The Awful Advice of “Marriage Isn’t for You”

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a former regular here at Ordinary Times who lives in a small rural town about two hours southwest of Portland, Oregon with his wife, kids, and dog. He enjoys studying and writing about the world of employment, which is good because that's his job. You can find him on Twitter.

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12 Responses

  1. Will Truman says:

    Whether this advice is worthwhile or not depends on who you are. My guess is that for most people, it is worthwhile or at least worth thinking about.

    I read somewhere the suggestion that everyone should try to carry 75% of the weight of a marriage. Because it takes 75% before you’re actually carrying 50%. In all likelihood, the other person is carrying more weight than you think they are.

    Likewise, I think viewing a marriage from a selfish perspective is so natural that trying to view it from a selfless one is productive. You are far more likely to neglect the needs of your loved one than you are to neglect your own. Most people are, anyway.

    This is good advice for a lot of people, probably. But this was advice from a man to a man and from that man to, I suspect, mostly men. If nothing else, it’s probably good advice for men to hear. But it’s good advice for a lot of women, too.

    For others, it’s disastrous advice. If you already have martyrish tendencies, this is the last thing you need to here because it will validate and justify a lot of the things you are doing wrong. I think this is a very real threat with some, but selfishness is a far greater threat for a far greater number of people.Report

    • j r in reply to Will Truman says:

      I would say that this is bad advice even if you are a monomaniacal sociopath, which would probably make it more likely that you would assume the martyr’s pose.

      As Burt says below, love and relationships are not zero sum. There are better ways to tell someone to be wary of being selfish in a relationship, like “be wary of being selfish in a relationship.”Report

      • Will Truman in reply to j r says:

        I think sometimes it takes more than just a nudging. I think it takes more of a “You should look at it this way. Or you should strive to. You probably won’t succeed, but you will be a better husband if you look at things this way.”

        And I think a whole lot of people would be a better husband if they tried to look at things that way.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        The force of the advice and the nature of the advice are related, but not the same. Smith’s whole take is just wrong. A marriage is not an equation.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    The well-intentioned Smith article, and the fatherly advice within it, comes close to identifying love and happiness as a zero-sum game. Which fundamentally mistakes the nature of the subject under discussion. Maybe that was the right advice to tell someone who is experiencing a bout of selfishness. But marital happiness, like sexual pleasure or profit from commerce, is not a zero-sum game and it’s best for both when each partner to such exchange genuinely tries to maximize the benefit to the other.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    The advice that makes the most sense to me is “don’t get married if you can help it.”Report

  4. Rufus F. says:

    The piece begins: “Having been married only a year and a half”…

    And yet, I kept reading.Report

  5. “You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy.”

    How ironic it is that your initial response to this statement is:

    “First, my wife would be rightly none too pleased if I told her that our marriage doesn’t make me happy and that I don’t look for it to make me happy.”

    Way to prove his point!Report