Are you a competitive person? The popularity of reality shows and sports attest to the fact that most of us enjoy the competitive aspect of an individual striving to be the best. Unfortunately, my competitive drive must be satiated as a spectator for I cannot sing, run, or come up with an idea innovative enough for Shark Tank.
There is one exception. In this challenge, I can (and clearly I am commanded) to compete.
Matthew, the apostle, must have been a competitive man. He asked a question that clearly revealed he was trying to get ahead, to be the best at his game.
He said, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
And Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
This is the challenge I can (and clearly I am commanded) to compete in.
The greatest challenge is to love the Lord, but I want to focus on the next level- the second challenge to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ My closest neighbor is my husband, Mark. Period. And after 28 years of marriage, it is very clear to me that couples who competitively try to out love each other have marriages that outlast. They play the game and in the end, they win.
The game is complex and no two couples are dealt the same hand. However, there are a few fundamentals. These three tips I took from a book I am reading to up my game. It is Cherish by Gary Chapman.
Outbid for each other.
Dr. John Gottman has been studying marriage for over 40 years. He says that in any relationship partners will make regular “bids” for attention. How the spouse responds to the bid has a huge impact on marital happiness. The bids are actually simple requests for connection like when my husband says, “Did you hear that the Gators won last night?” The ball is then in my court. I can respond by “turning away” or “turning toward” Mark. This can also be done through texting. Mark is a great encourager to me through his texts. I make sure to respond to these requests as I recieve them.
Couples who turn toward each other, in Gottman’s study, by engaging the bidder and showing interest, won with marriages that outlasted those who rejected the bid for attention. Outbid and your marriage will outlast.
Out Honor each other.
My husband is going to love this part of Gary Chapman’s book. When it comes to honoring your husband, he says it all boils down to sex:
I know this will sound cliche, but for a large percentage of men, if they’re not noticed between the sheets, everything that happens outside the bedroom is negated. I’d say this is particularly true when a husband is in this twenties, thirties, and forties. A wife usually can’t overestimate the vulnerability a man in that season of life feels toward sex…Women, it may help to think of your husband’s sexual desires as a request to be honored. Many men work so hard, not just to contribute to the family budget, but to be true to their marital vows. There are plenty of spiritual and physical forces trying to inject compromise into your man’s soul. Your physical affection is a way of honoring his commitment, his battle, and his physical desires.
Chapman says that women usually feel honored when they are noticed. As a counselor, he hears a lot of women express the sentiment that they feel invisible:
A woman wants to be noticed and taken seriously when she speaks, enters a room, calls her husband, and doesn’t want him looking at his phone while he’s supposed to be talking to her.
Every marriage is different. The key is to understand what makes your husband feel honored. Challenge yourself to out honor him. Make the first move.
Out Do each other.
Another competitive apostle who strove hard for perfection was Paul. He said this, “Love must be sincere… Be devoted to one another in love.” This is the key to cherishing your spouse: Devotion. We must devotedly cherish our spouse more than they cherish us. The definition of cherish is this: to hold or treat as dear; feel love for; to care tenderly; nurture; to cling fondly or inveterately to.
Do you cherish your husband? Are you treating him dearly? Do you care tenderly? Do you cling to him inveterately? If you out do you will out love and your marriage will outlast.