He loved her and told her she was his “why”, the reason he did everything that he did, but he was not ready to marry her. There was a lot he wanted to accomplish first. He wanted to be more established in his career, wanted to buy a house and wanted to give her a chance to finish her education. Once he had his life in order he would propose.
I told him I did not understand his answer and asked, "If she is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, why isn’t she the person you want to build your life with?" I told him I wondered when it was that society decided that marriage was couldn't do until you had it all together.
When I met Lisa, my life was nowhere near “together” status. I had almost no money in the bank, was working part-time while I went to school (making just enough to survive) and sharing a one-bedroom apartment with a roommate. I had just finished my first year of community college and wasn’t even sure of my major or ultimate career choice. Lisa was working full-time as a dental assistant and living at home with her parents. None of my deficiencies factored into our marital decision.
For us, getting married was not about what we had accomplished or what goals we had reached, it was about reaching our goals together. We wanted to be husband and wife, to share every step of life’s journey together. We had no idea what the final destination would be but that did not matter. The one thing of which we were certain was that we wanted to find our future together. It was about who we were going to be and what we would become and the family we would have.
In conversations with this young patient and with so many others like him I have learned that young people do not view marriage as a “we” thing anymore. For many it is a “you and me” thing, an “I’ll be me and you’ll be you” arrangement. This focus on self-fulfillment and self-realization is not fertile soil for growing a healthy marriage.
Individual success and achievement are not the indicators for when commitment should be considered, nor are individual happiness, personal fulfillment and feelings of happiness the standards by which marriages should be measured. When individual needs, desires and accomplishments are of primary importance, committed relationships are in jeopardy.
Perhaps this is why so many of those contemplating divorce speak of their personal disappointments. When people say, “I’m not happy,” or “I’m not fulfilled,” or “I don’t feel the way I used to,” they are showing a profound ignorance of the nature of marriage. Marriage should never be about looking out for oneself. It should always be about one selfless union.
Thanks for reading and sharing with others. First time readers, you can subscribe to the blog by clicking on the subscribe link on the page (scroll down on a mobile device) and follow me on Twitter @bartbarrettmd.