Last week, John & I tagged up with a young woman we admire for cocktails & gab; she mentioned the rough week she’d been having, that kicking back with us was a tonic for her blues. I don’t think it was our devotion to each other or the undercurrent of play – it was the emotional generosity we show each other. Although the article focuses on it in marriage, it comes primarily into our relationship because it matters to both of us to do our best to be considerate of others, aware of their feelings & that their wants might be different than ours & our needs might occasionally clash.
John is the same with me as he is with everyone, only on a deeper, more intimate level. And I don’t mean sex – a deeper connection. For some people, sex is their only connection, but ideally it is a venue to a deeper bonding that continues to grow richer even when the wild tempestuous love riots have become less frequent & the intensely sexy snugs & huggles amp up.
People who are generous are actually more likely to have ab fab sex lives to the end of their days because they aren’t looking for repetition of younger years & can add the spice of humor & good will to their love making.
In the interest of full disclosure, I find the article’s opening paragraph to be… jarring.
The author is watching an older couple sitting together in a doctor’s waiting room. One of them leans over with a question, looking directly into the other’s eyes, who smiles, pats her knee. The woman got him a cup of water, picked out a magazine for him to read. “He looked surprised and delighted.” What impressed the writer “was the series of small acts of emotional generosity the couple made within a few minutes.” It didn’t say the husband was in a wheelchair or unable to move, which would explain why the generosity was all on the wife’s side – the husband smiled & patted her knee, was “surprised & delighted,” but didn’t DO anything in return. Weird message to send.
For day-to-day & emotional generosity to be a powerful force within a marriage, it has to be reciprocal. It’s only “one of the best marital life insurance policies” when it’s mutual. I want to howl at the moon reading “When you act generously toward your spouse on a consistent basis, it keeps your marriage strong and vibrant over the long haul.” Only when the two of you are doing it for each other – and – for others.
I have the immense good fortune to be married to one of the most emotionally generous humans on this or any other planet. He never goes out of his way to be kind because it IS his WAY. He never talks poorly about other people, including ones he thinks have done me dirt, which is something I hold dear. When I told him, early in our marriage, that I was feeling taken for granted, he zinged straight to my heart with, “Don’t feel taken for granted – feel taken for loved.”
He designs his own Christmas present tags, which I love more than the gifts, and he makes the bed every night before we toddle up the wooden hill. But our marriage is strengthened because I return the thoughtfulness in ways that matter to John.
And we don’t limit our generosity to ourselves. We extend it outwards. Which doesn’t make us all great & good, but it sure does help us have a swell time. When a waitress asked us to fill out an online survey about her service, we made sure to do it as soon as we got home. We’re known to turn around in order to be on the right side of the road for a lemonade stand. I attended my niece’s school plays & my nephew’s baseball games, even though they were 90+ minutes away, because it mattered to their Dad. It was emotional generosity – on ALL sides – that made it possible for Mom to live with us, for it to be an enriching growth experience for all.
Yes, generosity is essential in crafting a fulfilling marriage, but it starts with our earliest relationships & extends to our last. When we are emotionally available, everyone wins.
We mustn’t forget a key person who needs our everyday & emotional generosity, the one most easy to overlook – our self. We need lots of self-consideration, self-loving, self-care, all connected to generosity.
Another “Are you kidding?” moment in the article, which I really do strongly recommend everyone read, was her surprise that research revealed that men “need and crave these gestures” more than women. I am not at all surprised that women are able to get past not getting “acts of emotional generosity” from a beloved. Men are more vulnerable to needing reassurance, so it makes total sense to me that they are more likely to be content & fulfilled when they feel “affirmed, cared for and admired.”
Whatever you think about our current president, there is no getting past his apparent profound lack of a generous spirit. This morning, when asked on NATIONAL television what he’d gotten Melania for her birthday, he laughed & said, ” Well, I better not get into that ’cause I may get in trouble. Maybe I didn’t get her so much.” He went onto say he’d gotten her a beautiful card & sent beautiful flowers, which might be all they normally do, but he made it clear – to the world – that after all she’d done to make his first State banquet a beautiful success, he didn’t take the time to say – on her birthday – how lucky he was to have her for his wife. Saying “You know, I am very busy being president” on his wife’s birthday, immediately after she performed her First Lady duties to apparent perfection – – emotionally Ungenerous. I bring it up because it just happened this morning, goes beyond my imagination in laying out worst practices, in illustrating emotional deprivation. DON’T GO THERE!
As you read the article, remember that the steps they suggest to secure the blessings that generosity bestows – show gratitude, express love/affection/appreciation, even share small endearments (see “show appreciation”) – are true for ALL relationships.
It’s never too early or too late to begin nurturing generosity within all our connections, including work & play. Personally, I believe that our reason for being in this life is to develop a healthy sense of relationship – with others, with our self, ultimately with the Divine. Generosity plays a powerful invaluable irreplaceable role in making that happen.
“It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert.” — Jacques-Yves Cousteau –