How to Get a Happier Marriage: On Selfishness
By Melissa Chapman on January 20, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
I always said I could never imagine why, or more aptly, how it was that people sustained a marriage in the absence of children. In my personal experience, I don’t think I ever would’ve gotten married had I not planned on having kids. And in all honesty, I believe that having my children and desperately wanting to give them a foundation which includes a two parent home has, for better or worse, cemented my visceral attitude when it comes to preventing the dissolution of my marriage.
Of course what I believed was possible as a 25-year-oid bride, and what I know now as a 37-year-old woman who has logged 12 years in a marriage, is that life is not so black and white and in fact is teeming with gray.
I also recently wrote a post on my blog, Married My Sugar Daddy, "Marriage is hard; but keeping your kids unscathed is harder," where, in a nutshell, I voice my concerns about the fact that that there are times when I sublimate my feelings of anger towards my spouse and the state of our marriage in order to placate my kids. I know it’s because I want to do everything I can to keep my kids unscathed -- to keep them from experiencing a divorce and a broken family.
On some level, I suppose, focusing on “pretending to be happy” in my marriage to make my whole experience better (i.e. keep my kids unscathed and unaware of my grownup issues with their father) could be construed as being good selfish (or even selfless). I also believe in trying to keep my marriage solid for my kids; there have been times that that precise mindset has indeed been the glue that has effectively kept my marriage form ripping apart at the seams. Whereas fighting in front of my kids (which I’ve certainly been known to do) and letting my feelings, frustrations and unhappiness with my husband and the state of our union, especially when my kids are within earshot, could be construed as being the bad kind of selfish. But do either of these theories hold any weight? How much of our lives and marriages do we owe our children? Is staying in a marriage and not being honest in front of our kids really what’s best for them? And what are we ultimately keeping them unscathed from? And most importantly are we preparing them for the realities of what a real marriage entails?
Well, according to New York Times' Tara Parker-Pope, a good marriage has absolutely nothing to do with kids; whether it's having them as a means to keep a couple together or putting them at the forefront of one’s marriage as a means to keep it solid. In her article, Ms. Parker-Pope says, "The Happy Marriage Is the ‘Me’ Marriage," and that the key to long-term happiness in your marriage actually has nothing to do with whether you procreate or have kids in general. Rather it’s about your ability to make your spouse happy and have your spouse feel like being with you; it is a lesson in self-improvement. A good, happy, solid marriage that will go the distance is one in which both partners are constantly learning, growing and experiencing new things from and with one another. And when you focus on being the best partner you can to that person, your marriage will flourish.
While I don’t think I’ve ever truly attempted Ms. Parker-Pope’s advice, I’m inclined to think she might be onto something and I’m willing to give it a shot and make my husband the focus. But wait… does that make me selfish too?!
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