The humble spouse gives and receives affection, comfort, chores, conversation, and lovemaking without demand. To give or receive without an agenda means our focus is simply to do good to us and our spouse. In this sense, giving is not just about doing good to our spouse, but also doing good to ourselves. At the same time, receiving is also about doing good both to our spouse and to our self. Sometimes, receiving can be one of the most outwardly focused acts we can bestow upon another person. Thus, the old adage is wrong - giving isn't better than receiving. Instead, the adage should read - giving and receiving is better than taking.
The difference lies in our agendas. If I have an agenda, in that I want the other person to do something for me, before I will give or receive, then I am capable of neither - I'm only capable of taking. Thus, when an agenda is present, there is only taking, never any giving or receiving.
We can take it even further to the idea of asking, or stating our desires. This is truly vulnerable, but when we ask our spouses to meet a desire, without a demand on our part, we might truly be giving to them in a way they have never received before.
Thus, the final adage might read - To ask, give, and receive are better than taking. Thankfulness and joy are possible with all three.
(photo taken from flickr creative commons by Ray)