I watched Jerry Seinfeld’s new show, “The Marriage Ref” the other night. I thought it was mildly amusing, although somewhat disappointing at the same time. The concept of the show is to settle disputes between a husband and wife like a referee does in a baseball game or other sport. It’s clearly a show created by men who relish fixing problems.
I know the show is meant to be all in fun, but as a counselor, I fear that people will view their disagreements as opportunities to find a winner even more than they already do. After all, if American couples watch this message week after week, could it further solidify their belief that a winner must be determined in marriage conflicts? I don’t know, but I hope not!
I must confess I have a competitive streak. It has shown itself blatantly in my marriage like a white stripe on a skunk’s back. And along that line, it really stunk up the place whenever it appeared. I say all this, as if the competitive streak overtook me like demon possession! I know full well that I am responsible for the hurt and alienation my attitude brought to my marriage.
If my spouse and I had a disagreement and either one of us shifted into competitive mode, it was certain that the disagreement would degenerate into an argument with one or both of us looking for a winner and a loser. This is fine in sports, but in marriage it leaves gaping wounds that, unless resolved, fester and can eventually kill a marriage—at least kill the love in a marriage.
The problem with this “competitive mode” is that it’s subtle and insidious. You think you’re simply finding a solution to the problem, and everyone likes and needs a “solution,” right? So you’re completely baffled when your spouse acts as if you’ve offended him or her. Then you try to persuade them of just how right and helpful you are being, and you might even throw in a “But you’re not helping at all with your attitude! And it all goes downhill from there.
Here’s my challenge: Take off the boxing gloves! And borrowing from the sports theme – remember that you and your spouse are on the same team. So you should act like teammates. Teammates protect each other’s backs. Teammates come alongside each other and work together—never against one another. When it is unclear what to do, teammates look to the coach to tell them what to do. And the best “Coach” I know is Christ—not the know-it-all-spouse(s)! Last of all, remember that teammates can’t win without their teammate winning too.
- Do you have a competitive streak?
- How aware are you of this tendency when in the middle of a disagreement?
- How much do you and your spouse look to Christ to coach you through the tough spots?
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT)