The Joy of Serving in a Marriage

Today I’m going to share my heart about something that I’ve been struggling to write for a week now. It’s probably not going to be popular, but I felt like I needed to create a little balance in the internet world by bringing up something that is pretty counter culture.

The Joy of Serving in a Marriage

Last week I read a lot of Facebook posts, Tweets and blogs talking about this book by one of the Real Housewives – Melissa Gorga. I don’t know who this woman is, but if you haven’t heard about it, basically the gist is that the author and her husband spend the majority of the book talking about their very traditional gender roles in their marriage and it definitely made many people bristle, because from the sounds of the excerpts that were shared it doesn’t sound like the relationship is one that is based on a ton of mutual respect. The husband seems a bit chauvinistic and the author kind of just seems to be OK with it. He admits to never changing diapers or cooking and cleaning, because he’s busy with manly things and she talks about basically doing whatever he wants her to do. This isn’t what a marriage based on mutual love and respect looks like in my opinion, but that said, there were actually some things that I agreed with from the article.

Here are some of her thoughts on sex in a marriage from her book:

“Happy guys let more go. Issues get brushed off. Quickies count. Say what you want, but it’s the truth.

[A] woman needs to keep herself in shape. She has to be seductive. She must be willing to try new things for her husband’s pleasure and her own. And, most important, she has to be available for sex.

There’s real passionate sex and maintenance sex. You need them both for a healthy marriage. Maintenance sex keeps the wheels greased, the lines of communication open, and the fights to a minimum.

Even when I’m exhausted and not really in the mood, if it means a lot to Joe that we connect physically, I’ll say, “I’m not so into it tonight, but let’s go.”

If it’s a hard “no,” I try to be nice about it. Don’t swat him away, or say with a tone, “Leave me alone!” Eventually he will leave you alone at more than you wish he would.”

The author of the Jezebel article I read used these quotes from the book to prove her point that Melissa is basically a sex slave to her husband, but honestly when I read that I actually agreed with what she said.

Sex is important. Sorry, but it just is. Sex helps keep a marriage humming along and in order to make it good it is important to put in the work. Sometimes you do it even when you don’t really feel like it, because it’s good for your marriage, but it goes both ways and it shouldn’t always just be a wife giving in to her husband’s sexual requests. Husband’s need to reciprocate and “just do it” too on those nights when maybe they might rather zonk out early. I really do think it’s important for both partners in a marriage to be available for sex, because it is an incredibly vulnerable act. If I were always the one putting myself out there asking for sex and the answer was always no, I would feel totally discouraged and rejected. It’s only natural.

Also…the part where Melissa talks about keeping yourself in shape and being seductive…that may not be a popular sentiment, but it’s totally important… for both husband’s and wives. It can be easy to let yourself go once you’re married and comfortable and to basically stop trying…it happens…and while I’m sure your spouse will love you nonetheless, that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to be as excited and sexually attracted to you. I really believe that this is important for both men and women to work on.

I work out and take care of my body as an act of love for my husband and he does the same for me. Would be prefer to watch TV and eat pie all the time instead of working out? Ummm….yeah. But we put in the effort because it is important for our marriage. And the thing is…it’s not about a number on the scale. Craig and I talked about this once, because I was feeling like he had this college image in his head of me and I was feeling pressured to fit into that mold again, but it just wasn’t realistic anymore. Once we talked about it, he told me, “It doesn’t matter what you weigh – it’s the effort that is sexy. When you go to the gym and cook healthy meals or take the time to do your hair or makeup…that’s sexy because you’re trying and it makes me feel loved.” I totally feel the same – when Craig gets a little extra fancy for a date night – it makes me feel loved, because I know that he would rather be wearing a t-shirt. It’s the effort that really matters.

In the article Melissa also talks a lot about their extreme gender roles and I read quite a few Facebook posts from women bristling at the idea of a woman being subservient her husband and her family. I totally get that…the relationship between this Real Housewife and her husband seems very lopsided not particularly respectful. But I have to disagree on the idea that serving one’s husband and family is a negative idea.

