Over the years I’ve found it so easy to get myself into the spirit of competing with my husband. Have you ever noticed that in your relationship?
When I had little kids it usually came out when I met him at the front door as he came home from work. I’d have on my “spit-up-on” shirt, look a mess, and proceed to tell him just how hard my day had been! Poor man, he hardly had a chance to get his coat off. For some reason I felt the need to prove that I had worked really hard all day.
More recently I’ve found myself unconsciously keeping a mental list of the thing I do that he doesn’t—like paying the bills, doing the taxes, cooking and cleaning. Or even remembering all the family birthdays and sending all the gifts! Some days I get critical thinking about what I’ve done and what he hasn’t done. It’s a subtle form of competition—who works the hardest, who does the most?
This type of attitude is a bit like a low grade infection. At first it might not be noticeable but if left untreated it can invade the body growing into a full blown illness–an illness that can ultimately harm a marriage.
How do we treat this subtle form of infection?
First, I have to recognize when my thoughts of him turn critical and competitive.
Second, I need to confess this critical spirit and ask God to change my heart.
Third, it helps to make a list of all the things my husband does right.
Finally, if there is something we need to negotiate or discuss, I try to plan a time to do so and do it in a way that is gracious and honest. It’s best to do this when I’m not in the midst of being upset. I have to be careful about how I say something.
We’ve had a lot of houseguests lately. Not too long ago I said to him in a sarcastic tone, “Does anyone in this house know how to empty the dish washer besides me?” Ouch. How much better it would have been to say, “Honey, any time you have a minute I would so appreciate it if you could empty the dishwasher.”
I have to remember over and over again that we are on the same team. We are not competitors.
In different seasons one of us will work harder than the other. That’s life. That’s normal. When we got married one of the promises we made at the altar was to serve one another. We have to keep nourishing the idea of completing one another rather than competing with each other.
It helps me to ask myself the question: What can I do today to make my husband John feel respected and appreciated? My response to this question would be different than his. But at this moment my goal needs to be to serve him.