Last week the kids were finally in bed, and my husband and I sat down to talk. This is our pattern. The kids are in bed, but they are not asleep. If you have little ones at home then you know that means they will be out a combined total of 1.2 million times before they finally go to sleep. We often use this time to catch up on the day while we wait for that blessed moment when they are finally both asleep. As we sat and talked, my husband said, “I have a crazy idea that I want to run by you.” Hmmm – a crazy idea could be really good, or really bad. I waited for the details. What he shared with me was that a church leadership conference that he had always wanted to go to was going to be coming to a city we used to live in this fall. That meant that not only could he go to this conference he was so excited about, but he could go with a good friend of his that he used to work with. The problem was that it would be over the days that I work, which would create a childcare issues. Our schedules now are that when I’m at work, my husband is with the kids, and vice versa, so childcare can become a big deal. He waited for my response.
Five years ago I would have immediately said no. I would have had a ready list of everything that made him going to that conference really difficult. Five years ago we may have talked it over for a while, and eventually decided yes together, but it would have taken a lot of convincing on my part to support this dream he had.
Last week? Last week my response was, “Sure! Let’s talk about how we can make it work!”
What was the change?
It was simple really – we have grown in our marriage over the past few years in generosity. We have made a conscious decision to find ways to say yes more often in our relationship.
Generosity is something that is given so easily when we are dating. In fact, I would argue that if generosity is not part of your dating relationship, you most likely won’t end up marrying that person. But somewhere along the way, we lose that. Marriage becomes a competition, and the resources become limited. Kids, finances, work schedules, day to day living annoyances, health concerns, boredom all get in the way of our willingness and ability to be generous with one another. Generosity is often treated as something that accompanies feelings, but the truth is that generosity is a choice. We can choose generosity even when we don’t feel like it, and who knows maybe with a little generosity that spark that was so easy to feel in the beginning of your marriage will reignite!
So how do we do this?! One of the simplest and most effective ways I have found to increase generosity in marriage is to be generous with “yes.”
I have read many parenting articles and blog posts about making your “No’s” count with your children. That if you say no too much then your “no” loses power, and robs you of relationship with your kids. So often that means saying yes to what feels like the hundreth game of Candy Land, or going to the park when you would rather just stay home. I think the same concept should be applied to your marriage! Look for ways to say yes to your spouse! Are they asking for time with you? Say yes! Are they asking if it’s okay for them to have a night with their friends? Say yes! Are they asking if they can go to a conference out of town even though it will disrupt the family schedule? Try to find a way to say yes. Here’s the thing. Some of you right now are worrying that if you say yes more often, then you will be run over, used up, and taken advantage of in your relationship. That is why in the best circumstance both people will be practicing generosity. That is the best case scenario, because if you are both finding ways to say “yes,” then both of you are feeling supported. You feel like a team.
The Bible says that when two people get married, they become one. If that is the goal, then choosing generosity makes so much sense. If we are one, which would be the definition of true partnership, then being generous with my husband also benefits me. When we can extend generosity to one another then no one gets used up, or taken advantage of. Instead we create an environment of oneness that says my dreams are your dreams, your dreams are my dreams, and what is good for you is also good for me.
This does not mean that we blindly say yes, and hand over common sense or our own will. There are times when one person wants or needs something, and it honestly doesn’t work or isn’t possible. However, we can too easily create a culture of a knee-jerk “no” response. That often comes out of a fear that if I say yes to you, I won’t get what I need or want. For some of you that is a valid fear. Your marriage has become strained, and it’s hard to trust that the other person will reciprocate that generosity. I would encourage you to try it anyway. One of the phrases we use a lot in our house with our kids (and honestly I use it a lot with the couples I see in counseling) is, “What would it cost you to . . .?”
So what would it cost you to be generous with your spouse even if they are not generous back? There is a song I love called The Kitchen by a band called Tow’rs. In that song there is a line that says, “You don’t say you love me so I’ll do the same.” So often in our marriages we extend good things to our spouse with the expectation that we will get them back immediately and in equal measure, but if we truly believe that those good things are the right thing to do, we need to be willing to give them as a gift with no strings attached. That is true, unselfish love. And if both of you are doing that? Then everyone gets what they need, and you have created fertile soil for your relationship to flourish.