Two weeks ago, we claimed that equality in marriage did not mean sameness, and last week we said that marital disagreements could actually be a good thing. This week we may make an even more startling claim in saying that unity may be more important to society than individuality and that marriage and family can often be more important than personal fulfillment.

We live in an age and a place where individual rights are almost worshiped. Our legal system is designed to protect those rights, and our culture makes heroes of those who are "true to themselves" or who "live their personal dream" even when it may damage relationships or hurt those they love.

An example might be a woman who "finally does something for herself" by having an affair and leaving her husband and children for someone who "fulfills her" or who "gives her space and respects her need to find her deeper reality." We recently heard of another example in a husband and father who felt he was brave by being "true to himself" by coming out of the closet as a gay man and leaving his family for a partner with which he felt he could "find his real identity."

The point is that too much focus or value being placed on the needs and wants and rights of the individual can lead to selfishness and to putting commitments and relationships in second place and behind "number one."

Before any of us go too far down that "individual" path, perhaps we should ask ourselves some "what if" questions (all of them are debatable, but all are worth thinking about):

What if happiness has more to do with fulfilling someone else that with fulfilling one's self?

What if commitment and fidelity are what allow people to grow more in love over time?

What if a man is not a perfectible entity, nor a woman, but a married couple is?

What if there is something to the idea of the yin and the yang being the two necessary parts of one whole?

What if you actually have more power to influence the happiness of your spouse than that of yourself? And what if he or she has more power to influence your happiness than you do?

What if hanging in there and getting help and trying harder were a better strategy than cut and run?

What if a more complete re-commitment could actually simplify and de-stress and sure up a marriage you thought was beyond repair?

What if prayer together could actually change your hearts?

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What if you really did fall in love with each other once and could do it again?

What if what you do with your life together is more important than what you do individually?

None of this is to say that marriage is the only way to live, or that single individuals cannot accomplish and contribute in powerful and marvelous ways. What we are trying to say is that maybe those of us who are married could value it more and perhaps would even get better results by prioritizing the union and the spouse more than the self.

The Eyres' new book, "5 Spiritual Solutions for Everyday Parenting Challenges," is now available in stores and at www, Richard and Linda are the parents of nine children and, by coincidence, the authors of nine internationally distributed parenting and life-balance books, one of which was the first parenting book in 50 years to reach No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. They lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at or and read their blog at Give feedback at

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