Loving your spouse doesn’t have to look like epic, grand, Instagrammable gestures. Ain’t nobody got time (or money) for that. In my marriage, doing one small, simple service every day helps my wife to feel seen, valued, and loved. What do I do?
I make her a drink.
Seriously, it works! Make them a drink. If they’re a morning person, make coffee or tea. If they’re a night owl, break out the bourbon and bitters (or beer, or bordeaux, or ‘bucha). Even if it’s just a nice cold glass of water in the middle of an afternoon, give them something to drink.
Let’s face it. We live in close quarters these days: working from home, swapping the kids, sheltering in place. Some of us might feel like we’re going nuts. Like, “This isn’t what I had in mind when I said I wanted to be close to my family!”
And I get it. Like you learned (and promptly forgot) in your high-school physics class, when you take the same amount of matter and cram it into a smaller space, it increases pressure.
Whether it’s atoms in a collider or two people in a marriage, when you take away any kind of escape, things literally bump into one another more often, and the constant collision also creates friction.
You might feel this physically, especially if you live in a small space like a studio apartment. Just last night, in our cramped kitchen, I turned to open the pantry door at the same time my wife was spinning around with a ceramic bowl, which hit my elbow at just the wrong spot. We narrowly escaped a spat, all because of a dumb little bump.
You might feel it emotionally, too. Global pandemic + pressure = shorter tempers, brittle moods, an unusual quickness to anger. During week 2 of sheltering in place, my wife and I were constantly getting on each others’ nerves because of careless remarks, forgetfulness, and possibly, fighting out of boredom. (When Tiger King has been binge-watched, sometimes you create your own drama.)
But there’s good news! Turns out, one tiny act of service can act as a kind of “release valve” and take away some of the pressure. And I’m serious: it really can be as simple as making your spouse a drink.
Every morning, I make my wife a cup of coffee exactly the way she likes it: hazelnut, one scoop of sugar, some vanilla almond milk (don’t judge us, it’s delicious). It’s almost a ritual.
It started a while ago but has become really meaningful to me during this quarantine. My wife works from home and starts her day at 5:30. She needs that jolt of caffeine in the morning. And she could make it herself (and has, when I snooze through my alarm), but waiting for me to make her morning coffee has become meaningful for her, too.
It’s something no one else in the world does for her. It’s intimate, it’s quiet. And it’s effective.
Me? Coffee, black, two or three cups in a row, please. Mine’s a simple morning brew, and hers is more of a production, but therein lies the point. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or the service industry— or changed a diaper or helped a friend move—then you know how much humility and kindness it takes to serve someone else.
You have to know the person if you’re going to make a drink for them. Or at least you have to know what they like and what they don’t like—which also means you have to pay attention to their preferences and decide to prioritize them.
Which might just lead you to prioritize them in other ways, too.
You might think a second longer before making a critical little remark when you pass through the room.
You might be standing in the kitchen noticing dishes have piled up and decide, You know what, I’m gonna take care of the dishes for my spouse, too.
You might finish their drink and remember the first time you even went out for a drink with them.
You might walk back into the bedroom reflecting on how much they mean to you, how much your life has been changed positively because of them, how you don’t know what you’d do if you didn’t have them around to share your joys, your sorrows, or even your cups of coffee.
You might set the cup beside them, and say a quick prayer thanking God for making sure you met.
“Really?” you might be thinking. “All that really happens in the sixty seconds it takes to make your wife’s coffee?!” Sometimes, yeah! (And sometimes, I’m a bleary-eyed lummox, rattling mugs and spilling precious caffeine on my socks. There are those mornings, too.)
What this kind of ritual does is that it changes your mindset. This is part of why the Bible gives instructions to husbands and wives to humble themselves and serve one another (see 1 Peter 3 for a notorious example). Sometimes these kinds of verses get quoted out of their written and cultural context (and like you, I cringe at the phrases “weaker vessel” and “submission” sometimes), but it’s helpful to remember that these words were given to people who didn’t know what a healthy marriage looked like at all. They were surrounded by people who believed it was totally cool to be disloyal to your spouse, to betray them, or even to abandon them.
But that passage in 1 Peter? Right afterward, he reminds the whole group: “Finally, I want all of you to agree with one another. Be understanding. Love one another. Be kind and tender. Be humble” (3:8 NIRV).
I don’t know about you, but that describes the kind of marriage I want to have. If you want to have a more understanding, loving, kind, and tender marriage after sheltering in place for a few months, I’m telling you, it’s possible.
Regardless of what you believe, you can choose to try for something better—even as an experiment. You can say, I choose a better way in my marriage. I choose a way of service, humility, and love. And you can knock all three of those out with one cup of coffee.