The “Happy To” mentality might be the key to marital success

This week on the podcast Chad and I talk all things marriage and I share an unreleased, rough cut of a song I wrote about us, so stay tuned until the end. Listen here, on Spotify or Apple Podcasts!


My husband took the kids to school recently to save me some time to finish up work and get ready for a singing job out of town. He took my car (because the less transfer of car seats in our lives, the better) and on his way home he gassed it up, and, gasp, got the oil changed.

When he arrived home and shared the news you would have thought he bought me diamonds. Really. Because it’s not like I couldn’t have done these tasks myself, but it was a sweet and unexpected thing that made my life a bit easier and I loved him for it.

And also, I fall into the cliché category of wives whose car seems to always need gas every single time my husband drives it, like magical timing.  And so here I pause for all the husbands’ collective groans.

And I would be ashamed, but I’m too distracted and that’s my argument and his argument about the entire situation combined.

Anyway, I was going to make a point here now about how we all have these little life tasks that are essential and easy enough, but are uniquely annoying to us individually. For me, for example, it’s getting my oil changed or putting my clothes away. Mowing the lawn is on my husband’s list. But I think the greater point here is how easy it can be to make our lives better for one another.

My grandpa will be turning 90 this month. He’s been married to my grandma for over 70 years. In their years together my grandmother has never pumped her own gas. Now, at one point this may have been a sign of the times, but it certainly was never because my grandmother wasn’t capable of doing it herself. I asked him once about it and he said it was just something he wanted to do for her. Made her life easier and he was happy to do it.

Grandma Ginny and Grandpa Bill

To be happy to do it. Could that just be the most sage marriage advice there is? Could it also be the most difficult one to achieve? I mean, dedicating your life to someone so easily lends itself to resentments and tit-for-tats and disappointments. The day-to-day of work and raising kids and trying to keep the dust out of the corners of it all can wear on partners who once stood before one another and promised for better or worse. And our mindset after the honeymoon phase can easily shift to the black hole of “But what are you doing to help me here!?” On my bad days, when I’m overwhelmed and feel a bit lonely in the rhythm of work and motherhood, I fall in there. And quite easily, I can wallow.

Recently my husband and I got away for a night to the big town, just the two of us. And it wasn’t for a job or to pick up ranch or building supplies, it was to catch a moment to talk and eat supper uninterrupted. (And, let’s be honest here, to make a Costco run, because at this phase in the game, that’s romance.) Both of us are bad at prioritizing time alone. Both of us are better people to one another when we do it.

Which is something my grandma would tell me. Her memory is failing her now at the end of her life, but if she could I think she would tell me her life’s greatest joy has been her relationship with her husband. Even now, in the cruel grip of dementia, she hasn’t forgotten that she loves him.

And I don’t know how to tie that in a neat little bow of guidance on this sort of marital success, except to say I think it started as love and continued through the years as genuine admiration. Each made the other proud. Each made the other feel special and worth the extra effort.

And maybe we could start there with a simple flip of the running commentary in our heads. What if the “What are you doing?” question turned to “What am I doing?” and then, when we could, we went out to mow the lawn. Or took the extra time to iron his shirts the way he likes. Or started his pickup in the cold or pumped her gas without a comment to go with it simply and most importantly because we’re happy to.

4 thoughts on “The “Happy To” mentality might be the key to marital success

  1. This is truly a pearl of wisdom here, and the sooner couples embrace it, the better their marriages will be. It’s easy to stop doing little mundane tasks (which is the ‘serving each other’ part of marriage) with a joyful heart. Honestly? I get no “joy” out of getting up early five days a week to make my husband’s lunch, but it makes HIS long work day much easier. I can’t imagine not being bothered to do it. And every morning when I go out to the barn to feed the horses and there’s a half dozen bales of hay lined up in the isle, I know it’s because he took the time to throw them down for me the night before. A good marriage needs teamwork. Children we HAVE to help, but our spouses? We get to choose to help them.

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