I think part of the problem is the word itself. The word “serving” just seems…well, wrong. It makes it sound like you are getting walked all over. But I love serving Craig and it is something that I choose to do – not something that he demands from me. I serve Craig by doing a million little things for him throughout the day – making dinner, keeping the house tidy, taking care of our daughter, putting effort into my appearance… But you know what? While I am busy serving him, he is doing the same. When I don’t feel like cooking? He cooks. When my car breaks down? He fixes it. When he’s gained a few pounds – he heads out for a run.  Serving really is just the idea of putting another person’s needs before your own and it is a two-way street. When we are both putting the other’s needs before our own we are so much happier. We both feel loved and our needs are met.

There is so much joy that can be found in serving one another – even though it’s totally counter to what we hear all the time. Serving one another doesn’t have to be a negative thing and it doesn’t have to mean that you always do what the other person would prefer either. It’s just being conscious and considerate of the other person. And sometimes we’re going to order takeout while sitting in a messy house and wearing comfy clothes and that’s OK too. It’s a balance.

So there you have it…my two cents…popular or not, I needed to share, because I had been feeling bad about my role in my marriage, because of all the negativity around things like this on the internet, so I wondered if maybe others had felt that same. It felt like I was less or a woman or something… But I realized that I don’t need to feel bad about the fact that I love my husband and the fact that I am committed to making our marriage the best that it can be. I can still be a strong woman and a supportive and loving wife. No shame in that.




  1. great read. thank you. agree’d. everything requires balance. communication is so vital is all aspects of a relationship. 🙂

    • Krystal – totally about balance and communication. It’s key. I think sometimes we tend to get caught up with keeping score and who is doing more and that can be so hard on a relationship as well.

  2. Excellent post! And one part in particular I’ve really been struggling with! You’re absolutely right. “Serving” isn’t a negative thing!
    Thank you for this!

  3. Well done, way to speak up. I think a lot more women agree with you than you realize, but they are afraid to speak up. So nice work!!!!!!!!

  4. I totally agree with you, Lauren. I think that’s a really healthy and loving way to look at a partnership. And in regards to the Real Housewives book, I also agree with you to some degree. Unlike a lot of people talking about the book, I actually watch the show and know the Gorgas as well as TV editing will allow you to know someone — and I almost have a need to stick up for Joe. I mean, he comes off terrible and chauvinistic in the book excerpts — to some degree he is — but he also seems to adore and respect his wife as a woman. You can see it in the way he looks at her and talks about her. She is everything to him, and he is a pretty lovable character on the show. Taken out of context, it sounds dangerous and controlling. But I think what a lot of people are leaving out is that their relationship IS very traditional Italian. Is it always healthy? No. But it’s their culture and is a reality for a lot of families in this country. If it works for them, who are we to judge?

    • Michelle – Wow! I’m glad you shared that, because coming from you – someone who I tend to agree with on a lot of things – that makes a lot more sense. I wondered if maybe a lot of the excerpts from the book were taken out of context. And I completely agree…everyone’s relationships are going to look different and none of us utilizes healthy relationship habits ALL the time. There are plenty of relationships that I’ve seen that would absolutely not work for me, but it works for that particular couple and really that should be all that matters. Thanks for sharing your insight friend!

  5. I can’t even begin to tell you how refreshing it is to read this. Well done Lauren, and thank you for shedding light on this subject!

    • Thanks Nadia :). It’s kind of scary blogging really honest things like that when they aren’t exactly popular, but nice to know that other people feel similarly.

  6. No shame in that at all. Loved this friend! You so wise ; )

  7. That was a good post! I agree with most of that too. Obviously sex is an important part of a marriage and it takes effort on both spouses part. I completely agree with the working out part. When we let ourselves go, it affects a lot more than our physical appearance. We feel sluggish, unmotivated, self-conscious and reserved more than if we live a healthy lifestyle. When we feel good about ourselves and healthy, we are better able to serve those around us. I don’t mean that only women serve either. I think that husbands serve their wives as well.

