I am not an authority on marriage. My own marriage is less than five years old. We’ve discovered somethings, but have yet to develop a wisdom and perspective that comes with years.
But I learn things from older married friends who have only been parted by death.
This weekend I visited my family and attended the memorial service of a dear friend of the family’s, particularly my mother. To me she was more like a kind aunt that I didn’t see all that often, yet managed to make all of our encounters memories of warmth and kindness.
Her late husband spoke at her memorial about the joys and trials of being married and admonished the gathered crowd, after the manner of the Apostle Paul, “Love your wives as Christ loved the church.”
And I learned.
Marriage is a death.
In a truly peaceful marriage, both single people must die completely and be reborn as married people. The things the individual values, the things he does, the way she thinks, each one’s limits, needs and methods of meeting them has to die. Marriage is not a relationship for two singles. Marriage is a relationship for two joined people. As a counselor of a more humanistic mindset, I don’t believe in completely sacrificing one’s identity or neglecting one’s needs for the sake of the other person. But now I see that I don’t have to…at least not completely.
I’m writing this, hoping to blog it, but I’m taking a risk in trying to put on paper the subtle epiphany that may only make sense in my own head. When you get married, you don’t give up your personhood. What happens is that your single person dies and is reborn as a new person, a married person. Married people can still have needs and selves and limits and dreams, but they are housed in a different type of mind, different type of person.
There must be a death of the single self. Some people seem eager for it and able to do it quickly. For others it takes years. For still others, it never happens completely.
I imagine this to be a paradigm for all relationships. Marriage requires the most death, except for perhaps parenting. Work relationships require a particular sort of self-sacrifice and for friendships, our sacrifice is voluntary. But in all healthy relationships, there is mutual giving and sacrifice