Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why people are disappointed with marriage

 Fun. Laughter. Happiness. Good times. No worries. Is this how life is supposed to be? Is our definition of loving life and seeing good days measured by the amount of happiness in our lives? Now, this isn't just aimed at the "singles," rather the post is aimed at marriage and what people tell us a good marriage is. 

I was contemplating the notion that a marriage is defined as "good" by how "happy" the couple is. Now, I don't want you to get the impression from me that I think a couple isn't supposed to be happy in a marriage, no-no, I want to give you something to "munch" on. I found this article by Greg Koukl. The topic was on happiness and this is just one gem from the article:

"In the pursuit of happiness, human institutions are valid not because of transcendent ethic but because of temporal fulfillment, which is essentially self-centered. For example, marriage is a valid commitment as long as you're happy. If you're not happy anymore in the marriage, then you have reason to dissolve the marriage. But I would contend that if you're getting married to be happy, then you're getting married for the wrong reasons. Not that personal fulfillment is not a valid goal in some measure, but that's not what it's all about." 

Notice Greg didn't condemn happiness in a marriage, rather he was making the point that happiness isn't the goal of marriage. So, what is the goal of marriage? 

"You marry as a covenant agreement between two people to maintain a family unit in society to accomplish certain things, to help each other and embrace the events and issues of life together as helpmates, to raise a family and provide a stable environment for them. Though all of those things may breed a measure of happiness, they breed a measure of misery as well. That's why the covenant, the agreement, the commitment between husband and wife is not based on happiness. If it was you'd have to amend your vows to say, 'Until unhappiness do us part.'"  

Did you catch it? We don't marry to be happy. Why do we marry? To "maintain a family unit in society to accomplish certain things, to help each other and embrace the events and issues of life together as helpmates, to raise a family and provide a stable environment for them." That's why man and woman marry. A person pursuing happiness alone will be horribly disappointed with marriage because marriage is not an institution for happiness alone. 

Why are people disappointed with marriage? Well like I said above, both parties or a single party in the marriage is only seeking happiness. He or she usually thinks the other person can bring happiness because "Well, gee, Darin is just so funny, charming and fun...surely he can make me happy!" or "Man, Jane has a smoking body, surely she alone can satisfy me," and then shortly after marriage Darin is not so charming and funny anymore and Jane doesn't satisfy her husband's cravings. Why is that? Well, as Greg says later in the article: we have a cultural value, a cultural emphasis, on happiness. The pursuit of happiness becomes the rationale for all sorts of inappropriate behavior--"But she's not happy married to him. She's happy with me." "I'm not happy raising my children." "But I'm not happy when I'm not high." "I'm not happy going to work every day." These are the kinds of comments children make, not adults

Greg is exactly right: "These are the kinds of comments children make, not adults." Instead of marriage being the incubator for raising a family, it's become the incubator for raising one's happiness and when marriage is defined that way, people will be disappointed with it every time. That's why some people are disappointed with marriage and why our culture is the way it is. When desire and happiness is your destiny, then you're going to have horrible results. Not to get too off topic, but consider what Robert McCain wrote

"When you see a businessman divorce his wife of 30 years in order to marry his receptionist, or when Mary Kay LeTourneau wrecks her life to pursue a taboo romance with Vili Fualaau, these are manifestations of the same basic concept at the root of the gay-rights lobby’s “born that way” argument: Desire is destiny, and of all the happiness that we are free to pursue, no pursuit is more important than a sexual partner who fulfills our deepest longings. 

When a belief so pervades a culture as this one has pervaded our culture, it becomes impossible for most people to understand it rationally, for they have no other frame of reference. We might compare it to liberal bias in the news media. As I’ve often said, most journalists don’t notice liberal bias for the same reason fish don’t notice water — it’s everywhere, and it’s all they’ve ever known."
When one's goal is happiness, one will almost always fail because happiness isn't a meaningful goal due to the "I want this and I want it now!" attitude. Greg says, "we cling to this expectation of personal happiness, we will define good life, appropriate life, successful living in the context of freedom from problems and pain. And it's to that degree that life will deliver to us the severest disappointment, because life is not like that."

How should we look at marriage? I married my wife because I love who she is. I wanted to raise a family with her. I wanted to be faithful to her, to protect her, and to grow old with her. We fit together. Do we disagree on some things? Yeah, but not on major things like our goals, which is very important in a marriage. I don't recommend marrying someone you disagree with on goals and ultimate issues. Different tastes in movies and music are understandable (actually I learned of new music from my wife, which is cool).

I really like how Greg ends his piece: "Make it your goal to be faithful. Happiness will take care of itself. And the times that it doesn't, so what? Generally, if I'm really bummed out, I don't despair because there's probably nothing critically wrong with me, and it probably won't last. And if I'm really thrilled about something I enjoy it, but I don't cling to it because sooner or later I'll return to normal living, and that's OK--no guilt trips. And I never expect anything in this life to sustain me at anything like a blissful level.

I couldn't end this post any better.


  1. Great take on marriage. Society indeed puts emphasis on happiness being the foundation of marriage (aka life-long commitment). Why build a foundation on something that could change on a whim (happiness)? I think Koukl does a great job of defining the original reason marriage was begun in the first place.

  2. Yeah, Greg Koukl is the man (I wish I had a nickel for every time I said that lol). I think his take on happiness and Robert McCain's idea of "desire is destiny" go hand in hand. It seems to me that pleasure/happiness is the ultimate goal in life according to popular theory, which is really far off from what life is really about.

  3. I can't help but wonder if maybe it's the kind of happiness people are seeking. Obviously a certain level of happiness comes from being faithful to a person or raising children together. Perhaps Greg hinted at this with discussions of self-centered and "personal happiness."

  4. Yeah, I think that was his aim, to make the point that personal happiness or happiness as a goal in life is only going to bring disappointment. Instead, we should make a goal to be faithful and happiness will take care of itself.


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