Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Keeping Score

Lots of couples keep score in marriage, I'd wager to say that most everyone who has ever been married has kept score at some point and probably routinely.  By keeping score I mean holding on to some sort of measure of fairness in the marriage based either on number of times the other person has screwed up, number of times they have let you down, or how long it has been since a desired action or behavior has occurred.  Men are quick to accuse their wives of this as they are usually pretty good about ignoring the 49 things fully accomplished on the to-do list and focus in on why exactly the toilet didn't end up getting cleaned when they have never been the one to get urine anywhere other than in the bowl.  But then I have also found that most every husband on the planet can give you how many days/weeks/years/minutes it has been since the last time their wife had sex with them, data which they are pretty sure is scientifically reliable but almost always errs on the side of exaggeration.  Most of this comes from always having a front row seat to observe what we are doing but only occasionally seeing what they do, knowing full well how many times we held our tongue but only having access to the data of when they don't.  Whether it is how many times I have done the dishes because you forgot or how many times you have said you are sorry in the last year or the last time I felt like you called me at work and didn't have a complaint from me we all seem to have a running internal scoreboard that is constantly updated.  The problem with this scoreboard is that it is rarely even remotely accurate and even if it were it all is a push for fairness in a marriage - and fairness is something that should have been crushed in Kindergarten but seems to survive for most of us.

I touched on this idea here: in talking about the myth of compromise, but fairness doesn't just infect decision making, but our general stance towards the other person.  Either they are doing a sufficient job at pleasing me (Because my happiness IS the supreme ruling force of the universe to be striven after by all, not the worship and glorification of our creator and savior...) and I feel like the scales are balanced, or I am doing the lion's share of the work, responsibility, and sacrifice and therefore I am owed a debt.  But if doing things for the person we love and have pledged our life to produces resentment or an invoice then what are we saying about them but that they are really just an object and not a person to be appreciated and loved?  Love doesn't expect to be paid back, an exchange does, and if you are part of an unchristian, legal-document, formal contract arrangement then your work and effort needs to be compensated, but if you are loving someone then just shut up and do it.  If loving someone who can't love you as well in return makes you foolish then Christ is the biggest fool of all.  Maybe you are a part of a relationship with your creator and savior who knowing full well you couldn't begin to pay him back for the lavish love he decided to pour out on you still decided to enter a relationship with you and will never back out.  If so and you call yourself a follower of Christ then love deeply and foolishly and pray that your idiocy brings God more glory.  If you exist in a world where you are what is most important than by all means squeeze every bit you can out of your spouse, use them up and spit them out, guilt and manipulate them into giving you what you want and throw them to the curb when they stop producing.  If loving someone causes resentment because you don't feel paid back then you need to reassess whether you even know what the word "love" means, because apparently you are treating them like a retirement account - you put stuff in and invest so that eventually you can get even more back out.  

I've had a relatively easy and trauma free life but I've often thought that Viktor Frankl must have had a hard time biting his lip as a therapist when people came in to complain to him.  Probably could have gone like this:
Client: "Yeah, my wife is getting fatter and I'm just really not attracted to her any more.  It's just not fair, I make lots of money and she just lays around eating bon-bons all day..."
Frankl:  "Hmmm, yeah I had a wife once.  Her, my mom, and my dad were all murdered by the Nazis in a concentration camp I only survived because I was a doctor so I was useful.  They needed my psychiatric skills to calm down the cattle that were being lead to the slaughter.  I'm sorry, what were you saying?"
While I am pretty sure this never happened, he did have the ultimate trump card for peoples complaints and in a way the Bible gives similar advice - gratitude and appreciation are pretty important and you only get them with perspective.  Are you worried?  The Bible says when you stop to appreciate what you have and how God has always provided for you it gives you the perspective to trust him.  Are you in an unfair relationship?  The Bible says if you are in relationship with Christ it is far more lopsided and unfair than any other relationship you have but you like it that way.

You see, when people tell me they just want fairness they don't really mean it, they want more and better, even more than they deserve.  You want fair?  The average family income in America is $31,000 a year, so it would only be fair to be given that to work with as a couple.  But then internationally you are considered statistically in the "rich" category if you make $8,000 a year so really it's "unfair" you have so much money.  One in four women and one in four men will be sexually abused at some point in their life, so fair means you should have to throw that into your marriage and see how that affects things.  22% of wives are abused by their husbands, as high as 42% in other parts of the world so fair would say that you should spend at least a fourth of your marriage cowering in fear of retribution.  30-60% of marriages involve an extramarital affair, etc, etc.  The truth is you don't want fair because your wife gaining weight is a burden the vast majority of the world would have a hard time sympathizing with you for as 925 million people do not have enough to eat.  Bickering about who has to clean the house you actually own when warlords and corrupt governments make that difficult in some places, who should get to drive the "newer" car when people walk miles to the nearest semi clean water, and how often your husband wants to have sex with you when millions of women and girls around the world are sold into sex slavery and forced to have sex with 40-110 "men:" a day seems like we could all use a bit of perspective.  Because it is only with a healthy perspective that we can see the immense blessing that our spouse is and how blessed our lives are, and it is only by deciding to stop manipulating our partners to get what we want that we open ourselves up to truly loving them.

Best line from a sermon I've ever heard was "Fair died on the cross."  We don't want fair, we don't want what we deserve, we want some counterfeit myth of the perfect husband or wife we were promised by a deluded society. 

Fair died on the Cross

1 comment:

  1. Wow...I'm glad Laura shared this link! What a great really makes me think about how I act n my marriage. LOVE the last paragraph!