By Joanna Teigen, Crosswalk.com
Remember when you first fell in love? Your relationship felt like the most exciting, rewarding part of your life.
From the moment you woke up in the morning until your head hit the pillow, you were focused on your love. As you discovered each other’s favorite things, you treated each other to thoughtful gifts. You honored each of your preferences and pet peeves. As talents and goals came to light, you supported one another’s dreams with all you had. You committed your full attention and energy into giving, serving, and blessing each other in every way.
Yet after months and years of sharing life together, you and I can “become weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9). Instead of sacrificing, we’re selfish. Rather than give, we take all we can get. How do you know you’ve lost your way in loving your spouse?
Here are 5 signs that you’re the taker in the relationship.
1. You’re Keeping Score
Your life together is a tangle of needs, wants, and responsibilities. The cycle of dishes and laundry never ends. Bills need paying and grass needs constant mowing.
You both crave time to invest in hobbies, goals, and friendships that make you, you. When stress feels overwhelming, you need margin for self-care and spiritual renewal. You know the challenge to get it all done while maintaining your health and wholeness.
A taker in the relationship becomes fixated on equality. You keep a mental checklist of who tackled the most chores this week. Who changed the most diapers or drove your child to practice every afternoon. Who had the rare chance to sleep in on Saturday or splurge on a grande iced mocha with extra whip.
Which of your extended families shared more of your family celebrations. You tally the time and money spent on fun, feeling put out if your spouse enjoyed a movie or restaurant while you sat home. If the balance tips in your spouse’s favor, anger and resentment fill your heart.
Keeping score stirs up jealousy when your loved one’s talents and achievements are rewarded or praised. Instead of cheering for new opportunities, you grumble and secretly wonder when it’s your turn.
The solution? Take God’s Word to heart when it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
The Spirit will help you and me to put our partners first. We’ll offer wholehearted support from humble hearts that are eager to serve. God will do a transforming work so as we count the cost of love, we’re ready to spend all we have.
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2. You Give Less Grace
As Robert Quillen says, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
Grace is the most priceless gift we share with our spouse. It means showing mercy when your spouse is grouchy, tired, and discouraged at the end of a hard week. Grace offers a second chance when you’re let down and disappointed.
It shows patience for quirks and habits, insecurities and weaknesses that tread on your nerves. If your loved one hurts your feelings, it accepts the apology and refuses to keep a “record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
If you’re the taker in the relationship, you struggle to leave the past in the past. Every mistake is added to the pile of hurt and anger you’ve been stockpiling in your heart. Instead of a love that “always hopes” for the best in your partner, you’ve given up on growth and change (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Negative emotions and expectations sour the happiness of your relationship.
In a marriage, a taker creates a double standard that denies the golden rule in Matthew 7:12. It’s a struggle to give the same understanding and mercy you expect to receive from your partner.
God knows how easily we harden our hearts to one another. Rescue is found in receiving the grace he pours into your life. In Christ, you’re fully accepted, forgiven, and unconditionally loved. He’ll give you all you need to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
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3. You’ve Gone Passive
A relationship takes work! As author Jill Savage tells us, “Marriage is like a boat, and if you’re not rowing, you’re drifting.”
A taker in a marriage refuses to pick up an oar, so the husband or wife is left to paddle alone. Soon, the “boat” of your relationship is dead in the water. You’re unable to grow closer or happier together.
Think through your last few weeks together. Has your spouse taken initiative to move toward you, but found you unresponsive? Are you on the receiving end of hugs and kisses and compliments, but you’re holding back from showing warmth and affection?
Which of you is showing creativity in planning date nights or sharing flirty texts or gifts? Who is more willing to put down devices to make eye contact or give undivided attention? In your love life, are you sweeping Scripture under the rug that puts it plainly: “Do not deprive each other” of sexual intimacy? (1 Corinthians 7:5).
In the inevitable squabbles and scuffles of married life, it takes two to get along. A taker puts the burden of reconciliation onto their partner.
In your marriage, who is first to confess and apologize? Who puts more effort into problem-solving? Which of you is willing to take the risk of vulnerability, sharing your fears and feelings so you can be emotionally connected?
Do you actively pursue quality time and offer the gift of eye contact and undivided attention? Today, choose to lean into your marriage. Give all you’ve got, and watch your relationship grow and thrive.
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4. Your Words Always Win
If you could eavesdrop on a couple’s private conversation, you’d discover in a hurry who’s a giver or taker in the relationship. Takers are quick to interrupt with an idea or to drag the discussion off-topic.
They dominate the conversation, leaving a spouse feeling unheard and unwanted. Trust is damaged as friends and family are fair game for slander and gossip. A self-centered attitude keeps the focus on the taker’s feelings, opinions, and experiences. They insist on having the last word in conflict. Without a humble and quiet spirit, takers use manipulation and verbal pressure to win their own way.
Take a moment to replay your recent arguments and conversations in your mind. Was it difficult to wait your turn to speak? Did you plan your comeback before your spouse finished making their point? Was it tempting to use displays of emotion—shouting or crying—to make your voice heard? Or, did you give the silent treatment to freeze your partner into giving in to your wishes?
God’s Word is the perfect instruction manual for how to speak to your loved one. In its pages, you and I learn to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
You’re guided to respond with gentle words instead of harshness that stirs up anger between you (Proverbs 15:1). We discover the deep and priceless power of our words to “promote instruction” and wisdom, bring healing, and gain respect (Proverbs 16:13, 23-24).
With the Bible and the Spirit, your words are empowered to “encourage one another and build each other up.” They become gifts of love that pour life into your partner’s soul.
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5. You’re Miserable
In this world’s economy, the more you give, the more you stand to lose. For those who follow Jesus, though, this equation is turned upside-down.
God holds rewards and benefits for our generosity to one another, promising “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). If we become stuck in our selfishness as takers, we miss out on the overflowing goodness we could enjoy from God’s hand.
Are you feeling divided from your partner today? Do you feel exhausted from craving and chasing after more and more, only to be disappointed? Have you lost the romance and laughter you used to enjoy with your spouse?
Has a wall of resentment or bitterness grown between you? Do you feel negative and critical instead of grateful for the gift of your marriage? Does your conscience feel uneasy every time you’re helped or shown generosity by your partner?
We can’t dodge the truth that selfishness is sin. James 1:15 reminds us that when we’re tempted to take, that temptation “gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” If selfish choices and attitudes rule in our marriage, we suffer the “death” of unity. Affection. Closeness. Trust and commitment. Our sin has the power to crack the foundations of our home.
God wants to fill your life and your relationship with joy. Today, he’s inviting you to receive his forgiveness and a filling of fresh love for your spouse. He’ll energize you to step up and share as a “cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
As you take on Jesus’ humility and heart to serve, you’ll build trust and put love in action in your marriage. God will do his beautiful work of drawing you together as one.
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