You Are Not Doing Anything for Your Wife

"You don't appreciate all that I do for you!"

This is a common complaint of spouses in tumultuous marriages. Perhaps this has been a common refrain in your marriage. One scenario that is common enough to have become a stereotype is that, while husbands often feel that their wives don't appreciate their financial contributions, their wives often simultaneously feel that their domestic contributions are going unnoticed and unappreciated. Both feel unvalued and, consequently, unloved. Regardless of who's contributing what within such marital conflicts, there are two problems at play.

First, both spouses are frustrated by their perceived lack of due appreciation. They feel that their contributions and sacrifices are being unjustly devalued. They feel that they deserve more praise, more respect, and (often) more authority. Essentially, the disgruntled spouses feel that their spouse is withholding something that they deserve. 

The problem with this perception is that it stems from a motivation for selfish pleasure. As outlined in The Marriage Commandments, such attitudes violate the principles of the first and tenth commandments by elevating one's own interests above the interests of one's spouse. While it is certainly wonderful to be appreciated and praised, the covetous demand and greedy expectation for another's appreciation and praise eats away at the foundation of selflessness that should exist within marriages. Gratitude should be warmly received — but never expected.

This leads to the second, more fundamental problem...

If this is your complaint, it's likely that you are trying to get credit for sacrifices that you have not made. To the husband with the awesome career who feels that his lone — albeit vast — financial contributions go unappreciated, you are not doing anything for your wife. To the housewife who is upset because her exhausting childrearing efforts are never acknowledged, you are not doing that for your husband. Stop trying to get credit and praise from your spouse for sacrifices that you are not making for your spouse. Before you get mad, hear me out...

If your only significant contribution to your spouse is the money produced through your career, it is unlikely that you are making that "sacrifice" for your spouse. Ask yourself: "Self, would I have my current career/job regardless of whether or not I was married to my spouse?" If the answer is "yes" (and it likely is so), then you are not truly doing your career for the sake of your spouse. You are doing it for yourself. You just happen to also be sharing the surplus with your spouse. 

Likewise, husbands and wives shouldn't classify their parenting efforts as being sacrifices for one another. While it's certainly great when a mother takes care of her kids, it is only a lousy mother/wife who tries to get credit for doing so "for her husband." If she's a good mother, she's doing it for her kids — not for her husband. As in the previous example, the mother should ask herself, "Would I take care of my children regardless of whether or not I was married to my husband?" If she's a decent human, the answer is absolutely, "yes." And it should be the same for her husband.

In both the career and parenting scenarios, the spouses shouldn't expect or feel deserving of credit for "sacrifices" made for their spouses. Why? Because it's a lie. They simply didn't make those sacrifices for their spouses. Those deeds were done primarily for reasons other than spousal support. Naturally, it would then be asinine for either spouse to expect glowing appreciation for sacrifices that never happened. Likewise, if you aren't getting credit for something that you haven't actually done, that's not a broken relationship. That is, in fact, a perfectly normal relationship.

With this understanding, it then becomes necessary for spouses to find ways to truly give to one another. Leaving the "things you would do anyway" (e.g. household chores, careers, etc.) off the table, you should then seek demonstrative ways to make meaningful contributions to your spouse. Do things that you would only do because they are your spouse. Participate in their favorite hobby. Visit their family. Learn to give your spouse a proper massage. Whatever you do, do it because it's exclusively for your spouse.

Earning a paycheck at the job of your choosing is not a sacrifice for your spouse. Waking up early to cook your spouse's breakfast and iron their clothes... Now you're on the right course. When you start really doing things for your spouse, you'll begin to feel the waves of appreciation and respect that you will then deserve. 

— John