Entitlement can kill a marriage.

We’ve been looking at libido differences in the month of September, and if I had to sum up what I’m trying to say, it would just be: “Be a decent person and care for your spouse.” I encouraged low libido spouses to think about their spouse and prioritize making love more. I encouraged higher drive spouses who were getting healthy sex to be content. I encouraged higher drive husbands and wives who weren’t getting enough sex to examine themselves and see if they may have contributed to the problem.

In short, I’m just asking all of us to look first at what we can do to strengthen the marriage, and be kind to one another.

But it’s gotten a little heated in the comments this month, because libido differences often trigger deep pain in many people, and I get that.

In the middle of all of that, Sarah O, one of my wonderful commenters (and I do appreciate all of you who comment regularly; I think of you like friends and check in to see what you’re all going to say next!), sent me an email with some thoughts she’d been having, inspired by our discussion.

I loved it, and asked to share it with you. So here is Sarah O!

Marriage was not our idea. We didn’t invent it. Marriage was created by God as a blessing and a gift.

Our individual marriages are the same–they’re meant to be blessings and gifts.

So imagine that on your wedding day, Jesus gives you a small tree.

Small Marriage Tree - Are We Caring for Our Marriage or Just Craving the Benefits?

It is living, breathing, and there is no other like it in the whole world. It was created specifically for YOU, you and no other. If you care for it well, it will produce fruit to sustain and shelter you.

Take note, however: it is not yours to keep. At the appointed time, you will return it to Him.

Jesus tells you that the tree is very delicate and will require both of you to care for it.

Not to worry, He Himself will provide everything you need, but you have to do your part.

Food for the Tree

In order to grow, thrive, and produce fruit, the tree needs: time, patience, love, kindness, humility, service, good cheer, acceptance, courage, justice, faithfulness, commitment, truth, and consistent care (1 Corinthians 13). Jesus provides these things to the workers. The workers feed the tree.

If the tree is well-cared for by both parties, then it will product fruit to nourish and sustain the couple.

Fruit from the Tree

Words of affirmation, physical touch including sex, quality time, acts of service, gifts, comfort, protection, and an improved, more Christ-like character. The fruit does not feed the tree, the fruit feeds the worker.

As the workers, our focus should be on the health of the tree and making sure we bring everything God has given us into its service. Too often, we are focusing only on our desire for the fruit.

Eventually, we become so zealous about the fruit that we become picky and entitled.

We cease to give thanks at harvesttime – unless we got enough of our own favorite fruit, we don’t care about the nourishment we DID receive. We develop quotas around each specific fruit and spend so much time in the storehouse looking at our supplies that we become distracted. After all, there are TWO workers. Shouldn’t the spouse be tending the tree?

And so when the fruit becomes scarce or less varied, we are much quicker to search and point out all the ways our spouse failed to care for the tree than to recognize and take ownership of how we became distracted.

We started loving the fruit instead of the tree. We start treating our spouse as a hired hand instead of a partner. And then the tree withers and even dies.

But imagine, for a moment, the vision of a tree well-tended. A tree with dedicated workers who do not allow themselves to becomes distracted. Workers who consistently give thanks for whatever fruit they receive, and then go back to tending the tree. With each season, they learn better how to care for the tree. They learn small techniques that product different, sweeter, fuller fruit. They learn each worker’s strengths and weaknesses, and develop a fuller partnership. They reap blessing upon blessing.

  • When one worker trods to the tree, weary but determined, and finds their spouse has seen their hardship and tended the tree for them.
  • When fierce storms strike or the hot sun beats down, the couple takes shelter in the safety of the tree’s shade and strong branches
  • The couple harvests fruit for each other, having come to know the tastes and appetites of their partner
  • Their children play without a care in the tree, knowing it is strong and secure. They use this beautiful tree as a benchmark in their own lives and relationships
  • The couple rests in peace and fullness under their beautiful tree
  • Other workers with other trees learn from watching a thriving partnership. Their trees improve from this couple’s example.
  • When one spouse is called home before the other, the tree is full of enough fruit to sustain the remaining worker for the rest of their days

Thank you, Sarah! We’re supposed to build a marriage, and yet many of us are wanting the benefits without the work.

I wish we could all get back to caring for the tree.

Watering Marriage Tree - Are We Caring for Our Marriage or Just Craving the Benefits?

Now one thing that’s so important in Sarah’s story is that Jesus gave the tree to BOTH of us to tend.

One person cannot do all the tending, no matter how much they work. It won’t produce a healthy tree.

It’s like what one commenter said last week:

it has taken me 25 years to get to the point where I am saying no more, I cannot do this anymore. It has taken a toll on my mental and physical health to continue to service my husband in spite of eight of the factors you listed above. I have woken up to the reality that he has been sexually, emotionally, and spiritually abusive throughout these years and I let him because I thought I had to to be a godly wife. …

 It was one of your posts two or three years ago that began to open my eyes to reality. You quoted Gary Thomas, I think, when he said something to the effect of God loves people more than institutions. If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. I read that when I was at my lowest, darkest place due to demands he was making that were degrading and immoral. I thought I HAD to make things work, that I could not deprive my husband…..he often used that scripture to coerce me. Y’all have helped me to seek hard after God and untangle the web of twisted scriptures used to torment me. I’m in counseling now. I have learned so much. It has been hard work to heal from decades of abuse. I couldn’t even call it that until a few months ago. I have a long way to go still.

Hopefully Healing

Commenting on 10 Questions to Ask if Your Wife Doesn't Want Sex

So you cannot fix a marriage on your own or get a marriage healthy on your own.

We’re not asking you to do that. 

But what all of us can do is stop focusing on what we’re supposed to get out of marriage and start focusing on caring for that marriage. Like commenter Doug said last week, sometimes you have to be the one to make the first move, even if your spouse has also hurt you. But someone has to go first.

So go first. Care for the tree. Don’t look for the fruit.

If your spouse never reciprocates, it’s not up to you to keep the tree healthy, because you were never meant to do that on your own.

But we are called to do what we can do. And when we do that–just think of how beautiful that tree can be!

Marriage as a Tree - Are We Caring for Our Marriage or Just Craving the Benefits?

What do you think? Do we become too preoccupied with “fruit”? Let’s talk in the comments!

4d5d2dc667e7acd64221c42a103248a4?s=96&d=mm&r=g - Are We Caring for Our Marriage or Just Craving the Benefits?

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila has been married to Keith for 28 years, and happily married for 25! (It took a while to adjust). She’s also an award-winning author of 8 books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila is passionate about changing the evangelical conversation about sex and marriage to line up with kingdom principles. ENTJ, straight 8

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