Husband Material 101: Why You Shouldn't Marry for Love
Why You Shouldn't Marry for Love (Really!)
Confession time: I didn't marry my husband because I loved him. Yes, I loved him when we got together and I love him now more than I ever have, but that love is not why I said yes when he popped the question, and it's not why he asked, either. Wanna know a secret? Love isn't the basis for a healthy relationship, it's the product of one.
So, if not because I loved him (and I did/do wholeheartedly!), why did I agree to marry my husband? A few simple yet crucial reasons: I married my husband because he was and is my best friend. I married him because we're different enough in ways that allow the push-and-pull between our unique strengths and weaknesses to move us forward in material and spiritual success, and because we're similar enough in all the ways that matter. Because our shared faith and values keep us accountable, not just to one another but to a community of people around us who also share those ideals and values. Because we each have our own unique passions and talents, but we share the same "core goals" in life: a happy family, good spiritual and physical health, wealth built through hard work, and the independence and freedom provided by running our own business. Oh, and did I forget to mention that after six years of marriage, he still makes me laugh to the point of tears everyday and my heart still skips a beat whenever he walks into a room?
"Marry for love" is more than just a value statement, it's become a way of life. This simple and seemingly impeachable concept is everywhere, from movies and songs to stories and greeting cards. It's certainly a highly marketable idea, but with more marriages ending in divorce than long-term happiness, it begs the question: is love really enough?
"But Josephine!" you cry, "surely you're not suggesting that people marry for prurient, material reasons alone!" Surely, I am not, but I do believe that there is a balance to be struck between the "old-fashioned" notion that marriage is little more than a transaction and the modern notion that "all you need is love" for a happy, successful, long-term marriage.
The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.
The "All You Need is Love" Myth
Let's face it. Love as defined by the modern world is as mercurial as it is flimsy. You're "in love" one day and "it's complicated" the next. As wonderful as those heady, flighty feelings that come in the early days of romance are, the surest way to keep that flame kindled is to have a relationship built on something deeper. Think of a relationship built on love and only love as a structure made of gold. As pure and beautiful as it is, gold is also the softest metal. It's made to adorn and embellish, but it's not the stuff that holds up the structure of a building. To create a truly sturdy structure, you need wood that's flexible and durable enough to support and withstand the slight shifting of the earth without breaking, or steel, which is so strong they make towering skyscrapers out of it. With a strong foundation, that trim and adornment will be around to enjoy for decades to come.
A relationship built on love alone (or at least, the modern definition of it) is a lot like a building made of gold. It might be beautiful to look at, but it's not meant to withstand the elements of life or to bear the burden of its own structure. You can't add onto it and it's not a safe shelter to inhabit. Built your relationship on the strong foundation of friendship, shared faith, shared values, and mutual goals in life. These are the things that last. These are the things that don't fade with your first fight. Your goals don't change when he chews too loudly, and finding out that you absolutely can't stand her best friend isn't going to shake a friendship forged on a great sense of humor and mutual enjoyment of each other's company. True love blossoms from the soil of devotion, compassion, friendship, values and faith, and these things allow more and more love to grow as time goes on. Just as you can't plant flowers in a box of petals, you can't plant love without rich soil to grow in.
Fight like Friends
Even if you didn't start out as friends, you must grow your friendship in order to have any chance at long-term success. To put it frankly, romantic love isn't enough. Healthy, happy couples learn to laugh together, cry together, discuss tough topics together and live together, through everything. That includes fighting together.
Ever notice how different fights are with your best friend than with your romantic partner? Here's the secret to a happy marriage: they shouldn't be. When you fight with your best friend or a close family member, it tends to lack the sting of fights with a romantic partner for one reason: You know they're not going to leave. No matter what you say, your brother is still going to be your brother and your best friend isn't going to bounce after a single argument when your friendship has withstood years of friendly competition and harmless bickering. People fight differently with their partners because, unlike fights with their friends and family, they subconsciously feel like there's an "easy out."
Values have become secondary to just about everything else these days, despite the fact that they still motivate our religious, political, personal, professional and recreational decisions. The most common causes of divorce all center around a difference in values. "Irreconcilable differences." While this has become a catchall for any reason a marriage doesn't work out, it is worth examining at face value. If value differences end relationships, certainly they play a more important role in building relationships than they're given credit for!
Building a Life Together
Love without direction is just passion. It flickers and fades away with every life change until you end up drifting apart and wondering what it was that kept you together in the first place. The reason is that true love builds. You have to give it direction and purpose, or it feeds on itself and burns out like a fire starved of oxygen. To grow as a couple, you must build a life together.
What does this mean? It starts with having a real, honest conversation about what you both want as individuals and where you'd like to see yourselves as a couple in five, ten, fifty years. Do you want a big family or would you rather travel the world together, free of domestic responsibilities? How will you build wealth long-term? Does faith play a central role in your life? If so, how are you going to enrich each other's spiritual lives and use your relationship to deepen that faith, and vice versa? What lessons do you want to learn through the trials and joys of human relationship? Do you want to break free of the 9-5 routine and start your own business?
