Recently, TV talk show host Oprah interviewed Kristin Armstrong, former wife of champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, on "The Truth About Marriage." In the hour-long show, Armstrong warns against marriage's ability to erode your self-identity.
In a Glamour magazine article, Armstrong declares:
"Here is the truth as I see it: Marriage has the potential to erode the very fiber of your identity. If you aren't careful, it can tempt you to become a 'yes woman' for the sake of salvaging your romantic dream. It can lure you into a pattern of pleasing that will turn you into someone you'll hardly recognize and probably won't like. I am warning you because I only wish someone had warned me...If I were to do things over again, I wouldn't have thrown myself so irrevocably into my new life. I would have guarded the things that made me feel like me."
I didn't see the show, but Suzanne Venker did. She gives an insightful response to Armstrong's interview and magazine article. The problem isn't marriage; rather, she says, it's our view of it:
"No doubt her heart is in the right place, and she has at least recognized that something is amiss in modern marriage. Unfortunately, her revelation isn’t revelatory. Today’s wives are not losing their identities in droves. [Feminist Betty] Friedan hit that nerve some forty years ago, and the drum has been beaten to death; it is a danger that women today are quite alert to.
The real conspiracy — though I don’t believe the neglect is sinister, and thus perhaps “conspiracy” isn’t the word — is the silence about how hard marriage is. Not only does being married involve sacrifice that is sometimes overwhelming; it is also not, as we are taught, about being in love. It’s much more about practicality and usefulness than we wish it were."
No doubt marriage is hard. It precisely difficult because, as Mike Mason writes in his classic book The Mystery of Marriage, "A marriage is not a joining of two worlds, but an abandoning of two worlds in order that one new one might be formed" (p. 91).
Christian marriage requires that I give up my rights to self. But in so doing, something beautiful happens. Through the hard work of marriage, self gets transformed. It's akin to the demand and promise of Jesus in Mark 8:34-35--those who give up their life surprisingly find that they've gained it.
That's the ideal. That's the aim.
Reality--and the work--is awaiting me when I get home to the wife and kids.