Are You a Giver or a Taker?
The Common Marital Complaint
Married women have a common complaint against their husbands: They feel used and taken advantage of. Research confirms that in the areas of emotional intimacy, affection, companionship, attentiveness, division of household work, and childcare, women typically do the heavy lifting. They sense they are putting more into their marriage than they are receiving; they see themselves as Givers and their husbands as Takers. It is no surprise wives more often report marital unhappiness and dissatisfaction than their husbands. He is viewed as the one who expects, if not demands, that she satisfy his needs. And the outcome is the development of resentment and a decline in loving feelings.
The Taker is the one who brings death into the marital relationship. And this occurs when they are overly preoccupied with their own wants, needs and feelings; they give little but expect much. A Taker destroys the atmosphere needed to nurture a secure bond. As inequities are multiplied, the exploited spouse loses their balance and begins stumbling out of love.
Takers are not bad people; nor are they neurotic. But they do possess one fatal flaw: They find it difficult to be other-centered. The loss of a couple’s emotional bond is the direct result of a Taker’s self-centered behaviors.
The Bible describes godly love as giving oneself to another. Contrary to the world’s philosophy, love is not getting (i.e. taking) but doing what is in the best interest of the other.
God is the prime example of a true Giver. John 3:16 states that “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son.” In Galatians 2:20 we read, “He loved me and gave Himself for me.” Ephesians 5:25 says that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. It is God’s nature to love; because He loves, He gives. A literal translation of James 1:17 reads, “Every good (act of) giving and every perfect gift from above is continually coming down from the Father of lights…” Matthew 7:7-11 underscores this fundamental attribute of God.” Ask (lit. keep on asking), and it will be given to you; seek (lit. keep on seeking), and you will find; knock (lit. keep on knocking), and it will; be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” God delights in giving good gifts to his children, especially when they persistently ask him in child-like expectation. Christians are commanded to imitate God in their relationships with others; we are to exhibit love by giving.
When Christ was questioned by an expert in the Mosaic law, he summarized the entire Decalogue: “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with your entire mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” To love is to give. And God’s children are to give to their neighbor’s need (your closest neighbor is your spouse): “If your enemy is hungry give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25: 21-22). Love is not self-centered, but other-centered; it is a willingness to give of oneself in touch, time, words, service, and gifts. Not to give is not to love.
Many complain they had no idea their spouse was a Taker. If they had known, they would have never married them. Obviously, the wedding ceremony did not magically change their kind, affectionate, and caring spouse into a Taker. What happened? Early in the marriage, spouses are usually tolerant of their partner’s less-than-perfect qualities. But as time passes and these shortcomings begin impacting the relationship, the exploited spouse becomes intolerant. Behaviors initially overlooked or excused are now seen as flaws. Other misjudged the character of their fiancé or were intentionally deceived. Regardless of the prenuptial situation, the exploited spouse now feels bewildered about establishing an equitable relationship.
Takers: One Thing in Common
All Takers have one thing in common: They are self-centered people who are reluctant to establish an equitable relationship. Their selfish behavior causes emotional wounds that send their partner into a downward spiral.
Takers are not ignorant of what makes their spouse happy. Two situations confirm this observation: what the Taker does while dating and what they do when their exploited spouse threatens separation or divorce. In both cases a Taker resorts to giving behavior. Dating requires giving behavior to secure the love of their potential mate, and giving is critical for convincing their detached spouse f. Once the goal is achieved, however, a Taker reverts to taking behavior. This accounts for the yo-yo effect observed in an inequitable relationship.
The Real Problem
Secular and Christian counselors have written scores of books on marriage. The majority emphasize a couple’s best chance for repairing their marriage is in improving relationship skills: communication, anger management, problem solving, and conflict resolution. There is no question these skills are essential for a successful marriage. However, these books do not address the underlying cause of recurring conflict; the reason loving relationships self-destruct. My counseling experience has shown that the primary issue is not a lack of relational skills, but the Taker and his selfish, inconsiderate, careless, insensitive, and abusive behavior. Relational skills, for most couples, is a relatively minor issue during the dating and engagement period; there are recurring efforts to win the love and affection of the other; loving behaviors are prevalent producing an overflow of loving feelings. If there was not a lack of relational skills then, why would this become an issue once a couple marries? The real problem for a good marriage going bad is taking behavior; consistent taking destroys a couple’s emotional bond and makes them vulnerable to divorce. Unless a Taker becomes a Giver, there is little hope of having a happy, satisfying marriage; no matter how good their relationship skills are! I have counseled hundreds of couples over the past twenty-seven years and have come to a firm conclusion: The greatest hindrance to marital happiness is not poor relationship skills, but the failure to identify and change the Taker(s) in the relationship. Givers, I have found, experience marital happiness because they are other-centered; their partner and marriage are given first place.
