Photograph Courtesy of Jessica Mullen
A few months ago, I happened to see an online article circulating on Twitter bearing the title of “Top 6 Regrets That Most Married Men Have.” I, as an unmarried man, of course, am interested to know more about marriage and to learn anything that will help me prepare for that great adventure and commitment.
Speaking of commitment…the writer of the article clearly had no desire to make any sort of personal commitment in the context of marriage, and I hope this and many other realities become apparent as I unpack these six reasons for which I look forward to my own future marriage.
With no further ado, let us examine the six complaint that the article brought against marriage, and these six reasons which give me great excitement and anticipation for my own future marriage.
#1. Loss of variety
Now, the very phrase “loss of variety” suggests that a man has some right to sexual variety in the first place. This phrase suggests that when a man gets married, he gives up something that he shouldn’t have to lose. However, the reality is that men and women aren’t made for more than one sexual partner. Our psychology, biology, and physiology all point to the undeniable fact that we are created with the purpose of being united with one—and one only—other person in the marital bond.
The article states that married men regret their marriage when they find themselves attracted to women other than their wives, out of a desire for sexual variety. This situation, of course, arises when lust is the lens through which men view their relationships with their wives.
“Lust?” people exclaim. “Anything but that! Why do you have to bring up lust right off the bat?” It’s true. Lust is an uncomfortable reality, and it strikes to the heart of every relationship whenever a person brings it up. However, in order to know the truth about marriage and relationships, we have to talk about the tough topics, including lust.
And thus, when marriage is seen simply as a guaranteed source of sexual activity, there will be a desire for variety, because the relationship is not kept fresh and renewed by constant, unfailing love.
This is the first reason for which I cannot wait to be married: To commit myself to loving selflessly, faithfully, and fully, and to share the gift of my sexuality with one woman only for the rest of my life—a woman who, as my wife, will truly love me and allow me to love her.
#2: Loss of freedom
Loss of freedom as a result of marriage? Certainly, if freedom is lack of commitment. Certainly, if freedom means that we have no need to care about and care for anyone other than ourselves.
However, this is the very nature of marriage: We have the freedom to pledge ourselves in marriage to love and serve one another for the rest of our lives. What is not beautiful about that? Is the prospect of drinking in a bar after a work day actually so much more appealing than returning straight home to be with the person who you love more than anyone else? I think not, and for that reason the commitment of marriage itself is appealing to me.
Yes, marriage does require that we put the needs of the spouse and the needs of the family as having higher importance than our own whims and personal desires. This is the nature of marriage, the nature of giving, the nature of loving, and it is a truly beautiful reality.
#3: Unwanted children
The third complaint of the article’s author was that marriage led to unwanted children—a family that required commitment and support, rather than allowing dads to entertain themselves and “party around,” to borrow a phrase from the article in question.
Why are children in marriage unwanted? Because they interfere with selfish interests. Children need fathers, and fathers need to be willing to give themselves in sacrifice for their families.
Yes, this does mean that love prompts fathers to be present to their children. No, this doesn’t mean that children should be unwanted. You see, every opportunity in which fathers can give of themselves to their wives and children is an opportunity to be free: it is an opportunity to love freely and without reservations; an opportunity to give one’s whole life out of love for one’s own flesh and blood.
The married men that I know who have worked hard to build and maintain a strong family can attest to this fact. Very simply, true joy for a married man does not exist in maintaining a selfish and immature party life; on the contrary, true joy is found in being a true father for one’s children and a true love for one’s spouse. After all, it is always in giving entirely that we receive immeasurably.
#4. Lack of personal space
Perhaps this idea of “lack of personal space” is a modern issue, or a problem that hasn’t existed for the majority of the existence of marriage.
You see, I grew up in a large family of 10 people, so there really wasn’t much personal space to speak of. And were we happy? Absolutely we were.
Thinking back, I can’t remember my own father ever expressing frustration over the fact that there were so many bodies in such close proximity to each other. Mealtimes were cozy, family prayer times or movies were snug, and driving anywhere in the big blue van was an experience, to say the least.
You see, with the modern decline in family size coupled with increased wealth and livable space results in a “this is mine, that is yours, don’t cross our boundaries” mentality. This idea of boundaries will almost certainly cause strain in any marriage, quite apart from when children come into the picture.
Why was it that my father didn’t complain about not having a personal bubble the size of the Capitol dome? Because he knew what marriage was about.
Marriage, if you haven’t sensed a theme so far, is about sacrifice and commitment, commitment and sacrifice. When a man commits to marriage, he sacrifices his personal bubble. What does he receive in return? Opportunities to love. Love is not possible unless we are vulnerable and intimate with each other, and vulnerability and intimacy aren’t possible when certain spaces are off limits to each other.
