Marriage and the “loaf of bread test”

I was pleased to read an Australian article offering a fresh perspective on what makes a good, sound relationship.  It may seem trite, but it echoes what I used to say to couples in marriage counseling (as a pastor) for many years.

The Loaf of Bread Test was unwittingly invented by the husband of a friend. He made sandwiches for my friend and himself. There wasn’t much bread left so he made his sandwich with the crusts and gave her the good slices.

It was such a tiny gesture — mundane even. It’s not Insta-worthy, you wouldn’t put it on Facebook and tag your partner in it, and it’s unlikely the producers of The Bachelorette could build a date out of it. But what the sandwich represented to my friend was that after 14 years of marriage, her husband was kind and thoughtful and still wanted more for her than he gave himself.

The Loaf of Bread Test is a metaphor for all the little, unremarkable, yet absolutely vital, gestures that happen every day in a good and healthy relationship.

It’s factoring in your partner’s needs before you make both big and small decisions, from changing jobs to going away with your mates for the weekend.

It’s pulling your weight with domestic work and child care responsibilities. It’s reading your partner’s emotional and physical health and stepping up to do more when required.

It’s putting down your phone and giving your partner your full attention. It’s recognising and celebrating their everyday triumphs and supporting them through their disappointments.

And it’s noticing when your partner puts you first and then expressing your appreciation and gratitude.

I know this all sounds about as romantically exciting as spending Friday night in folding the laundry … but two or three big gestures a year is unlikely to sustain you if you feel taken for granted, ignored or unimportant for the remaining 363 days.

There’s more at the link.

I suppose it’s a bit like the time-honored financial advice that’s become a proverb in England:  “Take care of the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves”.  I grew very tired of hearing my parents tell me that when I was growing up . . . but I soon found out that they were absolutely right.  (That’s also why so many people today are mired in debt, because they aren’t “taking care of the pennies”.  A lot of small, frequently unnecessary expenditures add up to a big financial problem!)  I guess the “pennies”, in relationship terms, are the little things that add up to a big contentment factor (the “pounds”).

Good advice, which I’ve striven to apply in my own life.  How well have I succeeded?  You’ll have to ask Miss D. about that.  We’ve been married for almost ten years, so clearly at least some things are working!



  1. ""Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.""

    – Charles Dickens

  2. When I get into an argument with my wife I (eventually) remember the critical question: "Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?" Well, do ya, punk??

    The simple things like this can be really, really hard to put in to practice.

  3. My wife and I became full time RV dwellers 6 years ago. Nothing like living in a small space to reveal whether or not you like each other.
    After 23 years of marriage, we still get along with each other. Quarrels happen… How well you kiss and make up is vitally important. It truly is the little things that make a difference. Knowing when it's time to go piddle around in the shop while she cools off helps too.

  4. We really look at things backwards. Probably because selfishness is a somewhat defining human trait. We classify these things based on our effort and input, not on the outcome. These 'little' things are really 'big' things, they just don't require much from us.

  5. I prefer the heel to the slice, and I never started to succeed in life until I ignored the pennies and started counting the dollars. After that, it wasn't easy, but it didn't involve me going hungry either.

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