I used to dream about growing up and getting married. In my young mind, one day I’d meet this amazing, handsome man and we’d get married and have children and live in a nice little house in a nice little town and be happy. And that was about all the depth of thought I put into it. I thought I would stumble into this happy life. Turns out, happy marriages and happy families and happy lives have to be grown. Growing a happy marriage takes work, just like growing a garden. (And if you don’t think I know about how much work that takes, give this post a read!)
So today I wanted to share one way my husband and I work on growing a happy marriage. And to do that, I want to tell you The Parable of the Shiny Apple.
Once upon a time, in a tiny country cottage, lived a newly married couple. They were happy and they were in love. They wanted to spend all of their days together but, unfortunately, the husband had a very demanding job that kept him out of the home for many hours of the day.
The wife was lonely without him. They had a child on the way but until he was born, the wife spend all of her days alone.
She wanted to make sure that her husband knew how much she loved him and was thinking about him. She kept their home tidy. She always kept up on the laundry. She ironed all of his clothes, including his work shirts so when he put them on every morning, he would know she loved him. She waited until he came home for dinner, sometimes as late as 9:00 at night.
And when she packed his lunch for him every day, she would pick the best looking apple to give him. She would eat any of the fruit that got damaged or bruised and only give him the very best. He deserved the shiny apple so he would know that she loved him.
This went on for several months. As the baby inside the wife grew, she got more tired and less ambitious but she tried her best to continue doing the things she felt were necessary to show her husband how much she loved him and missed him when he was gone.
After some time, she began to feel unappreciated and under valued.
Doesn’t he see everything I’m doing for him? she thought. Why doesn’t he show me any of the love I show to him?
As her resentment grew, her happiness with her marriage withered. She convinced herself that her husband never actually loved her. He only wanted someone to clean up his messes and cook his meals. He only married her to serve him. And she began to grow bitter.
You see, when you are growing a marriage, you can grow it happy or you can grow it miserable. And she was growing it miserable!
One night, the husband sat her down and asked, “Why are you so unhappy all the time? Am I doing something wrong to upset you?”
The wife responded with anger and tears, “NO! You aren’t doing ANYTHING! That’s the problem. You don’t do anything to show me you love me.”
The husband looked shocked and hurt. Before he even had a chance to respond the wife continued, “I do your laundry! I iron all of your shirts. I even fold all of your clothes first in case something comes up and I don’t get finished, your clothes won’t get wrinkled. I make you dinner every night and I wait until all hours to eat it with you. I pack you lunches every day and I always give you the shiniest apple so you know how much I love you and I’m thinking about you but you never do ANYTHING for me!”
And the husband laughed. Now the wife looked shocked and hurt. She had just told him how unloved she felt and here he was, laughing at her!
“Honey,” said the husband, “I do love you and I do do things for you. Do you think I like going to work all day long every day? Do you think I’m working this hard for me? No. I do it for you! I want us to have a good life. I want you to have everything you want and need. I want our kid to have everything he want’s and needs. I don’t do this for me!”
“But you never do any of the little things for me,” the wife responded through her tears.
“Honey, I didn’t even know you were doing those things for me. I had no idea you were ironing my shirts. That’s very sweet but you really don’t need to do that. They are just work shirts. And I didn’t realize you were giving me the shiniest apple. I didn’t have all the others there to compare it to. Plus, sometimes, my lunch gets beat around and it doesn’t end up being the shiniest apple by the time I eat it. I had no idea.”
The wife felt a little silly. She had put so much effort into serving her husband but no effort into letting him know he was being served. And it had counted for nothing.
Growing a Happy Marriage
Now if you previously read my article on Content Communication, this may be a familiar tale. In that post, I used it to teach how we need to express our wants and needs instead of trying to mind read. In this case, I want to use this parable to teach another lesson – that of growing a happy marriage through service that the other person knows about.
If you spent all day serving your spouse, and they never knew any of it happened, they wouldn’t feel loved or valued in the slightest. If you did one tiny simple act of picking out the shiniest apple and told them about it, they would know you were thinking about them. (They might still think it was ridiculous but at least they would understand that you cared and they would feel loved.)
If you are quietly serving your spouse, that is wonderful. In fact, Jesus was a big fan of doing good to others with no thought of reward. But if you are quietly serving your spouse to show them you love them, you need to make sure they know it’s happening.
This doesn’t mean you tell them everything you do for them with the attitude of, “Look how great I am. I sacrifice so much for you.” That’s exactly the kind of attitude Jesus wants us to avoid. Instead, your attitude should be, “Look what I did for you because you are so great and do so much for me that I wanted you to know I care.” Everyone wants to know they are valued. Everyone wants to be seen.
So stop hiding all the sweet things you do for your spouse. You will never start growing a happy marriage until you start shining light on all the seeds you’re planting.