By Candice LeSueur
It has been said that if you want to see where our society currently stands on the social spectrum, look to the popular TV shows that are being aired. I haven’t watched very much television at all the past few years, so I decided to do my research to see what I’ve been missing, and I was amazed with what I found. Do you know how hard it is now to find a TV series based on a family where both husband and wife are raising their family together? You will find plenty of shows with complicated family situations, or without any families at all—just individuals desiring a life of solitude.
Is this really the projection we want for our society?
Gallup trends have revealed that not only are fewer young adults married, but that there are also fewer in committed relationships. Those who are single and not living with anyone have risen from 52% in 2004 to 64% in 2014. Many believe that avoiding committed relationships will bring them more self-gratification and happiness, but wisdom would say otherwise.
We need others in our lives in order to be truly happy.
Dr. Martin Seligman (2002), the father of positive psychology, put it this way:
Very little that is positive is solitary. When was the last time you laughed uproariously? The last time you felt indescribable joy? The last time you sensed profound meaning and purpose? The last time you felt enormously proud of an accomplishment? Even without knowing the particulars of these high points of your life, I know their form: all of them took place around other people.
I remember the joy I felt when I first learned how to dive into our pool, stayed up real late on New Year’s laughing to no end over nothing important, and when I just could not stop smiling while lying under the stars next to our campfire and listening to the strumming of the guitar. All these moments of happiness, and so much more, all have occurred only because of the togetherness I felt from the friends and family I have had around me.
Now, I am not married yet, but the main point I want to make is that I know this idea couldn’t be truer in marriage. Husbands and wives need each other in order to reach this kind of happiness. Brandon Dabling, a Political Theory professor at Brigham Young University, recently taught, “Men and women have a deep and natural longing for each other. Not simply sexual desire, but ‘coupling.’ If you lack that intimacy, then you will not fully flourish.”
If you are married, I’m sure you can recall several moments when you have experienced major growth because of your relationship with your spouse. One of the beauties of having this partner in life is that you will help each other progress in ways that are unattainable in other types of relationships.
Growth and happiness through partnership in marriage can also be learned from a humorous letter Benjamin Franklin (1745) wrote to a friend who was inquiring advice from him on how to choose a mistress. Franklin wisely began his letter by responding:
“My dear Friend,
I know of no Medicine fit to diminish the violent natural Inclinations you mention; and if I did, I think I should not communicate it to you. Marriage is the proper Remedy. It is the most natural State of Man, and therefore the State in which you are most likely to find solid Happiness…It is the Man and Woman united that makes the [complete] human Being.”
To reiterate, the quality of our relationships, especially in marriage, determine our sense of fulfillment and happiness that can never be achieved in isolation. Men and women have each been given gifts they each can bring to a marriage in order to flourish in the way God intended. There is truly a divine reason why He has said that it is not good for man–or woman–to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). If we would like to feel the type of happiness God desires for us to experience, we will find it with our friends and family, and most especially, in our marriage.
I adore the way President Kevin J. Worthen conveyed this topic as he shared his thoughts with the student body at Brigham Young University. To preface his remarks, he noted that the principles he would address applied with full force to marriage: “Heaven is other people. Heaven will be heaven because of the other people who will be there. And experiencing heaven on earth will ultimately depend, to a large degree, on the quality of our relationships with others.”
May we access heaven.