Good, Old Fashioned Putting Them First

November 2005

To My Children, Brock, Malary, Madi, Max & Mitch
With Love from Mom

Letter #2


When Dad and I were seriously dating, I constantly made diligent mental notes of everything that dad talked about so I could remember what made him happiest, and so I could act on the things I heard from him to figure out ways to make him happy and happier….once I fell head-over-heels in love, his happiness was #1 on my list…and, the returns were huge because the more I did those things for him, the more he returned his love by putting my happiness first.

Then we got married and started getting used to each other…and as everyone does, started taking each other for granted. I remember early in our marriage when I was really frustrated over the way dad and I couldn’t come to terms on how certain household things were done…I thought he was ridiculous and he thought I was careless…it wasn’t that I was careless, I thought…it was that I didn’t care as much as he did about the same things.

I went and talked to a few successfully married people who were much older than we were….and they both told me the same things…”is it really worth holding on to something you see as trivial when it is more important to him than it is to you?” and…I thought I’d try out just doing things his way…just try out putting his happiness first in this one case…and to be honest, it really DIDN’T matter to me…I was just being stubborn, and trying to show him how ridiculous I thought his perfectionism was….

But, a funny thing happened when I started just cheerfully doing those things the way he wanted them done…it meant the world to him, then he started looking for things he could do for me….and then it was so fun and happy, that I started looking for more things I could do to make him happy….and he looked for ways to show me that he wanted me to be happy….and as long as we worked on that…just little things every day, the more it grew to the habit of always putting each other’s happiness first.

service was joy

But, it was a conscious effort that had to be practiced every day…or it started to tilt downward again…we’d start taking each other for granted and putting other priorities ahead of each other…put our own convenience or stubbornness ahead of each other’s comfort and happiness…even if it would have been nearly effortless to do things a little differently…we would just get lazy….

It’s easy to think about your sweetie when your sweetie is being sweet…but, putting each other first is probably most important when your sweetie least ‘deserves’ it….it’s also the hardest time to do it, and requires tremendous discipline and maturity…it tests the commitment that you made to stick by each other through everything back when there was nothing but sweet times…I am so thankful that we were already in the habit of putting each other first when hard times hit…and they do for EVERY marriage…there were many many days when I had to force myself to think about dad’s comfort and happiness, because I was angry or resentful or tired….but, it kept things going forward when things easily could have gone backward…

There’s really no way around it, for a marriage to be successful and fulfilling, there are many many times when you have to do whatever it takes to put your spouse’s happiness first…in fact, depending on the kind of marriage you want to have…putting your spouse first is an absolute, in my experience. I know this sounds old fashioned and maybe a little repressive…it’s funny how it really is more freeing than anything…

What does it really mean to put your sweetheart first? Well, it might mean letting him pick the movie you go to, or the restaurant…not just because you know next time he’ll let you pick, but because you want to make him happy. It might mean leaving the peas out of the vegetable soup even if you like them in there…and, it will also mean much more difficult things…sacrifices….for me, it has meant passing up on many opportunities that would have kept dad and I apart too much, it has meant twisting the bread bag 5 times and putting the twist-tie on tightly every time I get a slice of bread…then buttering his toast from edge to edge….it has meant biting my tongue when he wears weird shirts….then kissing him like I love his shirt….

choose to see the good

It means different things to every marriage…but it means the same thing, too…it means just being willing to always go from “I” to “we” and making that your #1 goal every day…marriage is a LOT of work…but, the reward is so much bigger than the work….

Just remember, if you want the happiest marriage that ever existed…always put the happiness and comfort of your spouse ahead of your own…it’s always YOUR choice to do that…it doesn’t mean that you are being a doormat or being weak…it means that you are making a promise that will take more strength than you can imagine…so, in reality…it PROVES your strength and exercises your choice…..

I know you can do it…you will love each other enough, and even when you feel like you don’t….practicing this every day will make you remember that you really really do.

Speak Your Mind