I have to admit that for most of my marriage I competed with my husband. Even though we were supposed to be a “team” and people saw us as a team, we really were not a team. It wasn’t until a couple decades later that one of my professors noted, “You need to work as a team and I’m not sure you’re doing that.”
I was always competitive and I always felt like I had to “prove” myself. I suppose it was because of my low self-esteem and terrible upbringing—in order to get any attention or recognition, I had to do well but even then my “good” wasn’t good enough.
In the back of my mind I kept thinking that my husband really didn’t love me—that he wanted me to be someone I wasn’t, and that I was a disappointment to him. These self-defeating thoughts had put an invisible wedge between us and it prevented me from truly loving him.
When we were working on our doctoral degree, my husband made better grades and he didn’t have to really study, people also liked him more. I resented him for it. Then when he had finished writing his dissertation and he graduated before me, I was upset. Yes, I was glad that he graduated, but I was angry that I didn’t graduate before him or with him. I felt like he won and I lost.
It seemed that nothing was going “right” for me after that—I didn’t have good guidance from my advisor and I didn’t really have a passion for what I was studying; most of the time I wondered why I was even in school.
Looking back, I realized that the problem was in my heart. I was being envious and jealous when I really should have been joyous and happy for my husband; yes, he is much smarter than me, and he is much more extraverted than I am. I felt that my attitude reflected the principles found in 1 Corinthians 12—basically, I was a toe who thought I should have been a hand.
Then I thought about Romans 9:20-21 which says, “…Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?” (NLT). I took this to mean that I wanted to be as smart as my husband and as outgoing as he but I wasn’t, and instead of being resentful about it and thinking of him as “my competition,” I needed to find peace with who I am.
It is true that I am not as smart or as outgoing as my husband, and whether that’s a result of “nurture” or “nature” (how I was raised or what my genetic makeup is), it doesn’t matter. I need to find the positive things that God has created within me.
I think sometimes bitterness happens when we want something that we don’t have— “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have… You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them… Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you” (James 4:1-2, Hebrews 12:15).
That one statement from my professor made me realize that my marriage would never be truly peaceful and loving as long as I allowed myself to be jealous of the gifts my husband had. I may not get recognition for the things that I do (and often my husband gets the recognition for them), but I’m OK with that—that’s what it means to be a “helpmate” (Genesis 2:18). I can honestly say that I am very proud of the man my husband is today, and I am happy that my talents and abilities support him.