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Never Let Them Know How Much It Cost You

Imagine for a moment

It’s your birthday. Let’s say it’s a big one- maybe you’re turning 40 or 50. Your spouse has thrown you a huge surprise party! You’re surrounded by your family and friends. You feel so loved.

It’s time to open presents, so everyone sits down to watch the reveal of each gift. You open the first one from your best friend: tickets to see your favorite band in concert!

“Those cost me $100,” your friend says. “Plus tax. AND I had to take a personal day off work in order to go with you. But it’s fine. It’ll be fun!”

You say thank you, followed by a befuddled “I’m sorry,” and pick up the next gift from your brother: a copy of the third book in your favorite series.

“Do you know what I had to go through to get that book?” he remarks. “They were all sold out in the bookstore and on Amazon, so I had to special order it and it cost me twice as much. Plus shipping! But that’s ok, at least you have it now.”

Once again, you say an earnest “thank you,” guilt deflating your joy. You certainly don’t want your birthday to be a burden on anyone. Yet, that’s how it’s starting to feel.

One by one, you open gifts from your loved ones. One by one they tell you what they paid for it, and all the ways it cost them- time, effort, and sacrifice- until eventually you want to give all the gifts back.

The icing on the cake is when your spouse starts in on how organizing the party cost so much. “I knew you wanted something big for your birthday, so I went to great lengths to make it happen. I secretly called all the people you see here and prepped the food and drinks. I also had to work overtime to pay for all of this. I’m really tired. But I hope you enjoyed it!”

Um…. no.

No, I wouldn't really enjoy that.

Such a party sounds terrible, frankly.

I venture to guess most of us wouldn’t want a gift that sparks resentment in the ones we love, costing them more than they wish to spend.

But how often do we do this in our marriage? That is, let our spouse know how much whatever we’re giving costs us?

For example:

You know your spouse is stressed, so you tidy up the house, make sure the dishes are done, and do a load of laundry to take some of the responsibility off their plate. They get home from work, exhausted (and still stressed); you ask how they’re doing…


“Me too,” you say. “I had to work, then I got home and tidied the house, did the dishes, and threw in a load of laundry.”

“Good for you,” they reply.

Maybe your heart’s in the right place, but you’re basically doing an act of service, then negating it by explaining how much it has cost you.

Would you feel blessed by such an act? Probably not.

What good is a gift if we take it back or neutralize it by telling the receiver how much it cost us?

It’s About Control

We want what we want when we want it. (Do those words make your eyes blur?)

We want what we want…when we want it. It gives us a sense of control; it promises to deliver. And it is our sin nature to put our own desires before anyone else’s.

For more on the impact putting ourselves first has on others, check out the following blog posts:

And podcasts:

Marriage becomes extremely challenging when both husband and wife operate out of a me-first mentality. Yet, many of us never move past that point.

How do you gain control?

When you feel you’re making a sacrifice, do you want your spouse to know so they can appreciate it more? What are some ways you inadvertently (or intentionally) let them know how much it’s costing you? Maybe you can resonate with some of the following:

  • The big *SIGH* you make sure they hear (I’m queen of the big sigh…. *SIGH*... SMH.)

  • Complaining/grumbling

  • Directly spelling it out for them: “Do you know how hard I’ve been working? Do you know how much time I put into that?”

  • The passive aggressive attitude: “It’s fine, I’ll just have to change my plans, which won’t be easy.”

  • The score-keeper mentality: “I mean, I’ve already done xyz for you... but I guess I can do one more thing…”

  • The guilt-maker method: “I know I need to sacrifice for you, and I will… AGAIN… but don’t you think you could sacrifice for me every once-in-a-while?”

So, what’s the solution? How do we move past our natural bent to disclose the cost of our sacrifices?

Cost for a Cause

When you’re fighting for a cause, you can endure a lot. Determination kicks in, and, though you may count the costs, you’re willing to “pay” a lot more for a cause in which you believe.

Thus far, the cause on which we’ve focused is control; trying to stay within our comfort level. But…

In order to live and love sacrificially, never letting our spouse know how much it costs us, we must do it for the Lord. Our cause must be GOD’S cause, not our own.

What is God’s cause?

He wants His love on display, so He asks us to love others as we love ourselves (John 15:12).

This means Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:3-4).

Think of it this way:

When passion for my spouse is greater than passion for something else I want, it will still cost me something, but I’ll also gain something.

More on that in a bit.

Serving Out of Love or Obligation?

There are always needs in our spouse that we can meet. It’s a privilege to be asked by God to do so! But a heart check is needed when we’re trying to meet those needs. We must answer the question:

Am I operating from a heart of LOVE or a heart of OBLIGATION?

Both modes will make sure the need is met, but one strengthens the relationship while the other strains it.

(If this is striking a cord with you, listen to our 6-Part podcast series on PURSUIT, starting with THIS one…)


“It’s my Christian duty.”

So we give… just enough to say we did it.

Our thoughts tend toward What can I get away with NOT giving? In a round-about way, we’re STILL trying to control the situation, we’ve just honed our mastery of manipulation to get what we want. (I finished the honey-do list AND did two extra chores… I’ve definitely earned some intimacy tonight!) The score-keeping commences. (If you and your spouse have a running scoreboard of who’s done what, listen to THIS episode and break the cycle.)

When we look at how much we should give, we see:

  1. What we owe

  2. What we feel required to do

It’s the bartering system in our marriage. What does our spouse need? Do I have it in my resources to meet that need? We usually answer no to the second question. Or we just default to doing the bare minimum; we’ve gotten away with it for this long, why change now?

Score-keeping and bartering are sure signs that you are giving out of obligation.

