A Dad’s Letter to His Son (About the Only Good Reason to Get Married)

Dear Son,

It seems like yesterday you were blowing poop out of your diaper onto your mother’s lap. Yet here we are, on the verge of the birds-and-the-bees conversation. The poop was way easier.

Before we talk about sex, though, I want to talk about marriage. Not because I’ll shun you or shame you if you don’t put them in that order—although I hope you will—but because I believe the only good reason to get married will bring clarity to every other aspect of your life, including sex.

marriage masculinity ego

Photo Credit: bengrey via Compfight cc

Buddy, you’re probably going to want to get married for all the wrong reasons. We all do. In fact, the most common reason to get married also happens to be the most dangerous: we get married because we think it will make us happy. Getting married in order to be happy is the surest way to get divorced.

There are beautiful marriages. But marriages don’t become beautiful by seeking happiness; they become beautiful by seeking something else. Marriages become beautiful when two people embrace the only good reason to get married: to practice the daily sacrifice of their egos. 

Ego. You may be hearing that word for the first time. It probably sounds foreign and confusing to you. This is what it means to me:

Your ego is the part of you that protects your heart. You were born with a good and beautiful heart, and it will never leave you. But when I was too harsh toward you, or your friends began to make fun of your extracurricular choices, you started to doubt if your heart was good enough. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us at some point.

And so your mind began to build a wall around your heart. That happens to all of us, too. It’s like a big castle wall with a huge moat—it keeps us safe from invaders who might want to get in and attack our heart. And thank goodness for your ego-wall! Your heart is worthy of protection, buddy.

At first, we only use the ego-wall to keep people out. But eventually, as we grow up, we get tired of hiding fearfully and we decide the best defense is a good offense. We put cannons on our ego-wall and we start firing. For some people that looks like anger. For other people, it looks like gossip and judgment and divisiveness. One of my favorite ego-cannons is to pretend everyone on the outside of my wall is wrong. It makes me feel right and righteous, but really it just keeps me safe inside of my ideas. I know I’ve fired my ego-cannons at you from time to time, and for that I’m truly sorry.

Sometimes we need our cannons to survive. Most of the time we don’t.

Both men and women have ego-walls with cannons. But you’re going to be a man soon, so it’s important to tell you what men tend do with their ego walls—we justify them by pretending they are essential to being a “real” man. Really, most of us are just afraid our hearts won’t be good enough for the people we love, so we choose to stay safe and protected behind high walls with lots of cannons.

Can you see how that might be a problem for marriage?

If you fall into the trap of thinking your ego-wall is essential to being a man, it will destroy any chance of having an enduringly joyful marriage. Because, in the end, the entire purpose of marriage is to dismantle your ego-wall, brick by brick, until you are fully available to the person you love. Open. Vulnerable. Dangerously united.

Buddy, people have sex because for a moment at the climax of it, their mind is without walls, the ego goes away, and they feel free and fully connected. With sex, the feeling lasts for only a moment. But if you commit yourself to marriage, you commit yourself to the long, painful, joyous work of dismantling your ego-walls for good. Then, the moment can last a lifetime.

Many people are going tell you the key to a happy marriage is to put God at the center of it, but I think it depends upon what your experience of God does for your ego. Because if your God is one of strength and power and domination, a God who proves you’re always right and creates dividing lines by which you judge everyone else, a God who keeps you safe and secure, I think you should keep that God as far from the center of your marriage as you can. He’ll only build your ego-wall taller and stronger.

But if the God you experience is a vulnerable one, the kind of God that turns the world upside down and dwells in the midst of brokenness and embraces everyone on the margins and will sacrifice anything for peace and reconciliation and wants to trade safety and security for a dangerous and risky love, then I agree, put him right at the center of your marriage. If your God is in the ego dismantling business, he will transform your marriage into sacred ground.

What’s the secret to a happy marriage? Marry someone who has also embraced the only good reason to get married.

Someone who will commit to dying alongside you—not in fifty years, but daily, as they dismantle the walls of their ego with you.

Someone who will be more faithful to you than they are to their own safety.

Someone willing to embrace the beauty of sacrifice, the surrender of their strength, and the peril of vulnerability.

In other words, someone who wants to spend their one life stepping into a crazy, dangerous love with you and only you.

With my walls down,



I’ve written several letters to my children, like this one and this one, with the plan to read them the letter when they are older. This time, I felt like I needed to write a letter I could read to my son right now because, for him, it’s getting to be about that time. And I think it’s about time all of our young men begin to learn about the hinge on which our marriages swing open or swing shut for good.

Question:What do you think is the best reason to get married? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Next Post: What to Do When Everyone Has An Opinion About You


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Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

176 thoughts on “A Dad’s Letter to His Son (About the Only Good Reason to Get Married)

  1. Hello Kelly,

    Thanks for the thoughts. I have already passed them on to several couples and marriage mentors from our church. It reminds me of what a counselor said, that pretty well everyone builds protective structures around themselves and in doing so keeps others out, especially those closest to them.

    Your comment, “You were born with a good and beautiful heart, and it will never leave you.” however does not jive with scripture, because Jesus said in Luke 18:19, “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good except God alone.”

    My personal experience and I am sure yours too is that while we would like to think otherwise, if we are honest, we know that we are not basically good (ie. how many of the commandments have we succeeded in obeying). But that is why Jesus came to this world, to enable us to be good through his redemptive indwelling and working in our lives.

    That comment aside, I still appreciated your article.


      • Sabir, here at UnTangled, we want to encourage expression of a diverse range of opinions and we want to do so respectfully. Let’s try to remember that before our beliefs were born, we were born into our common humanity.

    • Well, looks like I’ll be keeping far away from your religion if that’s what you truly believe. Wow. What a depressing outlook on life and on self.

    • Bev, first of all, thanks for your encouraging words and for passing the post along. Admittedly, I’m not writing as a theologian. I’m writing as a therapist and father and trying to describe what I see in people once I get to know them deeply. Having said that, I’m aware that, even within Christian orthodoxy, their is a wide and diverse range of theology around human nature, largely due to the fact that there is so much tension within Scripture about it. My wife is actually the child psychologist and will be publishing a textbook through InterVarsity Press in April that deals with some of these issues, entitled “Christianity and Developmental Psychopathology.” I think it will be a good read. But I’m kind of biased!

      • Hello Kelly,

        Indeed you are correct about a diverse range of theology around human nature. If I am correct both Roman Catholic and Islamic theology teach that a child is born innocent, in other words, without original sin. My question to a Muslim acquaintance was, “Do you have to teach a child to do good or to do evil”? The answer unfortunately is self evident. Indeed I believe scripture confirms in Romans 3:10 that “There is no one righteous, not even one,” except of course our Lord Jesus Christ and what a privilege to be able to share in His righteousness which transforms us!

        • If I may answer at least part of the question… Roman Catholic theology teaches that children are born into the fallen state and not innocent. Baptism cleanses them and it’s our job as parents to teach them the difference between right and wrong and what it looks like both outside of themselves and inside of themselves. Basically a life of instruction, laughter and lots of love and hugs.

    • I understood the use of the word good to mean… innoceinnocently open, accepting of all, non judgemental, etc. The things Jesus is referring to when he’s telling the people that to enter heaven they must be like little children

      • I had always understood that what he meant about being like little children… was more about being receptive, affectionate, and hungry for love.

