Choosing to lose, actually wins in marriage
Marriage is for losers. We arrived at this conclusion when we nearly walked our separate ways, about three years into our marriage. Everything was really fine on the surface. We both had high paying jobs, were treating each other with some level of respect and already were everyone’s favourite couple in our circles.
However, we both have strong personalities in our different ways.
Phindi is highly opinionated and was, at the time, highly energised to challenge everything. We’d argue, even fight, about the most mundane of things.
Mo was equally opinionated, but more passive aggressive. He had the tendency of engaging in indirect expression of hostility through acts such as subtle insults, sullen behaviour, stubbornness and deliberately failing to see through stuff we had agreed upon.
We were both on a mission to be right and win the battles at hand. However, we were oblivious to the fact that, while we were individually winning some battles to be right, we were losing the war. We were losing the fight for marital unity and the goal of achieving oneness in our marriage.
Being highly opinionated is often a code word for “I’m right and you’re wrong!” Once you take such a position, you immediately have a need to defend it. It puts the two of you at odds with one another, and can quickly make you opponents.
In his book, Marriage is for Losers, Dr John Adolph argues that successful marriages are generally made up of couples that understand and accept that to win in their marriages, they would have to be losers. They have to graciously and voluntarily forego certain things they’re rightfully entitled to in an act of unselfishness. They each have to lose their selfishness, lose unforgiving hearts, and lose their emotional baggage to win in their marriages.
In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything in your spouse, listening to their darkest parts with a heart ache rather than a solution. It’s being present in the painful moments with the view to understand than to give five steps to solving them. It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says you’re right and they are wrong. It’s doing what is right and good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego. It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily, even when no apology has been forthcoming. It’s eliminating anything or anyone in your life, even the ones you love, if they are keeping you from turning towards your spouse. It’s seeking peace by accepting the healthy but maddening things about your spouse because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place. It’s accepting that your spouse will never fully understand you. And they will never truly and fully love you unconditionally 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year — as they, like you, are a flawed and broken creature — but you’d still have to embrace them to the end anyway.
Maybe marriage, when it’s lived by two losers in the above context and in a family culture of mutual surrender, is just the training we need to walk through this world, a world that wants to chew you up and spit you out, without the constant fear of getting the short end of the stick. Maybe we need to be formed in such a way that winning — as the world describes it — loses its glamour so we can sacrifice the competition in favour of our beloved. Maybe what we need, really, is to become a bunch of losers in a world that is being torn apart by the competition to
win. If we did that, maybe we’d be able to sleep a little easier at night, look our loved ones in the eyes, forgive and forget, and clap for the people around us.
We think that in a marriage of losers, a synergy happens and all of life can explode into a kind of rebellion that is brighter than the sun. The really good rebellions, the ones that last and make the world a better place, are like that, aren’t they? They heal, they restore, they validate. And, like the sun, their gravitational pull is almost irresistible. In a world where everything around us, even our mindset and socialisation, is pushing us to win, that is a revolution in the purest sense of the word.
There is no such thing as winners and losers in marriage. You either win together, or lose together. Marriage is not about the victory of one and the defeat of the other, but the triumph of the union.
Consider making losing in your marriage a way of life. Rather make it a place where a competition to see who between the two of you can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. If you are to have any competition, let it rather be about who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other.
Such a marriage is bound to form in you, a person who can be mature, humble, merciful, loving, gracious and peaceful. Choosing to lose, actually wins in marriage.
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