Recently, I read a very provocative column on marriage. The author, writing in the Dallas Morning News, said he realized he wasn’t cut out for marriage.
He was married for 17 years, he wrote, and he still loved his wife. They have a college-aged child together. “She’s one of my very few great and true friends,” wrote the columnist, Ralph Strangis. “And I’m quite sure she would say the same of me. … Our relationship today is maybe the best it’s ever been.”
So why can’t they be married? Strangis made a sound, persuasive argument that really hit home to me, a divorced man. Basically, the challenge of living in the same space day after day, week after week, month after month, wears him out.
I don’t care how much I like someone, or even love them, if I’m with them all the time, negotiating every purchase or event or errand or even what we’re eating and when we’re eating, well, it’s exhausting. So I enjoy my ex-wife’s company and counsel and friendship. But marriage ain’t for me. I’m not a big “discussing,” “explaining,” “checking-in” guy. And I like my own space.
Do you have a problem with what Strangis wrote? He wasn’t bashing marriage in general. He wasn’t criticizing people who enjoy being married. He was simply saying that marriage isn’t for him.
Readers go nuts
And yet many readers took offense at the column, calling Strangis selfish. Really? Here’s a sampling of the comments posted online:
- “I agree that marriage is not for everyone, but it is not because of anyone else, it is because of an individual’s selfishness.”
- “The easy route for weaker men is to bow out, get their own place, and see your kid every other weekend. Stronger men are able to find a balance between fatherhood and their spouse. So, in summary, grow up, take responsibility for the life you brought into the world, and realize you are not the center of the universe.”
- “Ralph, based on your current and past writings it is obvious you suffer from narcissism.”
- “Sounds like selfishness to me. Love is a choice, not a feeling.”
Why can’t people accept that marriage works for some people and doesn’t work for others — without criticizing people who decide marriage isn’t for them? It’s like couples who choose not to have children. Are they being selfish? I would never make that judgment on a childless couple.
Why, then, should someone say, “Ralph Strangis, you’re being selfish because you’re happier not being married — and apparently your ex-wife is too.”?
Let adults make their own relationship decisions. Is that so hard?