Nov. 5, 2013 at 11:24 AM ET
Seth Adam Smith wrote an unconventional love letter about his wife Kim, published it online Saturday and watched in surprise as the post went viral.
Its popularity probably has something to do with the sentiment that starts the post: “Having been married only a year and a half,” the 27-year-old writes, “I've recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn't for me.”
That’s enough to leave any believer in true love shaking a fist over what seems like a hurtful, dismissive statement. The title of the post, after all, is “Marriage Isn’t For You.”
But what follows is a tender, honest story about how Smith comes to realize that his selfishness played a significant role in the couple’s recent rough patch. Literally, marriage isn’t for you, he says, but for the person with whom you’ve vowed to spend a lifetime.
“It's about…their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams,” Smith writes. “Selfishness demands, ‘What's in it for me?’ while Love asks, ‘What can I give?’”
It was a familiar lesson to Smith, but one that he needed to discover anew.
“Writing this post was the capstone of everything I’d been learning,” Smith told TODAY.com. “Hopefully someone going through a similar experience…will be able to turn around their relationship. That was my hope.”
As Smith explained to TODAY.com, he began to struggle as Kim became ever more dedicated to her graduate studies in theater, which led the couple to relocate to Florida. Feeling isolated, Smith said he began to push Kim away.
Looking back, Smith knows his behavior was defensive, but he couldn’t help it when the tension culminated in an argument. Smith had been expecting this “ticking time bomb,” anticipating a blowout with Kim mustering just as much anger and frustration as he felt.
But that’s not what happened. Kim did what any spouse would find difficult in the same circumstances: She responded with compassion.
That moment reminded Smith of advice his father had shared before the couple had married, when Smith felt “paralyzing fear” about making that lifelong commitment.
“I'm going to make this really simple: marriage isn't for you,” Smith’s father said. "You don't marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy.”
And so Smith turned to the Internet to share his trials in marriage — and his recent triumph.
It’s not the first time he’s revealed a deeply personal experience. Smith, who edits a site called ForwardWalking.com, wrote about depression and a suicide attempt in 2006.
“I realized coming out of that experience that if I wanted to heal, I had to reach out to others, helping others in any capacity,” he said. “At the end of life, that’s what it will boil down to: How many people do you lift?”
Smith has received criticism from some readers who fear that he is forsaking his needs to tend to someone else’s, but he insists that misses the point. Both he and Kim retain their identities — she’s a planner, he’s spontaneous — but nurturing each other only strengthens their capacity to love.
Smith said Kim was touched by the post — and surprised when it went viral and all of her classmates wanted to chat about it.
Smith is just grateful to have learned again the lesson his father taught him.
“The moment that Kim and I shared after that (argument), I wouldn’t want to trade it because it was so beautiful,” he said.