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How Generosity Could Transform Your Marriage

Who knew that something as generic as generosity could transform your marriage? It has the potential to increase marital quality, make conflict resolution easier, increase your own happiness, help you to see other people’s perspectives, decrease divorce risk... Basically, make everything better except for my poor finger... Today, we’re offering some variety! I (Caleb) injured my finger and while it is not exactly life threatening (like such horrors as a man cold), I am not supposed to type. Sooo, this week Verlynda has gone through the research and written up this episode. Wasn’t it just last week we had an iTunes review asking for more input from Verlynda? Well, here you are! Ok, let’s get into the topic of generosity. What Is Generosity? Bear with me while we go through some boring definitions, but they really do lay the foundation for looking at how generosity affects marriage. Marital generosity is defined as "giving good things to one's spouse freely and abundantly[i]". Generosity is considered a "marital virtue": a character trait and personal strength which naturally leads a person to act in ways that are good for the marriage[ii]. More practically speaking, within marriage, generosity can be seen as investing in the relationship with behaviors such as putting your spouse’s needs above your own, and freely giving of your time, effort and energy without any thought of personal gain[iii]. What Effect does Generosity Have on Marriage? I think it’s obvious to say that generosity will have a positive impact on marriage. What I thought was neat though, was it had a positive impact both for the person acting generously and for their spouse. This is a win-win! Generosity often feels good and satisfying personally. It also increases your spouse's happiness and makes them more likely to act generously in return. So even though generosity shouldn't be motivated by personal gain, people do still benefit from it. Here’s a blurb from the research: generosity increases marital satisfaction for both spouses, reduces marital conflict and is negatively correlated with risk of divorce[iv]. These effects are true for both husbands and wives but are normally more pronounced in women. So, who wouldn’t want to add a little more generosity into their repertoire? Generous acts also serve to protect the marriage from stresses such as financial pressure. A study from 2018[v] found that a husband's levels of generosity mediated the link between economic hardship and his wife's levels of marital quality. Here’s something about generosity that I found really interesting. Generosity is related to specific acts that a person does for their spouse, but it is also a state of mind which affects how they see and relate to the world[vi]. Both aspects are important. First, let’s talk about the acts or behaviors, and then we’ll look into the mind piece. Acts of Generosity Here are four key ways that the research[vii] gives to show generosity to one’s spouse. These are: small, everyday acts of kindness expressions of respect displays of affection willingness to forgive These four kinds of generosity were linked to higher marital satisfaction for both spouses, reduced conflict and reduced divorce risk. Household labor! This is another important area that marital generosity impacts. Research from 2012[viii] found a link between generosity and willingness to share household and childcare labor. Deciding to share these jobs fairly (rather than doing them out of obligation) led to couples seeing each other as more generous, which led to higher marital quality. Like the other day, when I hadn’t got the dishes done, and had done a ton of baking, so the counter was full, and after supper, Caleb just started on washing. It was totally unnecessary as I had made all the mess, but you were so generous with your time and your wrinkly dishpan hands and you finished them all for me. That was total generosity.