The Marriage Box. (Relationships Are About What We Put Into Them, Not What We Get Out of Them)

Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins


Most people get married assuming that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for: companionship, romance, sexual fulfillment, intimacy, friendship, laughter, financial security, joys doubled and sorrows and burdens halved.  Most people pick their partner because they think/hope/assume that everything they’ve found with that person will either continue or get even better.


But the truth is that, in the beginning, a marriage or an intimate relationship only gives you a taste of these.  The box is loaded with freebees and samples.  Soon the box will be empty.  Unless both people start putting things into the box.


Like Love, kindness, appreciation.


There is no Love in marriage.  Love is in people.  And people either put the love in marriage or keep it out.


There is no romance in marriage; people have to add romance and passion to their relationship or else the relationship will turn tepid and stagnant.


A couple must learn the art of and form the habits of giving, sharing, loving, being kind, being affectionate, serving, sacrificing, communicating, appreciating, forgiving, accepting, not sweating the small stuff, being consistent, and so on.  In other words, keeping the box full.


Or else the box will empty.


That’s what happens when one or both people take out more than they put in, the box soon empties.


To keep the Marriage Box full requires that we be willing to work at the relationship (that we have a work ethic; that we give as much as, if not more than, we take; that we try to leave things as good as, if not better than, we found them), and that we be bring a healthy version of our “self” to the relationship (and not a depleted self, not an unproductive exploitative self).

 *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *        *

When you love someone, you put things into the box, you give, you invest, you nurture, you build.  When you don’t really love someone—when you say you love a person but actually you don’t—you aren’t concerned with the box, you maybe don’t even realize that there is a box, because the “relationship” isn’t about the other person, it’s about you and about receiving.

When you love someone, it’s not about you, it’s about them, or it’s about BOTH of you. But it’s no longer just about you.  When the relationship is no longer just about you, then there’s a box.

And when you love someone, you don’t just put into the box what is meaningful to you: you put into the box what is meaningful to the other person, what speaks love to the other person.  That’s what makes it Love, giving, sacrifice, self-extension, going the extra mile, about the other person.

Most people are narcissistic in ways that they cannot even begin to imagine let alone even see. They are blind to how narcissistic/selfish they are.  That also makes them blind to all of the ways that they take in a relationship as well as all of the little and not so little ways that they fail to give in a relationship.

When we love another person the relationship isn’t just about us anymore.  When we love someone we don’t starve them, we give to them.

When we love someone love becomes a verb that allows us to put stuff into the box, give to the other person in a way that is meaningful to him or her and works with their schedule, not just ours, and works with their tastes and preferences, not just ours.

When we give in a way that works for us and when we give when we want to give or when we’re in the mood to give, we aren’t really giving or Loving the other person: that’s just that our narcissism temporarily not interfering with the relationship; that’s just our narcissism happening to coincide with the other person benefiting in some collateral way.

This is what most people call Love: their narcissism coinciding with and benefiting the other person collaterally.  Instead of the focused intentional giving that is done out of Love, or that is about the other, the “giving” is really receiving where the focus is primarily on oneself and what one is getting.  When the focus is primarily on oneself in a relationship, one is not actually Loving the other person, one is a narcissist who is using/exploiting the other.

When we love someone, the focus is on the other person, what we are putting in the box, the quality and frequency of what we are putting in the box, whether it matters to the other person, and whether it is good for the other person or will bring happiness to the other person.

When we don’t put stuff in the box, we starve the relationship or marriage.  We are takers, not givers; narcissists, not Lovers.

It’s like the story of the two banquet halls. There are two banquet halls that are laid out identically with an abundance of delicious food. In one banquet hall the people are happy and well-fed.  In the other, they are unhappy and malnourished.  In both banquet halls, people have to eat with identical 3-foot long utensils. The difference is that in the unhappy hall, the people are unhappy because they are focused on trying to feed themselves, and the size of their utensils prevent them from doing so and also have them constantly getting in each other’s way.  In the banquet hall where the people are happy, they are happy because they have learned how to feed each other, and to do so courteously, to give each WHAT the other would like to eat (this analogy assumes that the people themselves have a decent idea of what is good for them to eat and what is not).

The oft told inspirational story that compares the Dead Sea with the Sea of Galilee makes the same point.  The Dead Sea is a dead sea because it keeps all of its water—nothing flows out of it and so nothing can grow in it; the water is too salty.  But the nearby Sea of Galilee is full of life because water flows out of it.

