“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 tells me.
Rightfully so. You’re doing life with another human, and other humans have wants, hopes, needs, desires, and dreams. This other human 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 (ew, please tell me he doesn’t buy video games). I’ll bet your parenting styles will be SO different because, unless you married your brother, you had different parents. If you did marry your brother, there’re bigger issues going on than your selfishness and nothing in this article will change that.
Differences breed inconveniences, which expose selfishness.
And so if you’re married, you’re exposed to your selfishness pretty regularly. But what happens if you’re not married? What happens if you’re actually choosing not to be married? Does that automatically make you selfish?
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.
I thought choosing singleness meant choosing selfishness.
Which eventually makes you feel pretty horrible. It’s easier just to live the lie rather than do the hard work to uncover the truth or the even harder work of fighting against it. Because I told myself my singleness resulted in selfishness, I started thinking everything I did was selfish. When you believe 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.
Even though I’m a Christian who lives in the South and used to work for a non-profit I must admit: I’m not ready to be married yet.
I also have a wonderful boyfriend who might be the kindest man alive. Now, I know no one is ever technically “ready” but we’re actually just not ready. Which made me feel very selfish for a long time.
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 not to be married right now doesn’t necessarily make someone selfish. Yes, 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 doesn’t guarantee selfishness either.
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. 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.