Couples with shared goals, couples who are focused on building something together, will go through their hard times just like anyone else. The difference is that when those hard times come, they're still partners. If all you have in common is love, that brand of love will ebb and flow and when it ebbs, you're going to forget why you're together in the first place. When it comes to a building relationship, that person is more than your romantic partner. He or she is your partner in life, in business, in wealth building, in parenting, in travel, in faith, etc.. You have more invested in the relationship than your feelings, and thus, you have more investment in making it work. Do the work and those investments will yield benefits greater than you could imagine.
Love Grows Over Time
Should you marry someone you love? Absolutely! Always! Should you marry someone because you love them? Never. The kind of love you can build a life on is the kind of love that grows with time. It may start as a friendship or mutual attraction, but it becomes deeper. Whether you believe in soulmates or not, you can create that kind of love with the person you marry, as long as you have shared values and goals in place. As long as there is mutual respect and a desire to make it work.
The Myth of Potential
This is a myth that many people, especially women, fall prey to. "Oh, I love him because he has so much potential." Here's a simple equation to tell the difference between true potential in a potential partner and the myth of potential so many have been duped into.
Let's break this down a bit further.
Value: All human beings have inherent value as people, but there is also another kind of value that determines your trajectory in life. This kind of value may come in the form of a natural talent, or it may have to be cultivated over time from nothing.
Direction: Direction is action aimed at a goal. Direction is the thing that turns potential into success.
A man with "potential" may have a 160 IQ, but if he never bothered to pursue an education or put the work into a career that turns that potential into some form of measurable success, it has no benefit to his mate and it won't get them any further in life as a couple. If a woman with "potential" has a natural gift for starting and running businesses, but she can't ever make up her mind long enough to see anything through to completion, that "potential" ends up being worthless. Potential is talk, filled potential is measurable success.
When it comes to seeking a mate, look for someone who is already on the way to fulfilling their potential. This goes for men and women (and anyone else!) By the same token, this means that you also need to be at least on the way to fulfilling your potential.
Potential is more than just a practical matter. You can tell a lot about how someone will be as a long-term partner by how they are in their professional life. If they're good at committing to deadlines and seeing things through, it's reasonable to assume that they'll also be good at committing and following through in other areas. If they're honest and hardworking in their career, they're more likely to bring those same qualities to a relationship. If, on the other hand, the person you're considering for marriage never takes his or her work seriously and always tries to skate by with the minimum amount of effort, you can expect those values to manifest in your relationship when the "love goggles" fade.
A Marriage Built on Love Alone is Like a House Made of Glass
Love Makes You Lazy (And Clueless)
This may sound harsh, but it's true. Love makes us see the best in the other person, which is a wonderful quality when it's paired with practicality and the other elements of a strong relationship, but not so good when love is steering the ship. When you marry for love alone, you're taking a huge risk that when the honeymoon ends, your feelings are going to be enough to overcome the annoying quirks and flaws that inevitably show up. (And yes, as perfect as your lover seems now, those flaws will rear their heads eventually. So will yours.)
Marriage is about commitment. Love needs commitment to keep from floating off into outer space, never to be seen again. Love without commitment to building a life together can't grow. At best, it can only ever remain in its infancy, never changing and never capable of growing to its full potential of mature, productive love. True love produces results, and it doesn't stop once the honeymoon period ends.
The greatest downfall of a marriage built on love alone is that it starts out so brilliant in the beginning. It's a passionate whirlwind of grandiose promises and flowery language, but it wilts and rots quickly. The reason for this is simple: In a marriage driven by love, both partners have the best of intentions in the beginning. Contrary to popular belief, no one enters a relationship thinking, "I'm going to set unrealistic expectations for myself by going full-throttle in the first six months of this relationship and then start slacking."
So, how does this end up happening and why does it mean you shouldn't marry for love? When you marry for love, you start out wanting to impress that person because you're head over heels in storybook, romcom love with them. When that feeling gets immersed in the cooling waters of bills, work, chores, kids, in-laws, and the other realities of daily living they don't bother showing you in the movies, it tends to dissolve if there's not something stronger holding it together. When you marry someone because you love them, all the work you put into that relationship fades if anything calls that love into question. When you marry someone you love because you want to build a life together, and because they're your best friend, you still want to do all those nice things for them whether it's been five months or five years because the reasons you married are stable and grounded in day-to-day reality!
Love the One You Marry, but Don't Marry for Love (Exclusively!)
Romantic love is the product of a healthy marriage, but it can't be the foundation. Love is only as strong as what it's built on. If your love is built on friendship, mutual respect and understanding, and dedication to shared goals and beliefs, it will grow and strengthen over time. If your love is based solely on romantic attraction, it will age and fade as that attraction does.