“Marriage makes you less selfish.”
I wouldn’t know exactly, because I’m not married, but that’s what everyone tells me. At least that’s what every pastor, blog, friend, and Facebook post tell me.
Rightfully so. You’re doing life with another human and other humans have wants, hopes, needs, desires, and dreams. Other human would like to eat. Other human, no matter how much you love them, has some sort of strange habit. He or she drives differently than you. In fact, everything about him or her has a different version of “normal” from you, especially at first. He or she has different traditions, spending habits, conflict resolutions, and so on and so forth.
When two people have two different versions of “normal” there’s bound to be some conflict.
It might be normal for you to stay up late but his normal gets up early. You might’ve spent money on the newest Madewell sweater while he normally buys video games (please, please tell me he doesn’t buy video games. Crap, now I’m destined to end up with a gamer.) All of these things are different and therefore inconvenient and therefore expose selfishness. Because you would rather stay up late and buy really wonderfully knit sweaters while he wants to go to bed early so he can arise to the sweet sounds of Halo or whatever the kids are playing these days.
Speaking of kids: your parenting styles will be SO different because, unless you married your brother, you had different parents. If you did in fact marry your brother there’s bigger issues going on than your selfishness and, alas, there’s no hope for you.
Differences breed inconveniences, which expose selfishness.
And so if you’re married you’re exposed to your selfishness pretty regularly. This doesn’t discount all the joys that come with it, but you’re exposed to your selfishness nonetheless. But what happens if you’re not married? What happens if you’re actually choosing not to be married?
For so long everyone’s been telling me that marriage is about selflessness. When you hear that over and over again you start to assume the opposite must be true. If you’re single, you must be selfish. And sure, there’s some accuracy. No one is checking my bank statement or asking me to take out the trash. Except my roommates because they’re savages. Kidding.
I thought choosing singleness meant choosing selfishness.
Which eventually makes you feel pretty rotten about yourself. No one was telling me I was selfish, I was just telling myself. And when you repeat lies over and over again they kind of start to become true. It’s easier to just live into the lie rather than do the hard work to uncover the truth or the even harder work of fighting against the lie. Because I told myself my singleness resulted in selfishness I started thinking everything I was doing was selfish. Which, to be honest I suck a vast majority of the time, but I’m not a selfish monster devouring everything in sight. When you think a lie for long enough you’ll start to live it until someone smacks you in the face with the truth.
The truth is: marriage exposes your selfishness but doesn’t make you less selfish.
That’s what my friend Jennifer told me as I agonized over just how awful of a person I am because I’m not ready to be married right now. Yes, I’m a Christian in the South who went to an SEC school and even worked for a non-profit at one point.
And yet I’m not ready to be married. There. I said it.
I’m not saying this so I’ll magically wake up to a diamond ring (I was going to insert the name of some diamond cut but I actually don’t know any, thus exposing the fact that I’m SERIOUSLY NOT READY). It’s not a Mean Girls thing where I tell you how fat I feel so you’ll tell me how skinny I am. I’m just actually not ready to be married at this moment.
I also have a very wonderful boyfriend who might be the kindest man alive. We care about each other a lot and I’ve never felt more like myself than when I’m around him. He makes me better and I would hope he could say the same about me.
But we’re not ready to be married right now, mostly because we’re young and we’re still figuring things out. Now, I know no one is ever technically “ready” but we’re actually just not ready.
I’ve felt so guilty for not desiring marriage right this second. I felt like something was wrong with me and I’m beyond selfish.
But marriage doesn’t guarantee selflessness the same way singleness doesn’t guarantee selfishness.
At the end of the day selfishness is a choice, and choosing to not be married right now doesn’t necessarily make someone selfish. Yes, by all means the structures marriage provides definitely expose selfishness but marriage certainly doesn’t cure them. At the end of the day we’re all perfectly capable of being selfish and single or selfish and married. They’re not mutually exclusive. Marriage and having children won’t ensure a life void of selfishness the same way that lifelong singleness won’t ensure pure selfishness.
No matter what life stage we’re in we need people to make us better. We need commitments, whether that’s marriage or not, to expose our insecurities and inconveniences. We need coworkers, friends, family, community, and a whole other host of people to point out the ugly messes in us. Then we need them to walk alongside us as we all scoop up the mess together. Sanctification looks different for everyone.
I admire the married people around me but that doesn’t mean I have to aspire to be them, not right now at least.
Married person: you are brave because you’re on a crazy adventure that will make you a better human. Choose the goodness inside you and the goodness that lies ahead of you. Single person: you are brave because you’re on a crazy adventure that will make you a better human. Choose the goodness inside you and the goodness that lies ahead of you.
We’re all brave because life is so freaking scary and none of us know what we’re doing, married and single alike.