Contracts and Covenants: Changing Our Thinking

Today's post is by Mary Beth of New Life Steward. rings

I will tell you all day long that I believe in Covenant Marriage. I believe that love is a choice. I believe that I have committed to choose to love my husband despite what he does or does not do. I believe this is the Biblical way of marriage. But honestly, sometimes, I find myself keeping score. I just changed a poopy diaper. Now it's his turn. I sorted, washed, dried, and folded the laundry. He can hang up what's left. I've been at home alone with Thomas all day. He's in charge of bath and bed time tonight. I cooked dinner. He has to clean up. On and on it goes. Tit for tat. Mentally, I aim to keep the "score" even. Then I get irritable when I feel like things are out of balance--when I feel like I'm doing my fair share and some of his too. Suddenly thoughts explode into: "well if he's not going to do anything, neither am I. We will see how long he lasts then! That will teach him!" And the truth comes out. My actions tell another story. My actions and thoughts show a contract marriage: as long as you do your part, I'll do mine. My desire is to live Biblically with my words, my thoughts, and my actions. So what does that mean for my marriage? I need to change my thinking to align with my beliefs--then my actions will follow.

The Common Way: Thinking in a Contract Marriage

For the majority of my life, I--along with most people in Western culture--viewed marriage as a contract. If you find yourself having these thoughts, you may be viewing your marriage more like a contract:

  • He did work all day so I guess I have to cook dinner.
  • I did the laundry last week, so now it's his turn.
  • He hasn't done anything all day long. Tomorrow it's my turn.
  • I swear, if I have to pick up his dirty boxers off the floor one more time!
Basically if you find yourself feeling obligated to do something because of what your spouse has done or you find yourself excusing your own poor behavior because of your spouse's actions, you are thinking contractually. The contract view of marriage makes the focus of marriage on self. This only promotes selfish attitudes and thinking.
The problem with this sort of thinking is that we can always find something our spouse isn't doing right. As my professor in seminary so aptly put it, the problem with a contract view of marriage, is that it places the security of a marriage in the ability of sinners not to sin.
There is a better way. We just have to change our thinking.

The Biblical Way: A Covenant View of Marriage

How can we change our thoughts to align with a covenant view?

  • We remind ourselves that by serving our spouse we are serving the Lord (Eph. 6:7).
  • When our spouses frustrate us, we remind ourselves that we are sinners, too (Rom. 3:23).
  • We think about ways to love and honor them.
  • We remind ourselves of how Christ continues in His love for us even when we continue in our sin (Rom. 5:8).
When we begin to think biblically, our heart and actions will soon follow. We must first make the choice to take captive our thoughts and submit them to the Lord (2 Cor. 10:5). When we love and serve our spouse despite their sin, our marriage becomes a truer picture of Christ and the church. We point others to Him, and our marriage becomes about God rather than ourselves.

A Word of Caution: Please do not read between the lines and hear me say that if you are in an abusive relationship of any kind-verbal, emotional, spiritual, physical, or sexual-that you should physically stay there to honor your covenant vows. Absolutely you need to leave and seek safety for yourself and any children in the situation. However, I do believe that we are called to remain married and pray diligently for God to change our spouses. That is a hard truth, but He alone is able.

My first love is Jesus Christ followed quickly by my husband and my son. I am now a stay at home mom, writer, and blogger at New Life Steward. My career was first in teaching and then in Marriage and Family Counseling. Living in a small, Southern town in Mississippi, we enjoy SEC football, walking around barefoot, and playing outside. A day to myself would be spent napping, blogging, and reading with a bit of reality TV mixed in! Please come chat with me on Twitter!

Photo Source: Geoffrey Fairchild