    • Ali – Absolutely agree with you…being healthy affects so many areas in a relationship besides just straight up sex, so thanks for mentioning that.

  8. Great post! I couldn’t agree more! It’s very easy for me to jump on the popular opinion bandwagon before actually doing my research and forming my own opinion so all I saw on this book was that it was advocating marital rape, but now I get it. I completely agree with you!

    • Megan – there actually was a phrase from the book about how “a woman likes to be taken by her husband” that was questionable, but overall I think it was a bit more for shock value. Glad I was able to show you a different side.

  9. Well said. Agree, agree, agree. 😀

  10. First time I have stumbled across your blog, and I am so happy I did!

    As a self-proclaimed feminist, I often get a lot of slack from people about the way I choose to care of my significant other. While it may seem like I am giving into “social roles” (I choose to plan and prepare our meals, keep the kitchen tidy and do most of the laundry), the truth is I don’t do these things because I am a woman. I do them because I love to take care of him. I get sincere joy from serving others, and I don’t necessarily believe that contradicts my beliefs as a feminist.

    While I don’t agree with how this housewife phrased her thoughts (they definitely sway toward only a woman’s responsibility instead of mutual) I do agree with her and your thoughts on service in a relationship. Really great! Thanks for sharing!

    • Morgan – YES!!! I think there is a difference between serving others and being forced to do so. I often feel that being a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom is considered decidedly unfeminist, but if that is what I want to do with my life and what makes me feel happy and fulfilled then isn’t that feminist in and of itself? I totally agree that serving in a loving and mutual way shouldn’t have to contradict your stance as a feminist – good for you for not getting boxed in.

  11. Great post, Lauren! I think that feminism these days is becoming less about being “equal” to men, and more about not needing men at all. And the fact is, to keep life going we need each other. And serving each other is the way exist happily. I certainly didn’t agree with a lot of the excerpts I read from her book, but I think you make great and important points here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Merrick – Thank you! Yeah…I thought a lot of the excerpts from the book were a little extreme and it didn’t seem particularly two-sided, but there were definitely some positive points. And I completely agree with your comment about feminism. We all have our strengths and we need each other in different ways. Thanks for taken the time to read my post :).

  12. I agree with you completely. Sex, communication and service are key to a happy marriage. Anyone who disagrees is headed down the road to a very unhappy relationship. Popular or not, truth is truth. Also, no need to feel bad about your opinion. The more certain you are of your choices, the less you care about the opinion of others. This certainty is a blessing and a gift, it grows more clear with age, said the 40 year old.

    • Thank you for sharing your 40 year old opinion :). I think it’s so valuable to learn from older women…even though you’re not really all that much older than me!

  13. Thank you for writing this. I think a lot of women think this way but we are too afraid to speak up. I work for an organization that most people assume hires strong feminists, so I think a lot of women at work would judge me. I don’t see it that way. I think being a strong woman is living up to what you believe in and doing what is best for you and your family. Thank you for sharing!

    • Betsy – Absolutely! I really believe that this is the point of feminism – having the freedom to make the choices to do what you want with your life. Thank you for sharing – definitely makes me feel good to know that I’m not the only one with these “old fashioned” views :).

  14. She may have used the wrong words, but what she is saying, and you as well, are right. It’s how you keep a marriage strong, you both serve each other in different ways. It’s only when one thinks he/she is doing more than the other that a power struggle begins and communication is lost. Great article 🙂

    • Maegan – Completely. It’s so easy to get caught up in keeping score of who’s doing what and it can be so damaging to a relationship. Thanks for your comment…nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way :).

  15. I 100% agree with you! I don’t know why this is such a hot topic. I think if only one spouse is “serving” then obviously that is more of an issue, but in a healthy/happy marriage both spouses are serving each other…and I think that is how it should be.

    • Jada – I think sometimes it can be scary to serve another person, because we start worrying about the mutuality of it, but in my experience when I am being loving and serving my husband he reciprocates. It’s kind of a natural response.

  16. I love this Lauren. And so agree.

    The amazing thing is, when you really love someone, serving them and wanting to make their only life a happy one and their only wife an exciting one, doesn’t feel like some horrible gender role – it just feels like love.

