Marriage is a give and take relationship. Giving and taking is important to the health of a relationship. We’ll discuss why giving and taking is important to marriage, and provide practical ways to give to your spouse.
Marriage is a relationship that is based on trust, generosity, and respect. It creates a close, intimate bond between two people who are committed to being a team. A couple’s love grows as they learn to give and take to each other.
Life is a balance … you need to be able to give and take.
For example, if you always take but never give, then you are not giving back to your marriage what you are taking. If you only give but never take, then you are not receiving what you need from the relationship.
Before we jump in to discuss the ins and outs of giving and taking in a relationship, I have a story to tell. Actually, it’s not my story. It’s from John Forde. But it applies to our topic.
John Forde Applies For A Credit Card
John Forde recently wrote about his experience in trying to get a business credit card.
I tell you his story because it has an important (and insightful) lesson about relationships.
I’ll let him tell it in his own words:
I always enjoy John’s writing. But this story is very applicable to marriage.
Giving and Receiving in Marriage
What does it mean to give and receive?
It means we should each be willing to sacrifice our own needs for the benefit of another person. It also means that when one partner gives something to the other, they are receiving some kind of benefit from it as well.
Exchange vs Communal Thinking
Studies show those who view relationships as a strict ‘exchange’ (much like a transaction in a store – I give you money, you give my stuff) experience less joy and satisfaction than those who view relationships as a communal bond.
When we people as ‘things’ and we approach our relationship as a way to get something from someone, it breeds an attitude of manipulation and control. We want to ‘work their emotions to get them to do what we want. This rarely works. At least, not in the long term.
My wife calls this transactional relationship. Everything is viewed as a transaction to get what you want.
However, when we view our relationships as communal (common ground so we can all survive, thrive, and succeed), instead of manipulating others, we share our lives so we can all progress.
There is a huge difference between the two perspectives.
For more on this concept, watch our video on ‘People with No Elbows.’
Why is this important?
When you give something to someone else, you are not only helping them out, but you are also showing them how much you care about them. This can help build trust between partners.
How do I know if I’m giving or getting too much?
If you feel like you’re always giving more than you get, then you may need to work on balancing your giving and receiving.
Its Okay To Give To Get
Some people don’t like the concept of “giving to get.” Even though I agree that this can be manipulative when used for the wrong reasons, it can also be an important part of a healthy relationship.
I explain in more detail below why this is so.
Marriage Is Not Only About Giving
I’m sure you’ve heard people say, ‘Marriage is a 50-50 exchange.’ I disagree. It is a 100% commitment.
This, however, doesn’t mean you ONLY give and never receive. Marriage is about giving. And receiving.
Give and take implies both parties need to give. It doesn’t mean one party can do all the giving and the other receive.
When one spouse always gives and never receives it can lead to resentment, bitterness, and even divorce.
Giving and receiving are part of healthy relationships. You don’t have to be perfect at this. Just try to do what you think is right, and make sure that you are doing something for your partner when they do things for you.
Learning to receive accomplishes four (4) things:
1) Learning to Receive Ensures Our Needs Are Met
If we are honest, we all have needs and desire something from our marriage. My guess is you would not have gotten married in the first place if there wasn’t some value the relationship brought to your life.
This doesn’t make you selfish or immoral. It makes you human.
I love my wife. Would do anything for her. But I also enjoy my relationship with her because she adds value to my life – she makes my world better.
No. That’s not the ONLY reason I love her. Or married her. But it is one reason.
There are many needs we have as individuals and couples. Spiritual needs (union and unity). Physical needs (intimacy and connection). Emotional and mental needs (love and stimulation).
Marriage should be the testing ground to have those needs met. While our spouse can’t be our ‘all in all’ (in my opinion God is the only one capable of holding that position), they are the primary (earthly) source for those needs to be addressed.
This means we must learn HOW to receive from our spouse.
It’s as important as how to give.
2) Learning to Receive Allows Our Spouse The Joy Of Giving
The Apostle Paul quotes Jesus to say: (Acts 20:35)
It is better to give than to receive.
I believe this is a universal principle of life.
We find our highest good when we serve others – when we give.We find our highest good when we serve others – when we give. Click To Tweet
This flies in the face of contemporary culture which seems bent on self-satisfaction. Yet, it’s true.
Have you ever been around someone who was constantly complaining?
They were always negative, critical, and judgmental. They seemed to live their lives by the motto, “You’re getting nothing out of me.”
That person didn’t seem happy.
They just wanted to be left alone.
But when you ask them why they are unhappy, they will tell you, “Because no one wants to help me!”
In contrast, when you ask someone who is positive and upbeat, they will tell you that they are blessed because they have so much to share with others.
They feel like they are making a difference in people’s lives.
And they are happier.
See also: Does Your Spouse Feel Valued?
3) Learning To Receive Sets Healthy Boundaries
A healthy marriage can be defined as “an intimate, harmonious relationship built on mutual respect, trust, and support.” It is a partnership— not a competition.
One of the most common mistakes couples make is trying to compete against each other instead of working together.
I played sports in high school. Whether baseball, basketball, or football, each sport had its rules and boundaries that kept the game ‘playable.’
