Home > culture, marriage > Happiness is not the essence of marriage

Happiness is not the essence of marriage


Someone told me not too long ago that he didn’t expect the difficulties he had encountered in marriage. Join the crowd, my friend! Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done–to make it work requires more energy and time than anything else I can imagine. Maybe the problem of my friend (and I suspect for all of us who are married) is that he thought marriage would bring him happiness.

My wife (who is sometimes happy with me) pointed me to a post by Travis McSherley, “Til Happy Do We part”

He identifies where many marriages have gone wrong in their pursuit of happiness and distinguishes between happiness and joy. McSherley says that love may produce happiness but “happiness is not the essence of love. Nor can it be the essence of marriage.” He observes that many marriages fall apart when “one or both spouses have clung unrelentingly to a thought process that goes something like: “I want to be happy. I need to be happy. I deserve to be happy.”

May I never be satisfied with just happiness–I want to hold out for JOY!

Update: here is another post on how our focus on happiness has affected the church. A quote: “But the point of American society today, in many ways, is for each of us to achieve great happiness. Perhaps that’s what we use to judge whether or not our lives are successful—how happy we’ve been.”

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  1. June 24, 2008 at 2:16 am

    Marriage does not bring happiness. Nothing brings happiness. We create our own happiness inside of us. Some things are useful tool to help us create happiness and marriage can often be one of those tools. It can also be a tool to create unhappiness. Like any tool, used correctly it is a wonder; used incorrectly it causes damage.

  2. Charlie
    June 24, 2008 at 5:27 am

    Watched a PBS special recently where they revealed the results of a University study on where in the developing world (Europe, Asia, and North America) people are the happiest and at what stage of life. Regarding the 3 general stages of adulthood the study indicated that the least happiest time is mid-life (35-55). As for the US we were found to be the unhappiest, and the Netherlands the happiest. Primary reason for our unhappiness? Expectations. We have a very high expectation of life and what life should give to us in terms of happiness. Since “life” never really delivers as we expect we become unhappy, disillusioned, and keep trying even harder to find it because, after all, it’s our inalienable right. Interesting stuff.

  3. June 24, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    David, Thanks for your comment. Certainly there are things that we can do that may bring temporary happiness to us but I am still holding out for joy. The problem in looking to marriage to bring us happiness is that I think we are looking to the wrong place, a marriage relationship cannot meet the deepest needs of our hearts–only God can meet that most needy part of us. Certainly, He has given marriage to meet those needs for companionship and there is a oneness in marriage that is beautiful and good–but only a derivative goodness and beauty from God. Apart from God, too easy to suck each other dry trying to fill the happiness hole that occupies our heart.

  4. June 24, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Charlie–so no wonder it is dangerous to be mid-life in America! Let us guard our hearts!

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