  2. kelly

    your last two posts have been a blessing. as a widower now raising teenagers and a man who has spent 55 years building walls to keep people out – with cannons as large as the ones that you describe – i have, through a course in miracles, begun the process of change. your wise heartfelt words, written to your son, but in fairness written to all men, reveal the essence of someone to whom life is a joyful, hard, and happy journey of love and giving and receiving.

    thank you for your giving in this post. it is gratefully and graciously received.

    • Michael, I’m in awe of your courage. It is one thing for me to write these words in the comfort of my office while my wife is helping with the kids. It’s an entirely different thing to be living them out as you raise teenagers on your own. May you find strength in surrender, sir. And may your children know they are loved when they see it.

  3. I think a huge reason why many people get married is to find that one person that will love us just as we are. We strive for that feeling of acceptance. And when we find someone who appreciates just as we are, without the need for bravado or an act, it changes everything.

  4. Kelly, this letter breaks my heart with the depth of its truth and insight. It is a marriage saver, this letter. for anyone who is willing to sit down with their spouse (and this includes me) and work through this letter, a marriage can be saved or at the very least taken to another level of intimacy.

    Thank you for this – this is a life changing letter for your son, and with your permission, for mine as well.


    • Vaughan, in many ways, I feel like this letter was written by the couples I see every day in my practice, who have shown the courage to let down their walls and risk being vulnerable again. I can attest to the fact that, for them, it has indeed been a marriage saver. And yes, by all means, share this letter with your son! : )

  5. The best reason to get married is because it will push you to grow in those areas that were not developed properly in earlier life. This process will show you what the real definition of love is by the lengths you are prepared to go to in supporting this change in your partner and yourself (this change can be enormously unsettling and frightening for both parties) but at the end of the day when all goes well you grow into your fully differentiated self and present yourself to the world and your partner with pride, stability, compassion and wisdom. This is the basis for profound and joyful intimacy and a lifetime’s work.

  6. The one advice I gave my son is never ever consider to marry a woman who is a virgin! And of course that also means he would need to have hade sex before marriage. I think to be able to sacrifice your ego you need experience and that does not come out of thin air. You are not ready for long term commitment until you have hade your bruises

          • In a gender equal society where both men and women are educated, where both men and women will be working and have simliar economical status, it is unlikely that the old “marriage your high school sweetheart” model will persist. And if you think that young men and women will abstain from sex, sorry you are fooling yourself. Also, maybe it would be better if you spent you energy discussing sex education and contraceptives to reduce the very high teen pregnancy rate in the USA.

            • Pagodroma This was the same logic that our daughters “health” class used to tell them that “abstinence” was not a form of birth control when they asked them to choose what was the best and most sure form of birth control. They said “abstinence was a “religious” choice not a physical choice”???????. When you tell a child that not having sex is not a choice what can they then do. It is the best choice possible. It gives you a zero chance of contracting a disease and zero chance of becoming a parent before you are ready. The “sexual revolution” has destroyed our young people’s lives. When will we learn that there is NO FREEDOM in promiscuity. It is not a NEW revolution every generation has gone through the same choices. Why is it that you cannot see WHY there is a very high teen pregnancy rate in the USA? The more you tell them that not having sex is really not a choice the more they believe it. As for me and mine and all the innocent young people STOP TELLING THEM THAT THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE SEX……IT IS A SELF FULFILLING PROPHECY…..We tell them at home they have another choice and you fill your “SEX EDUCATION CLASSES” with our children and tell them that ABSTINENCE is NOT A CHOICE but a belief. Are some going to choose sex? Yes. But if you continue to tell them that it is “unrealistic” to think that they will respect themselves AND each other and choose to avoid the risks then guess what? When girls say “no” they are mocked and ridiculed and pushed to the brink and it is that way with boys too. When I have heard young girls or boys say they are a virgin I have heard them called a “liar”. I would LOVE to spend my energy discussing sex education and contraceptives….I would love to tear down the walls of shame, degradation, and fear that are the bricks that are the blocks that build your “statistics”. of high pregnancy rates. Let’s just put that brick aside for a moment. You did not discuss the brick of disease. How many of our kids are sick and dying from diseases that your “legitimate” forms of contraceptives don’t protect them from because they are too young, inexperienced and immature to know how to use them properly? When an innocent mind is flung into the cesspool of trickery, deceit, coercion, shaming them for even believing that “No one” can or will stay a virgin and that anyone who believes that they even want to is unrealistic their own self is on the line. I have heard enough of ” girls need to learn to say “No” and “boys will be boys”. It is time to tear down the walls that have been built around our youth to enslave them into destroying their hopes, dreams and lives. No wonder our drug use is so common now.
              When we start telling them they CAN succeed then they will have hope to try. And they will not need drugs to cope with the lies and deceptions they are being fed. STOP TELLING MY CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN that they ARE GOING TO HAVE SEX. THEY DON’T NEED TO HEAR THAT MESSAGE. I welcome the opportunity to “discuss” sex education. Children are our nations greatest resource and we are allowing that resource to be destroyed on a massive scale. STOP THE DESTRUCTION. GIVE US BACK OUR FUTURE!

              • The first thing I told my son was that under all circumstances, respect the girl. Never, ever try do to something she does not want to. Period. The issue of sexual abuse is a men’s issue, and especially for men to be role models and teach theirs sons how to treat women. “Boys will be boys” is NEVER an excuse. The way a girl dresses or if she is drunk or not should not be an issue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sOXN_80ohM

                My ex wife had a christian upbringing, believed in god and was a virgin when we met. She also had an affair which took away my trust and started the downfall of our marriage. So much for abstinence and religion.

                There is no society that has been able to avoid pregnancies, abortions and STD by bans. Education, not only sex education but education in general does decrease these problems. Being scared of sex and promoting guns is no solution for a healthy society.

                • So what did you teach the man who will be having sex with your daughter? Will his dad have instilled in him the values that you did in your son? I commend you for teaching your son values… I did with my son. However, I also work on teaching my daughter to value herself in face of society setting her up for failure. All the magazines, shows, movies, etc… tell girls to use their sexuality to get attention, capture a man and to be successful. It is hogwash. Teaching our children to respect themselves, love themselves and to treat others with respect will help them more in life when it comes to being happy and fullfilled.

              • Methinks Pagdorma’s an academic with no real life experiences. Methinks she doth protest too much. 🙂

                  • Then maybe it wasn’t “abstinence and religion” that started the downfall of your marriage since you weren’t “scared of free women.” Slow fades begin the downward spiral.

                    • In the end, I was the one willing to put in work to create evolution in our marriage. When she declined that, I had to do what was necessary to save myself.

                  • No… I think you have women on here who have learned the hard way what it takes to have joy in your life. I would not want my kids to learned the hard way when it is so much easy to start with love and trust.

              • You are so right. Society mocks those who do not conform to them. Having sex and going partner to partner because it feels good or it is what my friends are doing are creating kids who are not dating, who are not having time to mature, and creating a situation for a girl or boy to be raped… because no one is a virgin. If you love your child, that last thing you should say is go out and have sex. It leads to disappoint in a relationship when they start to compare each person to the last person… now, they are lonely and can’t find one wants them…because, there will be no trust. Is the other person here until they find someone better or maybe both are thinking that and they miss the very person who would have loved and respected them. Last, I wonder what your wife thinks…would she agree or did she wonder if she was loved without being perfect.