That’s not to say that we must always be around other people. Great benefit exists in having time alone to reflect, ponder, and re-commit to the mission that is marriage. Many men do this by going on retreat or having a special ritual, such as a scheduled run or golf game.
The real issue here is not whether or not a man should have some time alone, but instead the issue becomes problematic when locations or items begin to have the label of “mine, not yours.” Considering the beauty of true married life and love, commitment and sacrifice must be worth the effort—an effort that I look forward to living.
#5 Financial control
Here we arrive at perhaps the item of most attention in today’s marriages: finances and material goods. Monetary concerns certainly are important, particularly because responsibility in finances is a good step toward ensuring the safety, security, and wellbeing of the family, especially the children.
However, the article to which I am responding makes an assertion: one’s wife needs to be watched in order to make sure that she isn’t spending money wantonly or without good reason. What’s wrong with a little oversight? Everything, and here’s why.
In marriage, two key elements are communication and trust. This applies also to finances. In the process of dating or courting, engagement, and the days of preparation leading up to marriage, a couple ought to be taking time to consider various topics that are of importance for married couples, including what the couple’s financial situation might look like, how much money should be spent, when, where, and for what purpose. A relationship that completely ignores logical planning such as this is a relationship of irresponsibility.
In the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, we are blessed to have the requirement by the Church that engaged couples participate in a marriage encounter retreat or retreat for engaged persons. These retreats give those individuals a chance to sit down and communicate about issues including finances, among others.
The key here is communication, in order to have a responsible and healthy relationship—a relationship that won’t be damaged by incompatible views of money and spending. Relationships that don’t include communication about real-world situations that arise in families are bound to struggle along the lines of money—an issue that, sadly, divides far too many people.
However, financial oversight of one spouse over the other has greater implications. Consider the situation of a man watching over his wife’s spending. This indicates that the man does not trust his wife with their money.
Lack of trust spells death for a relationship. If the man is unwilling to trust his wife—or feels that he cannot—then how can the relationship survive? Indeed, a man who distrusts his wife in this manner is effectively telling her that he doesn’t believe her, or that she has the best interests of the family in mind.
And why doesn’t the man trust his wife in the first place? Because they aren’t communicating about how their assets ought to be handled. Thus we see that this lack of communication and trust, which cannot be divorced from each other, leads to financial oversight and the sad end of relationships.
Although I cannot truthfully say that I look forward to the efforts of making my future family one of financial security and responsibility, I can say that I look forward to the fruits of the labor. I look forward to knowing that through communication and trust, I and my spouse will build each other up and build a life of joy and peace together, including being of one heart and mind with regards to our financial situation.
#6. Is she “the one”?
Our final question asks whether or a man’s spouse is the right woman. This is, perhaps, one of the easiest questions to refute. However, to answer this question correctly in one’s heart requires being truly manly.
Is she “the one?” What does “the one” mean? For many men, perhaps, “the one” only exists in dreams and fantasies. For many men, “the one” is about what the man “gets” from the relationship, and not what he puts into it.
“The one” should instead be whoever we men decide to pledge our lives and our love to. When we profess our nuptial vows, we are vowing to make our wives “the one” in our lives. Our wives become the most important person; the one person besides the Lord to whom we offer all our love and all our service.
So, men: yes, if she is your wife, then she had better be “the one.” To look back and to wish for a different person for a spouse is to say that your spouse is unworthy of love. We have the beautiful ability to choose to love anyone—even if they don’t express love in return.
And so this sacrifice of love, this selfless, self-giving, life-giving love, is what I look forward to the most in marriage. I have no doubt that my wife will be “the one”, because that is the way I will choose to think of her, to treat her, and to love her. From the instant that I enthrone her in my heart through my vow of love to her on our wedding day, my wife will be my “one.”
Sacrifice and commitment. Remember those words, and they will answer many a question regarding marriage. Where society suggests selfish motives and selfish choices in marriage, the virtuous choice of sacrifice is greater and more beautiful. Where society says that a spouse should keep themselves in reserve, the virtuous choice of commitment is more powerful and full of strength and courage.
I tell teenage males that I speak to that there is one fact about manhood: a boy becomes a man only when he chooses to put his own desires on the back burner, and focus on the needs of the people around him. Brothers, let us become real men—men who our wives know are faithful and committed, men who will fight for our marriages with our very lives. Sisters, you deserve that love.
I’ll fight for our marriages with our very lives. Sisters, you deserve that love.
Peace to you in Christ. Mother Mary, pray for us.