Your Relationship | ,

Selfless Love



Your big day! Styled to perfection. You both looked amazing starting your life together. It was going to be perfect. Every day simply perfect. I mean, of course, every couple has their rough patches when days at work are long and you’re not seeing enough of each other, but all in all it would be the perfect life together. Let’s face it, we have such a great relationship. We laugh together, we cry together, we support each other.

And I’m sure the same goes for your relationship. He brings you flowers on occasion, you send him texts to say you can’t wait to see him later, he knows exactly what kind of takeaway you like, you’re affectionate, he’s a great supporter of your career, you make an effort with his mum … what could possibly dampen all that?

When Beck and I first got together, we would always be thinking of the other person. I would be waiting for her on the verandah when I got home from work just because I wanted to hang out. I’d bring her Caramello Koalas, not just because they were cheap and I didn’t have much money, but because I knew they were her favourite thing. I’d write her poems (bit of a romantic), and Beck would make an effort to be affectionate, even spontaneous! We’d stay up through to the early hours of the morning because we just wanted to be together, to talk, to dream.

The perfect day was planned and we were married on a very stormy day in May 1998. They say rain is bad luck but we didn’t care. We knew we were crazy about each other and committed to each other no matter what.

Life was smooth, it was happy, we had such fun setting up house together. We even had some sweet lovebirds in a cage (the feathered variety) perched on our shag pile carpet in our very own happily married love nest. Beck would catch the train to work around 8am and arrive home sometime after 6pm. Fancying herself as the next Donna Hay, she would cook a big meal, bake dessert (because that’s what a selfless wife does, right?) and when the clean-up was done would fall in a heap and wake up the next day to do it all again. Oh, the life—what bliss! Seriously?! What utter exhaustion!

For the record, I never asked for this (or the 10kgs I gained in that first year of marriage). I was literally eating it up but that didn’t mean I was feeling truly loved by it. We laugh about it now but knowing how your partner receives love saves a LOT of wasted time and energy! In reality, I’d have been happy with an easy bowl of pasta and the other three hours of quality time spent with my bride. Real life was busy. Juggling work, family and other commitments started to take its toll and suddenly we found ourselves in a stalemate of frustration. We’d failed to really know how each other really received love and, until we learned that, what we felt were selfless acts were nothing more than quick trips to frustration.

Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages reveals the five basic ways that people give and receive love. We’ve learned that knowing each other’s love language is as important as knowing what fuel goes in our car. When I understood Beck’s love language (what makes her feel loved) I saved a whole lot of hurt, frustration and even time and money (seriously people, it’s way more efficient). Slaving away creating fancy dinners was to Beck showing me a lot of love. For me it was really just essential for living, and while appreciated, I would have much rather spent the night hanging out and snuggling on the lounge. Half an hour of what I actually needed (rather than three hours in the kitchen) would have made me feel so much more loved and valued. In hindsight, what Beck felt was selfless was, she admits herself, in some respects selfish. She felt good about “doing the right wifely things” which was about her rather than selflessly loving her husband in ways I felt loved.

“Selfless” couldn’t be more real and difficult than choosing to love when you don’t feel like it. Years ago I worked in an office up in the backyard separate to our house. Our three boys were all under four years old and Beck’s days at home were manic. It took me a while to realise it but eventually it dawned on me that when I came home it wasn’t time to rediscover my man cave. It was time to engage, with the kids, housework and whatever craziness was going down at the time. Did I suddenly feel like doing it? No. Not at all. I’d have been much happier relaxing and watching TV, but choosing to be selfless at crazy hour has saved many, many arguments … and scored many points!

“We have this crazy notion that selflessly loving each other creates a culture of generosity in our marriage. That keeps it fresh, alive and fun. Suddenly the frustrations (and many, many conversations) that came from our stalemate became our path to a marriage we love to be in.”

But what does selflessness actually look like in marriage? We discovered a few things: it’s over and above the call of duty, it’s about them and not me and it’s all because of love. Love is generous, creates surprises, is meaningful and creative. “A happy marriage is a selfless journey in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”—George and Yvonne Levy.

It’s not about giant (unsustainable) acts. It’s about a life of generosity towards the other. “How can I love her today?” is what I try and ask myself. It’s about the little things, like taking 90 seconds to make the bed before she finishes in the shower. It’s making another cup of coffee even though I don’t want to clean the milk frother twice.

So I encourage you to add a bit more selflessness to your relationship. You’ll find whole new levels of joy with each other and hopefully you’ll skip the stalemate entirely!


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