The Give and Take of Marriage

Feel like you have two left feet when it comes to the dance between you and your mate? Does the waltz of love in your relationship feel like the Paso Doble gone awry? You probably aren’t alone! Marriage counselors have no lack of job security.

Given that Valentine’s Day is nearly here, many couples take a look back on last year and look ahead to what they want their relationships to look like in the year to come. Each relationship has its ups and downs and we all hope for more ups than downs. So, how do we set the stage for success?

Check your balance. Not of your checkbook (although many arguments in a marriage can be triggered by “discussions” about money). Check your relationship bank account. If every relationship ran like a bank account, it would hopefully have more deposits than withdrawals. We all know what happens when we make fewer deposits than withdrawals—we overdraw our account and accrue some serious overdraft charges. The same can be true in our marriage relationships.

Ever heard it said, “For every negative thing you say, you need to say seven nice things to balance it out”? Well, if you take a look at your marriage, there is probably more truth in this statement than you might realize. There has to be a balance of give and take in your marriage. If you do more taking than giving, you’re missing out on the blessings you receive when you give to your spouse. If you do more giving than taking, you may end up resenting your spouse. You have to find a balance.

There are plenty of opportunities to practice this give and take approach. Look around at the household chores. If you say, “I don’t clean bathrooms and I certainly don’t do toilets” that automatically means your spouse gets the job whether he/she wants it or not. If you say, “That’s a man’s job” or “That’s a woman’s job” you are consequentially assigning your spouse to responsibilities he/she may not truly be suited for, possibly laying the groundwork for bitterness. Look for ways to divide and conquer together. If he mows the lawn, don’t complain if it’s not done to your liking and take him a glass of water or lemonade. If she takes the job of cleaning the bathrooms, compliment her work and try to keep things picked up and clean to make her job a little easier.

Look for ways to give and take with your kids. If one person is always the parent to get them up and moving and off to school in the morning, the other person can look for ways to help with the homework or bed time routine. If one person had to be the heavy in the discipline department during the last incident, the other person can step up to the plate the next time. If you know your spouse has had a rough day at the office, step up to wrangle the kids that night and maybe he/she will do the same the next time you come home exhausted.

Try outgiving your spouse and do it without drawing attention to it or asking for appreciation. Odds are, your spouse will notice and want to return the favor. Now, who wouldn’t want that as a gift for Valentine’s Day?

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