When we love another person, we want to give to that person in a way that is meaningful to him or her; we want to be good to that person; our focus is no longer just on ourselves, but is also equally if not more so on the other.  When we don’t Love the other person, our focus is only incidentally or sporadically or peripherally on the other, and not on the other as an end in him- or herself, but as a means, a prop, a tool, a slot machine for the gratification our wants and needs.

When we love another person, we don’t use him or her, we make the other person and his or her well-being and happiness just as important as our own. We don’t do things that will benefit us but will disrespect him or her.  When we love another, we have the other person’s best interests at heart—and not just some of the time, but constantly.  We have internalized the other person and their next interests so much that they have become a part of us, inseparable from us.  This is not merging or glomming on or fusion without integrity; this is self-extension of the highest and most respectful order.  This is fusion *with* integrity.  This is what real Love is all about: knowing another person and their best interests and what they like and what is good for them well enough that we have come to naturally desire to give this to the other and not withhold it from them or starve them of it.

And it takes a certain amount of personal growth and self-development, a certain level of emotional maturity and character development, a certain amount of self-awareness and honesty and getting real and very truthful with ourselves, to get to this place and not be BSing ourselves about being at this place.

Simply put, a good percentage of people are BSing themselves when they say “I Love you” to their partner.  They don’t actually Love their partner, they don’t treat their relationship like a living thing and nurture and tend to it and invest in it; they don’t see their partner as a REAL person, as someone with tastes and preferences (a love language) different than their own, with ways of wanting to be loved and cared for that are different from how they want to be loved and cared for.  Most people say “I Love you” to keep up the ruse, to keep the game going, to maintain the status quo of what they are getting out of the relationship.  Most people say “I Love you” because the truth would end things: “I am using you, and will continue to do so as long as your needs and wants coincide with what I am prepared to give you collaterally, incidentally, peripherally, as an afterthought.  You are not my primary focus, nor are ‘we’ my primary focus; I am primarily focused on myself because that’s the level of emotionally maturity and psychological development that I am at.  I have been stunted by dozens of things—my culture, upbringing, parents, friends, media, even myself—and so I have not grown enough to love and to give consistently.”

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Anthony Robbins, Love is a Decision, Love Is a Verb, Love is an Act of Will, Love is Not a Feeling, Marriage Box, Mature Love, Mental Health, Personal Growth, Real Love, What is Love? and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Marriage Box. (Relationships Are About What We Put Into Them, Not What We Get Out of Them)

  1. If I ever get married again … which I hope .. I’ll think about those words .. for it is important to nurture the marriage and love in the right way ..

    • John says:

      Thanks for reading and for commenting, Blondinbrille.

      So much of this is about developing greater and greater awareness, especially self-awareness. The more aware we are, the better able we will be to make wiser choices. We’ll be more aware of the variables at play in a situation, we’ll be more aware of our deeper motivations and motives, we’ll be more aware of our limitations and possible blindspots.

      And of course it helps to choose to hook ourselves to some fairly profound concepts and to try to embody them. Most people have little to no idea what love is or isn’t; they think it’s a feeling, an emotion. But what if it isn’t? What does that make their emotion?–lust, infatuation, a crush, some sort of personal childhood psychological unfinished business interacting with another person childhood unfinished business.

      Most people live fairly unreflective unthinking lives, and the way they try to “love” and the way they choose their partners, shows this.

      Thanks again for reading & commenting, Blondinbrille. I’m happy you found something of value in what I wrote and shared!

      Kindest regards,


  2. AJ says:

    I agree with everything you have said. My husband is definitely one who takes everything out of the box and puts nothing in, even though I keep filling it up. We’ve been married for 34 years, he’s now 70 years old, and at this point I see no way to change the status quo. But our 30-year-old daughter is very much like him, and I’m having the same “I give/she takes” issues with her. Is there a similar quote I could use as a conversation starter regarding our relationship? Any guidance would be much appreciated.

