If you've ever been around me for 30 consecutive seconds, you know that I'm a pretty competitive guy. I don't know where it comes from — it's just part of my personality, I guess. It's how I was able to launch an international ministry.
Marriage, however, is not a competition.
It's easy to think of marriage as this always-changing power struggle, where you're always trying to figure out the things you're willing to give up so that you can get what you want. But that's old-school. And wrong.
I'm sure it's been said somewhere else, but I'm going to say it again: a great marriage works like a pair of scissors. It's the two of you working together, evenly and equally, to carve up whatever life sends your way. There's no dominant blade on a pair of scissors: they work together, and if one doesn't have the other, then nothing's going to get done.
So with that in mind, let me drop this on you:
When you serve your spouse, you're serving yourself.
You aren't giving up a little of you in order to get something back later — you're giving and getting at the same time.
Let's take something that every couple has to do but that no one likes to do, and something that always winds up being the go-to example when we're talking about stuff like this: doing the dishes.
Now, unless you're so rich that you have paid help to do your dishes for you (in which case, you can donate to XXXchurch here), you and your spouse have the nightly struggle over who is going to do this mundane domestic task. Maybe you split it up where one washes and one dries. Maybe you trade days. Or maybe one of you just does it all the time.
No matter how you've worked it out, unless you've just thrown a big fit about doing the dishes until your spouse finally caved and just did them to shut you up, you've probably been giving and getting at the same time.
Because you've contributed to your marriage as a whole by pitching in. You've lightened the burden for them, which makes your marriage all the sweeter and which will continue to create a culture of service. You'll care for one another in every area, from domestic tasks to emotional work to spiritual growth.
I've seen this at work in my own marriage. Jeanette and I both grew up with "traditional" roles being modeled for us in our homes, but once we got married, we both realized that some of those "traditional" roles don't fit our personalities.
So we said, "Forget these traditions," and made our own, based on what we're good at.
Maybe one of you is a great cook — let them do the meals. Maybe one of you is good at spreadsheets and planning — let them handle the bills. Maybe one of you is more naturally handy with a toolbox and a set of directions — let them put together the kids' new bunk beds.
The point is: play to each others' strengths and find where you complement one another. You do the stuff you're good at, they do the stuff they're good at, and you'll both be operating in your own giftings — serving your spouse while you serve yourself at the same time.
That's how you both win.