This month’s sermon series by Muriithi Wanjau (MW) and Carol Wanjau (CW) is titled Staying In Love. We are learning biblical principles about how to have a loving, life-long marriage. Last week’s sermon How To Stay In Love – If You Want To Stay In Love
MW: So, what happens if I do, do, do, do for my spouse but get nothing in return? Doesn’t he or she also have to play their part and reciprocate?
CW: It’s called the 50:50 principle – you do your part and I’ll do mine. Most people today believe in this principle and at first glance, it makes a lot of sense. However, this 50:50 principle, as beautiful as it sounds, simply does not work.
MW: Why doesn’t the 50:50 principle work?
CW: I can think of at least 2 reasons:
- 50-50 depends on who’s counting.
Which spouse gets to decide what is fair and what is even? Let’s face it, the things I do always seem to bear more weight to me than what my partner does. It’s so hard to measure 1 to 1 your contribution against my contribution, and most of the time, the person measuring sees their contribution as more important!
2. 50-50 always results in two victims
Many couples today are victims of what we call ‘if-then’ thinking. For example, one spouse says, ‘If only you’d come home on time then I wouldn’t be so cranky’ But the other one is thinking, ‘ If only you weren’t so cranky – then I’d enjoy coming home on time!’ That’s a vicious cycle that leaves you stuck.
MW: That’s probably why in marriage counseling, couples spend a lot of time trying to show why the marital problems are mainly the other person’s fault.
CW: Exactly! ‘The reason we’re in this mess is because he’s always doing this, or she’s always doing that’. It’s their fault that I’m so miserable and our marriage is headed towards divorce. But the result is that both of you have now become victims. You’ve completely lost your power to steer the relationship in a positive direction, because you’re completely dependent on how your spouse chooses to respond!
MW: So what’s the alternative to a 50:50 marriage? Paul is saying, “If you want to stay in love, here is what it takes. Stop competing with the other person but instead act as if that person is more important than you are. Every single day, every single decision, live as if, respond as if, react as if, initiate as if that one person is actually, literally more important than you are!
CW: Someone at this point could ask, how can my spouse be more important than me?
MW: Don’t focus exclusively on the things you’re interested in. Learn to focus and show sincere interest in, the things that are of interest to your significant other. Demonstrate an interest even in things that aren’t interesting to you.
CW: To be honest, this sounds rather harsh! What if it’s just not my thing?
MW: The answer is ‘how serious are you about staying in love’? Because that’s what it takes. What it takes to stay in love is a plan and that plan is not to give 50:50 but to give 100% to your partner, whether they deserve it or not!
CW: There are many women whose husbands are not available for their children and parenting is 100% on the woman. This is not only very frustrating to the woman but also very painful because she can see the children need their father. What would you tell such a woman?
MW: Well, first of all the reality is that this is also a problem experienced by some men – where their wives are so busy with their careers that they disengage with the family. But regardless who it is, what we’ve learnt is that nagging does not help. Apply this principle of taking an interest in his or her passions. If possibly, engage the whole family. For example, if he is into real estate accompany him as a family in hunting for plots. Be interested in what she’s doing at the office and pray together for her. Ask God to give you creative ideas!
You see, if you go for 50/50, you’ll end up with a contract, not a marriage. You may stay together, but when you play that game of ‘I do my part when/if she does her part’, then you are passing a death sentence on your marriage. 50:50 is great for divorce but not for marriage.
CW: Let’s come back to that person who feels their spouse doesn’t deserve it, and is asking, ‘how far am I supposed to take this?’
MW: According to Paul, if you want to know how far to go in love, look at Jesus. Jesus was by very nature God, which meant whenever he showed up, he really was the most important person in the room. But even though he was God, Jesus never used it to his advantage. You are certainly within your rights to demand your rights. But so was Jesus when it came to you. And He didn’t.
CW: So you’re saying we lay down our rights in the relationship. But why would anyone do such a radical thing?
MW: That’s what Paul goes on to explain in verse 7. I call it the God dilemma. God could have chosen to maintain his place in heaven where he got all the respect but in order to have a relationship with you, he had to give up what he deserved. Think about it – Jesus would not have a relationship with you if He held on to his rights. The truth is, we can’t have it both ways. It’s a choice: either I get all my rights or I get my relationship.
CW: But what if one of the spouses is being abusive?
MW: The bible never condones violence in marriage. Violence against your spouse is evil and the bible says we resist evil. If this is happening to you, we’re not saying you submit to yourself to the abuse, but rather that the most loving thing you can do is to seek help. But in other matters, God asks us to put aside our rights for the sake of the other. Remember, it’s either my rights or my relationship.
You can spend the next ten years making a point. You can spend the next ten years winning the arguments. You can spend the next ten years fighting about who’s smarter now or who’s on the right. Or you can decide that your goal is not to be right or to win or to make a point. Your goal is to serve this person, and to be a blessing to them, and to be the best husband/wife you could ever be whether they’re ready for it or not. It’s either my rights or my relationship.