          • Perhaps it’s because people are discovering a lot faster they aren’t meant to be after all. Also, people who were not adventurous enough to have sex or move in with someone, or other big life events, are probably a lot less likely to shake the boat (the new marriage) once it has been established. They’re probably just settling, because they are told that’s what is “right.”

          • I read this entire article. While I find it extremely offensive and inaccurate, I was willing to look past all of that and look at the evidence they provided for these statements. At this point, I was unable to locate a works cited page. There are parenthetical citations, but those works are not cited thoroughly enough for me to look up these “studies” and this “research”. If you can locate these supplemental texts, I would be more than happy to read them and see your point of view. Otherwise, the fact that the site has been shut down has more of an impact on my opinion of it than what it says. Additionally, there are quite a few references to the Bible, which is a weakness for this article because not everyone is religious or cites religious reasons for abstaining from sex.

    • My marriage is a living, breathing example of how doing the opposite of your advice can create an incredible and unbreakable bond between husband & wife. We were both virgins and since our beautiful honeymoon, we have only blossomed & grown closer together. If you want a monogynous, life long relationship, having sex with multiple people before making that huge commitment is NOT going to make being faithful and fruitful together for the rest of your life any easier. I went from having no sex (which isn’t easy) to getting the privilege of having sex with the love of my life whenever I want. Your suggesting its “easier” to go from having sex with a list of people whenever it suites your fancy to then trying to commit to one for the rest of your life???Not easier and not logical. Its like saying you can only eat this one dessert for the rest of your life. Would it be easier to be accustomed to going to a dessert buffet with a wide variety of desserts and then overnight only getting one kind or would it be easier to never eat dessert and then over night get to have a certain kind whenever you want. I think the latter would make you cherish and appreciate your one dessert much more. It would also make you more satisfied and thankful for your one dessert. We are very satisfied =) hehe. We don’t even have erotic dreams of anyone else but each other. That says something bc you can’t really control your dreams. I only share this bc you might want to rethink that advice for your son’s sake. Im not even touching on all the STD’s that are out there. Its nice to not have to worry about any of that.

      • Also, to assume that a young woman who has made the conscious choice to remain a virgin has less relational experience or emotional maturity is ignorgant and falsely judgmental. In todays culture it takes a lot of maturity and guts for a woman to be committed and bold enough to see through the unspoken lie that constantly says woman are really only good when they are a sexual object. I would argue that a girl who decides to remain a virgin actually may be more emotionally mature. I plan to tell my sons that if they are lucky enough to find a girl they love who is still a virgin to cherish that about her. Many young women give themselves away under the pressure of society. Many give themselves away because they lack maturity. They may even be doing it bc of insecurities or emotional scars. Not all Im sure, but more then we know. Anyone can have sex. Its not an accomplishment and it doesn’t say anything about ones maturity or ability to be a good wife. However, when you’re a virgin in todays society, trust me, you HAVE to “sacrifice your ego”. And when I did, I was in part, doing it for my future husband. So before I even met him, I was sacrificing my ego for him. Im not sure how you can argue a virgin won’t know how to “sacrifice ego”.

              • That’s the problem! Pagodroma, you opened the door to mistrust. If you would have respected her and marry her before having those relations with her she would have been a faithful wife to you. In her mind you were already cheating, because you did so many times before meeting her. So she gave herself permission to do so, from the fear of being hurt by you. She was protecting her ego.
                Sex is not OK outside of a marriage at any time. God gave us that so we can be protected and have healthy marriages.

        • I think you’re all forgetting one very important aspect and that is sexual desire which everyone of us has, even if some people don’t admit it, especially when we’re teenagers. Sure, we’re not animals and we can control ourselves but why should you hold yourself back from something that is fun and also safe when you got enough education and advice before you start doing it?
          In my opinion all of this has absolutely nothing to do with creating a better marriage or relationship, sex is part of our lifes and has always been, sooner or later everyone has to find their own way to embrace it and fulfill your desires, sex is nothing you can surpress forever.
          If you choose to save yourself for someone because you think this will make you experience a special intimacy and shared emotions when having sex together for the first time, why not, but I firmy believe that sexual experience and actually knowing why to do in bed can do exactly the same to a relationship.
          Now, two other subjects here were teen pregnancy and diseases. About teen pregnancy, I think it’s highly arguably that the numbers of teen pregnancy have been rising since the sexual revolution, simply because before the sexual revolution there are no records of teen pregnancy (also because it was normal to marry in ones 20ies, mostly because someone got pregnant), I highly doubt there was less teen pregnancy then than now. While there simply were no contraceptives for the everyday woman and man available, the sexual desire and hormonal teenager brain was exactly the same, also the supressing voice of the church banning everything sexual making it even more fascinating. Additionally, if you check the numbers of teen pregnancy in developed countries during the last decades you will find they actually declined and didn’t rise.
          Generally a world-wide trend is that whenever there’s less sexual education, pregnancy rates rise, higher teen pregnancy numbers are usually associated with lower educational leves or no access to education.
          As for diseases, sure, if you have no sex at all the possibilty you get an STD is 0%, however, sex isn’t just a head thing, it’s also a heart thing and a body thing. So if I know all of this as a grown up person and have children that have yet to experience all of this and are just starting to begin to choose their way in life, how could I not tell them all and everything I know about the world to help them stay as safe as possible. Tell them about the importance of loving oneself and your own body, exploring the world, love and sex, yet not letting yourself be exploited and used by anyone, being strong and making your own decisions. Be it waiting for someone you feel special to sleep with, before or after marriage, or gaining experience, under as many precautions as you can.
          Never ever would I let my children go out there without the knowledge of contraception. The world today, in the past and in the future will always involve sex, that’s why we should finally stop being shy talking about it but share as many important informations as possible to be as safe as possible. Sexual revolutions does not mean going out there and sleeping with anyone, it means doing what you want with your own sexuality without letting anyone tell you what to do while being as safe as possible, whatever way in life you choose.

      • Good luck to you! But my experience is the opposite. My ex wife was a virgin, I had been into relationships. But I was fully prepared and content with the idea of having a single partner for the rest of my life. And to create a great love and sex life together. Given work travel, conferences etc I had ample opportunities to cross the line, but I did not. But she did not value the work needed to sustain the attraction between us and she was the one who hade an affair, which ended my trust. I hung on to my marriage after that for a (too) long time, trying to recreate the attraction between us (and also for the sake of the kids). But in the end I had to break up, in order not to loose myself. And I have never regretted that decision, not a single day.

        And my son is in a good relationship with a good girl. They both had previous experience from sex and relationships and I don’t think that that is a problem. Of course they will struggle, especially if and when they choose to have kids, but that’s part of life. I think that they will endure.

        Life has taught me that you can not and will not have control over the persons you meet. If you meet someone that touches you soul and body, it’s a gift, not from god but from life. Meetings occur by chance, you choose how to take care of the.

