I’m finding it hard to convince young feminists that marriage is worthwhile, but here is something that might work.
This is from chapter 1 of the book “The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
Is there really ever such a thing as a perfect marriage? The answer to that question is, “YES.” I know you’re stunned. Stay with me here: “perfect” doesn’t mean that everything goes right, or your way for that matter, or that you’re feeling romantically perky all the time. There are just too many unpredictable events, challenges, and tragedies in life for any of us to feel content and satisfied for any prolonged period of time. Yet, even in the midst of misery, you can still feel and believe that your marriage is perfect if you have the right attitude; and I don’t mean that you think positively – I do mean that you think outwardly. When you do so, married life becomes perfect no matter what difficulties you’re going through.
I took a call from Michelle, a seventeen-year-old high-school student, which will clarify:
Michelle: Hi, Dr. Laura! It’s a pleasure to speak with you. My question is this: this Saturday is my boyfriend’s and mine senior prom. As it turns out, we have a conflict because it is also his championship lacrosse game, at the same time as the dance. He has told me that I could decide which one we should do.
Dr L: Really? So, what’s your decision?
Michelle: Well, personally, I want to go to the prom because it’s our senior prom and it’s our last dance together, it’s meaningful, you know? But it’s also his major opportunity because scouts will be at this game for college recruitment. So, for him the best choice would be for the game but I want to go to prom… selfishly.
Dr L: Do you love him?
Michelle: Of course. Yes.
Dr L: Do you imagine you’re going to marry him? I’m asking you that because I just want to know the depth of your compassion and caring for him.
Michelle: I can see it. I can definitely see it working, but I’m only seventeen… Yes, I care for him a lot.
Dr L: Well then, I guess he’s going to his lacrosse tournament.
Michelle: (sounding deflated) Okay.
Dr L: Because that’s what we do when we’re in love – we give them gifts… that doesn’t mean you go to the store and buy something. It means you give up something that’s very important to you to give them something that’s very important to them. O’Henry wrote a short story called, The Gift of the Magi. There was a young couple, very poor, married, and very much in love with each other. Christmas is coming and there is no money to buy gifts for one another. Her prized possession was her long, lovely hair which she had grown since childhood. His prized possession was his solid gold pocket watch – an heirloom, passed down from generation to generation.
Come Christmas morning, she hands her beloved a package. It is a solid gold chain for his pocket watch. He hands his beloved a package. It is a bejeweled comb to hold her beautiful hair in a bun on top of her head. They both cried with joy… even though… he no longer had the pocket watch, as he had sold it to buy her the jeweled comb… and she no longer had long hair, as she had sold it to buy him the gold chain.
Neither could use the gift the other had given them from a store – but look at the gift they truly got from the other.
Dr L: So, when you love somebody you give them what they really need – and your boyfriend needs you to be supportive of the fact that this game is important to his college career – for scholarships. If you do get married, you’ll be dancing together for the rest of your lives.
Michelle: That’s true. Well, I guess he’ll be playing this game and I’ll be sitting on the sidelines cheering.
Dr L: Good for you! That’s the kind of woman a man should marry.
Michelle: Thank you so much, Dr. Laura.
Oh, wait a minute, friends! The story does not end there. A few days later I received this email from Michelle:
“A few days ago I called in with a dilemma I had with prom because my boyfriend’s championship lacrosse game (with college scouts) was the same night. You told me the story of the Gift of the Magi, and that if you really loved someone you would be willing to give up whatever was most important to you – which for me was the prom. I took your advice and called up my boyfriend telling him that we would be going to his lacrosse game instead of senior prom. He explained to me that he knew I would decide to go to his game, so he went ahead and bought our prom tickets so we would go to the prom.
So, basically, I was willing to give up senior prom for him, and he was willing to give up what was most important to him, his championship game – proving the story of the Gift of the Magi…
But hold on! The story gets better! Yesterday we found out that because of some unknown factor, his championship game was changed from 7 o’clock to 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Is this a God thing? I think so! Now we not only get to go to prom and his lacrosse game, but we have the knowledge that we are both willing to sacrifice what is most important to us because our love is stronger.
I know that I am only 17, but I think I found a keeper!! Thank you so much for your wonderful advice to let my MAN know how important he is to me. This experience not only made me grow as a person, but is strengthening our relationship as well.”
Now, dear friends, even some seventeen year olds can understand the beauty and meaning of having somebody care enough about you to put themselves aside for you – that beats every prom and game imaginable. And when you are living this scenario, no matter what grunge is going on in your life, your marriage is PERFECT!
Emphasis mine. The point of getting married is to give self-sacrificially to someone else. Just like Jesus. Instead of being annoyed by other people’s needs, we should be happy that there is something there for us to do. And of course, the right person for you will be looking at you and thinking the same thing – how can I help you by giving self-sacrificially to you? I’m not sure what is scaring women away from marriage, but if I had to guess, it’s this fear of losing their autonomy and having the moral obligation to care for the needs of other people – even if those other people are strong in other areas and able to care for them.