The Wrong Question to Ask in Marriage

If you see an advertisement for gum, you won’t just see a piece of gum in a wrapper. You’ll probably see an attractive young woman chewing gum in close contact with a handsome man contemplating a kiss. The gum will sell because it provides a solution. The subtle message: if you chew this gum, someone very special will find you attractive!

The question most of us are asking consciously or subconsciously as we go through daily life is “What’s in it for me?” We live in a climate of consumerism and this spills over into every part of life including our most intimate relationships. We’re looking for that magic gum.

If you go into marriage asking “What’s in it for me?” you are asking the wrong question. Some days your spouse will cook your dinner, give you a back rub, and have great sex with you and you’ll think,

Wow this marriage thing is awesome!”

But most days, your spouse will say something insensitive, hog the remote, forget to kiss you passionately and you’ll think,

I’m not sure this marriage thing is working. I mean, I’m getting hardly anything out of this deal.”

And thus lays the problem. The question isn’t what are you getting out of your marriage. The question is what are you putting in.  You are asking the wrong question and that’s why the answer is so disconcerting.

Marriage is not a place where consumers thrive. Consumers find it too challenging and inconvenient. Marriage is a place for givers.  I like what FamilyLife Today radio co-host Bob Lepine says,

Our role is: How do we reflect Christ in the marriage?”

I have a friend who has been married for more than 50 years. She’s healthy and happy and her doctor who peppered her with questions concluded,

Oh, I see. You’re happy because you give to others.”

When your role is to give, there’s no limit in the joy you can experience. But when all you do is focus on getting (what’s in it for me, me, me), you’re always looking for that next gift. Before you know it, you’re acting like a spoiled child who wants an endless array of presents on Christmas day.

Marriage can be a perpetual feast if you ask the right question to begin with.

  • What can I give to this relationship?
  • How can I bless and encourage my spouse today?
  • How can I pray for my spouse?

Now that’s a boy meets girl story that endures much longer than a stick of gum.


Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (co-authored with Gary Chapman), 31 Days to a Happy Husband, and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She has been featured on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Family Life Today, Focus on the Family, K-LOVE, The Better Show, The 700 Club, Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah, and TLC’s Home Made Simple.

Arlene earned her BA from Biola University and her Masters in Journalism from Regent University. She lives in San Diego with her husband James and three children. Visit Arlene at for free family resources including a monthly Happy Home podcast.

  • Marie

    Awesome!!!!…Simply Awesome!!!!….I used to have that question in my head…and what do you know….tears flowing like a river came…..but when I start giving….I noticed a change in my relationship in my fiance……Yes, there are days when the question pops in my mind….but I never let it control my emotions anymore…..

    Now I let Christ control my emotions…..Good article 🙂

  • Marie – you have learned a lesson that will serve you and your husband very well! Thanks for your encouraging comment!

  • Ah, so good! my husband and I were just talking about this very thing as we lay in bed last night 🙂 Thanks for the great article.

  • Kofi Reynolds

    Great piece Arlene………..Thanks for sharing!!!

  • tina

    what if it is always you who gives all the time?sure it will feel so disappointing and depressing.

  • Kim

    Marriage is a Mutual relationship. I absolutely agree that no man or woman should enter marriage selfishly. Each party should be willing to do his or her part. However, it’s not selfish to have legitimate expectations for your spouse. The relationship between Christ and the Church is mutual. Christ provides for the church and keeps his promises. Christ also expects the church to keep his commandments, share his gospel, etc.

    The Christian life is one of seed time and harvest. You sow and God promises that you will reap what you sow. I said all that to say, people should enter marriage being willing and able to do their fair share, and it’s perfectly reasonable and wise to have some legitimate expectations for your partner. Both questions are vital when considering marriage: What has God called me to do and/or contribute as a spouse? AND What should I expect from a Godly spouse? Marriage is not one sided but rather a Mutual relationship.

  • saliu Olaniyi

    Marriage not a selfie, but. About d other person. An awesome message. God bless you Arlene

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