“I’ll let you in on a little secret…”
A Professional Tip to Rekindle All Marriages (Struggling or Not)
A friend of mine recently shared that her husband and she were experiencing difficulties in their marriage and had sought the help of a professional counselor. Mic drop.
Her news that the two were having problems was an outright shock to me. I mean talk about a stand-up, amazing couple with wonderful kids and just plain perfect from all outward appearances. Yet, here they were, admitting that even they were not immune to the pitfalls and messiness of marriage & family life. Then she shared what her counselor had tasked them with over the next month. And it also left my mind swirling.
Their therapist was concerned that the generosity between the two of them had taken a nosedive. Both of them spent so much time giving to their children, their home, their extended family, friends, and their jobs, generosity to one another had been slowly and incrementally… overlooked. Generosity is a crucial virtue (AKA character strength) in solid, lasting marriages. It is arguably the most telltale sign of a hardy marital union. According to Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, generosity in marriage is “signaling to your spouse that you know them, and are trying to do things for them that are consistent with your understanding of them.”
“You can always give without loving, but you can never love without giving.”
~Amy Beatrice Carmichael
“So, what now?” I wondered. “They had to start giving each other extravagant gifts, whisking one another away to romantic, secluded locations? Not practical. But that wasn’t what the therapist had in mind at all. It was the little acts of kindness that they were supposed to complete, ones that required no shopping sprees, or credit cards. They were to each provide a no-strings-attached gift from one to the other once a week for four weeks. It could be something homemade, or an act of service, a heartwarming gesture, but it must be from one spouse to the other—not for anyone else. For instance, a home-cooked meal would work, but if the only recipient was the spouse. There was no double-duty gift-giving allowed. You made homemade pizza for the whole family? Great, but it wouldn’t technically count since everyone else enjoyed the gift. It must be personal and the spouse must be singled out as the target of this generosity arrow.
Sounds easy enough, but… they were both stumped. It had been so long—since their dating days, more than a decade earlier, that they had given just for the sake of pleasing the other. Each week, they were to ponder what gift they could give to benefit and bless their spouse. The task was meant to lead to real thoughtfulness as to what the other appreciated and needed, what brightened his/her day. In effect, it wasn’t just the actual gift, but the time spent thinking with a giving spirit that was intended to increase their generosity for one another.
When I spoke to my friend, they were halfway through their giving exercise. They had given each other two gifts each. And this is when she leaned in to say, “I’ll let you in on a little secret… it has already been life-changing.” They had both been so excited by the thoughtfulness and intentionality of the other’s gifts, they had ended up going above and beyond. They weren’t just looking to check the box of providing a gift—they found themselves looking for little opportunities each day to be giving to the other. They were more generous with smiles, hugs, greetings, chores… She confided in all the big plans she had for her husband in the days ahead. My friend is pretty optimistic about the future of her marriage.
We’re heading into the dreaded gift-giving season. Ok, I can’t be the only one who is overwhelmed by all the to-do’s that our penchant for over-the-top, unique gifts creates…
What if this year, we chose to focus on increasing true generosity in our marriages? What if we chose to give to one another in a way that required no money and no strings? Instead of unwrapping expensive shaving cream or bath bombs, what if we focused our generosity on thoughtful acts of love for one another?
I don’t know about you, but after hearing about my friends’ amazing results, my shopping list just got a whole lot shorter. I’ve already begun thinking about ways I can express true generosity to the amazing, honorable man who many moons ago swept me off my feet and set my world spinning… Maybe I’ll start with having him read this.
Looking for even more great ideas to boost generosity in your #1 relationship?
Love and family life are wild adventures that can occasionally cause us to lose our way. The Adventure into Character subscription box is what your family needs to forge a new path to even more love and understanding. Our bi-monthly boxes are loaded with fun activities, prompts, journals, and inspiration to lead your family to their north star—a stronger marriage, more cooperation, and less fighting. Included in each kit is a Date Night Passport designed to tap into more generosity, respect, gratitude, and more in your marriage. Talk about an amazing gift for your children!
If you have an issue you’d like our help with, drop us a line at Hello@FamiliesofCharacter.com. If you’re experiencing a problem, chances are thousands of other families are in the same boat. We’re ALL in this parenting boat together!
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