Priming the Pump


Do you feel like you’re starving in your marriage? Maybe you’ve not admitted it to anyone. Perhaps you’ve tried to downplay it, rationalize it, or ignore it. But you feel it. Inside, you’re starving for:

  • Attention.
  • Affection.
  • Time.
  • Support.
  • Appreciation.
  • Acceptance.
  • Encouragement.
  • Etc.

Whatever it may be, if you feel like you’re starving for something in marriage, there’s an allegorical story about Heaven and Hell that has a direct application for you…


There was a man who took a tour of Hell. There, he found the inhabitants of Hell sitting at banquet tables loaded with the richest, most desired food they could ever imagine. Each person had eating utensils in their hands, but their arms were fixed to planks of wood which prevented them from bending their arms to feed themselves. Consequently, everyone sat in the presence of all the food they wanted…yet they were starving.

Then, the man took a tour of Heaven. He was surprised to find that the situation was the same in heaven. The inhabitants of Heaven sat at banquet tables full of the most sumptuous food they could desire, but they too were unable to bend their arms to feed themselves.

Yet the inhabitants of Heaven were well fed and satisfied, while the inhabitants of Hell sat starving. Why? Because the inhabitants of Heaven focused on feeding each other rather than feeding themselves!


A marriage where spouses are only focused on getting their own needs met can feel a little like Hell, while a marriage where spouses are focused on meeting each other’s needs can feel a lot like Heaven.

If you feel like you’re starving in your marriage, perhaps it’s because you’re more focused on getting your needs met than meeting your spouse’s needs.

Now I can hear some thinking, “What about my spouse? Aren’t they supposed to meet my needs? It would be a lot easier to tend to their needs if they were meeting mine!”

I know. I know. I’ve felt the same thing at times. But that line of thinking only gets you more frustrated and entrenched in your ways…which, by the way, doesn’t work! You don’t change your marriage by changing your spouse. You change your marriage by changing you!


To paraphrase from the ancient words of the New Testament, a person reaps what they sow. (Gal. 6:7 NIV)

Rather than complaining about what you’re not getting in your marriage, start by giving your spouse the very thing you want.

  • If you’re starving for attention, try giving attention to your spouse.
  • If you’re starving for affection, try giving your spouse affection.
  • If you’re starving for time with your spouse, try giving your spouse more time.
  • (You get the idea.)


I grew up in the country, and in our front yard, we had an old long-handled pump. If you wanted to get water, you would pump and pump that handle, and eventually, water would come out. (And yes, I know this makes me sound ancient.)

But sometimes, you would pump and pump, and no water would come out. When this happened, you would have to prime the pump. To do this, you would have to dip some water from a nearby bucket and pour the water into the top of the pump, while you continued to pump the handle. When you did this, the pump would eventually start to give out water.

In other words, when the pump seemed to stop working, you had to put water in to get water out.

This is what you need to do in marriage when you feel like you’re starving for something. Whatever it is you desire from your spouse, you need to start pouring into your spouse. It may sound counter-intuitive, but what have you got to lose?