      • First of all, having sex in your “previous” life has no bearing on whether you will make a good spouse or not. Hey, some of us want to have sex, because sex is enjoyable! And it is a part of NORMAL LIFE, regardless of religious or moral sanctions.
        Yes, sometimes not having sex at all is simpler, especially if you’re not in a committed relationship (ie. you don’t have to worry about implications). However, someone choosing to have sex with a person that they don’t “LOVE” doesn’t make them incapable of appreciating love when they find it. In fact, it just might make them MORE capable of seeing a relationship for what it really is, and thereby being able to recognize someone who is worth marrying.
        Second of all, I think you’re living with blinders on. “We don’t even have erotic dreams of anyone else but each other.” The fact is, you don’t know that for sure. Talk to any doctor, psychologist, or sex expert, and they will tell you that fantasizing about other people is absolutely NORMAL. You don’t have to tell your hubby that you thought the guy at the check out was hot, but it’s perfectly okay to wonder what it might be like to sleep with him. That does not mean you’re cheating on your husband. It means you are NORMAL. And the fact that you think your husband doesn’t ever have sexual thoughts or fantasies about anyone other than you is quite ignorant.
        Sometimes being “worldly” means you’re able to understand your spouse more fully and you’re also able to ride the waves of marriage without completely losing it.
        Bottom line: it’s okay for people to be human.

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    • That is horrible advice. You don’t need to have sex before marriage. I haven’t, because there can be only one woman in my life. Luckily, my fiancee didn’t grow up with a parent like you.

  7. Amazing post, and voila one of my favorite quotes that has hit home…Thank you so much!

    “Really, most of us are just afraid our hearts won’t be good enough for the people we love, so we choose to stay safe and protected behind high walls with lots of cannons.”

  8. It’s amazing how easy it is for me to regenerate my Ego Walls. When I doubt my Fiancé’s commitment level to the longevity of our relationship, my walls jump back up, and push her away. I’m lucky to have someone who is patient, and helps me know I’m safe. I then start letting my walls down once again.

    • Yes, indeed, those walls can go back up so quickly. Your fiancee is also lucky to have someone who is aware of this and working on it. May you bless each other with a dangerous kind of unity!

  9. I enjoyed your article and will pass this on to my husband and boys. One thing I would like to bring to the table……so many parents freak out when their kids start in a relationship with someone. They feel compelled to give the, don’t have sex speech and one time can get you pregnant etc. etc. I feel like we need to shift gears. Talk to your kids about their new relationship. Ask them questions. What do you like most about this person? When did you know you really liked them? What makes being around them so much fun? Let them know how you felt at that age and how exciting it is. Show them you care and respect them by being excited for them. It is an exciting time in their life. Then, I feel like you can bring in the talk. If they know you are interested and excited for them, then they will be more likely to retain and use the information you give them. Very good article though! Thanks for your thoughts and they will be discussed in my home very soon.

    • When my son had his first relationship as a teenager, I am damn proud that he was educated and responsible enough to get hold of condoms so that they would not get pregnant. Then we could start talking about how to treat another person well.

      • My confusion is why you would only start talking to him about sex and how to treat another person well AFTER he had it and not before? You mentioned “we could start talking about how to treat another person well”, but again, isn’t that a discussion that we have with them every day of their life? Sexuality doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. It’s a part of who they are and part of what drives them. Wouldn’t it be better to teach respect and care of another before it really kicks into high gear??

        • Of course we had that kind of discussions before! But you don’t get to decide when and how your son or daughter will become sexually active, you can just hope that you have instilled good values in them when it does happen. And I am happy that he took the responsibility to have safe sex.

          • No need to get defensive. I was only going off of what you actually said. Of course, kids will do what they will do. They are their own people. Which is why I’m a huge proponent of telling the most information and not the least information. I’ve seen a lot of people use contraception as the lazy man’s way out. Not to mention that no contraception is 100% effective. I can’t tell you how many kids (and adults) I knew of where either the pill “didn’t work” or the condom broke, or any number of things that can go wrong. Besides, what’s wrong with explaining that the natural end to sex is pregnancy and a lot of serious emotional attachment? Things to ponder…

            • We might have different views, but I respect that you come to another solution than I do. One point where my opinion differs is that humans are very different from other “animals”. For us, pregnancy is not the natural end to sex. We get a few children over a life time (provided that reasonable contraceptives are available) but can be sexually active 50-60 years. Of course it is a blessing if and when two persons are able to live in a life long relationship, but let’s view that as an inspiration rather than a demand or role model. And it is far worse to be alone inside a marriage than to be single or divorced.

    • completely agree Barb. My husband and I have started this talk with our son, Julian (he’s 13… THAT age!). We’ve had some amazing discussions about relationships and what gals desire and look for vs. what guys look for and everything in between. It’s been wonderful exploring the world of intimacy and love, as he starts discovering how amazing the opposite sex is to him. We want him to love the whole process and enjoy discovering another PERSON without complicating it with sex. He’s been extraordinarily receptive and asks all kinds of crazy questions, but they’re GOOD questions. We’re praying and hoping God will continue to give us the right words to introduce him to real love. Sex is just one aspect of a person, and I’d hate for my children to think that it’s separate from all the rest of themselves or someone else. What about all the other interests of their lives and how when you have sex… you don’t have sex with a thing, you have sex with a person. And a person is pretty darn complex. Here’s to hoping we all learn how to talk and communicate about love, relationships and sex. Our kids REALLY need it!!

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  11. I think this is the best article I have read about marriages so far. I like the concept of walls and cannons and I think we need this kind of thinking especially here in Africa (Am writing from Nairobi, Kenya) where it seems men are born with natural walls. I salute you Dr. Kelly!

    • Jackson, wow, that is high praise. I’m grateful for your affirmation and to make your acquaintance all the way from Nairobi!

    • You are so right (fellow Nairobian here). This is why we have so many ladies frustrated at being unable to connect with the modern man and so many men getting frustrated and feeling taken advantage off. Perspective change is needed.

      I have something more to work on as I make myself a better person!

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  14. the best advice is not to get married. is just stupid. Live with someone, yes, many times, make a family if you want, but love or however you want to call it shouldn’t be bound by a document with a couple of signatures in it.

    • sounds like an unfulfilling life. I hope you find someone who pushes your boundaries and inspires you to be vulnerable so you can REALLY experience deep, abiding love.

      • Really, two people cannot have fulfilling lives together, or REALLY experience deep love unless there’s been some sort of a ceremony and legal document signed? I’m not going to go so far as to say that marriage is stupid; if it is what two people want, good for them. But let’s not act like marriage is the real beginning of two people’s life together, or that love means less outside of a social institution.

        • I was married for 15 years. I let my walls down, I gave myself to my husband whole-heartedly and in the end that made it worse. I was more vulnerable and the hurt was almost unbearable. I am now in a loving, amazing relationship (last 3 years) with no plans of getting married and I could not be happier. We live together and that’s all we need. We made a promise to each other that we’d always be truthful and honest and that’s better than any marriage licence as far as I’m concerned. I am finally completely happy with a man who gives himself to me each and every day, and I to him. I’m sorry, but to me, marriage means nothing more than a flashy party with no true meaning. It’s the promises you make when you’re alone with each other that matter the most.

    • While I agree that love can’t be bound by a document, the law does bind
      people together. Unless you’re willing to forego certain protections
      afforded by the law to married couples, the document is important. There is no contract that could cover the number of laws
      governing married couples v. unmarried couples. I know couples who lived together without getting married and they changed their mind pretty quick when there was a medical emergency and they had no legal standing to make decisions for their loved one.

