Do you ever struggle with having things fair in your marriage? Maybe you’re giving 100% and your husband seems to be sitting in his recliner on easy street?
You find that you’re Ms. Responsibility and he’s Mr. I Don’t Have a Care in the World. You feel overworked and overwhelmed by all that is on your plate. Next thing you know, bitterness is starting to creep into your heart. But this is not what you want to happen in your marriage.
So what do you do when you’re battling with the feelings of having things fair in your marriage?
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Eph. 5:1-2
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31,32
JOLENE ENGLE: We have ‘anonymous’ today. We’ll call her Julie. Julie wrote in that she’s a wife of three years and her husband and her tried to follow a Christian model of marriage. However, the road has been difficult for a multitude of reasons: “I’ve been struggling with fairness in our marriage and it’s spilling over into bitterness, which I fear will begin to control my marriage. I was wondering if you could point me towards any guidance on fairness and bitterness. I’ve scoured scriptures and I’ve discussed with my husband as best I can, but I truly feel I need some womanly guidance on the topic.” That is our topic today – I titled it Fairness In Marriage. Actually, it’s a very popular issue.
ERIC: You get a lot of comments on that, huh?
JOLENE: I do, I find that a lot of women are feeling very frustrated and probably overwhemled and run-down, because they’re managing a lot.
ERIC: The first thing that comes to my mind is: Fairness sounds great, but how do you measure it? How do you measure, ‘Oh, I’m at 98 and he’s at 100 and I need two more points of fairness in there.’ How do you measure that?
JOLENE: And I get where you’re coming from. I remember as a new bride – I mean very new, I was probably three weeks into our marriage, if that – I had gone off to work and I looked over at you… My alarm’s going off, it’s 6:30 in the morning and you’re still snuggled in the bed, and I was disgusted. Obviously ‘fairness’ came into my mind real quick, thinking ‘Oh, I’m doing all this work and he’s just taking a nap.’
ERIC: So, you were way ahead on the tally sheet there. (Laughs)
JOLENE: Yeah, and it’s just in our DNA, our critical spirit, that we examine our spouse: ‘Oh well, he’s just got all this free time and not a care in the world – no big deal.’ And you’re off as the wife carrying this huge load. It’s a very, very common issue in marriage and something that I dealt with, as well. And here’s my quick answer: she had said that she’s looking in scripture for guidance, well there’s nothing in scripture about fairness. You’re not going to find it; it isn’t there. It’s called a sacrificial love. It’s called ‘carry your cross and come follow me’, as Jesus said. Jesus didn’t say to the disciples, ‘hey boys make sure that when you go out there you’re all fair. Come back with the same amount of souls won.’ That’s absurd thinking.
ERIC: The idea of fairness is looking at myself saying ‘I’m not getting what I deserve’ which is a dangerous place to go. We hear that from our boys all the time – ‘Well, that’s not fair! Why if he gets this then I don’t?’ The first thing is to change the viewpoint, talk about that.
JOLENE: When I go back to my moments as a young wife when I thought ‘It’s not fair; I’m doing all of this stuff’, one thing I had to learn is some of the roles in marriage. There is a lot of expectation the wife will generally place on the husband and they’re usually not articulated until she’s ready to explode.
ERIC: Well, talk about fairness; the men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Woah, what about that? I think that’s hugely weighted against the husband versus the wife’s responsibilities.
JOLENE: But we don’t see that. We see that we’re carrying this huge load and that you guys are just sitting there with your feet up watching TV with no care in the world.
ERIC: Well, we do that sometimes.
JOLENE: (Laughs) Right. We have a tendency to take on more than we should; I know I have that tendency. And I’ve had to learn over the years not to think ‘Oh, you can kiss that kind wife goodbye; I’ve got too much on my plate’.
ERIC: And as a nurturer, God has created the woman to nurture more than the man, and because of that, I think he’s also created her to pay more attention to that. I don’t know about other gals, but Jolene, personally, has a very high sense of responsibility.