Many secular counselors argue that a person’s character is fixed and unchangeable; a Taker is always a Taker. In God’s economy, that is not true. Change is a realistic possibility for all Christians because we have two essential change agents: God’s Word and his power. A Taker cannot legitimately complain, “I’ll never change,” or “That’s the way I am;” he is capable of significant change. He can become a Giver, even if taking behavior has become second nature.
Are You a Taker?
Maybe you are a Taker but do not know it; your mate has been giving you this message but you have not heard it. It has not hit home and caused you to take an honest look at yourself.
Are you a Taker or Giver? If you are unsure, you need to make an assessment. If you discover that you are a Taker, do not minimize the harmful effect your behaviors are having on your marriage.
|1. I/my mate make(s) an effort to have meaningful conversation.|
|2. I/my mate give(s) hugs and kisses.|
|3. I/my mate am(is) respectful of my spouse/me.|
|4. I/my mate am(is) open and honest.|
|5. I/my mate say(s) “I love you” often.|
|6. I/my mate help(s) around the house with chores.|
|7. I/my mate allow(s) freedom in the relationship.|
|8. I/my mate demonstrate(s) trust.|
|9. I/my mate call(s) during the day.|
|10. I/my mate attempt(s) to look attractive.|
|11. I/my mate enjoy(s) having sex.|
|12. I/my mate give(s) gifts.|
|13. I/my mate am(is) able to share on a deeper level.|
|14. I/my mate give(s) undivided attention.|
|15. I/my mate am(is) an involved parent.|
|16. I/my mate am(is) respectful of my spouse’s/my opinion.|
|17. I/my mate make(s) my spouse/me feel significant.|
|18. I/my mate make(s) my spouse/me feel secure.|
|19. I/my mate am(is) accountable to my spouse/me.|
|20. I/my mate put(s) my spouse’s/my interest first.|
|21. I/my mate do(does) things to please my spouse/me.|
|22. I/my mate enjoy(s) being with my spouse/me.|
|23. I/my mate resolve(s) our differences.|
|24. I/my mate share(s) a sphere of interest with my spouse/me.|
|25. I/my mate encourage(s) my spouse/me.|
|26. I/my mate try(ies) to understand my spouse’s/my viewpoint.|
|27. I/my mate cooperate(s) on money matters.|
|28. I/my mate take(s) an interest in our children.|
|29. I/my mate handle(s) anger appropriately.|
|30. I/my mate attempt(s) to solve problems constructively.|
|31. I/my mate encourage(s) my spouse/me.|
|32. I/my mate am(is) empathetic to my spouse/me.|
|33. I/my mate show(s) real concern.|
|34. I/my mate am(is) a good listener.|
|35. I/my mate give(s) my spouse/me a second chance.|
|36. I/my mate apologize(s) when wrong.|
|37. I/my mate praise(s) my spouse/me.|
|38. I/my mate am(is) patient with my spouse/me.|
|39. I/my mate involve(s) my spouse/me in decision-making.|
|40. I/my mate am(is) concerned about my spouse’s/my happiness.|
|41. I/my mate make(s) my spouse/me feel special.|
|42. I/my mate take(s) my spouse’s/my feelings seriously.|
|43. I/my mate see(s) my spouse’s/my good qualities.|
|44. I/my mate am(is) proud of my spouse’s/my accomplishments.|
|45. I/my mate am(is) complimentary of my spouse’s/my appearance.|
|46. I/my mate pursue(s) a win-win solution to conflict.|
|47. I/my mate am(is) sympathetic to my spouse’s/my feelings.|
|48. I/my mate make(s) my spouse/me feel appreciated.|
|49. I/my mate see(s) to it that there is a fair division of labor.|
|50. I/my mate work(s) to improve the marriage.|
20-34 Inconsistent Giver
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