If you’re anything like me you may be wondering how to get out of that mindset. For some of us, it’s so deeply ingrained- roots of selfishness run so deep- it seems impossible to change. It's not.

One thing I know about God, He wants to mold us to be more like Him. And there is not one ounce of selfishness in Him. So, He works to uproot (sometimes painfully) our selfish desires to keep score and do the bare minimum until we’re able to genuinely ask “Ok, Lord, how DO I best love my spouse?” Then our heart will joyfully seek to do so.

Giving out of Love

If this is going to bless my spouse, why WOULDN’T I do it?

It’s a driving question that motivates us to look for ways to love and bless our spouse all the time.

Are you close enough to your husband to see his deepest needs?

Are you in tune to the point where you know the struggles of your wife’s heart?

God asks us to put others before us, love them as we love ourselves. Doing so starts so simply:

Look at what matters to your spouse and give until God says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

That means we must GIVE GENEROUSLY. (For more on the power of generously giving to your spouse, check out THIS quick read.)

Now, take a minute to read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.

It really is a must-read, so click on it.

Go ahead, I’ll wait…

There are three very clear truths in this passage.

  1. First, God wants us to give generously to others. Not reluctantly or out of obligation, not grumbling, but cheerfully. Skimping steals generosity.

  2. The second truth that motivates and enables us to give generously: God will bless you abundantly so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (v. 8). He doesn’t expect us to do it in our own power. HE is our strength. HE provides ALL that we need to abound in good works. And He will bless us abundantly when we do.

  3. The first two truths lead to the third truth: Generous giving results in thanksgiving and glorifying God. Verses 12-13 say, This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

We can’t lose when we generously give to our spouse (and to others), so we must loosen our grip for control, drop our desire to show how much it’s costing us, and trust in the truths of God’s Word:

God provides everything we need in order to give generously, which leads to abundant blessings from Him and an outpouring of thanksgiving to our Almighty God and Father.

These truths are crucial to understand, but we’d be naive to deny that loving generously requires sacrifice, and with sacrifice usually comes some level of discomfort. (No one understands this better than Jesus Christ. Read this story of His ultimate loving sacrifice HERE.)


The world has a different view of sacrifice; one that cheapens it and makes it less costly. The WORLD says that if we seek to satisfy our own desires, we become more of our true self. When we place someone else’s desires ahead of our own, we become something we’re not; we won’t even recognize ourselves anymore. (for more on hot topic, listen to a 2-part series on Worth in Christ HERE).

We’re not losing a part of ourselves when we give without complaint or expectation of anything in return. That’s a lie from the world. The truth from God’s Word is when you love like He loves, you come out on the winning side (Philippians 2:1-18).

Nothing lost.

Everything gained.

You don’t lose your identity when you give, you gain your identity by becoming more like Christ.

You don’t lose your life, you gain the purpose that gives meaning to your life.

You don’t lose what you have, you gain more for the next time.

Sacrifice done God’s way is beautiful.

The Cost

As mentioned before, sacrifice DOES come at a cost. Some of those costs include:

  1. Pushing beyond our physical limitations (if that sounds uncomfortable, take some time to learn what God says about REST in this podcast series about BURNOUT)

  2. Putting our preferences away

  3. Being inconvenienced- giving our time, attention, and efforts to something we hadn’t planned- for our spouse’s benefit (to start putting feet to this, listen to THIS and go from being an observer of your spouse to being their CHAMPION)

  4. Even spiritually stepping out of our comfort zone: awkwardness in praying aloud, insecurity in fulfilling our role as husband/wife, questioning our ability to face a situation with limited Biblical knowledge

The question is:

What does our spouse see when we sacrifice for them? Is it the COST of the sacrifice, or the LOVE for them?

Vow to Change: An Encouraging Call to Action

If we’re being honest, all of us can safely say we’ve made the mistake of letting our spouse know how much something is costing us (even if it’s with the big *SIGH* we make sure they notice.)

It’s time to take a different approach, but how?

  1. Every day, prayerfully ask: God, how can I serve my spouse today? Not only will God answer, but it will shift your mindset and attitude to one of action, instead of one of expectation for your spouse to serve you. Write down 2-3 specific ways to serve your spouse every day for a week.

  2. Get close and PAY ATTENTION to what your spouse REALLY needs. Remember, God has placed you in your spouse’s life to help meet some of those needs. God, help me meet the need of _________ in my spouse’s life. Then…

  3. Do everything without complaining and arguing (Philippians 2:14).

  4. Start talking differently: “I’m flexible. No worries. I’m easy to please.” And prove it! God, help me to be flexible and easy to please. Give me a heart of peace, regardless of my spouse’s actions (or lack thereof). Remember: when we place our expectations on GOD- that HE will provide- it takes our expectations off our spouse.

  5. Forgive and ask for forgiveness where needed. Is forgiveness a struggle for you? Check out the following posts for a deeper understanding on the power, process, and importance of forgiveness:

    1. Help! My Marriage is “Stuck"- How Do I Forgive My Husband/Wife When They’ve Hurt Me So Badly?

    2. 3 Steps Toward Reconciliation in Your Marriage

    3. 3 Ways to Love Your Spouse Even When You Don't Feel Like It

Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:13-14:

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

So, remember:

Whatever does/doesn’t happen is in God’s hands. There’s no need to inform our spouse of the sacrifices we’re making and what they’re costing us. GOD ALREADY KNOWS. And He is working it all together for our benefit, the benefit our spouse, the benefit of our marriage, and ultimately for HIS glory. We need only trust in Him.

To go deeper, listen to this post’s corresponding podcast:


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