Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Seth Adam Smith's blog. It has been republished here with permission.
My wife doesn't give me the the love I deserve.
About a year and a half into our marriage, I was struggling with an intense feeling of bitterness. Marriage wasn't what I had anticipated. It wasn't anything like the pretty photographs and romantic movies I had seen—it was hard work.
I felt resentful, robbed of romance. This resentment fueled my depression, and in my bitterness I foolishly blamed Kim.
My wife doesn't give me the love I deserve! I thought to myself.
Within a few short months, my bitterness had had grown to such an intensity, that it poisoned our relationship and threatened to destroy our marriage. Then, after the pressure had built up to where neither of us could stand it, emotions erupted. I was callous and resentful.
But instead of reciprocating my bitterness, Kim showed me an outpouring of love. Even though I had caused her tremendous pain, she laid her hands on my face and told me that she loved me.
I looked at Kim, unable to understand the love I was receiving. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. My heart melted, and I hung my head down low.
My wife doesn't give me the love I deserve, I thought to myself.
It was the same phrase I had thought to myself before, but this time it meant something completely different.
Here I was, blaming my wife for my pain, anguish, and depression, and yet she refused to echo that resentment. Instead, she opened her heart and hands and offered me love and forgiveness that I frankly didn't deserve.
While I fully believe that each of us is a person of divine, inestimable worth—worthy of love—I don't believe we ever "deserve" someone else's love. In fact, the feeling of entitlement—the belief that we deserve something from someone else—often works as a detonator to the bomb that destroys our relationships.
The spirit of entitlement smothers love, but the spirit of gratitude lets love soar. It's the difference between taking and receiving.
When Kim and I were married, our minister advised us to receive each other in marriage—not to take each other in marriage. In taking, you assume that something belongs to you—that you have a right to demand it. In contrast, with receiving, you recognize that the thing belongs to someone else, but is being given to you out of the goodness of that person's heart. In the case of marriage, you recognize that your spouse is a person with a life as real as yours, and that being with them—and receiving love from them—is a gift they choose to give.
How many relationships would be improved if we received our companion in a spirit gratitude? How many abusive relationships would be healed if the abuser realized that his/her spouse is a person of inestimable worth, that love and affection is a precious gift that person chooses to give?
I am certainly not perfect at being grateful in marriage—far from it. Yet I have learned that gratitude is the great multiplier in life. The more we express gratitude for things in life, the more life we receive.
Rid yourselves of the need to 'deserve' love. Instead, focus on giving it. Because the more we express sincere gratitude and love for our spouse (the more we truly receive them) the more they blossom, grow, and reciprocate that love.
And as you practice more gratitude in life, you will get so much more love than you ever imagined that you 'deserved.'