Is your spouse the most important person in your life? Should this be?

In recent topics regarding marriage and “courting” or “dating”, many posters have stated that it is extremely important to get to know a spouse well before marriage, and for spouses to be a good “match” when it comes to attitudes toward sex, finances, child-rearing, etc. The assumption appears to be that the spouse should be the most important person in one’s life.

However, one could argue that we are expecting TOO MUCH out of marriage as a way to fulfill ourselves, and that it is unrealistic to expect a “perfect match” or to be perfectly happy with our spouses. Indeed, one could argue that traditionally, marriage was NOT seen as much more than a business arrangement, and people sought fulfillment either in their own careers, their children, their birth families, or in the Church. In many cultures, such as the royalty/aristocracy of most countries, it was even considered completely acceptable to marry for convenience and seek out lovers for romance. The Catholic Church has always taught that the celibate state is higher than the married one.

There are still many people who find their children to the most important people in their lives, not their spouses. Indeed, in cases where the spouse is actually abusive, the standard advice is to leave the marriage in order to protect the children. It’s very rare that anyone advises an abused spouse to stay and try to “save” the abuser. Yet, if a spouse is expected to be most important then wouldn’t their welfare trump the child’s?

So I wonder…would we actually be happier if we gave up on finding the perfect match? Is it better to either not marry at all, or to at least stop expecting romantic perfection in marriage? Should more of us settle, marry for convenience, and dismiss romantic love as an illusion? After all, people used to do that, and there was far less divorce, broken families, etc., back then, right? (I don’t QUITE believe this but I have seen similar arguments in other part of CAF that seem to attract more traditionally-minded Catholics than Family Life does.)

My husband is the most important person in my life. I made vows to that effect and I fully intend to uphold them.

However, he is not my “perfect romantic match” because I do not live in a stupid romantic chick flick. Life need not be a Nicholas Sparks book to have a strong, happy marriage.

As for child abuse-just because your spouse is the most important person in the world does not mean you allow them to harm vulnerable people who are in their care.

But as for importance, even from a Catholic perspective, marriage is a vocation, children are not. If you do your job as a parent, your children will one day “leave and cleave”, but you’ll still have your spouse.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, you are making some good points!

I read hear often, and although I see that many posters encourage others to really get to know their fiancé before marriage, and that similar views on sex, children and other moral issues are important, I don’t see how that equates with “the perfect match” or “romantic perfection in marriage” as you wrote. In fact I don’t think I have ever read a regular poster here who is married use the words “perfection” and “marriage” together in the same sentence!

The fact of the matter is there is no perfect match, because we are imperfect people. We should still strive to find a spouse where we share similar values because that increases the chance of a happy and successful marriage but that is just common sense, nothing really Christian or Catholic about that necessarily. What the faith does teach us though is that we should put God first, our spouse second and our children third.

Important: You mentioned abuse, even though the Catholic church teaches that a spouses relationship takes a priority to a child’s, remember this is primarily on a spiritual level. A wife’s responsibility to her husband in the Catholic tradition is to his soul as well as his physical body. Therefore if her husband is committing serious sins of violence it is important for her to get away from him that he obtain treatment and be at peace with God so she WOULD be honoring her husband’s soul by leaving because he would then have to seek to stop his sinful and harmful behavior which is bad for everyone including himself. .

My wife is the most important person in my life. She is not so because she is “my perfect match”, however. The goal is to try my best to be as perfect as I can be for the person I’m matched up with. When we assume we “have a perfect match”, we assume too much. It tries to take control and credit for the things out of our control. I don’t control my wife, I only really control my own actions. So I have committed to being the best person I know how to be, and she continues to be the best person she can be in return. It has been working for us for more than 20 years now.

We also should not get too caught up in the fairy tale of marriage. Too many people look for the person that makes them happy. That, to me, is the easy part. I am lucky to have found someone I can be completely miserable with. Allow me to explain. Life isn’t a fairy tale. Bad things happen to all of us somewhere along the way in this journey. I needed my wife most in those times-and that is when she most needed me. When our house was filled with mold, when sewage backed up into our basement-she helped me laugh about it after some time had passed. She made it better. When my dad died, she was a true partner to me. When we lost our son after only a few days from being born premature, we got each other through those times. We left any illusions we may have had early on that it was all going to be fun and games behind. We have times when life challenges us. We have times of great joy and happiness. That isn’t why she is my perfect match, though. She is the right person for me because when I am going through those tough times, she walks with me through it all. I believe too many people give up too easily because we’ve bought into the fairy tale version of marriage. When everything doesn’t go just as planned, people question if their choice was the right one. We must begin by accepting things will go wrong, even with the other person by our side. Find someone worth struggling with!

