St. Valentine pictured in stained-glass window at basilica in Terni, Italy

By Brian and Ann Kolek
Worldwide Marriage Encounter

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a lovely little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare life threatening disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had somehow survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.” As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?” Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.


Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. We’ve all been there, trying to find the perfect Hallmark card that will express our feelings for our spouse on this holiday. We’ve all gone to expensive restaurants or boxed up what we thought would be a perfect gift to express our love for them. After all, in our materialistic society, things are supposed to make us happy, and therefore, must make our spouse happy. Did we really succeed in these past efforts to show our love? Did our spouse truly feel our love and were they happier because of the things we gave them? The world around us teaches us to focus on ourselves: our appearance, our feelings and our desires. We’re taught to take care of ourselves first. The goal it seems is to chase the highest level of happiness for ourselves. Everyone deserves to be happy, right? But what if we believed it was our responsibility to get our spouse into Heaven? How very counter cultural is the idea that we make ourselves responsible for the happiness of our spouse. In reality, whatever we put our energy into becomes most important to us. What if our spouse became the recipient of all our energy?

Engaged woman holds flowers and chocolates during audience for engaged couples in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Married couples who enjoy the full purpose of marriage are the ones who are bent on taking care of the other flawed person God gave them to share life with. Choosing to love our spouse selflessly causes us to say no to what we want so we can say yes to what they need. When we place our spouse and their needs above our own, we get to lose ourselves to the greater purpose of marriage. It doesn’t mean we can never experience happiness again because love always leads to joy. We’ve all experienced a time when we put someone else first; we weren’t trying to be noble, we simply saw something that needed to be done and we did it. And every time we’ve behaved that way weren’t we rewarded with peacefulness and happiness we didn’t expect. 1 Corinthians 13:5 – Love does not seek its own interests.

We should ask ourselves these questions: • Do I truly want what’s best for my spouse? • Do I want them to feel loved by me? • Do they believe I have their best interests in mind? • Do they see me as looking out for myself first? If we find it hard to sacrifice our own desires to benefit our spouse, we may have a deeper problem with selfishness than we want to admit. Whether we like it or not, we have a reputation in the eyes of the people around us, especially our spouse. Is ours a selfless reputation?

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The Sun Never Says
Even after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth
“You owe me.”
Look what happens with a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

Dialogue Question What barriers do I face in loving my spouse selflessly? How do I feel about my answers?

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Photos courtesy of Catholic News Service.