  17. I honestly think you cannot have a blanket set of rules for every couple. Everything is very situational and tend to assume one is in an otherwise happy and stable marriage. I think instead of explaining why husbands and wives should be having sex with each other when they don’t feel like it, we should be asking, “Why don’t you feel like it?” Depending on the answer and the frequency of non-interest, having sex when you don’t feel like it might not be the right course of action. It may even make things worse. If you are in a relationship where you find yourself having to fake it more often than not, then one needs to evaluate why they are still in the relationship.

    {Even when I’m exhausted and not really in the mood, if it means a lot to Joe that we connect physically, I’ll say, “I’m not so into it tonight, but let’s go.”} This quote also bothers me, though I have no idea the context. If you do feel like it is a rare off night but you still intend to engage, I think you should keep your reservations to yourself. Otherwise it just feels like you want to guilt your partner into backing off. If you don’t want to have sex that badly, then don’t. I do not think throwing that kind of baggage into sex/love making/whatever is fair to the other person.

    I think I agree with your over all take on the situation. It should be about giving equally.

    • I agree with you that the same things will not work for every relationship. And I was definitely speaking in generalities…sometimes there really are reasons behind not wanting sex and those should be discussed, but I just know from conversations with friends that many of them just don’t feel like it very often and so they also assume that their husbands will be fine with their repeated brush-offs. I guess that’s more what I was referring to. Also, I completely agree with what you said about not sharing your reservations – guilt is never a good thing to bring into the bedroom or into a relationship in general. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  18. Great post Lauren. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom

  19. This is such an excellent post! Well written and honest!!

    The topic of “serving” always holds a negative connotation. It reminds me of the negative reactions concerning the Bible verse that asks wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22). Many women tend to get upset with the verse and categorize the bible as old fashion and irrelevant. But once you read on to verse 31 (especially the verse where He asks husbands to love their wives) it’s evident that God calls us (husband and wife) to be ONE flesh–neither part is greater than the other.

    Thank you again for sharing!!

    • Alinka – YES. In our wedding vows I promised to submit to my husband, but we are both doing the submitting. Submission is putting aside your own will and we are both doing that all the time. Definitely a misunderstood verse. Thanks for sharing.

  20. I love it. I’m so glad you wrote this. I also agree with the things she wrote that you pointed out. LOVE.

  21. Jamie Ogletree says:

    I’m not married yet, or even in a relationship but I completely agree with everything you said. I can’t wait to find that person to spend the rest of my life with and being able to serve him. It’s true people think negatively when they hear the w

  22. Jamie Ogletree says:

    It’s true people think negatively when they hear the word serve but I see it as an honor to be able to serve other people.

  23. Thanks so much for shedding some light on this! It’s definitely not an easy topic to speak about. It’s the right thing tho! I hope this helps women be happier and confident in their roles. I don’t believe it’s all about what you do but how you do it. “Go confident in the directions of your dreams”-key word there is “your”

  24. Stephanie B. says:

    Nice post 🙂 I definitely admire your boldness in putting something so counter-cultural out there. I think this post would have resonated more for me if it wasn’t so much meant as a response to what appears to be a description of a very dis-respectful marriage, and more just something you wanted to say. All the things you say are good, it’s just saying that you agree with any points from a book that is just…so far off…it weakens the argument.

    But, that said, keep writing. Posts like these are a breath of fresh air.

    • Stephanie – I wasn’t necessarily defending the marriage or the book, but it was more of a catalyst for making me think about this issue in general and those particular quotes were ones that I did agree with for the most part. I did talk about how a lot of the other quotes from the book did bother me and that the marriage doesn’t sound very respectful. It was more a way to say, yes serving may be negative in this particular context, but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing in general. Thanks for taking the time to read it though and for looking beyond a book that you disagreed with :).

  25. Gleici from Brazil says:

    Hi, thanks for sharing that. This article was important to me now because I’m living that bad moment in my marriage. So I guess I found the desire to change. thanks again Lauren.

Leave a Comment