Tolkien Speaks: The Secret to a Happy Marriage

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A letter he wrote to his son shows a different side of the Lord of the Rings author

The essence of love is an act of the will. Feelings come and go in marriage. Those with happy marriages are those who choose—choose to love their wives more than themselves, who choose to sacrifice their short-term desires for long-term happiness, who choose to give instead of to take.

And you know what? When you choose to be faithful, happiness inevitably follows. So many give up when things become difficult—at the very moment when, if they would simply choose to be faithful and fight, they would find real happiness waiting at the end of the struggle. As another happily married Catholic, G.K. Chesterton, once wrote, “I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.”

True joy and lasting happiness in marriage are possible. Countless marriages, including Tolkien’s, prove that fact. But we will never find this joy if we are focused on ourselves. The paradox is that you must forget yourself to find the happiness that you seek.

Men, if you want a faithful and happy marriage, you must die to yourself. You must put your wife first. You must love her through sacrifice and self-denial—the same way Christ loved his bride, the Church. This is the simple secret so many miss.

Sam Guzman is the founder and editor of the Catholic Gentleman where this article was originally published. It is reprinted here with permission.   

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