Sacrifice in Marriage – Give in or Give up?

When I was a young adult, I often asked my mother, who worked only a few years in her otherwise housebound life, why she did not pursue a career as a professor when she was offered the job after she got married to my father. Or I would ask her why she always waited upon my father to start with dinner. Or I would quiz her on why she did not cook things that she liked to eat more often. The answer was always the same – sacrifice; my father liked it that way.

Then there were times when I would wonder why my Father, who’s a businessman, never switched over to riskier but possibly, more rewarding business ventures; or did not take that overseas job when he could have. His answer too would be the same – sacrifice; it would have been hard on my mother and us kids.

Then a few years back, I came to learn that the husband of one of my closest friends had been cheating on her for several years. They were on the brink of a divorce. But in the end, she forgave him and is now trying to build a new life for both of them. When I asked her why she forgave him, she gave me the same answer.

Then when I got married, my parents gave me this piece of advice –

Keep your ego aside in your marriage. Love unconditionally. Adapt, adjust, compromise and sacrifice. But always stand up for what’s right.

With that in mind, I compromised on a lot of things in my married life – a career, a beloved city, changed my habits, my attire, who I hung out with, and many more things. But that doesn’t mean that only I changed. My husband made changes in his life too. He quit some habits I didn’t approve of. He now eats whatever I put on the table, even if he doesn’t like it. He will do things and go to places only because I want to go there. And the biggest adjustments and sacrifices in our marriage came when our daughter was born.

I think you may have understood by now what this article is about – sacrifice in marriage. It sounds scary, the word sacrifice, like one of those words that sound daunting and depressing, like the word death. But mostly, sacrifice in marriage comes from the little changes we make in our lives to keep harmony and love in the marital home. Sacrifices, along with love, trust, forgiveness, friendship and communication, make the foundation of a happy marriage.

It does not matter how small the sacrifice is – giving up your side of the bed to your partner who prefers that side, changing the brand of your tea because it doesn’t suit your allergic partner, giving up a career or a particular job to rear up your children – as long as it’s a change you made by suppressing your personal preference for something that brings peace and happiness in your relationship, it will be a bona fide sacrifice.

Sacrifices, or let’s just call them adjustments to make them sound less daunting, show your partner and your family that you truly love and care for them; to let go of what you like, and make space for them instead. It’s easy to say ‘I love you’, but it’s difficult to prove it. But one way of proving to your partner is to love them unconditionally and change your lifestyle to make things easier for your relationship.

So if you wake up earlier than everyone, to make your husband a fresh meal for the work, it is a sacrifice that shows you love him. And in turn if your husband gives up a few minutes of his time to clean up the kitchen after dinner, that is a sacrifice that shows he loves and cares for you. That’s what families do – make adjustments for each other and love each other unconditionally.

Whether to give in to your spouse’s demands or give up on the marriage depends on the kind of sacrifices or the frequency thereof. For there are good sacrifices and bad sacrifices too. The difference between them is that while the former empowers the marital home as a whole, the latter only empowers the bully in the relationship. I’ll give you an example of both –

The above example of making a fresh meal for the husband while sacrificing your sleep, is an example of a good sacrifice, because it ensures that your husband is taken care of while he works. You do it out of love and concern for him. But even sacrificing your ego and forgiving your spouse for an occasional lapse in sanity or good temper, is also a good sacrifice. Afterall, that’s what spouses do, stick together through thick and thin, good and bad, in health and sickness.

But if these occasional lapses become a usual thing in your family, then it’s time to stop sacrificing and stand up for your rights. It’s not a sacrifice when you stay quiet over a grave matter like child abuse or domestic violence, or constant bickering and being taken for granted. Forgiveness is one thing, but there’s no place for violence and maltreatment in a marriage. Bending to someone’s will for something that is unfair or wrong, more than a few times, is not a sacrifice.

In the end we must remember that all relationships require some sort of adjustments in our behaviours. That’s what living in a society is all about. If we all started to only think for ourselves, we would have anarchy. But the most demanding relationships are those in the immediate family – husband-wife and parents-kids. They require an uncountable number of sacrifices, some of them even downright unfair. It is upto us to decide where we give unconditional support and where we draw the line.

I leave you with this apt quote on what marriage is really about by Darlene Schacht –

Marriage is a thousand little things… It’s giving up your right to be right in the heat of an argument. It’s forgiving another when they let you down. It’s loving someone enough to step down so they can shine. It’s friendship. It’s being a cheerleader & trusted confidant. It’s a place of forgiveness that welcomes one home, and arms they can run to in the midst of a storm. It’s grace.

Pradita Kapahi.