Imagine trying to play a game that had no rules or boundaries. It wouldn’t be much fun if you never knew what was fair or unfair. If there was no end zone, you wouldn’t know when you scored. Or if there were no bases, you would not know where to run when you hit the ball.
Boundaries make sure the game is fun. That you know when things are right, and when things are wrong.
It’s the same with marriage.
Boundaries are borders that keep marriage moving in the right direction. They shouldn’t be designed as borders to keep our spouse away; rather they are guidelines to make sure we are serving our spouse in healthy ways.
Learning to give and take keeps us operating within the right boundaries.
4) Learning To Receive Avoids Enmeshed Relationships
Enmeshed relationships are one-sided. They happen when one partner does all the giving, and the other does all the receiving. Many times they are created by co-dependent people who fail to establish boundaries or who have an unbalanced need to be liked.
One psychologist put it this way:
They don’t do anything the other one would disapprove of, and they feel responsible for managing each other’s problems and feelings. It is all we, and no me. They often do not have independent friendships outside the relationship. Either the friend is ‘our friend,’ or they are not a friend.
This type of enmeshing is unhealthy and ultimately unfruitful for your relationship.
My wife is my BEST friend, but she is not my ONLY friend.
Learning to give and receive helps us maintain balance in our marriage.
Marriage Is Not Just About Taking
There’s no doubt that giving in marriage is an important part of a happy life together.
But there is a big difference between ‘receiving’ and being selfish.
Selfishness is when you focus on yourself first at the expense of meeting your spouse’s needs.
Becoming a giver in relationships teaches us four (4) things:
1) Giving Teaches Us The Principle of Reciprocity
Everything in life operates on the principle of reciprocity.
According to Merriam-Webster, reciprocity simply means:
- mutual dependence, action, or influence.
- a mutual exchange of privileges specifically
It is the law of sowing and reaping. You get out of life what you put into life.
Think about a farmer who desires to have a crop at the end of the year. What is required of him in order to reap the harvest he wants?
He has to plant a seed in the ground. There is no crop without a seed. And no growth without planting.
This applies in almost every aspect of life.
For example, if you want a friend, be a friend. That’s how it works.The big question is, based on what you are currently sowing into your relationship, what crop will you reap in the future? Click To Tweet
It doesn’t matter how much you complain, cry, or beg, the way to friendship is to give friendship.
When we give, we are practicing this universal principle. We are planting something in the ground of our marriage that will turn into a harvest.
The big question is, based on what you are currently sowing into your relationship, what crop will you reap in the future?
2) Giving Breaks Self-Centeredness
In a dissertation titled, The Paradox of Selfishness, Jaqueline Granja discusses why utopian societies never last.
The sacrifice made by these communities in order to keep their society perfectly happy turns out to be fruitless. Their ideas of how society should function are doomed to fail, because people are
inherently prone to selfishness and often engage in evil. This, paradoxically, condemns them
The irony is the more we try to be happy, the less happy we really are. Instead of pursuing happiness as an end goal, it is better to seek a life of meaning. When we strive to build our lives on purpose and meaning, we discover true joy.
Learning to give helps us shift this focus from self-centeredness to meaning and purpose.
The arena of marriage is the best place to put this into practice. When we give to our spouse, we break the chains of being self-serving.
3) Giving Produces Internal Joy
This goes along with the previous point. The more we strive to be happy, it seems the less happy we really are.
As a Christian, I believe we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). God reveals Himself in scripture as a God who loves us, wants the best for us, and ultimately GAVE His Son for us.
This is not meant to be a sermon or Bible lesson. I say this to make a point: Since we are created in the image of God, and God is a giver by nature, we are truly ourselves when we act in the image of God. When we give, we are most like God, therefore, we are most happy.Since we are created in the image of God, and God is a giver by nature, we are truly ourselves when we act in the image of God. Click To Tweet
This seems to be a principle of life.
4) Giving Increases Our Self Worth
Jorge Moll (National Institutes of Health) conducted a study in 2006 that when people donate their time and/or money to charity, they activate parts of the brain associated with feelings such as pleasure, social connection, trust, gratitude, hope, pride, compassion, empathy, joy, and awe.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, asked participants in a study to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks. She discovered similar results. Poeple who did selfless acts of kindness exemplified great sense of well-being.
I am sure there are many other studies that support this concept. However, the point is, if we feel good about ourselves, then we have increased our capacity to love others. We are able to see the world through the eyes of another person rather than just our own.
This translates into a balanced, healthy, and happy marriage.
Marriage Is About Give and Take
A wise person once said, ‘Balance is the key to life.’
It certainly appears to be that way in marriage. Especially in terms of learning to give and take in our relationship.
Many couples fail to walk this delicate balance between giving ourselves to our spouse and learning to receive from our partner. It’s this balance that keeps life in proper tension.
Imagine a tightrope across Niagra Falls. The only way to cross the tightrope is for the rope to have proper tension. Without it, the rope collapses.
The tightrope of marriage is held in balance by learning to give and take in our relationship.
Married life is intended to be good. But to experience good requires that we learn to give and take in our relationship.
In this article we discussed what it means to give and take, and practical ways we can apply this to our marriage.
- Giving and Receiving in Marriage
- Exchange vs Communal Thinking
- Marriage Is Not Only About Giving
- Marriage Is Not Just About Taking
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If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.