JOLENE: And I think that a lot of women have that. We manage the home, whether you work in or outside of the home, there’s still something in a woman where it’s her home. She wants it to look well and be presented well. I know for me, I’m not a strong domestic, decorating type. Do I decorate? Yes, I do, but I’m not Martha Stewart, I don’t care to be Martha Stewart. I obviously don’t care to go to prison (laughs), just a little side note there. Anyway, having that domestic diva sense, that’s not me, but you’d walk into my home and probably notice it’s decorated. Yes, it is, but it’s not a big emphasis, I should say. However, I have more of an emphasis on making my home nice than the men in my home do… does that make sense? Because I’m the manager of the home, this is what I do – ‘Let’s put up this pretty curtain, because it matches’. The point is, whether you work in or outside the home, you’re going to be drawn to the home; you’re going to be drawn to the order of the home. Then you’re going to look at your husband and think ‘Well, I’m doing all this and you’re doing nothing.’
ERIC: And not to get off track, but when we talk about women having a higher sense of responsibility, why is makeup sold to predominately women and not men? Because they care more about how they look, they care more about how theyre presented. They care more. So, overall, I think for most of the things in the family and in the household, you care more.
JOLENE: Right. And there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s just how we’re wired. But where is gets tricky is when we then take on a man’s role, as well. So we take on a man’s role, plus we’ve got our role, plus we’re just naturally nurturers and then we look at the husband and think he’s not doing enough.
ERIC: You’ve mentioned that before, explain ‘taking on the man’s role’.
JOLENE: It’s not my job to protect and provide for the family. Am I capable, can I do those things? Oh yeah. You want to see mama bear come out? She’ll come out in two seconds! And that’s okay! But as a husband, it’s your job to protect and your responsibility to provide. Can a wife go outside and work? Yes, she can. She is capable of those things, but the problem is if she’s doing everything in the home and she’s working out of the home, she’s exhausted!
ERIC: And here’s Satan’s lie: ‘hey, you’re more than just a homemaker; you’re more than just a wife. You can go out and kill it, just like a man does. You shouldn’t put up with not doing that. You’re equal to man – go make it, go do it.’And yet, when you come home, the gal’s wondering why her guy isn’t doing this and this and this and the guy says ‘It’s not my job’. A lot of guys are wimping out as well, because they’re expecting their wife to bring in half the income. That’s poor; that’s ridiculous. God called the man to toil the field, He did not call the wife to toil the field. As a matter of fact, I spoke with a gal the other day and she talked about how she and her husband both brought in the income and now he’s sick and she’s has the sole financial responsibility – other than whatever retirement or disability money he has coming in. She’s got a huge burden on her. Is it any wonder that women are not in a good mood and that they’re feeling like they’ve gotten ripped off? In this situation she’s got to be the woman and the man!
JOLENE: And that’s not God’s ideal. It’s not God’s ideal that it’s all on the women’s shoulders. Sometimes, as women, we put it on our shoulders. Sometimes, I look at the bank account and think ‘gosh I’d like to have more!’ What woman wouldn’t want to have more?
ERIC: You and me both!
JOLENE: I could say, ‘I’m going to go out and get a job, because I’m tired of living here and I’m tired of driving this car.’ And I could go and take on a job and I know I’d be fantastic at that job, but I might not come home being as fantastic. I might not come home kind and sweet. And then the next thing I’m doing is becoming bitter and critical and I’m tearing down my home. I know that’s not what I want.
ERIC: So what creates that? I’m kind of baiting you here, but what creates that need for more financial security?
JOLENE: Well, that’s just yourself ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, it could be fear, it could be looking at the bank account and thinking there’s not enough in there and that your husband‘s not providing enough and you should go and make it happen. That’s very common.
ERIC: And where I’m going with this is the fear angle – there’s a control issue. The more fearful I get, the more I think I’m out of control. You think you have to take control of this thing because you feel your husband’s not cutting it. You think that he’s just a big kid in the house and you have to take on this whole thing. She’s taking on burdens that she doesn’t have to take on.
JOLENE: What I have to say to the wives listening, from one wife to another, this has been an ongoing pursuit of mine. It doesn’t happen overnight where you just relinquish control. Here’s the deal, if you want to see God’s glory move in your life, you’ve got to let go of control. It’s as simple as that.