      • It’s not like that in every country. In my country I have the same rights as a married person.

  15. In about 8 months I’ll be marrying my fiancé. By that time, we’ll have been together over 4 1/2 years. We have a healthy relationship and we have both done an amazing amount of healing to the other’s soul. However, lately I find myself asking a lot of questions about marriage I never thought of before. I want to know what will keep our future marriage healthy, neither of us are religious, so what will be our corner stone? How will we keep from becoming complacent and stop working on our constant growth? Reading this feels like the missing piece. I love what you have to say. Especially about God, I get so frustrated when all the marriage advice we get is about putting God between my fiancé and I, well that works for some; but I believe using God can be an excuse to hide behind. Breaking down the barriers in our heart that can hide resentment and fear is a great way to start and keep a lasting marriage.

    • Try reading ‘Love & Respect’ by Emmerson Eggerichs. He is a Christian also but has not been so his whole life so writes the book for non-Christians also. Really gets to what is going on between two people..the cause, not the symptoms..and it is great to be aware of the dynamics BEFORE you get married.

  16. What a beautiful post! I love the things you shared with your son and with the rest of us who were blessed to read it. Question for you…could you shed some light on what you mean about a God who will “sacrifice anything for peace and reconciliation” I worry that many people I know sacrifice principles and values or aren’t willing to take a stand (in a loving way) on principles in order to keep peace…my mother just always said “do whatever you want as long as it will make you happy” which was her way of promoting peace but it left her children without any moorings that might have helped them navigate their way a bit more peacefully in this world.

    • That is a profound question, Adrianne. My first, gut reaction is that peace is often taken to be the absence of conflict. But that approach often leads to the opposite of true peace. Peace is the wholeness and harmony of all things. That’s a complicated definition, but peace is a complicated idea. I hope that helps a little

  17. the most illuminating truth I’ve ever read about committing to another. thank you for your voice in the world.

  18. I think I will read the last part of this to my future son-in-law when I toast the new couple at their reception. My daughter is only 11, so I am hoping that it is 20 years away. Thank you for your insights, and the distinctions you made about a God centered marriage. For me the best reason to get married is to become closer to God, by that I mean to learn sacrifice and service and true love.

  19. I married my high school sweet heart in we have been together 8 years. Before we got married I asked him about everything I could think of to make sure our lives, our wants, our morals and values would be compatible. He said, “I love you the rest will work out.” I said, “you think this is some fairy tale.” Well it turns out he was right. The most important part of marriage is finding someone you love who is willing to give and sacrifice with you each day. To be there through all the ups and downs, to be completely present, and give of themselves. You must be willing to be open and vulnerable together. When you can do that you can face anything, the rest does work out. Each day we face together, we grow closer, and our love gets stronger.

  20. I think,
    For not to have sex, we have to overcome bodyinstinc of both survival and natural search of plesure wich both might be healthy or not. Sex and promiscuity is pretty good for health and evolution in many way. It can be lived pretty destructively to as the help or the nuisance of an other human being. I read much about what is so good or bad but what matter much to me is why and how? To me, a strong and healty marriage migth be build on the sum of many strong and healthy relationnal habits (wich sex can be very significant). Further, sex can be a fondamental aspect of any significant relationship (righ or wrong -to one or both-, health or sickly or both) and of course significant learnings (realistic and delusional). Often, total abstinence, i guess, have a similar root to its opposite, like prostitution, both might be constructed on an disrespect of one or another facet of oneself. Or it can be selfrespect, depending on what and who the person is and is to be. How do one get to abstain itself of a sex life? And how he does it? or How does oneself get to live (and maybe kill) his sex life the way he does? And not the way he does not? … And how he does it?

    I can say that a day to day caring of my sex life is pretty significant to my personnal evolution and health. Caring wich mean considering, finding win-win situation with the differents aspects of it and my other purposes. Further, caring about who I choose and how to live it for the part I share with my wife.
    I know that man in a way are physically able to reproduce easely with many partners as it is not the case of women (max 1 each 9 month) so that man, i think, are much less selective on his physical-instinctual facet. So to harmonise with long term desire and vision of family and unity, a man need a certain reframing (“recadrage”) of the way he integrate his instinc in a more actual accuracy (“justesse”) as the front part of the brain helps the action get more accurate without neglecting the huge contribution of the “primitives” parts. In the same idea women would have a similar step to take: taking the “I have to find THE man that will give me THE progeny” to “I will cultivate à life enhancing relationship with a life enhancing man I like to the day I will love and know how to protect and enhance that love more and more” (moving form delisional perfection seeking to true perfectionnism). This is just a thinking.

    About the marriage, … tomorrow.

  21. “[A God who will] sacrifice anything for peace and reconciliation”
    If only that God existed in the Bible

  22. In my relationship neither of us are religious. This may be the reason we also agree that marriage isn’t necessary for a healthy, successful, lifelong relationship. We do however agree that under certain circumstances, the legality of marriage makes sense. With my SO being in the military we feel it is best to eventually sign a marriage certificate not because of the immediate benefits, but because of the potential tragedies. I should mention that he his nearly halfway towards retirement with the Air Force, not fresh out of boot camp, and I am a college graduate with a an established career. We want to be sure in the event something happens to him, I am the one that is notified, I am provided the support I may need, etc. I am by no means saying this is the BEST reason to get married. We want to spend our lives together because we want to share our lives with one another, the bad and the good. With that being said I would say the best reason to get married is because you have found that person that you know will be the best partner/teammate through all of life’s ups and downs.

  23. “Really, most of us are just afraid our hearts won’t be good enough for the people we love, so we choose to stay safe and protected behind high walls with lots of cannons.”
    How true this is! Im a 33 year old (twice divorced) single mom of two boys. I have been the outcast and the “different” one my whole life, chosing to live with my nose in a book rather than deal with people. From a very early age, I discovered that my strongest wall was that of logic. I displayed very few emotions and had problems with friendships. I always wondered why I wasnt like “the other girls”. This intinsified the feelings of inadequacy inside me, and I deemed not only my heart, but my entire being, “not good enough”. Because I rely on logic to protect me, I made the decision to marry based solely on the idea that I could “make it work” because the pros outweighed the cons. I never paid attention to that gut feeling that said “you dont even like this man”, because who can trust something like an emotion? On paper it worked, in reality, I have never been so alone in my life. I found it all too easy to walk away and feel nothing akin to sadness or remorse.
    My question to you, as a therapist (and I have seen my share), do you believe that our personality types play a role in our success with relationships? I have watched my polar opposite parents, live perfectly calloused lives as roommates, boasting of how they’ve honored their commitment. However, my father spent time in a depression clinc and my mother stays busy and is never at home.
    I have two sons that are going to look at my failed relationships as well as the marriage of their grandparents as their example. How do I teach them something different? Is compatiblity important, or do opposites really attract? Can any two people really “make it work”, or do not only our wounds, but our personalities, ways of processing information, and chemistry play a part?

    • Read my post Shannon. Then read your post again – as if it were the first time. As Dolly Pardon said; “get to know who you are, and do it on purpose”. That means to accept “You”. To help your kids, teach them to accept who they are by being there for them, and being honest with them. Get involved, and let them learn through their mistakes and accomplishments – equally; it is what makes-up who we become, and tell them that. Don’t treat them like children, treat them like souls on a journey!

