Is the Art of Give and Take Alive and Well in Your Marriage?

BY: - 6 Jul '17 | Marriage

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By: Dr. George James

We’ve all heard that it takes work to make relationships successful.  At the same time, most of us do not know how much work (effort, commitment, communication and more) it takes. Just when you think you’ve learned how to juggle your needs and your partner’s needs, something or someone else gets added to the equation.  For many, having children adds needs that are challenging to navigate.  How do you meet your child(ren)’s needs, your partner’s needs and still have time to take care of your own?

TNMCoupleFamilyBabySleepMany couples find themselves overwhelmed at this prospect. I spoke to a new father the other day who, after two weeks of caring for his newborn son with his wife, had an epiphany. “This is a lot and there’s two of us working together to take care of him.  I don’t know how single parents do it.  I give them a lot of credit.” It was hard for he and his wife to imagine caring for their son and meeting each other’s needs without sacrificing their own.

So, how could they and many others find the balance necessary? The answer to this difficult question is to practice give and take.  Give and take does not mean everything is always even.  But it does mean that both partners support each other fully and unselfishly.

5 Signs Give and Take is Alive and Well in Your Marriage

  1. Pay Attention to Your Needs – It is easy to ignore yourself to care for others. But remember, you have needs too.
  2. Don’t Forget About Your Partner – We know they are there but we can be so focused on everything else including ourselves that we forget about our partner. Let she/he know you didn’t forget about them.
  3. Check Your Giving Meter – We can push to meet everyone’s needs that we stop checking our meter. The signs are there that we are almost on empty but we keep going.  That’s when we have a huge fight with our partner or feel super overwhelmed.  Pay attention to your meter and ask for help before you get to empty.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice – Being able to have a give and take in a relationship takes practice. It’s not something we naturally learn.  We tend to learn in extremes whether it’s all about the other person or all about yourself.  Give and take is balancing everyone’s needs.  But it takes practice.  If you don’t get it right away, keep trying. Keep practicing.
  5. Communicate Often – The best way to have a give and take relationship is to communicate with each other as often as possible to express and hear each other’s wants and needs.


To illustrate the above, check out the second episode Funny Married Stuff where a couple uses a humorous approach to discuss how they balance responsibilities and everyone’s needs as partners and as parents.

For more episodes and information about Funny Married Stuff go to and

Dr. George James, LMFT speaks, counsels, consults, coaches and teaches people how to overcome difficult relationships problems and build successful happy connections. James has been a reoccurring expert on many radio, TV and online programs. He is also a reoccurring relationship contributor to Ebony magazine. James is a staff therapist and an AAMFT-approved supervisor at Council For Relationships.  Find out more about Dr. George James at

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BMWK Staff wrote 1253 articles on this blog.

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3 Ways to Keep Your Junk (Baggage) from Ruining Your Marriage

BY: - 24 Jul '17 | Marriage

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Our trip to Virginia was not going to be long…just a few days. So, I decided to pack lightly. It was still warm in Georgia and without checking Virginia’s weather forecast, I packed my bags with clothes appropriate for Georgia weather. Needless to say, I was surprised as the weather grew significantly cooler the further north we traveled. It turns out a “cold front” was moving in. As someone brought up in the warmth of the Caribbean sun, I was not happy. Instead of the right clothes for my trip, I was now carrying around useless baggage.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever packed your bags with the wrong items for the trip you’re about to take? Sadly, too many of us do that with marriage. We pack our bags for marriage as if we’re going on a singles’ vacation. The items we take are completely inappropriate and we only realize it the further into the marriage we get. Unfortunately, once we realize our baggage is holding us back from enjoying this lifetime journey, many of us don’t know what to do.

While no one enters a marriage as a perfect individual, if you put in the self work and retool your baggage, it can mean a pleasant trip down the aisle and beyond.


So, what is this baggage that so many of us cling to? Baggage is anything you carry around from your past that becomes undesirable weight. It holds you down and holds you back, adversely affecting your present and your future. And because we don’t know what to do with it, we take it with us from relationship to relationship, even into our marriages.

  • You had to fend for yourself at a young age? You pack it, because you don’t need anyone.
  • Money was a struggle for your family? You pack it, because making money now comes first.
  • Your dad let your mom walk all over him? You pack it and will never really open up to a woman.
  • Your dad walked out on the family? You pack it because you’ll never really trust any man.
  • You were molested as a child? You pack it because you don’t believe you can have real intimacy.

When you pack your bag with those experiences, it makes it difficult to enhance your marriage and help it grow. But, while no one enters a marriage as a perfect individual, if you put in the self work and retool your baggage, it can mean a pleasant trip down the aisle and beyond. So, here are three ways to retool your baggage and have the lifelong, loving relationship you signed up for.

Be Honest With Yourself. Stand on Your Truth.

Out of all the billions of people in the world, you are the only one who has experienced your joys and pains. Only you have lived your life. No more shame over past mistakes or a past that is less than perfect. No more pity parties or excuses. Be honest with yourself, get help, and move on.

Be Honest With Your Mate. Understand Your Mate’s Truth.

Being honest with your mate will remove the feeling that you are hiding something from them. It allows you the freedom to stand on your truth and give your mate the opportunity to know you on another level. You also have the opportunity to understand your spouse’s truth. By doing so, you learn to work together and build each other up as you unpack and deal with the baggage of your lives together.

Create a Place of Refuge for You and Your Spouse

Your home should be your castle. The husband is the King and his wife is the Queen. As such, your home should be a safe haven. It should be a place of retreat and refuge and an atmosphere of peace should prevail. So, how do you create this atmosphere in your home?

  • Protect one another – Love is not meant to hurt. Each mate knows, and has the responsibility to communicate, what makes them feel safe and protected.
  • Create a no-judgment zone – This is the place where each of you can be yourself without fear of put-downs and personal attacks.
  • Release anger and disappointment and hold on to joy – Emotions are a natural part of life. However, out-of-control emotions can become baggage. If it’s unhealthy, release it and move on to joy so you can have a happy home.

Listen, walking around carrying a bunch of baggage all day long, day in and day out, is tiring. It’s the kind of weight that can make you strong or weigh you down. You can stand in your story and remain there, or you can stand on your story and rise to another level.

You are not inadequate. You are a powerful being. By retooling your baggage, you will experience the kind of marriage you desire. You are more than capable of experiencing personal change from the inside out. Receive it and watch your awe-inspiring future begin to unfold.

To read more about  how to allow your past baggage to positively influence your future and your marriage, check out the BMWK Guide to Unpacking Your Baggage – Leave Behind the Baggage of Your Past to Move Your Life and Marriage Forward.

About the author

Deborah L. Mills wrote 186 articles on this blog.

Coach, AUTHOR, Speaker, WIFE, Mom, and GRANDMOTHER. That's the gist of who I am. I love people and love to see their life and relationships thrive. As a coach I am ready to support your dream when you don't feel like it. As an author and speaker I am ready to pour into your life so that you can live your best life now. I am a personal and executive coach. Together with my husband I also marriage coach. GO TO MY WEBSITE. THERE IS A FREE GIFT THERE WAITING FOR YOU.


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