ERIC: But what if I’ve become poor because I let go of control?
JOLENE: Then you’re still going to see God move, because God’s not going to abandon His kids. Does that mean you’re going to live in a palace? No, not necessarily, but can you still be content in all things? Yes, the Bible talks about being content in all things; being content in whatever your circumstances might be. To the wife who is battling with fairness, you’ve got to look at yourself. A couple things I would do is look at your roles, I would stand back and say ‘am I taking on my husband’s roles?’ And then decide whether you are or not. Maybe your expectations are too high for yourself. In our culture today, people think that women should be superwomen – they think we come with capes. We get married, we’re wives and they think we have these instant, built-in capes. I don’t wear a cape.
ERIC: Satan has said this lie to destroy the family and it works well, because now she’s angry, she comes home in a bad mood. They fight over money, they fight over household chores and it tears apart the family and the marriage. But the woman gets to say that she can go out and do a man’s job, but there’s nothing better than to do what God has laid before you, what He has planned out. Instead of saying ‘well, I don’t like that! I don’t like that idea’. And I know you, Jolene, have struggled with that from time to time – ‘I don’t like the idea of submitting to my husband; I don’t like the idea that he has to be the head of the home’, because many women are capable, or more capable of that.
JOLENE: It’s interesting; when I look at the Proverbs 31 woman she’s very capable. For some reason, people think that a wife, mom, or homemaker is a lesser position. Go read your Bible; you’ll see that the woman in that position is very capable, because that woman speaks with kindness. She laughs at her future, there’s no fear there. She is not looking at the game of fairness; it’s not a concern for her. She’s doing what God has asked her to do and she’s doing it unto the Lord.
ERIC: So here’s the next question: let’s say that the Lord has laid down the roles for the husband and the wife and yet, it’s still unfair. What do you say about that?
JOLENE: I’d say, talk to your Maker about that.
ERIC: Right, because it doesn’t matter if God said it, that’s how it is. And we’ve really got to suck it up as believers and say, ‘if I’m obedient to the Word, it will work out well for me.’
JOLENE: Right, and I want the listener to be encouraged and to realize that God’s word works; it works for marriage. You have to ask yourself if your marriage is inline with God’s Word and line it up with that as much as possible. You might be in a situation today thinking that’s all fine and dandy, but you have all this debt and have to work. Well, my encouragement would be to figure out a way to come home. Figure out a way to work part time or transition to where you’re not carrying this huge weight. The question is, do you want to have a big bank account and all these things, or do you want to have a relationship that honors God and have peace and harmony in the home? You want to model a marriage that you want your kids to have. Sometimes when we go outside of our roles and responsibilities, there are consequences. I’m not saying to go and leave your job today and to tell all your creditors that you’re not going to fulfill your agreement to them. You have to be responsible. I’m not even saying that this gal who wrote in is dealing with outside work; there’s no indication there. I just know in all the letters I receive, I get a lot of women who say they work 40 hours a week and they come home and do all this stuff at home and their husband just lays on the couch, because he is not concerned about the home. If you’re a young bride and you’re struggling with just being a bride and a homemaker, heed this warning, because you can’t do it all. What do you want? Do you want the bank account and the nice things? Or do you want the right marriage? Three weeks after the marriage, I was still going off to work, but I ended the job a month after we married. Eric needed me in the business, but it wasn’t long after that I stopped working in the business, because we were raising a family – I couldn’t do all of this and still be a kind wife who is developing that gentle and quiet spirit. Instead of being a wife who is cultivating seeds of bitterness that are starting to take root in the marriage. I go back to Romans 12:1, it says, “I beseech you there brothers, that by the mercies of God you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Jesus is our living sacrifice. Jesus is our example; He’s the one that we need to imitate. You have to ask yourself, is the Christian life about fairness or is it about sacrifice? Well, this verse tells you what it should be. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Again, choose the path that will help you imitate God. Sometimes I put too many things on my plate, sometimes there’s a long laundry list of responsibilities. Today is a perfect example: did I want to do this podcast? No, I did not. I’m not feeling well, I’m tired; the energy is not there, but it’s on my list. I have a funeral to go to this week, so we have a lot going on – I want to do what God has called me to do, but I need to make sure to do it in the right heart. I need to make sure that I’m not tearing down my house in the process. And then I’m going to look back and ask what I could’ve done differently so I didn’t take on too much, because as women, we tend to take on too much.
