The more time I spend studying the topic of marriage and walking with men in the workshops I’ve had the privilege of hosting for the past 8 years, the more I’m convinced that there are a common set of attitudes, mindsets and challenges that plague most marriages. Here are a few examples and then I’ll further explain the last one – which may be among the biggest contributors to marital strife.
Attitudes that plague marriages:
- “I deserve to be happy” – this one is mostly motivated by a self-orientation (or selfishness if you want to be more brutally honest) that contends that my self-interest is paramount in life.
- “If you knew my spouse…you’d understand why we struggle” – which is the common view that my marriage challenges are mostly resulting from the deficiency of the person I’ve married. Another variation on this theme: “I think I may have married the wrong person.” In reality, I’d argue that we all marry the wrong person – if “wrong” is defined as joining two sin-prone, self-oriented people who are, by definition, going to have tension and conflict in their marriage.
- “Our marriage at least needs to be ‘fair’!” This is the one I’ve come to label – ‘The Fairness Doctrine’. And when both spouses embrace this doctrine, it may be the single, biggest impediment to God’s design for an abundant marriage.
The Fairness Doctrine explored:
Why is this concept of ‘fairness’ so prevalent? Because most of us have embraced the notion, since early childhood, that we are entitled to equity and fairness in life. Maybe we learned it as a toddler; perhaps it became expected in our school years; it may have become ingrained in our psyche when we started working and became convinced that we ‘deserve’ to get equitable raises, promotions, and opportunities in the workplace.
And yet, in Jesus’ upside-down worldview – the concept of fairness is entirely rejected. Consider the parable of the workers in the Vineyard in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus talks about the workers who were hired as laborers who spent vastly different hours in the field and were paid the same amount.
And another when Jesus told the story of the women bringing her meager gift offering to the altar – particularly when compared to what other, more wealthy people had given. Here are His words: “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:3-4)
And perhaps the most indicting example – that totally destroys the entitlement mentality of the Fairness Doctrine – are Jesus’ final words in Matthew 20:16: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Here’s the point and the promise – God designed marriage to be completely counter-intuitive in today’s culture. In order for a husband and wife to personify the gospel and glorify Him, we’re called to tear up the Fairness Doctrine entirely. How does that translate to day-to-day behaviors and attitudes?
- The next time your spouse doesn’t do his/her fair share of chores – it shouldn’t matter to us the way it often does. Instead, count it as pure joy.
- When you don’t get to play golf on a sunny, warm Saturday morning after your spouse had an opportunity to play tennis last week – not only is it ok – it’s actually a great blessing for your spouse that can give you great satisfaction.
- Or, when your spouse never says “I’m sorry” (and you do), it’s ok. In fact, it’s better than ok – because you don’t even have an expectation that you’re entitled to an apology.
A major source of marital dissatisfaction actually derives from clinging to the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ because when you expect ‘fair’ (which you can’t objectively judge BTW because we all have a tainted view of what’s ‘fair’ based on our own, personal definition) you are bound to be disappointed because your expectations are unlikely to be met. Instead, Jesus calls us to die to our self-interest. The Fairness Doctrine tugs us to expect the opposite – “my interests are at least equal (or greater than) the interest of others.”
Here’s the bottom line – and a game changer in your marriage and in your mindset: tear up, destroy, or burn the fairness doctrine that resides in your mindset. That mindset is mostly filled with a self-orientation that won’t serve you well and certainly won’t serve your spouse well. When you get serious about throwing the Fairness Doctrine away, with no contingencies, your spouse will most-often respond in a profound and selfless way!
I always welcome your thoughts and praying for you and your marriage!
P.S. – here’s the website for the marriage workshops for men in case you’re in the north-Atlanta area and have an interest in registering: www.menyourmarriagematters.com