How does attitude affect the way service is delivered? In restaurants, you can tell if a waiter is in a sour mood—it will manifest itself in his service. If a waiter’s service is competent, prompt, and amiable, you can tell that the waiter carries a brighter attitude. In other words, attitude is a part of what is served. There is no way to separate the two.

Restaurant service can be analogized with marriage service. What is marriage service? It’s when each spouse serves the other unselfishly and uninhibitedly. Indeed, getting to this stage in any relationship takes a great deal of effort and commitment, but at the heart of the work that goes into making a marriage happy and successful is the right attitude. This attitude can be summed up in one statement that you can say aloud: “I am a servant to my spouse.”

How do you respond emotionally to this statement? Do you feel yourself resist this notion, resent it, or demand that your spouse give “equal” service in return? If you identify with any of these, that’s completely normal. These are common attitudes of someone who moves from being served to being a servant.

Resistance to being a servant usually comes from a place of misguided teaching, as when men are taught that it is biblical to dominate their wives into subordination. But this attitude is not gender specific. Anybody who has such expectations from their spouse is expecting to be served, not to serve.

Furthermore, this person is also still struggling with the two-becoming-one part of marriage. This means sacrificing one’s own pride and sense of entitlement, eventually becoming one who serves instead of one who is served.

Resentment is also a common reaction to serving one’s spouse. One would regard such service as “having to” complete menial tasks rather than “getting to” work for someone as lovely as one’s spouse. In the initial stages, one begins to resent having to be a servant to the spouse. Then, it becomes resentment of the work required to serve one’s spouse.

Finally, it festers into resentment of the spouse. This attitude is a toxic place to be: your spouse appears to you no longer as a subject of affection but as a source of endless tasks. Marriage is hard work. But approaching such work with the right attitude is essential to making marriages last.

The feeling of wanting service to be spread equally between both spouses is also a normal response. You might ask yourself, “If I do this much work, shouldn’t my spouse do the same?” The truth is, there is no absolute fairness in the world. As a result, there is no way to quantify the service done for one’s husband or wife. You cannot keep score of all the ways you both support the marriage.

Doing so will only lead to disrespect of one another’s perceived shortcomings, also a cancer in any relationship. Marriage is not intended to be fair; it causes pain and inconvenience in order to teach you to love your spouse unselfishly. Therefore, you give as much as you can, and your spouse will reciprocate.

Acceptance of service almost never comes right away—it usually takes overcoming any of the above reactions. But when you eventually accept your duty to serve in marriage, you and your spouse will be in a much better marital state. Acceptance of my servitude to my wife, Lisa, has been a freeing experience that has taught me humility and grace. I hope it can do the same for you.

Excerpt taken from: Servant Marriage.

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Heart to Heart Counseling Center offers counseling and intensives to help you achieve love and understanding with your spouse.

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