Is a good marriage as simple as a cup of coffee? Could a buoyant Breakfast Blend be construed as foreplay – if poured at the right time and served by the right hands?
According to the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, the importance of generosity toward our spouses is not to be underestimated. It might even be as straightforward as offering a considerate cup of Joe.
So states a provocative piece on the New York Times Well Blog, which also appears in today’s New York Times Magazine.
According to Tara Parker-Pope’s article on “Generosity in Marriage,” or more precisely, its exploration of findings from the University of Virginia’s Marriage Project, generosity may be key to marital success.
Generosity Over Sex?
Is the report saying that generosity is more important than lovemaking?
Not exactly. But it does seem to imply that when it comes to marital “happiness,” it’s right up there in importance with communication and a shared sex life.
Citing the National Marriage Project’s oft-quoted State of Our Unions report, generosity is defined as follows:
“the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” — like simply making them coffee in the morning…
I’ve already expressed my feelings on the virtue of, well, virtue. But might these conclusions convince us to trade in Date Night Cabernet for Unexpected Evening Espresso?
It’s important to note that the concept of generosity suggests doing more than one’s fair share of chores. That’s fulfilling responsibility, not going above and beyond. And it’s precisely that – going above and beyond through small signs of valuing your partner – that lies at the heart of the generosity premise.
And it seems logical. (Can’t we recall having treated friends or colleagues with more thoughtfulness than our spouses? Or, having been on the receiving end of indifference, to the point where we felt invisible?)
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that marriage will be undermined by the absence of affection. Most of us appreciate the reassuring touch, the tender kiss, the thoughtfulness of a hand on the shoulder during a moment of exchanged understanding.
And the extension of common courtesy? Everyday thoughtfulness? A gesture of support when your partner is down or discouraged? A heartfelt congratulations when he or she has achieved something remarkable?
Ms. Parker-Pope goes on to convey the report’s findings on the generosity dimension:
“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.”
Ah… If only we had a clue before we married and multiplied…
Tips for Happy Relationships?
While I might not have thought to put generosity per se in the Top Three Tips For a Successful Committed Relationship, I would agree that generosity in the sexual arena reflects a giving nature. It indicates an intimate and caring awareness of the other – and a genuine desire to pleasure the one we love.
As for generosity of spirit and generosity of affection, I am also of the belief that our children should see us share the occasional kiss and the kind gesture. Isn’t that an appropriate model of adult relationship behavior?
When we’re talking about great sex, I still assert that physical intimacy is vital relationship glue, along with effective communication. Of course there are exceptions. (There are always exceptions!)
But deciding which is the chicken and which is the egg? To me, they’re interrelated. They’re both essential. Throw in that unexpected cup of coffee when it’s most needed?
Generosity in Love and Health
What do you think?
- Does generosity keep us healthier?
- Is it a sign of a healthy relationship – or perhaps a means to develop one?
- If only one in the relationship values generosity, are you doomed to eventual resentment?
- If not coffee, what generous gestures form part of your relationships?
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