  3. The first time I ever truly loved anyone, that is, with the God kind of unselfish love, was when I loved my husband for the first time after eighteen years of an ongoing unhealthy and abusive marriage. Steve hadn’t changed a bit the day that God so kindly led me to my knees, but I did. And when I changed everything changed. That is so hopeful for anyone in an abusive relationship. The abuser doesn’t need to change only you have to change. Among the changes that I saw in my life as a result of my encounter with Jesus was the unconditional love bursting in my heart for my husband. I didn’t love him with the gooshy mooshy kind of emotional love or the friendly kind of love and definitely not the romantic kind of love but I suddenly and deeply cared for him as a person. Up to that point all I could see or care about was how he was affecting me and our three boys. But suddenly I could see him as an individual separate from how he was affecting me. Probably because he wasn’t affecting me any longer because I FINALLY placed my life and specifically my marriage into God’s very capable hands. Now ONLY God was affecting me. I wasn’t in control anymore, not that I ever truly was, and neither was Steve, God was!!! I truly believed that God was now in control as I gave my life and my marriage to Him. I knew that He would either “keep” me in the marriage, by that I mean keep me sane and in peace even in the middle of the trials or He would “deliver” me from the marriage. But it would Him that would do the keeping or the delivering and I would do the obeying! At this point I really didn’t care whether God “kept” me or “delivered” me, honestly, because all that mattered to me, after I heard His lovely, kind and caring voice was that I obey Him as any good daughter should obey her Father. I knew I was FINALLY in Good Hands. God would not, could not let me down. After all, He IS God!!!

    Before that glorious day that God led me to my knees to look up to Him and cry out for help, I had been this self righteous little miss perfect girl and Steve was the messed up functioning addict. I “hated” him, by that I mean I was completely walled off from him in my heart. I hated him meant that he couldn’t hurt me anymore. He pretty much went his way except for the daily episodes of mental and emotional and on rare occasion physical abuse, and I went mine. I just knew that one day he would change and be so sorry and love me. To me if he changed then my life, our life would be all better. But that wasn’t true. He didn’t need to change for me to begin loving him. When God asked me to give Him my marriage, He said, “No more “D” word, no more divorce, no more back door of divorce. That was so freaky because He was asking me to trust Him to the point that I may have to stay with Steve the rest of my life no matter what he did. But whatever I was doing up to that point, the nagging, the crying, the judging, the “hatred,’ sure wasn’t working. With God’s words came such peace. What really struck me the most was how kind God was to me even after I was so mean to Him all these years. I argued with Him and judged Him and criticized the way He was NOT healing my marriage. When all the while He was preparing me for this life changing day. When He was so kind to me even though I was so mean to Him it made me so thankful that He didn’t just leave me in that state. I was so grateful for His unconditional love toward me. If I were Him I would have told me to take a hike! I would have “hated” me, walled me off, closed my heart from me. But He loved me and He loved me in spite of me. THAT love, that unconditional love hit me so hard that all I could do was be so very thankful. I was so humbled by THIS kind of love that I completely didn’t deserve but was so freely given. This love welled up on the inside of me for Steve. Oh God I thought, all Steve needs is You to come into His life like you did mine. I saw that I was no better than he was even though he was the addict and I was little miss goody two shoes. The one thing that we were both guilty of was neither one of us was loving or listening to God. That’s tragic because He is so worth loving and so worth listening to. I was in church constantly but I really didn’t have an obedient relationship with God where He was my Father and I was His obedient daughter. Basically Steve wanted me to change, by just SHUTTING me UP! And I wanted him to change by getting him off drugs. Neither one of us loved the other one. No matter how “good” I thought I was I was DEFINITELY not being loving. I mean the poor guy was a complete drug addict and I only cared about him getting off drugs because he was affecting me. I was the center of my life. And he was the center of his life. Now Jesus is the center of my life right where He belongs. Now I have access to His love, His wisdom, His goodness.
    One of the most noted changes after that encounter concerning my ability to “love” Steve was that I no longer cried after sex. I used to feel so sad after sex and I thought it had only to do with his behavior toward me. But once I gave my marriage to God I became a true wife for the first time in all those years. Steve still hadn’t had any change but I was a wife. He still was not behaving as a husband but that didn’t make me not a wife. My heart was right for the first time in all of those years. My commitment was to the marriage and God would “keep” me safely in it or safely out of it.
    Now I’m sure you’re probably hoping for a Happy Ending and for me this was, but God did not “heal” our marriage. Three months after my encounter with God, he “released” me from my marriage and I have NEVER looked back. Still I cried like a nineteen year old when I filed for divorce and all my dreams of being loved by Steve were gone. He would never love me was so heart breaking. But I left loving Steve, I forgiving Steve and I continue to pray for Steve. I have also asked Steve to forgive me for my disgusting self righteous pride all those years. We have been divorced now for 20 years. Steve has not “changed.” But I only see his extreme worth to God and pray that God comes in and brings His light to Steve because only God can change a heart.

  4. Pingback: 15 Quotes On Love & Marriage

  5. pst. Ezekiel says:

    this information is powerful and meaningful. can I print this article to give to people?

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