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Is There a Place for Competition in Marriage?

Special Feature


Sloping horizons bejeweled in dazzling colors, crisp northern winds announce the arrival of fall. And with it comes football—heroes of the gridiron battle for pride and championships. Rivalries in stadium seats and den recliners are just as intense. Healthy competition can be exhilarating and rewarding in sports. But what about marriage? Can competition be good for your marriage?

Who’s Number One? The goal in sports is to outrun, outjump, or outscore your opponent. Endeavoring to be the best in sports is admirable. Being number one in a biblical marriage should take on a different meaning. Married Christians have an opportunity to “compete” for a unique first-place trophy—loving and honoring their spouses. The apostle Paul instructs us to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). The Greek word for outdo means “to prefer” or “to esteem more highly.” What if you and your spouse competed for the most courteous, patient, or forgiving awards? And what if you sought their best interests more than your own? Showing deference to your spouse does not have to be burdensome or expensive. 

Winning God’s Way. Some married couples fear being taken advantage of by their spouse. To protect themselves, they keep mental records of rights and wrongs committed. Language such as “you never” and “I always” is evidence of scorekeeping. In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman warns, “[N]eeding to keep a running tally of who has done what for whom is really a sign of trouble in a marriage.” He continues, “Among happy spouses, one doesn’t load the dishwasher just as payback because the other cooked but out of overall positive feelings about the partner and relationship.” The Bible provides an alternative to marital scorekeeping. Paul teaches love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Corinthians 13:5b). Elsewhere, he writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Selfishness and conceitedness are the enemies of oneness, but humility is its lifelong friend.

What would your marriage look like if you stopped settling scores? What if you ditched the scoreboard altogether? Winning in marriage means outgiving, outserving, and outloving each other. This kind of competition may seem counterintuitive, but daily practice can lead to a championship marriage in the eyes of God.

Alonza Jones -Alonza Jones

President & Co-founder of Biblical Marriage Institute


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