ERIC: You have a saying when that happens, and you kind of chant this saying when you look around the house and see stuff that’s a mess – what is it that you say?
JOLENE: (Laughs) “Let it go, let it go!” Because I know, in my heart, if I let my emotions rule over me, I’m going to tear down my home. I’ll start yelling at everyone and snapping and being ‘grumpy-pants’, then no one will want to be around me. That’s not the type of relationship I want as a wife, nor as a mother.
ERIC: You’ll have a clean home and a crummy relationship.
JOLENE: Right, right. So that’s the question that the listeners need to ask themselves. Is the Christian life about fairness? For me it’s not, because Jesus said to pick up your cross.
ERIC: Fairness… I mean, look at Jesus. Here’s the Creator, the Bible says He spoke the world into existence; all things were made by Him and for Him. Yet, he willingly came down and sacrificed himself. He said, “No one takes my life, I lay it town and take it back up again.” That’s not fair for Jesus. Jesus could’ve said, ‘unfair! Unfair! These guys don’t deserve it!’ And we don’t!
JOLENE: He could’ve just sat on his throne and said ‘I’m hanging out up here’. Okay, so let me give you a bitterness verse, Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all biterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted; forgiving one another as God through Christ forgave you.” As a woman, I look at all of that written there – the bitterness, rage, anger – and think that it’s gotten my name written all over it. What do I need to do to make sure I don’t walk in those ways? Well, I have to be transformed by the Word of God. I have to go back to what God is calling me to do – am I doing my roles? I could look at Eric and say, ‘Hun, I’m doing my roles, are you doing your roles?’ But I’m not his God; he has to stand before the Lord. He has to give an account for his life; I’m not his Holy Spirit. I could go to him and say, ‘I’m overwhelmed in my roles.’ And almost daily I’m overwhelmed in my roles, so I’m always looking at what I can do to not take on too much so I’m not tearing down my relationships. And to find out if I’m missing something – am I missing something in our life that I’m not managing very well? Or maybe I’m not treating my kids very well. I should go to Eric and ask him to look at my life and help me like a friend and advisor to be able to say ‘Hey, maybe we need to tweak something over here’ so I’m not walking in anger, bitterness, rage, or harsh words.
ERIC: That verse is such a great verse. Let’s say that she’s got a guy that just isn’t cooperating at all. She should get up every day and pray that verse – ‘Lord help me get rid of all anger, bitterness, rage, slander and harsh words today, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, help me to be kind to those in my household. Help me to be tenderhearted and forgiving to them.’ What a great prayer to pray every single day.
JOLENE: I think I need to write a book about this for wives. It’s the Ephesians 4:31 book! (Laughs) You know, because I had to learn all those things as a new bride, coming out of the lifestyle as a fornicator, atheist, and everything in between. And I grew up in a home filled with rage! Things were thrown at us!
ERIC: You grew up with anger and rage.
JOLENE: Yes, yes. So I didn’t even know what kindness looked like; I had to learn those things. I know I’m not a kind wife when I’m walking in self and not in the spirit; I’m not a kind wife when I have too much on my plate. I’m not interested in fairness, I’m interested in representing Jesus and having relationships that honor Christ and that point others to Christ. Those are my thoughts on fairness in marriage.
ERIC: And you can’t do it on your own.
JOLENE: No, only through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Accepting those ‘wifey’ verses was a challenging thing for me before you came onto the scene; I wasn’t too fond of that. But obviously, I surrendered to it and I’m glad I did. So surrender to those verses – you could either have the culture shape you or the Bible shape you. I’d go with the Bible, lean in that direction! That’s it, that’s all I got. Those are my thoughts and my husband has some great thoughts, too. I’m Jolene Engle, here with my husband Eric and we’ll see you next time.
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