RETURN TO Couples gps


Serving Together Starts with Serving Your Spouse

Dr. Liza Shaw has said that "Happiness is a bi product of true contribution" - not contribution with an agenda, or service which is given to get something back, but real service.

Mort Fertel explains that as much as we try and try to get our needs met by our spouse, our greatest need (down deep) is actually to make sure that our loved one’s needs are met. Pretty crazy, right? - and pretty wonderful.

It's magical:
The moment I start serving my spouse, something lights inside of me- a sense of love, peace and happiness attainable by no other means.

Perhaps it is this: When I’m trying get something from my spouse, I’m leaning into fear.  “Perhaps I’ll never have what I need.  Maybe she doesn’t even care.  Maybe no one will care.  I will never be happy. How can I?  She doesn’t know how to make me happy.  She doesn’t even want to know how.” etc.  

This is a dark world.  There is only fear here.  I am stepping more and more inside of myself, where there is no one else there but me.  And the more afraid I am of not being loved, the deeper I go into self absorption and depression.  The more self absorbed and depressed I become the less inclined I am to wake up, come out and find my loved one and do something to make her happy.

One man I heard of had already been served his divorce papers.  It had been a downward spiral of trying to control each other, complaining (from both sides), emotional stone walling, etc. for months- perhaps even years.  They’d tried counseling, talking to their Pastor. They seem to have tried everything.  

One day, this fellow got in his mind that he hadn’t tried service- not completely.  So he went to work. Without any other reason other than the joy of serving, he started looking for as many ways to serve her as he could think of.  The result was miraculous.  The papers were torn up.  The marriage was saved.  

A close friend of mine had the same experience.  For 20 years she contemplated divorce, talked about divorce, threatened her husband that unless he changed she would leave him etc.  One morning she awoke with this thought.  It was like a voice from Heaven - "What if you gave to William what you need from him?  What if you found a way to fulfill his needs, instead of rampaging around trying to get your needs fulfilled?"  

Everything changed.  I spoke with her 2 weeks ago (10 years later).  They can't get enough of each other.  It's a miracle.

Who you truly are- a child of God, is bright and beautiful.  God is love.  So are you.  Regardless of how you feel, if you will grab yourself by the shirt (as Mel Robbins puts it) and just serve your spouse, your heart will open to him or her. Because when you serve, you shine.  You become who you really are; love.  And you like to shine.  You love to shine.  So now, you love yourself.  And when you love yourself, your heart automatically opens to your spouse and to everyone else and everything thing else.  Why?  Because love isn’t about who you love.  It’s about you. The sun shines on everything. Why? Because it’s the sun!!  The sun shines!  So do you. 

NOTE: Service is a premiere level of thinking, but it is only one.  There are situations where you will need to carefully consider your personal boundaries right along side your commitment to service.  

Serving Together 

The no. 1 factor in a successful relationship is your decision to serve together. I saw a post on Facebook the other day with pictures of a newly in love couple.  The young woman posting, concluded with these words: “I’m so happy he is mine.”  To a large degree most of us fall in love more with our relationship  than we do our spouse.  What drives us to marriage isn’t as much our commitment to love, as it is a desire to be loved, and to belong.  As wonderful and human as this desire is,  it is the groundwork for disappointment.                         

Our focus on our “relationship” (our love supply) ironically, can set us up for brittleness, overwhelm, guilt and conflict.   Your spouse cannot afford to make you the answer to his or her problems, and visa versa. 

Holding each other’s hands, as you serve a common vision however, takes the heat of expectations off of each other, renews emotional space, fills you each with confidence and floods your heart with positive feelings- not only for each other but for life. 

The "Clarence Plan"

It was Clarence’s understanding of this that caused him to dive into the icy water the night George Bailey was contemplating suicide.  Clarence knew that if in the midst of George’s dark self absorption he could suddenly interject an opportunity to save someone else, that it would save George. So it is with you two.  There are so many people in your lives that need you to dive in! 

Consider your greatest loves- your most inspiring common visions i.e.

  • raising your kids

  • working together in church service

  • assisting in a community cause etc. (See "Just Serve")

Serving together creates the love, intimacy and joy in your marriage that nothing else can. 

Serving Together - Couples Write & Share Questions (for your weekly Write & Share)

  • Write about what you have felt or what you feel as you serve (or have served) your spouse.   

  • Write about what you have felt or what you feel as you serve (or have served) with your spouse.   

  • Write also about what commitments you would be willing to make right now with your spouse, that would put you more in the front lines of service together, and therefore, closer than ever. (Service to each other and service with each other)

Giddy in Love
I think the best description I've ever heard about the power of serving together was a statement by Kathy Headlee who spends at least a quarter of each year assisting the poor and needy (hands on) in 3rd world countries.  She once said to me, "John, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night just Giddy with happiness."   

Serving together is the fastest route to the truest love - not because you have the perfect spouse - you may not - but because your heart is full of love -  and perfect love casteth out all fear - and within 2 fearless hearts is the possibility of a glorious (perhaps almost "Giddy") marriage.

Click here for ways to serve:


"Dear Narelle, I can't imagine life without you and every day is a gift because of you.  I once heard that true love isn't just looking into the eyes of your beloved.  It is holding her hand and looking into the eyes of God, together- to walk together in service, to sing together in service, to feel the joy of touching the ones we love together in service."   -  (Note to Narelle on her birthday)