When he had misgivings before marrying, Seth Adam Smith sought his dad’s advice. His father told him, “Marriage isn’t for you.” What kind of a dad gives his son advice like that?

A wise one.

“Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me. Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.

“I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until…until we decided no longer wanted to be just friends. 🙂 I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.

“Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?

“Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad… With a knowing smile he said, ‘Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you.

“’You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

Or as St Thomas Aquinas put it, “To love is to will the good of another.”

Smith wrote a charming tribute to marriage and to his wife and it’s worth reading in its entirety. Sweet and popular as it is, there’s no pleasing everyone and detractors include Wayne Self who called the post “low-fat mayo over Wonder Bread” in the Huffington Post. Self has an axe to grind and, sadly, he wields it on the institution of marriage.

Self uses Smith’s recommendation to “marry your best friend” to gripe about marriage laws. After all, he argues, some guys fall in love with their male best friend and male marriage isn’t legal in all fifty states. Self plans to marry his best friend and male partner of almost 20 years, but not yet, and he blames Smith’s church for its opposition to degendered marriage.

Self also criticizes the attitude that “marriage is for your future children.” Since two men cannot procreate, it is understandable that Self does not consider marriage ordered to children; he’s certainly correct that the union of two men isn’t naturally ordered toward children.

In his defence, Self is not the only one who believes marriage is not for future children. Many married couples thwart their fertility with contraception, sterilization, and abortion-drugs (and several countries now face unsustainably low birth rates). American politicians plan to advance this anti-baby doctrine with the oppressive HHS Mandate embedded in Obamacare.

As far as “marriage is for the other person’s happiness,” Self has good advice—work on your own happiness through “family, friends, hobbies, work,” etc., because “together, two happy people can create an even happier couple.”

But then he veers away from the selfless love Smith described when he says, “if you make someone else’s happiness your mission in life, you give them the power to make your life a failure.” An attitude of loving service towards others does not give others power over you. You remain master of your will and the dispensary of your love.

Self’s primary grievance is, “A woman’s selfless love cures everything (but a man’s love can come and go).” Is this what Self believes goes on between husbands and wives? No wonder he’s not attracted to pro-gender marriage.

Self especially singles out his nieces to warn: “Know that you are under no obligation to be the saint in your relationship.”

First of all, we are all called to holiness, regardless of what our spouse believes or does.

Secondly, this is not at all what the original post said. Smith never said wives had to suck it up while husbands could act like fickle jerkfaces. I don’t know what marriages Self is basing his advice on, but Smith never asked women to be doormats.

Instead, Smith urges everyone, including himself and all “married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette” to recognize that “marriage isn’t for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love.”  

I wonder if Smith and Self will always have different opinions on male marriage because they have vitally different views of what marriage itself is and what true love really means.

Kelly Bartlett has been practicing life, love, and marriage for decades, hoping to improve her game. 

Kelly Bartlett has been practicing life, love, and marriage for decades, hoping to improve her game. She writes from a house nestled in a meadow off a dirt road in Vermont, surrounded by family and friends,...