The “M” Word

Letter M

In a recent session of couples counseling, we went back to the basics and asked a simple yet pivotal question: “Why marriage?” Another way of asking, ‘what are we really fighting for/toward here?’

I was a little surprised to be met with blank stares and after a short silence, “I don’t know…”

“Ok, well why relationship at all? Including friendships, family etc.”

“Well, for support, someone to help you get through things, someone to talk to and encourage you…”

“So essentially a friendship is composed of selfless acts and doing life together in this way”.


“And now how about mar…a long term committed relationship.”

“The same thing but even closer than a friendship”.

Spot on. Marriage or a long term committed relationship is comprised of a simple formula that is doing life together with persistent, selfless acts and trusting that the other is inclined to do the same. Of course there is so much more that is involved in marriage; the relationship by nature amps up the level of vulnerability and therefore expectations, defenses and fears. Sometimes navigating these countless other things over the years can make our disposition murky and confusing to say the least.

However, shelving some of the details for just a moment, I found a simplicity and beauty in this minimalist definition of marriage that seems to begin diminishing our seemingly innate tendency toward selfishness: that marriage is a relationship composed of selfless acts while doing life together.

Its brevity makes it an easy standard to remember and hold our intentions up against. Is what I am about to say or do or not say or do to serve my own needs or are they intended to serve my partners?

Sometimes going back to the basics for a while helps challenge us to (re)establish and (re)create the foundation we need to take care of the rest. Find a selfless act that you can do for your significant other today and see how it can change your relationship


Learn more about Phil Zaffos, MA, LPC & Heidi Zaffos, MA, LMFT, LPC and Foundation Counseling .

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