A Backdoor to Happiness in Marriage

A Backdoor to Happiness in Marriage

By Gary Thomas

If you want a great relationship, learn to showcase your spouse.

Famed Russian-born ballet choreographer George Balanchine once said, "Ballet is woman." The best male dancers recognize that their role is all about showcasing the female dancer's beauty, particularly during pas de deux—couples' dancing.

People generally go to the ballet to see the beautiful form, grace, balance, coordination, and strength of the female lead, but all of those qualities are even better showcased when the ballerina has a male dancer who can set her up, catch her, and support her.

As a former male dancer and later choreographer, Balanchine said his job was to "make the beautiful more beautiful."

What if we considered that our job as husbands and wives was "to make the beautiful more beautiful"? By supporting, stabilizing, lifting, and turning our spouses to the "best sides" of their strengths and personalities, our spouses can become more and do more than they ever could on their own. We essentially affirm the beautiful we see in them by helping them become even more beautiful.

Some of our spouses may not even realize they have a best side. It's our job—and joy—to help them discover it. Others may have never allowed their best side to flourish—or even be seen—because they're insecure. If that's the case, when we learn to cherish them, we will provide the support they need.


Learning to showcase

"Showcasing"—making the deliberate mental shift to cherish our spouses by highlighting their beauty to others in the same way a dancer focuses on supporting his partner—is an essential part of learning how to cherish our spouses. If two dancers are each trying their hardest to be noticed above or even by each other, the performance is going to be a colossal, ugly failure.

Husbands can take the attitude of male dancers, seeking to showcase their wives' beauty. It may be the beauty of wisdom, so in social settings we do our best to ensure she is heard. It may be the beauty of leadership, and we support her so she can cast vision with others. It may be the beauty of hospitality, and we buy the things she needs and open up our homes (when we might prefer to be left alone) so her beauty can be on full display. We remind ourselves, "Today my job is to cherish her."

Very few marriages would ever approach divorce if each spouse would make one of their first daily comments to each other be this: "How can I support you today? How can I make your day better?"

If wives adopted this attitude, supporting their mates to perform feats they could never do on their own, they might soon be married to "different" husbands with the same names—more confident, more at peace, more engaged at home. What if a husband knew—in the deepest part of his soul—that his wife was his strongest support, his most encouraging partner? What would that do to him?

What if he was willing to risk failure out in the world or at home with his kids because he knew in his wife's eyes he would always be her cherished champion? She supports him and stabilizes him, and when he fails, she binds up his wounds—spiritual and emotional—constantly turning and lifting him so his strongest side is always showing. What if every wife woke up and thought to herself, Today my job is to cherish him by showcasing his best side to others?

Showcasing is cherishing

Learning to showcase our spouses in this way requires that we learn to appreciate a different kind of pleasure: our spouses' above our own.

Showcasing is the exact opposite of being selfish.

Worldly love loves because of what we get out of it:

"I love you because you make me feel so good."
"I love you because you make me happy."
"I love you because you are so lovable."

Infatuated couples don't think like this, but they do feel like this, which is why they can become so bitter and resentful when the infatuation fades and they have to try to rebuild an intimate marriage based on authenticity and service.

Cherishing our spouses isn't served by resenting our spouses but by showcasing them, which requires a certain self-forgetfulness and a corresponding determination to focus on our spouses. Another way to put it is that the call to cherish isn't to appreciate being pleasured by your spouse but to take pleasure in the pleasure of your spouse. You feel more elated over their blessings than even your own. To cherish is to almost desperately want others to see the best side of your spouse the way you do.

Picture a male dancer who has just supported, tossed, caught, turned, and showcased the ballerina, lifting her up for her final move—one that is so powerful and graceful and brilliant that when she lands in the spotlight, the audience leaps to their feet in a thunderous standing ovation.

And the male dancer slowly steps back into the shadows, his heart racing with exertion and pleasure.

The ballerina is adored, so his job is done. The standing ovation for her brings him great joy.

That's what it means to cherish.

Here's a curious truth some of you may find difficult to believe: The more you cherish your spouse, the more joy you'll have in your relationship. When you see others adore and admire your spouse, it makes your heart adore and admire your spouse that much more. Showcasing may seem like a strange backdoor to happiness, but I'm telling you, it works. When you get your highest joy by giving your spouse joy, marriage takes off.

Practical showcasing

How can you better cherish your spouse so he or she can become the person God made them to be? What do you have to do in private? What do you have to do in public? What's the best way for you to showcase your particular spouse with their particular personality and gifts while helping them overcome their vulnerabilities and weaknesses?

If your spouse is an introvert, rather than push them onto center stage, it may mean making sure you stay by him or her in social situations because they need your support. You don't resent this—not if you cherish your spouse. You find comfort in knowing your spouse feels comfortable.

If your spouse needs time alone, showcasing may mean offering them opportunities to go off by themselves. You don't resent this or take it personally; instead, you find a quiet contentment knowing their needs are being met.

Showcasing is all about making the beautiful yet more beautiful.

In his book Marriage Rebranded, Tyler Ward writes, "If your spouse isn't loved well, he or she may not live out their potential good in the world … As we learn to love and therefore give to our spouse, we not only become the best version of ourselves—we offer our spouse the chance to become the best version of him or herself as well. Love, then, is giving for the sake of our spouse's becoming."

Love is giving for the sake of our spouse's becoming.

Probably 90 percent of the couples who ask for my counsel have, at its root, the problem that both of them want to play first violin. The concept of cherishing—valuing someone, holding someone dear, wanting to showcase their beauty the way a new fiancée shows off her engagement ring, taking pleasure in your spouse's pleasure—helps us recapture a better, more productive, and more intimacy-enhancing mindset.

You can have everything else right in marriage—you can even be perfectly compatible—but if you stop showcasing each other, the marriage will eventually grow stale, if not downright miserable. It doesn't matter how strong a dancer you are, men; you could have the arms of an Olympic champion and quadriceps like tree trunks, but if you drop your ballerina instead of catch her; if you step in front of her instead of lift her; if you flex your muscles instead of showcasing hers, that's going to be one ugly ballet performance.

 Romance is fickle, unpredictable, and fragile. It comes and goes, usually without warning, sending both partners on a furious chase to recapture the spark. Cherishing expressed by showcasing is deliberate and intentional, and it provides a consistent path to ever-increasing marital intimacy and happiness.


COLLISION MEDIA