It depends on your definition of “most important.” I do consider my husband to be the most important person in my life, but I do not expect him to meet all my emotional needs. Children, other family members, and friends fill the holes in my life that my husband can’t. We aren’t joined at the hip, either - we enjoy different activities & are willing to do those things alone or with others.

Also, I am very much aware that my husband - who is significantly older than I - will likely die long before I do. Planning to live without him in no way means he isn’t important now. We are also planning on the possibility that he may need care in the years to come. For both of those reasons we’ve decided to move to make our “elderly” life more doable.

I don’t remember who said, “Old age isn’t for sissies,” but he sure was right! :eek:

My husband is the most important person in my life and we are perfectly-matched. It took me a long time to find him and I think being older gives you other qualities that you maybe don’t have when you’re young - like patience and the ability to laugh and say ‘that doesn’t matter’, for instance.

On a day-to-day basis, I don’t need other people to meet my emotional needs, although I dearly love my wonderful sister and my closest friend. I don’t like being away from him for long, and he feels the same.

Well stated. Yes. :thumbsup:

Romantic love isn’t an illusion, but it also isn’t enough to have a lifelong happy marriage with (unless you plan to die tragically young).

As always, I suggest reading C.S. Lewis’s “The Four Loves,” with special attention to the section on eros. Lewis says that erotic love inspires promises of fidelity and lifelong love, but is not powerful enough to follow through. Only with the help of divine charity can we keep the promises we made under the influence of eros.

I haven’t read the thread yet, but I’ll add that because modern middle and upper middle class marriage requires a very high level of cooperation between spouses, it is if anything more important than in the past that modern middle and upper middle class spouses be compatible and a good match.

Also, today’s nuclear family is often isolated from extended family and the community for a great many reasons (including mobility), so that if one isn’t on good terms with one’s spouse, there’s much more potential for loneliness than in times past.

Current conditions demand stronger marriages to cope with modern life.

When my wife and I were preparing for marriage, our priest, Fr. Francis Martin, (yes, that Francis Martin for those who know) told us that, “It is metaphysically impossible for you to satisfy one another.”

30 years later, I still have no idea what that means but I suspect he was right and that it might be what you’re trying to say, too. :thumbsup:

Yes!

I always mention this when marriage and finances come up, but a personal finance class is a good idea for marriage prep and a monthly budget (a new one every single month) is a very good idea for creating consensus on financial matters and helping to avoid such unpleasantness as unpaid taxes, “surprise” car or large toy purchases, secret credit card accounts, and department store bags stuffed carefully into dark corners of closets.

One doesn’t need to be perfect to have a reasonable marital financial process.

I think it is wrong to assume that our generation is the first to place great value in marrying well. The term “happy wife, happy life” is not a new one.

The bible has many references to the importance of a good wife. Last week’s readings at mass featured one such passage, and there are plenty more.

The importance of the marriage bond is inherent in God’s design for humanity and celebrated in all cultures since time immemorial.

I don’t think you should take the sensible advice to find someone you believe admirable and with whom you share similar views on financial matters and child-rearing as evidence that this person is going to fulfill all of your emotional needs. The assumption is that you will make no important life decisions without this person, helpful or not this person is going to be on the sidelines with you for everything you ever go through, you are going to be mutually helping each other in everything, the two shall become one, and it is better to not make that intimate arrangement any harder than it needs to be.

I do not know when it was that marriage was not seen as more than a business arrangement. There were times when people did not have the luxury of getting too picky because they simply didn’t know that many people, this is true. To remain unmarried would have been hard for widows or widowers with small children or anyone without an extended family to see to their needs in their old age. Marriage was Social Security, yes, so of course people had to look to marriage to fulfill more practical needs than is the case now. The idea was, however, that you could teach yourself to have an affection for any reasonably good person, not that mutual affection was not an integral part of marriage. Affection is very important, but affection can be learned, if you have a will to do it. Choose someone worthy of loyalty, and you can decide to be loyal to them. Choose from among a very limited field, and someone who might be a rather scruffy prospect to some starry-eyed “idealist” who believes she has 6 billion people to choose from might look altogether suitable to you. Chances are, you’ll be more primed to be happy and affectionate with whomever you choose than the “idealist”!

