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.

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