Friday, April 17, 2009

The Opposite Of Selfishness

Next month, my wife, Judy, and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. That feels like an accomplishment. Most of my daughter's friends seem to come from single-parent families, foster homes or homes that include either a step-parent or a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend. Teenagers who live with the same two, lawfully-wedded people who conceived them definitely seem to be a minority these days.

To those of my friends who read this blog whose first attempts at marriage were not as successful (and you know who you are), I'm not gloating. The fact is, a successful marriage takes the complete commitment of both partners. It takes understanding, compromise and, of course, love. No one partner can ever make a marriage work single-handedly, no matter how hard they work at it.

That having been said, I give Judy most of the credit for the success of our marriage. I have my share of personal foibles and she learned to accept a number of shortcomings on my part early on in our relationship. I like to think that I've matured over the years and overcome some of them, but I demanded a lot of patience from her during our time together, and I've not yet attained perfection.

If I'm making marriage sound like a lot of work, it is, and yet it isn't. A successful marriage is founded on love and, when you love someone, you don't mind going that extra mile for them. Sacrifices don't feel so much like sacrifices. You do things, not out of a sense of responsibility, but out of a simple desire to make your partner happy. Let me give you a couple of personal examples.

Practically since the day we were married, Judy has arisen with me early each morning, and fixed my breakfast and lunch before seeing me off to work. For many years, she didn't work outside of the home. The special needs of our son, Christopher, demanded a full-time, stay-at-home parent, and Judy shouldered that responsibility. That meant that she didn't need to be up at any particular hour and, during Christopher's infancy, she was often up with him in the middle of the night. She accepted most of the midnight parenting because I had to get up for work the next day, and she didn't. This, of course, made her even more tired when our alarm woke me for work the next morning, yet she still got up with me, made my breakfast and lunch while I showered and shaved, joined me for a cup of coffee, and then retired back to bed (if Christopher wasn't already awake) only after I left. She did the same after our daughter, Jessica, came along as well.

Most of her friends were aghast upon learning that she did this. Most swore that they would never, ever do that for their husbands. Judy didn't have to do it either. I didn't demand it of her. She did it for me because she wanted to. Making me happy made her happy. To her, it didn't feel like a sacrifice at all.

I try to reciprocate. Judy never learned to drive so, whenever she needs to go anywhere, I generally drive her. She likes to have her mother, sister and best friend over to visit on Saturday evenings. As it happens, none of them drive either, and they would often choose not to visit us if it meant having to take a bus or pay for a cab. So, every Saturday evening, I pick them all up after supper and then take them all back home again at the end of the evening, sometimes in the middle of the night. I don't do it for them. I do it for Judy, because I know that she enjoys their company and might be deprived of it if I didn't help out.

These days, Judy does work outside of our home, and starts work about half an hour earlier than me, so I get up just a bit earlier than I would otherwise have to so that there's time for me to drop her off at work before going to work myself. While I shower and shave, she still makes my breakfast and my lunch, even after all these years.

Thinking about this recently gave me a new insight regarding the nature of love. It seems to me that love is the opposite of selfishness. Selfishness means putting one's own needs and interests first. When you love somebody, you put that person's needs and interests ahead of your own. And here's the key; you don't do it because you have to. You do it because you want to.

1 comment:

George Ninos said...

Well put and a big congratulations on 20 years!