By: L.A. Kohl
October 9, 2006
(published in the Oct. 18, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")
You know, sometimes you have an experience or a discussion when the proverbial “light bulb” seems to flash on all of a sudden. This happened recently when my husband and I were discussing marriage.
I don’t know how or why the topic came up, but for some reason we were discussing how selfless you had to be in order to really make a marriage work. The longer the discussion went on, the more I could see the practicality and logic of it. I’ve now thought about it so much, that I already know one of the first questions I’m going to ask when my daughters or son tell me they’ve found the one they think is “it” – the special someone they want to spend the rest of their life with. I’m not going to say, “So, do you love him?” Instead, I believe the question will be, “Are you ready to take a back seat; are you ready to sometimes give up your wants, are you ready to put a priority on someone else’s needs?”
Not that I think you need to become a doormat once you say, “I do."A marriage should help make you more complete and fulfilled – but it should make you want to serve the other person.
Let me explain what I mean, just from our personal experience, as I know every marriage is unique and different.
I’ve now been married for over 21 years, and if I wanted to get selfish – I could languish in self-pity over all the dirty clothes I’ve had to wash for my husband during those years. Or, all the lunches I’ve packed for him, or all the messes I’ve cleaned up after him, or all the meals I’ve cooked for him. I suppose if I wanted to think only of myself, I could say, “You know what? I’m not your servant girl, and from now on you’re doing those things for yourself.”
What about from his perspective? He’s spent 21 years working his tail off earning a living, only to turn most of it over to me. Sure, the majority of the time I use that money to buy groceries, pay bills, and things that aren’t just for ME – but there are plenty of times when I spend some of it on myself. Wouldn’t he be justified in saying, “Hey, it’s about time you did your fair share around here and started earning a little income yourself!”
Instead (and I know some people will think this is weird) I actually take pleasure in fixing a meal that I know my husband is going to enjoy. And maybe I can’t say I “enjoy” doing his laundry – but it makes me feel good when he’s looking for a specific shirt to wear, and I can say, “Oh, I just washed that for you, its right here.”
Am I repressed or unfulfilled? Do I ever think, “You know, if I weren’t married, I could do whatever I wanted for me, myself and I”? No, I’m honestly very happy and content. There is a deep satisfaction that comes from getting yourself off of center stage, and focusing on another.
What about from his perspective? Is he cheating himself out of all the fun “toys” and hobbies he could have, if he didn’t have to use all of his money to support a wife and children? In reality, he actually enjoys giving me the money to put in the bank every week; he likes being “the provider." And he has fun trying to convince me that I really should go buy something just for myself with some of the extra. He literally does have to convince me most of the time, because I can always think of something that he or the children probably need worse than I need anything.
It’s not something you’re going to hear or read in the media, but I believe it’s one of the most basic fundamentals for a marriage to thrive…put the other person first. You’re not depriving or cheating yourself…rather, you’re investing in your marriage, and a lifetime of love.