[From Noel] It turns out I have already blogged on this topic: Joy vs Happiness in marriage but I’m not going to let that stop me. Just think of this as Chapter 2 of an emerging written work :).
Marriage in western culture is really taking a beating out there. Today, like all adult relationships these days, marriages are becoming more and more provisional: they are simply assumed to be temporary – “we’re just going to make the best of it while we can.”
Many twenty-somethings have only known serial relationships without any formal act of commitment and research shows that, outside of marriage, adult romantic relationships like this (read: living together) only last about two years on average.
When a relationship of mine is provisional, I am constantly checking to see if it is still alive. “Are we still an item?” And to answer this question I look inward at myself. “Am I still in love?” “Is he/she still sexually compatible with me and my needs?” “Do I still have feelings for him/her?” And this is where a big problem lies. Joy (lasting happiness) is not something we find through self gratification. It will not be found through facing inward but instead joy is found through attending to the other in a self sacrificing, sort of way. It reminds me of a story I read recently: A desperate man wrote Rabbi Menachem Schneersohn seeking advice. He wrote,
I need the Rabbi’s help. I am deeply depressed. I pray and find no comfort. I perform the commands but feel nothing. I find it hard to carry on…
The Rabbi sent a compelling reply without writing a single word. He returned the man’s note and circled the first word of every sentence. At the bottom of the note he wrote one sentence. “The door to happiness opens outward, not inward.” Happiness is not something that we will find through looking after our own needs. but instead, it is found through looking after the needs of someone else.
There is a word in the Old Testament that makes this point beautifully. It is the Hebrew word simchah. It is translated as “joy,” “gladness,” “mirth,” but translators have trouble because it has no exact equivalent in English. Johnathan Sacks writes in his book The Great Partnership, “in English … all our emotion words refer to states of mind we can experience alone. Simchah is something we cannot experience alone. Simchah is joy shared.” (p. 203-4)
You know that Internet video of the guy getting hit in the head with a soccer ball. It’s funny, but sharing it with someone is almost as much fun as seeing it again for the first time. It’s a joy shared. That’s what married joy is like. 🙂 To truly experience it you need to want it for the other person. If you are trying to get it for yourself you will be disappointed but when you want it for your spouse, in time, you can find it too.
So being married is like getting hit in the face with a …. no, getting married is hitting someone in the face with a soccer ball… Or is it being married is watching someone getting hit with a soccer ball…?
Where’s Julie? I think I need her to finish this blog post off.