Over the years, I’ve found it so easy to get myself in the spirit of competing with my husband. When I had little kids, it usually came out when I met him at the front door as he came home from work. I’d have on my “spit up on” shirt, look a mess, and proceed to tell him just how hard my day had been! Poor man  he hardly had a chance to get his coat off. For some reason, I felt the need to prove that I had worked really hard all day.

More recently, I’ve found myself subconsciously keeping a mental list of the things I do that he doesn’t, like paying the bills, doing the taxes, cooking, and cleaning — or even remembering all the family birthdays and sending all the gifts! Some days, I just get critical at what I’ve done and what he hasn’t done. It’s a subtle form of competition — who works the hardest and does the most. This type of attitude is a bit like a slow grade infection. At first it might not be noticeable, but if left untreated it can invade the body, growing into a full-blown illness an illness that can ultimately harm a marriage.

How do we treat this subtle form of infection?

First, I have to recognize when my thoughts of him turn critical and competitive. Second, I need to confess this critical spirit and ask God to change my heart. Third, it helps to make a list of all the things my husband does right. Finally, if there is something we need to negotiate or discuss, I try to plan a time to do so and do it in a way that is gracious and honest; it’s best to do this when I’m not in the midst of being upset! I have to be careful about how I say something. We’ve had a lot of house guests lately. Not too long ago, I said to him in a sarcastic tone, “Does anyone in this house know how to empty the dish washer besides me?” Ouch! How much better it would have been to say, “Honey, any time you have a minute, I would so appreciate it if you or anyone else could empty the dishwasher.”

I have to remember over and over again that we are on the same team. We are not competitors. In different seasons, one of us will work harder than the other. That’s life. That’s normal. When we got married, one of the promises we made at the altar was to serve one another. We have to keep nourishing the idea of completing one another rather than competing with each other.