  24. I agree, we are responsible for how we use our ego to protect our heart; but, is it really protecting our heart, or is it overriding our heart to gain control of our surroundings so that our faults could hide in the shadows?
    To measure, label, and judge is what we all have been taught; it is called “life in this world as we know it”. But there is another life; “it’s in this world but not of it”. It is your heart! I can explain it this way: a marriage counselor had asked me to make a list of 20 things I want in my marriage. Upon sitting with the marriage counselor and talking about the 20 things I had written; some of which are – for my spouse to believe in me, to have respect for me as the man, and to trust my decisions – we spoke about each of the 20 things in detail and how they applied within the relationship. When we finished discussing all 20 things; the counselor said to me, “these 20 things you want in your marriage, you must, first, do them for yourself, before you can expect them from someone else. And when you have done all these things for yourself, then and only then, you will no longer put those expectations on the other person. Instead, you will now be able to notice others who have also done these things for themselves, and then your lives could be shared openly without the ball-and-chain that is created when we inject expectations in our relationships.
    Put another way; learn to love yourself, who you are, first; for if you do not know a love for yourself, what love, then, do you have to offer anyone else; and what foundation is your love for someone else built on, if not built from within, first. This is truly the heart, in its fullest; and only the heart can teach the ego to love and not judge.
    This is the only true marriage in life, and its journey is 14” long, from the heart to the mind (ego). When we embrace this marriage, it then yearns to “share” its’ splendor with another. But the World wants to teach us that marriage is between a man and a woman, and when they get married they “become one”. Think about that: “they become one”; really? Which one do they become? They are set-up to fail from the beginning. The only True Marriage is when the Heart and the Mind become one “In Life”. In the World, (as an example) man and woman come together to make One, a child, when they “Share” with each other. Therefore, it is when they “Share” they “Make One”; they do not “Become One”. When they “Share” their individual gifts with each other, it can be said, they become one unit “together”, but they do not “Become One” individual. They each must maintain their individual gifts in order for them to “Makeup the One Together”.

  25. You, my friend, are what the kids on the street call “killin’ it”. Beautiful work. Thanks to the amazing Annie Lalla for turning me onto your work. Always grateful to find another man on the path of intimacy.

  26. The letter is lovely and has certainly ignited some interesting conversation which, I think is wonderful. I have worked with ‘at risk teens’ for most of my adult life first as a youth worker/ drug educator and health educator and then as a family/relationship counselor. I have also raised a female child. When talking about guiding our children, I believe it is the state of their self esteem that informs their choices and no amount of telling kids what they ‘should’ or shouldn’t do will make a difference. If a girl has the experience of love and respect from her father or primary male caregiver, she will have a standard of love and respect for herself from which she can gauge/choose in her other male relationships. It is the experience of feeling loved, respected and valued that gives her the sense of worthiness to not settle for less. Whether we are talking girls or boys, people will ‘act out what is not worked out’ in a negative and harmful to self and others way if they have a love void to fill. Not letting down ‘walls” becomes a matter of survival. Boys learn how to be loving, respectful and considerate men from other caring men and girls, from the women around them. Too many parents worry about the ‘rules’ and over think things instead of looking at how they are in their relationships with their children and others. Parents, learn to let your own walls down thereby, showing them (as Dr. Flanagan has), how it is done.

    • Right on, Fiona, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Stick around here and keep sharing your insights!

  27. This the most amazing thing I’ve read lately. The timing of this shared wisdom could not be more perfect. My wife of 10 years and I are going through some extremely profound shifts in our individual life journeys as well as in our relationship. In all it’s like being bowled over by ocean waves while knee deep in the surf. Both exciting and scarey given the power of it and it’s unknown outcome.
    Much gratitude and thanks for your articles and it’s inherent insights and wisdom….

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  30. What a beautiful letter. So moving…I cannot wait to share it with the woman I am planning to marry. She’s sure to be as inspired as I. Thank you so very much.

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  32. But isn’t this was life is fundamentally about? Dismantling our ego walls. I had forgotten about this. Time to do some ego dismantling work. I think I still have time. 🙂

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    • I came to this site because I am thinking about asking my 4 year live in significant other to marry me and googled “why should I get married.” We were both married once before and are in our forty’s/fifties. This article is so right on point. If you do not feel comfortable lowerering your walls and sharing all your fears and vulnerabilities to someone you should not marry that person and look for someone you can do this with. When I ask her to marry me I will be asking her if she feels OK trusting me with 100% of her heart believing that I love her so much that I would never hurt that heart. Thank yuo for this perspective.

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  45. HELLO Am Frank Silveri have read testimonies about this great spell caster called Dr. Ekpiku how he helped people to bring their lover back. so i decide to give him a try, i am here today to give my own testimony on how this great man brought my ex back within 48 hours for just to contact him. this girl has broke up with me over 6 weeks but she came back just within 48 hours that Dr Ekpiku said he will make her come back to me. just contact this man and he will bring your ex back here is his email address mail. Ekpikuspelltemple@live.com

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  47. I just wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation to prophet salifu on bringing my husband back to me,I was married for 9 years to my husband and all of a sudden, he started seeing another lady at work.he started hailing at me and he was abusive.. and he stop careing for me, but I still loved him with all my heart .the situation made me unsettle and not to focus at work .so someone told me about trying spiritual means to get my husband back and introduced me to a spell caster? i did not listen to her . i kept on hoping that my husband will come back home . after a month it got out of hand and my husband came back home to break the news to me that he want a divorce that he is getting married to the other lady .Hmmm it was so shocking to me ,i felt sad and depressed ,so i contacted my friend again and decieded to try to use spiritual means reluctantly..although I didn’t believe in all those things? I never thought in a million years that i will get my husband back to me a again. but I was proved wrong.after 2days, my husband came back and was pleading..he had realized his mistakes..i just couldn’t believe it that we are back together. Prophet salifu remained consistent and kind throughout and made the process unbelievable I am deeply satisfied and thankful .if in doubt you should email him at prophetsalifu@yahoo.com or prophetsalifu@gmail.com

  48. Having been through a failed marriage of 6 years, and now divorced for 7, and having truly found the love of my life. This is definitely something that I wish my father would have told me as a youngster. (it would have required us to have had a better relationship at the time.. which.. poor father/son relationships are also big contributing factors to crappy marriages)

    However, i mostly appreciate your approach to the “god” subject. I fall in the latter, where the god that I was raised with is basically an asshole… and you’re right. Putting him in the center of my last marriage was an epic disaster. I have since made my peace with my own spirituality… and my world is forever changed and happy for it.

    Great words friend.

    • Jeremiah, it is good to hear the story of someone who has been through the whole process. Thank you for sharing!

