Frequently going above and beyond the bare minimum will shift the atmosphere in your marriage.
Please excuse my sparse posting of late. A week in Italy (yeah, I know, rough life), a holiday weekend and a mad crazy week preparing to go on two-and-a-half week vacation (really rough life!) had combined to dramatically limit my writing time. But I’ve been keeping notes on things that have struck me over the past few weeks and should be able to post much more regularly from the beach. Well, not literally from the beach – sand and computers really don’t mix!
Today’s post was inspired by one I read last week, “How Little Can I Get By With,” from The Generous Husband. In it, Paul Byerly describes the tendency we can have to do the bare minimum that we can get away with.
In marriage, giving only the bare minimum is almost certainly going to poison the atmosphere in your relationship and damage the level of trust and intimacy between you. Giving the bare minimum communicates to your spouse that your own needs and wants are more important than theirs.
It essentially says to them, “I don’t love you as much as I love me.”
That may sound harsh or judgmental. It’s not meant to be. It’s just that when you develop a pattern of just barely meeting your spouse’s needs, of only giving in when they beg or demand it, or of withholding your full effort and attention, it invites them to do the same toward you. A cycle of selfishness can ensue, which will have lasting negative consequences for your marriage. A good-willed spouse may still be generous toward you for a while, even if you don’t reciprocate, but inevitably, it’s a formula for marital disaster.
And Then Some
Instead, I encourage you to adopt the attitude of doing what they ask or desire “and then some.” It’s this Kingdom principle that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5:41, when he says, “If someone compels you to go a mile, go with him two.” In the context of that verse, he is actually speaking of those who do evil against you. How much more should the principle of “and them some” be the guiding one in how you give to one whom you profess to love?
When you give to your spouse that extra measure of devotion, when you give of your time and attention extravagantly, or when you show love to them way above what you deem adequate, you start to create an atmosphere of selflessness that is contagious.
“I’ll Try” Is Not Enough
Marriage blogger Stu Gray has a new website where he and his wife are podcasting weekly about marriage. I’ve only had time to listen to one episode so far, but from what I can tell this is going to be a great marriage resource.
Imagine a wedding where the Bride and Groom instead of confirming their wedding vows with an “I Do,” offer meekly an “I’ll Try!” Not many marriages would last if trying is all they’re aiming for. Anyone can try – the marriages who don’t simply try, but hold their vows even through the blazing fire of conflict will be welded together in the heat and become stronger as a result. They are resolved to succeed, not merely t.r.y
She explains how an “I’ll try” answer instead of an enthusiastic “I do” or “yes, absolutely” tells your spouse that you either haven’t really heard them or you don’t really care about their request. Both equally bad!
If your response to my urging you to meet your spouse’s needs “and then some” has you thinking “I’ll try,” then think again.
Shifting the atmosphere in your marriage to one of outdoing one another by generously and consistently delighting one another will take more than an “I’ll try” attitude. It will require dedication and deliberate attention to the task. But you can do it if you really want to. This is not beyond your ability, and it is largely up to you to decide.
Believe me when I say that it will pay huge dividends in your marriage.
Reaping the Harvest of Generosity
Here’s a related encouragement from the Apostle Paul:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.Galatians 6:9-10
I would add the marital qualifier, “especially to your spouse.” We have a biblical promise that if we practice the habit of generosity in our marriages, we will eventually see the fruit of our efforts blossom into a harvest of things like:
- Your spouse will feel loved and honored
- You will have the satisfaction of knowing you have loved them well
- You will make it easier for your spouse to be generous in return
- You will create tremendous positive momentum in the level of trust, intimacy, and peace in your home
Having a Culture of Honor
The Apostle Paul reminds us of the link between love and honor:
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.Romans 12:10
When you develop a habit of giving much more than the minimum, you honor your spouse. Does your husband or wife feel a sense of honor from you in your words and actions? Do they know that their needs are more important than your own as a result of your efforts and attitudes? Are you brave enough to ask them such questions?
What would the atmosphere in your relationship be like if you both strived to outdo one another in showing honor, respect, and deference to each other? How would your marriage be transformed if you both subscribed to the idea of giving “and then some?”
Trust me, it would be amazing!
If you want to create positive, joyful, god-honoring momentum in your marriage, take a pledge to do “and them some” for a month. See if what I say isn’t true.