Rivalry in marriage? Couples don’t fight against each other, do they? They are always on the same side.
We are naive if we think that is true.
We all know couples who fight against each other, work against each other, undermine the other.
Paul says in Philippians 2:3 that we should not do things out of rivalry or conceit but look to the interests of others. While this is written specifically to a church, it has implications for Christians who are married.
Yet, Katie and I talk to countless couples that fall into rivalry in their marriage. It is easy to fall into, because deep down we are all very selfish and we are good at it. I remember talking to a wife who said, “I stopped doing laundry because he didn’t take out the trash or do enough around the house. I just let it pile up.” I’ve heard guys tell me, “She won’t have sex with me, so I won’t talk to her when she says she wants to talk.” Women have told us, “I’m not having sex until he does _______.” I could literally list hundreds of things, but at the end of the day the goal is to get their way. At the end of the day, these couples want to get their way, and they are willing to fight for it. They are also being selfish.
While many in our culture would say, “That makes sense”, biblically, it doesn’t. Marriage is not a contract. A contract says, “I’ll do this, you do that, and as long as we keep our end of the bargain, we’ll stay married and be happy.” That’s not what God calls us to, nor is it even possible. There are times that I have more energy than Katie, and so I pick up the baton of bedtime, baths, etc. There are times when that burden falls to Katie. One of us gets sick and takes care of the other. A contract says, “I’m sorry you are sick, but it is your turn to clean the kitchen, so get out of bed and keep up your end of the bargain or else.”
Whenever someone says something like this to me, my response is, “Let me say that back to you so you can hear what I just heard.” I think until someone else says it to us, we don’t realize what we sound like. We sound like rivals instead of spouses. We sound like people who are looking out for ourselves instead of the interest of our spouse.
You don’t serve your spouse because they deserve it or because they do it for you; you do it because you are called to. You don’t meet your spouses needs because they meet yours; you do it because you are called to.
If you’re married, here’s a simple question for you: What if you and your spouse stopped working against each other and began working together towards something? What if rivalry was not what dominated your marriage, but selflessness and teamwork?