Price: Focus on giving in a marriage
There is absolutely no shame in admitting that you don’t know how to do something you have never been taught how to do. And for most of us, how to do marriage falls into that category.
So that’s what I’ve been attempting to address in this column over the past four years. By passing on skills that I have picked up from attending conferences and workshops and from reading books or by having guest authors write the column, I attempt to better equip folks to have a successful marriage.
A successful marriage does not require the skills and expertise of a rocket scientist (or, as Paris Hilton calls it, a “rocket surgeon”). To be fruitful and happy in marriage does, I believe, require a certain mindset, along with a degree of know-how.
One component of a healthy marriage mindset is that it is more important to focus on what you give than what you receive. As children, we often heard the expression "it is better to give than to receive." My hunch is that you didn’t believe that any more than I did. Hopefully, however, with maturity came the realization that this statement is actually true.
One of the best books I read in 2015 was "The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea" by Bob Burg. While the premise is that being a giving person is a smart business strategy, it is absolutely a smart marriage tactic as well.
Marriage is a special relationship in which each one genuinely cares more about their spouse’s welfare than they do their own. As each person does their part of giving, each one finds his or her needs are being met.
I prepared a couple for marriage a few years ago and performed their wedding ceremony. I told the couple and those witnessing the event that you give up certain rights when you decide to get married. I mentioned that among those relinquished rights are the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I’ll never forget the startled looks my remark engendered, as I quickly told them I was just kidding.
I went on to say, however, that when you marry you do give up your right to have things done just your way all the time. Marriage is not Burger King where they claim you can always have your food prepared your way.
Marriage is about creating an "us." It is a perfect place to escape from the trap of self-centeredness that we all must contend with on a regular basis.
I recently heard the expression "ego is not your amigo." I cannot remember where I heard this or in what context in which it was expressed. I do know, however, that it fits well in marriage.
Now, please don’t take this too far. I am not at all suggesting that once you marry you must become a doormat and sacrificially give up all of your wants and desires for the sake of your spouse. What I am suggesting is that you often voluntarily give up your own pursuits for the overall well-being of the partnership.
Unfortunately, not everyone can do this. I’m sure you know people who see life as an opportunity to get whatever they need or want with little or no concern for others. Their motto is "get all you can, can all you get, then sit on the can." I’m happy to say that there are only a few such people in my circle of acquaintances, and they have my deepest pity. It’s just not the way we are designed to be, and such an outlook on life usually indicates deep trauma and hurt somewhere in the individual’s past.
While all generalizations will fail at some point, these people typically struggle in maintaining a successful marriage, not-to-mention relationships with co-workers and others in their lives. If riches and possessions are their definition of success and happiness, they will likely be disappointed and lonely in the end.
Again, I believe these people are the minority among us. I choose to believe that the vast majority of us have matured to the point where we realize it is far better to give than to receive. There is certainly nothing wrong with receiving, so long as it is kept in proper balance with giving. Marriages made up of those who only give and those who only take rarely thrive or survive.
So let me close with a strong recommendation that you give serious thought to what your mate truly wants and needs from you as we close out 2015. One way to find out is for each of you to take a survey at fivelovelanguages.com and hit the "click here to begin" tab. It will only take a few minutes to gain valuable insight into how you differ from each other in key ways and how to best address the other’s needs and concerns.
Again, there is nothing wrong with getting gifts and being on the receiving end of someone’s generosity. If I happen to be on your gift list this year gold bars, a Mercedes or Rolex watch might be fitting — or, maybe not. I believe it is important to let your spouse know precisely what you most want from him or her. I’m just suggesting that if that is your primary drive you are likely not going to have the deep, intimate and close marriage you seek.
Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.