In marriage, it really is better to give…

          You’ve heard the expression “where’s there’s a will, there’s a way.” I recently heard a take-off on that which says “where there’s a will, I want to be in it.” Actually, that has nothing whatsoever to do with today’s column – I just thought it was funny. It did, however, come to me from the same source as the following. I read a quote attributed to Bryan White who said: “we never really grow up – we just learn how to behave in public.” I think for one gender that is even truer than for the other. I know in my own case when people ask me where I grew up, I typically reply “I’m trying to do it in Farmington.”

I don’t mind being an adult and I think I usually act like one, but why would anyone want to grow up? What does that leave for you to accomplish and experience?

At any rate, maturity is perhaps a better goal for all of us to pursue and one that might never be completely reached in this lifetime. I believe one sign of maturity is how well you accept the notion that it is better to give than to receive. We all know children, and some less mature adults, who think that is likely the dumbest statement they ever heard.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many marriage partners who agree that statement is farcical at best and ridiculous at worst. But may I suggest that the best marriages are those where each partner subscribes to the truth and reality that bringing pleasure to someone else is even greater than receiving it yourself.

So even though Christmas, the season when our collective thoughts turn to giving is still a few months away let me make some suggestions for appropriate gifts to give to your spouse now and throughout the year.

Wives, you may consider giving your husband respect since it is way high on his most-needed-from-you list. Most if not all, men hunger to be respected – especially by the main woman in their life. Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, co-authors of the For Men Only, For Women Only and For Couples Only books,  quizzed 1,000’s of men and asked if they would rather be loved or respected. By a wide margin, the answer was respected.

This likely comes as a surprise to most women for when they are asked the same question, the vast majority reply they want to be loved. So, guys, you want to guess my suggestion for what you might give your bride this year?

Now I know that men do not always act in a manner worthy of respect and that loving a woman at times can be akin to hugging a cactus. But it’s also true that when a man is treated with respect, he tends to act more respectably, and when a woman feels loved, she responds in a more loving fashion.

Please don’t fall into the trap which Emerson Eggerich calls the “Crazy Cycle.” In his bestselling book “Love and Respect” DR Eggerich makes the case that if a man feels disrespected by his wife, he will withhold love from her, and when a woman feels unloved by her husband, she will not be able to respect him. No love leads to no respect, and no respect leads to no love and on and on and on. Not only is this a “Crazy Cycle,” it is also likely a death knell to the marriage if not corrected.

Some of you may be thinking all this sounds good in theory, but how can I love or respect someone when I don’t feel like it? My simple answer to that dilemma is that you decide to override your feelings and do what you know is right. Far too often we let our feelings make our decisions and we typically then live with the negative consequences therefrom.

Love, you may have heard, is a decision as well as an emotion. I believe the same may be said for respect. You really can choose to love and respect someone. As you then act out your choice, you will typically find your emotions will catch up in time. By deciding to love and/or respect someone you are choosing to look for those qualities which are love and respect worthy. You’re not blinding yourself to the negative. You’re just choosing to give more weight to the positive.

In this way, you are living what Dr. Bill Dougherty, author of Take Back Your Marriage and other excellent books, calls an “Intentional Marriage.”

By the way, I really resonate with Dr Dougherty when he says on his website that “The only thing that rivals parenting for sheer challenge in today’s world is marriage, which holds our fondest hopes and our worst fears about the permanence of relationships in life.” He goes on to state that “a   core part of my mission is to restore a culture of hope about marriage by showing how couples can be intentional about their marriage and by promoting community and cultural support for marriage.” And how true is his next thought that “we have to do marriage better for our sake and for our children.”

Dr. Dougherty well sums up our passion and purpose at the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family where we endeavor to help marriages thrive in our area. If you feel any interest or desire to be a part of this, and to add your talents and resources, I would love to speak more in depth with you. Please give me a call and we can further that discussion.

In the meantime, let me be the first to wish you a very early Merry Christmas and let me encourage you to consider well what you might give your spouse this year as a meaningful and much appreciated present. I’ve got some other suggestions, which do not cost money, to go along with love and respect. Let’s meet here again next week and I’ll share them with you.

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.