Thursday, December 15, 2011

Say Nothing . . .

My family has never been one to say things like "I love you." I am happy with that; my belief is that love, amongst various emotions, is best expressed with actions. There are enough men who claim to love their wives then proceed to beat them black and blue. 

And so it makes me incredibly satisfied to come across this new conclusion by researchers: marriages with active generosity are the successful ones.
Generosity was defined as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” — like simply making them coffee in the morning — and researchers quizzed men and women on how often they behaved generously toward their partners. How often did they express affection? How willing were they to forgive?
We know that line that love, ahava, has at its root hav, to give. When one gives of themselves (not necessarily giving of items, but of effort), one comes to love the object of their efforts. 
Men and women with the highest scores on the generosity scale were far more likely to report that they were “very happy” in their marriages. The benefits of generosity were particularly pronounced among couples with children. Among the parents who posted above-average scores for marital generosity, about 50 percent reported being “very happy” together. Among those with lower generosity scores, only about 14 percent claimed to be “very happy,” according to the latest “State of Our Unions” report from the National Marriage Project.
What is even more satisfying that the children from generous marriages mimic their parents' generosity, which continues the cycle of giving and successful future relationships. (Of course, that study was done by Israeli researchers.)

I was reminded of an article I had read a while back in Mishpacha Magazine. A man was in the throes of an unhappy marriage; he and his wife had nothing to say to each other for more than twenty years. Asked to do bikur cholim, he is told by the recovering man that he should be more giving to his wife. Do the dishes every once in a while. Offer to drive her if she's going somewhere. Smile.  

The man did so. While his wife initially looked at him in distrust, she eventually responded to his efforts. They began to talk and communicate. Soon the two were a happy couple. They even had another marriage ceremony, since what they had before didn't really qualify as a marriage. 

Reading that story both inspired and depressed me. Could a marriage be saved by the simple act of taking out the garbage unasked? 

7 comments:

Mystery Woman said...

Of course love is best expressed through actions, and saying I love you without behaving that way means nothing, but it's still a nice thing to hear and it's still important to say.

Princess Lea said...

If some need to hear it or say it, that is fine; I don't, personally. As long as the behavior backs it up.

ZP said...

I come from a very expressive family. I think it is important to let the people you love know that you love them and of course, you back up those words by actions. Who doesn't want to hear: "I love you, I'm so lucky to have found you, You complete me, You are beautiful, I love how I feel around you" etc etc etc. Obviously if there are no actions to match, it means nothing. But I think that communication is such an important component of any relationship and people are not mind readers. Expressing ourselves and using what makes us "unique" (i.e. our speech) is important.

Princess Lea said...

There appears to be two different schools of thought.

We do communicate, of course we do. Just this is one of the topics we don't delve in, and we seem to be doing ok. At least, none of us are (currently) in therapy.

We talk about consideration, in action and in speech. My siblings and I were never allowed to verbally abuse each other. It's not that my folks write off speech; they know it has power to hurt as much as a sucker punch.

Maybe I'm just weird, but when I fantasize about a man whispering sweet nothings, he's often saying, "I'll have cereal for supper, no need to clean the chicken . . ."

JerusalemStoned said...

There is this adorable little book called by the dubious title of Porn for Women, and it is exactly that--men saying things like, "while you were gone I did the dishes and made dinner. Would you like a foot massage while we wait?"

I do think verbalizing is nice; but yes, the actions are definitely needed to back it up. I have friends who filed papers recently...and they say themselves that they let life get in the way of being kind to each other. It is dreadfully sad.

Princess Lea said...

Oy.

Anytime I hear stories of divorce my gut plummets.

Princess Lea said...

And I have to get my hands on that book.

There was an episode of "30 Rock" where Jack pitches an idea to make "Porn for Women," channels where a handsome man nods sympathetically, seemingly listening to all her chatter.