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Family Talk: It's not always the 'happy couple'

In some cases, people will ditch the idea of a bride or groom and just marry themselves. [PHOTO BY JEFFREY HAMILTON, THINKSTOCK]

In some cases, people will ditch the idea of a bride or groom and just marry themselves. [PHOTO BY JEFFREY HAMILTON, THINKSTOCK]

While reading an international newspaper recently, an article caught my attention. It was a report of an Italian woman, Laura Mesi, who married herself. That's right. She married herself, complete with a white wedding dress, cake, bridesmaids and about 70 guests.

Mesi stated, “I told my relatives and friends that if I had not found my soul mate I would marry myself by my 40th birthday. If tomorrow I find a man to build a future with, I will be happy, but my happiness will not depend on him.”

Mesi's ceremony piqued my curiosity and, after a little research, I was stunned to find that marrying yourself has become a “thing” over the past 20 years. Both men and women have done it, but it appears to be much more frequent among women. There's even a website called "I Married Me," which sells self-wedding kits and announces, “A self-wedding is a symbolic ceremony — about reconnecting and staying connected with you. Wear the ring to remind you every day to love yourself.”

I do think people need to love themselves, without becoming self-infatuated, of course. But the concept of sologamy strikes me as self-love gone awry. Mesi's statement that her happiness should not depend on a groom is accurate, but it hints that her happiness will now be found in herself. That's where sologamy misses the boat.

Marriage is not about seeking or finding “happiness,” either in yourself or in someone else. While happiness is often a byproduct of a healthy relationship, there's often a good dose of unhappiness that gets mixed in, as well. The unspoken truth is that marriage is about much more than happiness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew this. A German theologian who was imprisoned and executed for his part in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Bonhoeffer never married. But he recorded insightful reflections about the meaning of marriage while in his cell at Teleg Prison in 1943. Writing to his engaged niece, Renate Schleicher, and her fiance, Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer said:

Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God's holy ordinance, through which He wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love, you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal — it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.

Sologamy seems to be about self and happiness. Marriage, Bonhoeffer says, is “a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind.” I wonder how the world might be made better if we started viewing marriage as a responsibility more than a means of self-seeking happiness.

Note: A previous "Family Talk" column offering humorous suggestions for those considering parenting failed to reference a source, "The String & Octopus Guide to Parenthood" by Colin Bowles.

Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at jpriest@sunbeamfamilyservices.org.

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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