What to Do When Your Marriage Isn’t Fair

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

I was having lunch with a friend and she described how she and her husband split up tasks. “We both work outside of the home so when we get home we are exhausted,” she said. “He’s a better cook than me so he takes care of the kitchen duties and I take care of the laundry and the cleaning. It works out well because we don’t have to wonder every day who’s going to do what.” Her suggestions were awesome. When you know who does what it helps free up your time and your expectations. These lists can be very helpful. The problem is when we take that list and turn it into a contract. All of a sudden we start attaching all kinds of unspoken terms and conditions. When there is a breach of contract we feel justified in our bitterness and nagging.

We also have to remember that husbands and wives place different values on different tasks. A husband might think bringing home the bacon earns him enough points to relax as soon as he walks in the door. A wife might think his nine to five job is nothing compared to her 24-hour job of childrearing, interspersed with random moments of rest. Who gets to decide what’s more valuable?

Have you ever seen this conversation between Jesus and His disciples in the Bible? “John, if Peter heals the lame on Friday that means it’s your turn to do the preaching on Sunday.” When Jesus was about to leave His disciples he did not start dividing responsibilities to make sure everything was fair. Instead He knelt on the ground and washed their feet. Then He told them to do the same for each other. The 50/50 marriage mindset gets us addicted to the idea of what we deserve. If there was anyone who deserved to be served it was Jesus. He knew it, but He willingly laid down His rights and served anyway. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Choosing Joy

There are treasures of immense joy waiting for you in marriage when you let go of your expectations of fairness. One is that you might see your husband for the blessing he truly is. Whatever he does for you will be sweet icing on the cake. When he changes a diaper you won’t roll your eyes and think, “It’s about time.” Instead you will throw your arms around him and say, “Thanks, honey! I know that’s not easy for you.” There is another shocking phenomenon that happens when you stop trying to keep things even: You begin to realize all the ways he serves you that you never noticed because you were too busy being disappointed in him. You married him for a reason, long before the dishes and babies started piling up. There is a flame that will be rekindled – and he will notice. He will suddenly have a content, appreciative wife overnight which will inspire him to bless you even more.

There are a few tests to see if you are holding onto the 50/50 marriage mindset. Do you feel bitter when you see your husband resting? Do you constantly compare how much work you each do? Are you constantly expecting him to jump in to help and then always feeling let down? It’s time to let it go. It’s time to stop thinking about what he should be doing for you and focus on what you can do for him. It’s hard to let go because we are afraid of being taken for granted. We’re afraid of not having our needs met. We don’t have to be afraid. Our deepest needs are met in Christ. We ultimately entrust ourselves to Him, not to our husbands. “And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23) Our husbands will sometimes fail. If we expect our husbands to meet the needs that can only be met in Christ, we are setting them up for failure.

The expectations you think are protecting you in your marriage could actually be strangling your joy. The truth is you can’t maintain a constant standard of 50/50 and serve you husband with your whole heart at the same time. You have to choose. Protecting your rights is a full-time job. It leaves no room for grace. It doesn’t lead to the full marriage we often think it will. If you work tirelessly at half of the marriage that’s exactly what you’ll end up with: half of a marriage. Make your lists, divide the household tasks, and communicate clear goals with each other – but surrender your list to God each day and commit to serving your husband regardless of how well he holds up his end of the deal.

If marriage is about love it can’t be split up 50/50. Love is whole. Love is abandon. Love is 100% regardless of how much we perceive the other person is giving. We look to our example Who held back nothing in His love for us. Let’s love freely like our savior and share in that supernatural love that knows no bounds.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)

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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