I have taken a total of three different marriage classes in college (two for fun, one for my major). In all three of those classes, we were asked what the most important thing in marriage was: communication, meeting emotional needs, romance, or something else. In the first class, I picked meeting emotional needs because to me that is something I really value in a relationship. During the second class I had forgotten what the answer was, so I picked communication. But our teacher told us that selflessness is the most important trait you can have in a marriage. In my personal opinion, all of those traits, communication, meeting emotional needs, and romance are important for a marriage, but all of those traits needs selflessness in order for a marriage to thrive.
Think about it—you can be a great communicator. Communication is a very sought-after skill for a lot of marriages because it is a pretty easy one to pinpoint and probably has the most resources for you to improve it. What is the point of being a good communicator, though, if you can’t be selfless enough to act on what is being said or requested in those great conversations? You can be a good communicator but still be selfish in a relationship. So even though communication is a very important trait to have, you need more than just communication to make a marriage work. Communication can solve a lot of problems, but you need to be able to view things through your partner’s perspective, and sometimes drop your pride, to be able to understand the deeper needs that they have.
To me, my thought is that meeting someone’s emotional needs is selfless. I don’t think I am wrong in thinking that, but it also proves that selflessness is needed in order to meet your spouse’s emotional needs. It is so hard to meet someone else’s needs if you don’t have that desire to serve, but marriage is also a great opportunity to learn how to be selfless.
Sometimes we can’t meet every need they have, and you shouldn’t be able to—that’s not possible—but we want to try our best. Sometimes you need to rely on them more to meet your needs because some days, or weeks, are harder than others. But my advice is to do one thing a day to meet your partner’s needs.
Then there is romance. If anyone has read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, then you know that romance is different for everyone. My husband and I have different top love languages—his is physical touch and mine is acts of service. It isn’t first nature to show someone romance in the way they want because we think that we need to love people how we want to be loved. It takes selflessness and going out of your comfort zone to be able to speak your partner’s love language. But, going out of our way to express love to our partner the way they appreciate it can increase closeness in the marriage. Two weeks ago my husband literally came home and said, “What can I do? I just want to serve you!” If my eyes could have turned into hearts they would have. That made me feel SO LOVED and cared for! And he wasn’t doing some bold, rare, earth-shattering thing for me; it was just his simple gesture to serve me, and then to take action on it, that helped me feel more loved.
So what is the take away? All of those traits, communication, meeting emotional needs, and romance are crucial for a marriage. I think that you need to learn how to be better at all of those areas of a marriage, but selflessness is what makes the marriage function at its best capacity.