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August 10, 2012

What We Give For Love

In his song "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife" Chris Gantry imagines a long-married woman's nostalgia as she remembers the pleasures of her youth and the boy she might have married, but didn't. He describes her as "the everyday housewife who gave up the good life for me." Marrying him meant that she sacrificed what she might have had. But she probably didn't see it that way at the time. When they married, in her eyes she was choosing the good life. Whatever she gave up, it was done in exchange for something she valued.

Every married person has had occasion to think about the things he or she has given up to accommodate the marriage. These may be little conveniences that don't really matter much, or they may be big dreams that make us wonder about the course of our lives. Whether these sacrifices are large or small, most people would like their spouses to occasionally notice and be grateful. All too often, we end up feeling unappreciated. But how often are we aware of the sacrifices our partners have made for us?

Over the years I have listened to friends describe something they had surrendered for the sake of their spouses or their marriages. Often, the spouse was only vaguely aware of the nature of the sacrifice, because it wasn't discussed, or it was discussed only in terms of "this is what we'll do."

"I would love to go, just once, to one of those beautiful all-inclusive resorts with a big, comfortable bed and parties on the beach. But it'll never happen. Mark thinks that kind of thing is silly, and it has zero appeal for him. The only kind of vacation he is willing to take is camping. I knew that if I married him I would have to go camping a lot."

"For me being Jewish is about personal identity, not religion. I've never been observant and I don't want to be. So when we got married, I agreed that Kelli could raise the children in her religion, and I'm keeping my promise. It's good for my kids to have a religious foundation. But sometimes when my girls come home from Sunday school talking about Jesus and heaven, it feels really strange to me."

"Now that I can't have peanuts sometimes I get the most powerful cravings. It can be almost painful. But I'll never eat them again, because Sandi is allergic, and she's so sensitive I'm afraid that just kissing her with peanut breath could kill her."

"I used to have a lot of fun changing my hairstyles and colors. But I could see that it really bothered Ryan. He likes my hair the way it was when we first met, he says it makes me look like me. And I want to look good for my husband, for him to be happy with what he sees when he looks at me. So now my hair is always the same."

"I knew Bob didn't want to have kids. Making that decision changes your whole life, and I didn't know if I was making the right choice, if I would regret it. But he made me the center of his world, and he loved me so deeply, I was sure that would be enough."

All of these people were happy with their marriages. They had agreed to let go of something, but they believed that what they had made it worthwhile.

Are you able to appreciate how your sacrifice supports your marriage? Do you understand what your spouse has given up in exchange for the good life with you? Have you expressed your gratitude?

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1 smart person said something:

  1. The question about appreciating your own sacrifice was a good one. We are supposed to appreciate the other person, but we need to appreciate ourselves too. If you can see what you are contributing in your marriage it can give you more confidence.

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