By Anne Gagliano
I really struggled to get into the “Christmas Spirit” this year. Up until the week or so before the holiday, I just wasn’t “feeling it.” (And by “it” I mean the specific pleasure of giving gifts to each other as husband and wife, not the deeper meaning of the holiday itself or of giving to family and those in need.) My husband Mike and I are older now, so we’ve no little kids to bring that magical excitement of waiting for Santa to come. In the past, our gift giving was all about the kids. Mike, a Seattle firefighter, and I, a stay-at-home mom, didn’t exactly have the biggest budget with which to splurge, so we focused our resources on our children. We rarely had much left over. But nowadays, it’s different. We have quite a bit to spend on each other–more than ever, as a matter of fact. So why the doldrums? Isn’t it fun to receive gifts?
My husband is a better shopper than I am. This may seem unusual, as typically women are better in this arena than men. But he’s online more than I am, and there he finds treasures galore. Day after day, boxes arrived at our house, and my Secret Squirrel hubby’s delight grew right along with his pile of presents for me under the tree. You’d think I’d be thrilled by this, but I wasn’t. Somehow, receiving just isn’t as fun.
Then suddenly my mood changed. I became excited, filled with anticipation for the big day. What had occurred to shift my spirits into the joy of Christmas? I’d at last found an assortment of perfect gifts for my beloved! An old-fashioned shopper, I hunt for treasures in actual stores. Wrapped with care, labeled for the precise order in which to be opened, they were added to the tree. And now, the anticipation for the season took flight. I couldn’t wait to see the joy on his face as he opened each one!
The timeless adage “It is more blessed to give than to receive” rang loud and true for me this holiday season. The impact of the transformation has stuck with me, and I’ve been contemplating it ever since. The joy of giving is inexplicable, powerful, deeply satisfying. Receiving is nice too, but it doesn’t resonate the same way. The word “blessed” comes from the Greek word Makarios, which means “to be happy or blissful,” and this is often described as a self-contained happiness, one that is independent of circumstances. In other words, it is blissful, and it will make you very happy—to give.
I wish to carry this thought with me through the new year. It is, in fact, my New Year’s resolution. I intend to make every effort to keep “giving” to my husband the whole year through, in every possible way that I can. Remembering the absolute joy I experienced this Christmas, my giving isn’t just for Mike’s sake; I’ll get something out of it too. Firefighter couples, I hope you’ll join me in this commitment for the new year. Make every effort to be unselfish, or selfless, in as many ways as you can. I’m sure you can think of many more, but here are three to get you started:
Be selfless with your money. Money is a tough one. We only have so much of it, and bills must be paid. Needs met. Limits set. That’s just the reality of life. So how can one truly be unselfish with such a vital commodity? If we let go of control, a spouse may take advantage. The spouse may overspend on unnecessary items and get us into real trouble. Or I may never get what I want, and I’ll really resent that.
Mike and I found a way to give each other freedom with money a long time ago, and it still really works for us to this day. We each have “jars.” For every extra dollar we make from our various speaking engagements, book profits, or other sources of extra income, we each get a “cut” that goes directly into our jars. This money is strictly for fun. For personal use. To get that concert ticket or designer purse. Frivolous and fun, not needed, but oh so rewarding. Because it is set aside, it does not impact the general fund and is not resented when used.
Make a plan, determine what is extra income, and decide on a cut or percentage for each of you. Set up a jar (or box or safe or bank account), and give each other this gift. And try this for extra bliss: Contribute when you can to the other person’s jar. Talk about feeling blessed!
Be selfless with your affection. Selfishness is unsexy, plain and simple. When affection is not freely given but demanded, it is no longer satisfying–for either of you. Sex is supposed to be fun, not a chore. Approach it as a gift that you give, not as something you get, and the attitude is changed. Make it fun. Make it sexy. Seek to please, and so too will you be pleased. Desire, seduce, compliment, and plan—make it a priority. Continually ask each other, “How or when do you like to be touched, or not touched?” Holding hands, back rubs, making love—affection is a topic that should always be open for discussion, no matter how long you’ve been married, as things can change. When you make it all about them and not about you, your bliss will grow. Seek to please more than to be pleased. Talk about feeling blessed!
Be selfless with your time. Don’t ever forget, firefighter couples, that our deepest need in life is for intimacy with another person. Love, romance, passion–a life without these things is very dry indeed. The firehouse is awesome, and firefighting is the best job on earth, but it can’t fulfill your deepest need. Friends are fun, kids are a joy, and money is nice—but they too can’t quite reach your deepest need for a soulmate. Be careful to not neglect your spouse this year with the many distractions that clamor for your time. Sacrifice that extra hobby, put down the cell phone, and shut off the computer. Give your Beloved undivided attention, look them in the eye as you drink them in, and speak the kindnesses they need to hear. All it takes is a little time, set aside, just for them. Talk about feeling blessed!
If you both commit to being selfless this year with your money, with your affection, and with your time, watch your happiness grow to blissful new heights. It will be complete in and of itself, apart from circumstances, and satisfy your deepest needs. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive. Best wishes from this Seattle firefighter couple to fire couples everywhere; have a Happy, Selfless, New Year!
If you’re interested in my book, check it out here: http://www.pennwellbooks.com/shop-fire-books-videos/new-products/challenges-of-the-firefighter-marriage.
Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 33 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.