Over the years I’ve found it so easy to get in the spirit of feeling resentful toward my husband. Do you know what I mean?
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 things 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 when I consider 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 dishwasher 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 must remember, over and over again, that we are on the same team. We are not competitors.
We are both sinful people and our marriage always needs a lot of forgiveness and grace. We’ve been married over 50 years and we still must forgive each other and find new ways to express love and respect.
We’ll never get it all sorted out in this life. However, we can grow in learning how to fit together more completely with our weaknesses and our strengths. Over the years our union becomes sweeter and sweeter.
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 this question: What can I do today to make my husband John feel respected and appreciated?
My goal needs to be to serve him.
As Tim Keller says in his book The Meaning of Marriage, “Whether we are husband or wife, we are not to live for ourselves but for the other. And that is the hardest yet single most important function of being a husband or a wife in marriage.”
Jesus had a “heart to heart” chat with his disciples about their calling to serve. (Mark 10:30-36). It’s actually a funny passage to act out. The disciples were concerned about which of them was the greater—a me-first mentality—yet Jesus calls us to a you-first mentality. At times in our marriage, this might feel too hard. We definitely need HIS help. We can’t be genuine servants in our own strength.
Paul tells us, “Faithful is HE who calls you. HE will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24) God is the one who will do it in us. We can’t do it on our own.
Sometimes we simply have to utter, “Help me Jesus. I am weak. Fill me with your grace.”
It thrills Him when we come to Him in our weaknesses.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)