What to Do When Your Marriage Isn’t Fair

A Crazy Marriage?

I recently saw something on TV that made my jaw drop. It was a blonde, fresh-faced young woman boldly sharing on a talk show with the whole world that she served her husband in every way, every day. “I make love to my husband whenever he wants. When he gets home from work I have a hot meal waiting for him. I don’t expect him to do any housework at all. It’s my job to care for him and I love it.” From the look on her face you knew that Courtney Joseph, author of “Women Living Well,” meant what she was saying. The faces of the women in the audience were harder to read. There was a mixture of surprise, pity, respect, and definitely confusion.

A wife who wholeheartedly served her husband?

I found this interview so unlike anything I had ever seen on a secular program, but there was another nagging thought tumbling around in my brain: I didn’t often hear other Christians talk like this, either. I decided to ask a few women what they thought. I soon found my opportunity at a coffee shop where some women had gathered for a Bibles study. I asked six different Christian women and the response was the same: “Sure, I’ll serve my husband that way as long as he holds up his end of the deal. It’s unreasonable to not expect your husband to help. I pull my weight, he pulls his.”

That makes sense – but the response begs an unnerving question that never seems to get addressed: What if he doesn’t pull his weight? What if you have a hard day and you’re not pulling your weight? Is it okay for spouses to hold their service hostage until certain terms are met? This type of arrangement seems contingent on a lot of “if’s.” If he pulls his weight…If he serves me…If he works as hard as I do. I realized something after talking to these women. While the world might call what Courtney does crazy, Christian wives have another word for it: Overkill. “I can definitely serve my husband without doing all the things she does. Serving my husband doesn’t mean being a slave!” Wives feel much more comfortable with keeping things even. What we’re essentially talking about is the 50/50 marriage.

Culture Vs. Scripture

The idea of the 50/50 marriage has permeated our society since the women’s lib movement in the 60’s. It is permeating the church as well. It appeals to our American ideal of rights, freedom, and equality. We have a right to be treated fairly. We have a right to be respected. We deserve to get back what we put in.

While God Himself is our biggest advocate for the respectful treatment of women (1 Peter 3:7), the 50/50 marriage is actually found nowhere in scripture. It is an appeal to human logic rather than to God’s word. Scripture has a way of turning human logic on its head. In Christ we’ve been called to the truest freedom of all: freedom from sin. In turn we get to use that freedom in a very unexpected way:

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

We are free to serve, not to be served. This is a unique mindset that does not come naturally to us. In fact, without the regenerating work of God in our hearts, it is altogether impossible. As Christians we don’t find freedom in how we are treated by others, but in how we are treated by God in Christ.

This is in no way meant to undermine our value as women. Tragically, many wives are treated like doormats and the thought of serving more selflessly feels degrading. That’s when we stop and remind ourselves that our value does not lie in how our husbands respond to our service. They might appreciate it and treat you in like kind and they might not. We know we’re valuable because God sent His own Son to die for us. The difference is that now we don’t have to champion our own justice. God does that for us. Our lives don’t have to revolve around being treated fairly. We are freed from the self-centeredness that suffocates our joy and contentment.

Picture this. You’re standing at the sink doing dishes, happily looking froward to a relaxing evening at home. Suddenly something catches your eye. Your husband is sitting on the couch, feet propped up, watching the game. “Hmm. Wish I could be watching TV right now,” comes the first innocent thought. “I mean, why shouldn’t I get a little TV time once in awhile? Didn’t we both work all day? Didn’t we both just eat the dinner that I made? Oh, there’s the kids fighting again. Well, I’m definitely not breaking up a fight, not when I’m already doing dishes. That’s HIS job. I can’t believe he’s just sitting there. Doesn’t he hear them? Doesn’t he hear ME, over here with the water running and pots and pans banging around?” By the time you storm across the living room to tend to the fighting kids you are filled with rage. You were finishing up your chores with contentment only seconds before you noticed that your husband was getting more rest than you. Meanwhile he’s oblivious. He’s flunking every subject in husbandhood and he’s never even seen the report card.

The problem with the 50/50 marriage is that instead of creating fairness it creates bitterness. Why? More often than not the goal is to protect our own rights, not the rights of the other person. Think about it. “I really want to split up our tasks so you never do more work than me.” Isn’t it usually the other way around? We give ourselves too much credit if we think we truly have a 50/50 mindset. We don’t. Our hearts naturally favor ourselves. Should your husband help you? Yes. Is he more important than you are? Of course not. However, as Christians God has not charged us with devoting our lives to protecting our own rights. He says to leave that to Him. Instead He gives us a different set of instructions:

Sara Wallace
Sara Wallace
Sara Wallace is a Jesus-loving wife and mom of four little boys. She spends her busy mom days homeschooling her kiddos in the backwoods of Idaho and clinging to grace. She explores how the power of the gospel equips us for this sticky, messy, heart-wrenchingly beautiful battle called motherhood at her blog, The Gospel-Centered Mom. For more from Sara, you can also check her out on Facebook and Google +.

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