what feels good. That is of
    course true, but take it too far and you begin to equate misery with
    holiness. It’s easy to slip into the Puritanical notion that God is
    scanning the world looking for some poor soul who is happy so he can
    strike with a lightening bolt.

  • Jarl Nischan

    Well said, and useful to point out. Thank you. Even the saints honored desire: St. Ignatius made it a key part of his spirituality, and John of the Cross, ascetic though he was, focused on transformation of desire, not ignoring it, condemning it, or trying to get rid of it. The journey of marriage is in large part about the transformation of desires, one part of spiritual maturity.

    • hat

      Is not about transforming desires as much as it is living within our passions means and respecting the passions of others.

  • Marie Dean

    In marriage, the pursuit is for mutual happiness and if the couple is ordained by God to be together, each person will make each other happy. As to actual happiness happening, that is an interior pursuit, not one of materialism or consurmerism.

    I know good people ruin their marriages because of the pursuit of money or status. The only real happiness is based on the goal of perfection, seeking God, being one with God, and hopefully, leading each other to God.

    I say to young people who are considering marriage, “Will this person lead you closer to Jesus and the Church?” And “Is this man (or woman) full of virtue?” If the answers are yes, go for it.

    • hat

      And why do people pursue money and status?

  • The Veil of Chastity

    I am so glad you wrote this because his article did not sit well with me either. It seemed to lack the mystical, reciprocal and sacramental aspect of marital love…..which is so beautiful. Thank you for your post! Cindy

  • This is how an article is to be misinterpreted. You missed a major point which summed your whole philosophy “Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

    Longing for happiness is an oxymoron, just like longing for car, house, spouse. Key is to be cheerful whatever life throws at, err.. gifts you. Got that?

  • Steph

    Marriage is NOT about the person you are marrying. It is about two people coming together to form a marriage. “What God has joined, men must not divide” in more ways than just divorce. Also Gaurav: is it an oxymoron to long for God? Or should we just sit by and enjoy whatever is thrown at us? What kind of passive worship is that?

    • hat

      Do you believe gay people should get married?

      • Steph

        My comment was purely specific to this article written by Elizabeth Hoxie. There are plenty of other articles on gay marriage that you can comment on. I believe you are looking for an argument that is off topic.

      • hat

        ‘Marriage is NOT about the person you are marrying. It is about two people coming together to form a marriage.’

        By your logic two same sex people could be married.

  • Rosida Macualy

    i was in a serious relationship with my ex guy for three good years. One day we were in a dinner party, we had a little misunderstanding which lead to a Quarrel and he stood up and left me at the dinner party. i try to call him but he was not picking my calls so after then i contacted my brother and told him about it,my brother so much love me that he had to see him on my behalf,he told my brother that it is over between us. Then i contacted a friend of mine that had this similar experience and she directed me to one of the spiritual diviner prophet jakula at first i thought it was not going to be possible and i contacted him,so i did what i was ask to do, after 3 days i was in my office when my ex guy called me and was asking me to forgive him and come back to him. i was very surprise it was like a dream to me,so ever since we have been happily married with one kid my lovely baby.if you are any way in such problem i will advice you to contact him on his email address