There’s no shortage of advice for you when you want to fight for your marriage. But what advice will really make the difference, and lead to a marriage that not only survives, but thrives?
As Christians, we have the secret ingredient. The special sauce, so to speak.
Ok, I won’t leave you hanging any longer. The special sauce, the secret ingredient, is sacrifice.
No, that’s not advice you’ll find in a lot of places, but it’s the advice Christ gives us, and it’s the advice that will build love in your marriage. Author Lori D. Lowe writes of one couple she interviewed, and the love lessons they share.
Many of us will say we aren’t materialistic, but we love to shop every weekend. We would love to get new furniture, a nicer car, or a bigger house. Maybe we even save up so we can spend on these big-ticket items as often as we can. When we earn more, we are excited to spend more. The Johnstons, on the other hand, committed early in their marriage to be satisfied with what they had and to earmark extra earnings for charity rather than for increasing their lifestyle level.
One of the reasons they did this is they were involved in mission work in other countries. They met people who were exceedingly happy despite their extreme levels of poverty, and they understood that joy does not come from things. Instead, they find joy from being generous and sacrificial to others.
Over time, they also learned how to take this sacrificial mindset that is modeled by Jesus and be more giving and sacrificial to one another. They learned to give in more, instead of insisting on being right. They make daily efforts to please one another, and work to ensure the other is fulfilled. For example, Phil is a physician but makes time to be in a symphonic choir, and Margaret is a retired teacher who receives fulfillment in the garden and in volunteer work. They encourage others in their faith lives and marriages. They work to improve their communication.
And they have found the more they give of themselves, the more their cups are filled back up. They call this the paradox of giving, the fact that we get more by giving more. Happiness research has shown that volunteering and generosity add to our happiness, so they aren’t the only ones to discover this concept.
The lesson they teach through their personal story is that love is sacrificial, and that we need to create a cycle of giving (inside and outside of our families). Christians understand the ultimate example of sacrifice, but it can be difficult to live counter to our culture, which tells us we should give in order to get. Our culture, particularly in America, tells us that freedom and the pursuit of happiness are the highest ideals. Love is often presented in our culture as a romantic notion where we are expected to be constantly happy. How do you define your own values? How do you choose to live them out?
The good news is that living a life of sacrifice and love is not demeaning or sad. It’s ultimately the most joyful and rewarding of choices. Deep down we all want to love and to be loved. Placing your spouse’s needs above yours can be difficult sometimes, but often that act of love pays you tremendous dividends in your marital happiness.
It may be the least-hidden secret around, but it’s a secret many miss. By seeking sacrifice, you can fight for your marriage and your marriage will thrive.
Lori D. Lowe is author of “First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage,” which will be released December 8.