Do you remember a time in your life when you sacrificed something important to you for someone else? How about for yourself? Maybe you lost sleep for months working several jobs to make ends meet or maybe you gave up eating foods you love to support a friend or family member who needed to get healthy and exercise. Perhaps you have never had to sacrifice time, fun, or possessions that are important to you, but you have seen others sacrifice for you. How did that affect you? Did you realize the weight of the sacrifice? Understanding the importance of sacrifice in marriage is significant.
Marriage, when it is healthy, will include its share of sacrificing for each other. Two people cannot come together in one home, love, communicate, and care for each other without occasionally suffering for each other. My husband is an amazing example of a sacrificing husband. There have been several times I’ve cut back on certain foods for my health and he’s been faithful to not only support me, but to give up the same foods. Even when he would be out of my presence, he would still turn them down. Perhaps his biggest sacrifice was when he gave me the amazing chance to stop working outside the home, allowing me to work on my health goals and to devote time to my home and to our work with couples. He willingly went without extra fun money and time to give me this opportunity and to bless our family. He is the hardest working man I know, and I am truly blessed to have him.
Is the person with whom you plan to spend the rest of your life a giving person? Is he or she someone you believe would trade their comfort for your needs, if necessary? Would he faithfully sleep at your bedside in the hospital? Would she willingly give up her “me time” to take care of you in a time of sickness?
Are you a giving person? What if finances became tight and you had to choose between your weekly golf time (that you love) and her hair appointment? Would you be willing to give up something important to you to bless her? Speaking to the ladies, if money became tight would you be willing to go without certain comforts to allow your husband to play golf (or other activity he enjoys)?
During the dating/courting phase of a relationship, these small sacrifices may seem like no big deal. You may be thinking, “Of course I’d give up something as small as golf or a hair appointment.” After marriage, reality sets in, and sacrifice becomes reality, not theory – and it is often painful. It is hard forgoing things we think we deserve especially in cases when we believe our sacrifices are not noticed.
My advice is to keep giving. I am not advocating being a doormat or never expecting anything from your spouse, but don’t let your sacrificial giving be based on how much your spouse has sacrificed for you. Marriages where each person commits to give 50% often fail. Why? Because there are days that you won’t be able to give 50% and there are days your spouse won’t be able to give 50%.
If your spouse gives 40% for long enough, you may grow tired of picking up the slack if you have the 50/50 mentality. In high school, one of my teachers told our class that marriages should always be each person giving 100%… because when one person fails to give his or her best, the other is there to keep things going.
Sacrifice may sound awful, but it is one of the purest ways to show love to someone. Saying “I love you” is good, and necessary; but, giving of yourself, time after time, is proof that you really mean what you say. Cooking dinner every night when you are tired is a sacrifice. Getting up two hours early each morning to earn the income your family needs by working overtime is a sacrifice.
Marriages are full of opportunities to sacrifice, but they’re even good for us too. They build character in us and intimacy between us and our loved ones. If you are in a relationship with someone who normally refuses to go without their own comforts and pleasures, seriously consider the impact of that dynamic for your future. Are you prepared to do all the giving?
I have not met anyone yet who is truly willing to carry the entire weight of their marriage. Some have had to do it, but had they known before marriage what life would be like with a thoughtless, selfish person, they would have likely made a different marital decision.
People have bad days and everyone struggles with selfishness at some level; yet, if you are with someone who rarely sacrifices his or her own way for your good and pleasure, please understand that such a dynamic is not likely to get better – and it can be very draining over the course of a life. On the flip side, if you are unwilling to sacrificially give (demonstrated by your track record, not just what you say), you are not yet ready to be someone’s spouse.
When it is hard to sacrifice for your spouse, especially if he or she has not treated you with love and respect, remember the ultimate sacrifice: view Christ as your example of sacrificial giving (Romans 5:8).
Is there a time that sticks out in your mind when someone gave sacrificially for you? Do you have a pattern of giving sacrificially?