“Me-First” Marriage vs. “You-First” Marriage

My friend and former professor, Dr. Bill Brown, points out two different ways people approach marriage.  It’s the difference between having what I call a “me-first heart” and a “you-first heart.” Here’s what Dr. Brown has to say:

There was an interesting juxtaposition of two articles in Sunday’s Parade magazine (23 November 2008; www.parade.com).

The first was an interview/article with actress Reese Witherspoon. Of course it is difficult to know a person from any article but in her quotes she accurately portrays a contemporary value that each person is entitled to love, understanding and happiness above everything else. As she explains her recent divorce from Ryan Phillippe, she says:

“Everybody needs love. Everyone deserves it.”

“I wasn’t good about protecting myself. I spent a lot of my 20s just trying to make other people happy, rather than trying to figure out if doing that made me happy.”

“I want to be understood. Even as a child, I didn’t feel like I was. I still see that part of myself that wants approval, and that’s a constant need.”

Turn two pages and you will see the story of Alix Kates Shulman and her husband Scott.

Four years ago, my husband Scott fell 9 feet from our sleeping loft, suffering a traumatic brain injury that changed our lives forever. From that day on, he did not know the month, season, or century. He was unable to find his way home from down the block. His short-term memory and ability to reason were so damaged that he could not remember anything that happened since his fall and could never again be left alone. Suddenly the marriage we had built on independence, equality, and mutual support was radically transformed.

Alix Shulman found herself in a position of having to choose to give to another who could not always give back. She didn’t have the opportunity to think, “Will this make me happy?” She just did it. She goes on to say:

People who assume that our lives since the accident must be tragic and miserable are wrong. Despite the many daily difficulties that we contend with, secure in our love, we are mostly content. Maybe it’s the reward of rising to the challenge, maybe it’s the pleasure of making another person happy, but with the help of a few basic principles, so far I’ve managed to fill both of our lives with satisfactions.

Thinking about Jen and Paul’s wedding Friday night, I still hear the words, “. . . for better or for worse; in sickness and in and health; until we are parted in death.” There’s something about that commitment that is ennobling and dignifies us as humans made in the image and likeness of God.

But even in “doing the right thing” there is great joy:

[Scott] tells me a dozen times a day how much he loves me, and he thanks me for sticking by him. This makes me as happy as he claims that I make him. Love is a continuous feedback loop: It can make the most onerous tasks rewarding, as many a parent will confirm. When we walk through the neighborhood holding hands or share a frozen yogurt in the park, I forget the terror I felt when I thought I’d lost him or the difficulty I have in finding patient caregivers. And though I often fall short of my ideal, trying to keep him safe and happy has given my life a new, vitalizing purpose.

Needless say, the story of Alix and Scott makes me want to love my wife and my Lord even more.

Pray for Reese Witherspoon. She may be legally blonde but maybe she’ll find that Christ can make this life just like heaven.

[Dr. Brown was my professor at and is the former president of Bryan College…a great school!]

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