I sat on a plane with my then new fiancé. Our seats faced a couple who were celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. As she spoke about the wonders of being married ten years, her face gleamed with delight. The happiness she was exuding echoed my own, and I knew I would be just as happy as she was that moment in my own marriage.
Even back then, we married young for people outside our church culture and for some within it as well. I was nineteen and he was twenty-one when we became engaged. A mutual friend introduced us a few months earlier by gathering a group of friends together to go bowling. His less than covert manner let us both know we were being setup. Unbeknownst to us, however, he told each of us the other was already interested. We had attended the same sorority/fraternity meeting that morning, and I never noticed him. That is, not until I asked our friend to tell me more about “this guy you want to set me up with” and he described the person sitting next to him. My now husband and I both acted smoothly by pretending he hadn’t heard the conversation.
A few months later, we left the Mesa, Arizona, LDS Temple married.
We did one thing different than others who became engaged as young as we did. We scheduled our wedding after my twentieth birthday. I was twenty . . . and six days and he was 22.
Several years later, my mom was taking a class at the local community college and had an experience she chose to share with me. A newly-engaged young woman excitedly entered the classroom. Her new ring caught the light in the room and threatened to blind everyone. As she sat down next to my mom she asked to see my mom’s simple ring.
The young woman looked at Mom’s ring and swallowed deeply trying to determine what to say. She settled on, “It’s pretty.” Continuing the conversation, the soon-to-be newlywed asked my mom how long she and my dad had been married. When my mom responded, she wanted to know how to help her marriage last too. My mom’s response was selflessness.
Selflessness: Noun – The act of considering and fulfilling the wants and possible needs of another.
The world today often focuses on the wants and desires and sometimes needs of oneself. The media tells society that others, including spouses, should understand when we choose ourselves and that we are not the problem if they don’t. In some cases that may be true — but not in many. They also regularly push people to follow all of their dreams, regardless of their relationships or others, and to pamper themselves because they deserve it. Both men and women appear to need time away from nagging, irritating spouses in commercials and TV shows. Is that real life?
Society would have us believe that by choosing to sacrifice some of our own desires for our spouse we are mentally unhealthy, even codependent. However, in the Psychology Today article titled Are You in A Codependent Relationship, Shawn M. Burn, Ph.D. states,
Broadly speaking, in dysfunctional helping relationships, one person’s help supports (enables) the other’s underachievement, irresponsibility, immaturity, addiction, procrastination, or poor mental or physical health.
Selflessness is not codependence.
Selflessness requires no excuses or protection of either party. It is choosing to participate in an activity because it’s exciting for your spouse and you love them. When your spouse is tired, you might choose to take out the trash or put the kids to bed — perhaps, even though you want to sleep and detest touching feet, you rub theirs. In no way does selflessness mean allowing someone to walk all over you. It is actively choosing to make your spouse happy even when it means sacrificing what you want.
When we and our spouses choose selflessness, fidelity, communication, money, parenting, and time become less of a problem. A selfless person devoted to their spouse isn’t going to be unfaithful. Similarly, they will listen to the concerns and desires of their partner. When you and your spouse each work to become selfless, everyone’s needs and wants are eventually met and the relationship is perfect.
Needless to say, no one has reached perfection yet, but my husband . . . he’s pretty close.