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  56. Am Glory from USA, My husband and I were married for 23 years and I was sick with Rheumatoid Arthritis, depression, diabetes and had kidney cancer. As soon as our son turned 18, he became involved with an old girlfiend that he had 30+ years ago. I ended up with a nervous breakdown and in the hospital. She sunk her claws in him because she didn’t want to work anymore and he seemed just the kind to let her run the show. Once his anger and my therapy worked, he realized that it was a mistake. I lost the house, went bankrupt, moved in 2 weeks, was bed ridden because of the pain and a week later my best friend/and mom suddenly died and he came back in spite of her threats, but she pulled some major stuff and made him feel guilty for bringing her to Michigan (from TN), had developed Rheumatoid arthritis, played the I had cancer 10 years ago and now I have no health insurance. On the first christmas/birthday that my mom was gone as well as my 50th birthday on the 30th. He told me a week before he had to marry her because he had so much guilt. In turn, she had turned my one and only son (who was going to be a priest) against me by constant lies and brought my step daughter who is a psycho (for real) to make it worse. Now he is trapped but loves me and he can’t get away. He said we would still be married if she wasn’t so devious. He even read beautiful readings and was at the hospital when we took life support off my mom. He wishes that he would have listened to her. but my situation turned around when i met Lord Zilialia who helped me in all my pains and brought back my husband to me with is powerful spell. and i am a happy woman again and now i am healed. contact Lord Zilialia on spellcaster1202@gmail.com, contact him and i swear you will thank me later… spellcaster1202@gmail.com.

  57. An amazing testimony, I am Andrew mark, From united states of America.I will start by saying to all that have experience heart break and also cant do with out there lover should please stop here and read up my story, So as you will know how to go solving or getting your ex back from this spell caster..AND AGAIN I WILL WANT TO ALSO TELL ALL THAT THIS SPELL CASTER I WILL WANT TO TELL THE WHOLE WORLD ABOUT IS HARMLESS AND DO NOT HAVE ANY SIDE EFFECT, BUT TO RESTORE AND GIVE YOU BACK WHAT YOU DESERVE, COS WHEN I MEET WITH THIS SPELL CASTER THAT WAS INTRODUCED TO ME BY THE WIFE OF MY BOSS IN MY WORKING PLACE, HE MADE IT CLEAR THAT HE CAN CAST SPELL ON SO MANY OTHER PROBLEMS EXCEPT IN GETTING YOUR EX OR MAKING YOUR LOVER TO LOVE YOU MORE THAT WILL SUITE YOU. Last year December, My lover was cheating on me and was not also give me the attention that a man should give to a woman, And really that was troubling my mind and tearing my heart apart to the extent that i was not concentrating in the office the way i use to before the break up by my lover.And before that incident, I always see how my boss use to love his wife so much. I was binging to think that i was not doing the right thing to him that will make him love me forever, So i really gathered my courage and went to my boss wife office to ask her the secret that made her husband love her so dearly, In the first place she refused in telling me, She asked me why i am asking her such a question, That if is it not normal for every man to love his wife.I told her the reason that made me ask her about this question, That my lover started cheating on me lately, When i knelt down before her for her to see my seriousness in this issue that i went to ask her, She opened up to me by telling me that i should not tell anybody about what she want to tell me, The wife to my boss started to say to me that she used a very powerful spell on his husband to love her, And the spell that she used is harmless, But the spell is just to make him love her and never to look for any other woman except her. I QUICKLY ASK HER HOW DID SHE GET TO KNOW THIS GREAT, POWER, DURABLE AND PERFECT WORK SPELL CASTER, she said that a friend of hers also introduce her to him. Then i also ask her how i can meet with this spell caster.SHE SAID EVERYTHING TO ME, THAT THE NAME OF THIS SPELL CASTER IS Dr Henry olu.My next question to her was how can i get this wonderful spell caster, She said she is going to give me the email of the spell caster for me to contact him for my problem, Really she gave to me this spell caster email and i contacted him and explained all to him, And after every thing that needed to be done by the spell caster, In the next two days, My lover that hated me so much came to house begging for forgiveness and i was so glad that i have finally gotten my heart desire..I was so grateful to this spell caster for what he has done for my life.. So i made a promise to him that i will always continue telling the world about his wonderful work towards me and also to other that came to you before and also the people that will also get to you from my story that i narrated online now..I will want to say to the entire world that you should not cry over noting again, That there is a great man that has been helping individuals to restore there Joy and smile in there faces !! The direct email to get this man is: agagulovespell@yahoo.com, or agagulovespell|@gmail.com and http://agagulovespell. blogspot.com/201This is what i want to tell you all out there, That is thinking that all hope is lost OK..Thanks

  58. great spell caster
    i want to thank God for using DR MUDODO as my source of saviour after 2year of joblessness and my lover left me alone for 2 years,Have just been heart broken until i go in contact with DR MUDODO after i saw a ladies testimony on how she was helped by this same DR MUDODO,So i decided to get in contact with him and when i told him all my problems he laughed and said this is not a problem that everything will be ok in 3days time.Exactly the 3rd day my ex lover called me i was shocked and what surprise me the most was that a company i applied for over 4month called me and said i should resume work as soon as possible.Am so grateful to dr trust if you wish in contacting him drmudodo@outlook.com or is cell number +2348079532940. He do cast the spell as following

    (1) If you want your ex back.
    (2) you need a divorce in your relationship
    (3) You want to be promoted in your office.
    (4) You want women & amp; men to run after you.
    (5) If you want a child.
    (6) You want to be rich.
    (7) You want to tie your husband & wife to be yours forever.
    (8) If you need financial assistance.
    (9) Herbal care

    Contact him today on: drmudodo@outlook.com

    Dr Mudodo

  59. “And so your mind began to build a wall around your heart. That happens to all of us, too. It’s like a big castle wall with a huge moat—it keeps us safe from invaders who might want to get in and attack our heart” Hey Doc, so true…. I am, unfortunately, still hiding behind these walls; although I see them, luckily for me I have a wonderful wife who has learnt to “dismantle” and has made the path easy for both us and the kids (hopefully) despite the fact that I am not “dismantling” (I am not very proud of it). I thank the God, who as you say, “turns the world upside down and dwells in the midst of brokenness and embraces everyone on the margins and will sacrifice anything for peace and reconciliation” for being in the center of our marriage.

  60. The only reason to get married is because it will make you happier. If that’s not the case, you’re doing it wrong.

    • Happiness is temporary and fleeting, especially in a heated moment where our self-defense mechanisms (or ego) take over. Mean things are said. Happiness is gone and your marital goals along with it.

  61. You’re a delusional, irrational, pathetic, ignorant, logically/intellectually/factually challenged doormat. Marriage doesn’t improve a relationship. It typically makes it worse and here you are giving your “son” the worst advice imaginable destined to see him taken to the financial cleaners. You’re beyond ignorant. It’s rather amusing, actually.

  62. The key here is ”both”. It doesn’t matter how much one person wants to get going with ego-dismantling, if the other is not ready then you’re wasting your time and effort. Having recently been left by someone who was far more interested in their own ego than trying to even understand mine, the lessons I have learned is that 1. love really is not enough and 2. if someone needs to feel happy all the time, either with or without my presence, I am in an impossible position. Yes someone should ADD to your feelings of happiness, but to hold the responsibility for that happiness is too much for anyone to bear. So when i heard ”i’m leaving because i’m not happy” i knew it wasn’t about me. I can’t possibly be responsible for that. It’s about an ego, in the purest sense of the word not about dying to self and i also believe its choice to say ‘what can i do to add to your happy’ rather than ‘what you doing that makes me unhappy’

  63. Every situation is different. There cannot be a hard and fast rule, we are human beings!. The most important (and difficult) thing is to be able to keep your ego under control.

