Marriage isn’t a 50/50 partnership


There’s a story I frequently hear my husband tell other men. It goes like this:

One night Tyler was lying on our bed while I was getting ready in the bathroom.  It had been a long day and he was resting before we headed out to meet some friends.

“Hey babe, can you change the light bulb in the bathroom?” I asked. Silence. Then a tentative “yeahhhh” came from the bed.

He laid in bed for about another five minutes before getting up to fetch a new lightbulb.  I never thought anything of it. Then one day I heard him tell this story and he said,

“I was more miserable for those five minutes I laid in bed than if I had just gotten up when she asked and changed the light bulb.”

We’ve all been there, right? You’re exhausted, have a headache; it was a hard day at work. You just want a few minutes to rest in peace and someone asks you to do something for them.  Can’t I just have five minutes to myself?!  But then you lay there and stew, getting angrier and angrier as your selfishness swallows you whole.

Tyler would say, “It always turns out better if I chose to serve her rather than feed my selfishness. Even if we’re talking about a lightbulb.”

During one of my bridal showers, we went around the room and each woman shared a piece of marital advice.  When it was my mom’s turn she looked at me and said, “Hanna, there is one verse in the Bible that will almost guarantee a successful marriage if you live by it.

Consider Tyler’s interests as more important than your own.

Consider. It doesn’t mean you always have to make a decision in his favor. It doesn’t mean his interests are more important than yours. Just consider.

There’s a verse in Philippians that says,

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.” (Philippians 2:3–4, NET)

Now, that’s a hard pill to swallow–especially in our culture, which tells us that YOU are the most important person in the world and that if YOU don’t look out for YOU, no one will.  Our culture tells us that a successful, healthy relationship is 50/50.  You give 50%, I give 50%. You take 50%, I take 50%. But that doesn’t sound much like treating your spouse as more important than yourself, does it?

I’m not talking about self-deprecation here.

I’m not saying you and I aren’t important or that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves because we are valuing our spouse as more important than ourselves.  But what does it look like to consider our spouses’ interests as more important than our own?  What does it look like to treat them better than ourselves? Not that they are more important than us, but because we are so selfish by nature, we have to force ourselves to consider them as more important in order to act out of humility.

A piece of advice I constantly hear Tyler give to dating or married men is:

Your goal is to out serve her.

Instead of trying to live 50/50, our goal should be to out serve our spouse. –Not out of competition or by keeping score, but out of the desire to treat your spouse as more important than yourself.  Because that is the real beauty of marriage–learning to love someone more than yourself and treating them as such. And then, when you fail to do that–because you will fail some days–being humbled by receiving the love and grace your spouse gives to you.

So today, what would it look like to treat your spouse as more important than yourself?  What decision do you need to better contemplate in order to truly consider your spouse’s interest?  For me, it’s usually in the minutia. It’s the lightbulbs, the dinner menu, the laundry that needs to be folded, the shoes by the door, saying no to plans with friends because I know he’s exhausted. It’s learning to make decisions in his favor because it makes him feel cared for. And do you know what the very best part of that is? If my husband feels cared for, served, and loved, he does a really good job of taking care of me in return.

And if you’re dating or single, how might that verse change the way you choose your spouse?  You may notice we are called to consider others as more important than ourselves regardless of their behavior.  There are no conditions to that verse.  So, if the key to a successful marriage is out serving your partner, perhaps you look for someone who is servant-hearted, cares for others, and will treat you as more important than themselves.