IOW, I don’t think people used to be more “businesslike” about finding a spouse. I think we are now far less willing to content ourselves with someone who is really just as ordinary as we are. People didn’t used to think they “deserved the best” or that they ought to seek and seek until they found some ideal. They were used to choosing from among the available choices and not holding their choices up against some impossible air-brushed romantic standard. That does not mean they didn’t love their spouses as much or more than people in our time do. It means they were much more accepting of the limitations that life imposes and probably better-suited to live and even to enjoy life as it really is. Is life harder to enjoy when you assume it has both feasts and fasts, that it offers a cycle of the expected and unexpected, rather than thinking it is feast after feast after feast? The realistic life is going to be the happier life, if only “realistic” is not meant in some cynical way!

Children are in a different realm. You are obliged to see to their needs; they have no one but you with this obligation. They have rights as human beings, and it is up to you to see that those rights are realized. Their care is a blessing that God has given you–plural, both parents–in stewardship. The two of you are supposed to use this service God has given you to do as part of what he will use to form you according to His own likeness. Your love for your children is meant to deepen your love for each other. The spiritual life is full of these little economies!

If you, Theoretical Person, are looking for a romantic ideal who will take pleasing you (“making you happy”) as their overriding life’s work, then yes, give that up. It is self-centered and grossly unrealistic. It is not fair to your spouse, would not be good for you if you could find it, and in the end a sort of self-idolatry. Look for someone with whom you can share the vocation of marriage by growing in love, affection, and fidelity and jointly doing the work that God has for you to do, helping each other in the process to become saints whom God will bring to Himself in order to enjoy the beatific vision with Him forever. Look for someone who will join with you in looking outward for the service and love you are meant to bring into the world. That’s the real ideal.

I do not know when it was that marriage was not seen as more than a business arrangement. There were times when people did not have the luxury of getting too picky because they simply didn’t know that many people, this is true.

I have seen many people claim this, both on CAF and other forums. That the idea of marrying for love is a very recent development in human society, and that marriage was seen as more of a business arrangement aimed at consolidating property and wealth, especially for upper and middle classes, and that people did not expect any emotional fulfillment at all from their spouses, but sought it from other sources, and that they cared MUCH more about their blood relatives and platonic friends than their spouses.

I’ve even heard that even in many traditionally Christian societies, adultery to fulfill sexual and emotional needs was found to be completely acceptable as long as it was kept discreet – but sometimes, even when it was not (such as kings having “official mistresses” who often had as much or more real power than the legitimate queens).

People didn’t used to think they “deserved the best” or that they ought to seek and seek until they found some ideal. They were used to choosing from among the available choices and not holding their choices up against some impossible air-brushed romantic standard. That does not mean they didn’t love their spouses as much or more than people in our time do.

Well, you seem to be speaking more of lower classes where people often were born, lived, and died in the same small town. But I’ve seen people state that even in lower classes, marriages were seen NOT as a way to fulfill emotional needs, but to obtain a partner to run the family business and co-parent the children with, etc. Not that affection wasn’t present at all, but that for the vast majority of people, it was closer to the level of affection one would feel for a family member or business colleague. (Or, in the parlance of popular culture, a spouse was seen more as a “friend with benefits” than a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”.) That the average person fulfilled most of their emotional needs through either family ties, same-sex friendships, or religion.

I’ve also heard people say that romantic love inevitably fades, and that even “love marriages” cool off to the point where this “storge” type love overshadows the “eros”, and that the reason people were happier in marriages back then, is because they only expected “storge”, not “eros”. Though not all come out and say this, it seems some people actually think everyone was better off back then, and attribute the rise in divorces and broken families not to marriages being unhappier, but people just having unrealistic expectations about how happy marriage is supposed to be.

As I’ve said, I don’t personally believe any of this, but I have noted that sometimes, when posters ask for advice on prospective spouses and admit they don’t feel a “spark”, there is a split between posters who think the “spark” is essential, and those who think it’s not.

Yes.

One more thing–parent-child relationships where the parent treats the child as an emotional replacement for a spouse are generally regarded as being toxic and weird for the child.

It really isn’t too much to ask that one’s spouse be one’s primary confidant and primary ally in dealing with the world. That’s not romantic garbage–that’s rock bottom practicality. If a prospective spouse isn’t at least that, what are they good for?

Yes - primary, but not only. My husband would go mad if I tried to talk “girl talk” with him, and I feel the same way about sports. :smiley:

I often think of the verse about “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17). One of the main goals in marriage should be helping each other become stronger, both spiritually and emotionally.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.