  64. Really a good read…made me a bit teary…but do you always have to be vulnerable and take down your ego-wall? how long should you endure? what if the other person doesn’t reciprocate? what should you do?

  65. Thanks for this beautiful letter. I read this today, in the midst of a bit of a fight with my husband– I put my ego aside, to reach out to him and remember the true meaning of our life partnership together, and that the love we share for one another is binding, true and unbreakable. Thanks.

  66. i can’t think of many reasons to get married, unless you have met someone of great emotional generosity, find them to be endlessly inspiring, , are so eager to grow with them and see what they do next that you can’t bear not to be a daily part of the conversation. Oh yeah, and want to make great children with them, see what that brings to the mix.


  68. Dear Dr Flanagan – thank you, your letter has touched me and so related to my situation right now, My husband and I decided that we will share this to both of my daughters as they grow older. Is it possible for me to translate this to Indonesia language and share this while still including the original writing in a form of a link?

    • Ken, I’m so glad this resonated with you so deeply. Yes, please feel free to translate it and provide the link back to the original post. Thank you for asking!

  69. I just read this and it made my heart soar. After years of being in a marriage where every day was a war I finally found out who I was and what I really needed and when I realised he liked the war I graciously decided to let him go find someone else to be at war with. I embraced my singleness and was happy, content and at peace in my life. I was whole and didn’t need anyone to fulfill me or to make me happy when I met a man who was so much my match that I could not let the opportunity pass to see what he was all about. I proceeded with caution, not out of fear, but because I wanted to know whether he was as good as he looked. I spoke to his friends, met everyone he knew and finally decided to take a chance. But it was still terrifying, not least because I knew the truth that you have written here, that there is no real relationship without naked vulnerability. And I had been hurt before… But I determined that I would not let my past steal my present. He had been hurt before too, but he wanted a life with me. And when he eventually asked me to marry him I though about it for a long time, and although I wanted marriage, I did not want what marriage means in my culture, the war of egos, the oppression, the hiding of myself. So I took a risk and showed him my heart and told him I would not marry him because I wanted something much, much more than that which our culture called marriage. I wanted an open, vulnerable and true meeting of equals. Love, respect, caring. Not empty words spoken before people who don’t care and who don’t even honour those words in their own lives, I wanted something much deeper and more real. It has been hard to walk this path in our culture. People judge us sometimes, because we have not done the “traditional” thing. However we do not let that oppress us, because we are free from the bondage and yoke of traditions which mean nothing but lies upon lies to us. Every day we wake up and say, I choose you! And every day we live our lives consciously choosing each other and our life together. Some people think that might make us insecure, but in fact it does not. Traditional marriage rituals do not guarantee a marriage will either last or be successful, when in all truth the only thing that I can really say is that I am alive today and I consciously choose to share this day with you, and to be aware of that choice and to live it fully each day, with all my heart and mind and body and soul. Sure, we have long term goals together and we plan on getting old together, but choosing, consciously, to spend each day living for that future, together, prevents us from forgetting what is really important.

    I know that you probably do not mean the term “marriage” in the traditional way, for there are many ways of getting “married”, but after looking at the many ways in which you can tie two people together I have concluded that no words or ceremony will ever be as important nor bring about as strong a relationship as daily making the choice to lay down myself for him and vice versa. Today we have been together so long that most people think we are married, others say we have a common law marriage. It matters little to us. Every day we choose each other again. Our days are generally filled with joy and laughter and we work together through the harder times too. We love spending time together and our relationship is raw and honest and we are open and vulnerable to each other. I love him for all he is, even the bits I sometimes feel I’d like to change, but then I don’t, because the rest of him would not be the same without those bits. He tells me and shows me that he utterly adores me for whom I am, however the wind takes me on any particular day. I feel loved and cherished and adored. We are the core of our families and our children know that he is first in my life and I in his. They know they are utterly loved, but we have given them the gift of loving each other first and completely. He is my best friend, my lover, my protector, my number one supporter, my cheer squad, my biggest fan, and I wouldn’t want to share my life with anyone but him.

  70. Im only reading this now and I think had I read this a year ago or even a few months ago I wouldnt have got it. But now………I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, asking myself, why the hell do people even get married, the divorce rate is so high and it seems like people get hitched in order to protect themselves from feeling alone. It always seemed to me to be something done out of fear as opposed to something that was done out of love. Or even something done out of social expectation. You date someone for a certain period of time and then the questions come, when are you getting married? And before long you get it from every angle and now you think you “should” be married, its what everyone does right? But then theres the doubts and theres the divorce rate and you start to think, its all a sham. Marriage is inherently un-natural. Its an arrangement that suppresses sexual desire. What if my wife gets bored and cheats on me? What if I cheat on her? What if she turns into a nag and a control freak? What if our marriage turns into one of those sexless nightmares I read about all the time? I read that 50% of women lose their sex drive after a couple of years of marriage………marriage just seemed like one big what if and there didnt seem to be any good reason to enter into it. But then I read this and I know in my heart its true. I know all my what ifs are really walls and a way to protect myself from being vulnerable. And maybe marriage is the ultimate act of vulnerability. Or even the ultimate in surrendering your ego. I had all but eliminated marriage from my vocabulary, it wasnt evening on the agenda, but now I can see that it might be something to look at and re-consider. Thank you

  71. My friend has a 17 year daughter and is pushing for her to marry her boyfriend who is in his second year of college. He hasnt even proposed yet and my friend is already buying wedding stuff and is planning a wedding and has date set right arighther daughter graduates high schoole she even has baby names picked out and wants her daughter prego asap. She even calls herself nana to her daughters dog. Her daughter makes bad grades in school and does nothing extra curricular. She doesnt have a job pr drivers licsense yet. Her boyfriends family wants him to finish college before getting married. They value education. My friend told me when i asked why the rush, that her daughter said she wants the struggle of not having a solid finacial nest with her husband. She is a very pretty girl but sadly thats all she has going for her. She lets her daughter dress in very revealing clothes and allows teenage boys over to their house at all hours any day of the week. She brags constantly about “how beautiful my daughter is” and the most horrifying experience ive had was a girls weekend for my birthday she and her sister in law and i went away. We went into a “sex store” that sold lingerie and sexy costumes. My friend went around the store proclaiming loudly how great her daughter would look in the strappy leather get ups and thongs. Then bragged her daughter was getting married and her finance would just die seeing her wearing such erotic clothing. Again, no proposal and no ring. I know its none of my business but i fear her daughter is being robbed of having the skillset to be an independent woman and if her boyfriend were to break up with her then she would be lost. She knows nothing but being a girlfriend and what her mom shows a wife should be. My friend married at an early as well. They even bought her a wedding dress “just to see”. The boyfriend isnt running for the hills because like i said her daughter is pretty and recently my friend finally admitted that her precious virgin daughter wasnt actually a virgin. So the boyfriend is getting sex from a girl way out of his league and a girl too dumb to see the difference. He comes from a wealthy family and so she thinks if she marries him and gives him a kid they will have the good life.

  72. I love this–especially the insight about how your experience of God working on your ego can effect your marriage. I’m about to embark on the journey of marriage with a woman that I really started to know when I was in a behavioral ward, and can trust 100%. I’m looking forward to sharing life with her in the vulnerability of love, “walls down.”

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