Back in the 80’s there was a popular sitcom starring Tony Danza and Judith Light called Who’s the Boss. If you’re my age you might not remember Judith Light but you certainly remember Alyssa Milano. For a lot of us, she was our first TV crush. The comedy of the show revolved around the non-tradional gender roles of the successful career woman working outside the home and the male housekeeper. This of course included struggles for control between the two.
Struggles for control between men and women at home are a pretty common device in sitcoms. Watching these struggles makes for some pretty entertaining television. These same sorts of struggles, while common in marriages, are far from entertaining. These struggles can create conflicts that when not handled well can create significant problems in a marriage.
It helps when dealing with struggles for control to remember why these struggles exist in the first place. The first reason we struggle for control is our own sin. The foundation of our sin and all the sins we commit is pride. In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis says, “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” The first and primary reason we struggle for control is our pride, our sin. We want things to be as we imagine or desire them to be. When things are not so, we fight to gain that control.
The second cause of the struggle for control is, of course, the sin of your spouse. The same pride that lives in us lives in them. The same desire to control situations and outcomes that lives in us, lives in them. Two people with the same desire to have things their way are guaranteed to experience conflict.
Once we know the cause of the struggle for control, the solution becomes clear. Both spouses must relinquish control in their marriage to Jesus. This sounds simple, but we all know how difficult it is to consistently submit ourselves to Jesus. Even Paul in Romans chapter 7 shared his struggles with consistently submitting to Jesus.
There are a couple of specific things in marriage that will help you overcome the struggle for control. The first is a change in attitude. To stop fighting for control in your marriage, stop thinking that you should be in control. “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself” (Phillippians 2:3). “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself to the point of death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8). This change in attitude can have a very quick effect on the quality of your marriage. When you choose to stop trying to be in control, you will stop fighting for control.
Relinquishing your desire for control in this way requires a huge amount of trust. How much do you really trust God to meet all of your needs? Your ability to relinquish control in your marriage will tell you a lot about how much you truly trust God.
A change in attitude will help stop the struggle for control. The second change is a change in action. Submit to your spouse. Paul tells spouses in Ephesian 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Did you notice why you should submit to one another? It’s not because your spouse deserves your submission. It’s not because one of you is less than the other. It is because of Jesus. Out of reverence for the one who died for you and now reigns over all you should submit to each other. Submitting to each other eliminates the struggle for control in your marriage.
Submitting to each other also requires a great amount of trust. It requires that you trust your spouse to not take advantage of your submission. It requires that you trust that your spouse is going to put equal effort into maintaining the strength of your marriage. But then, that’s what marriage is, isn’t it? It is trusting another person to live a godly life where you both work to build a relationship that honors God and represents his love to the world around you.
Who’s the boss? Jesus is. In light of that, serve and submit to one another and you will overcome the struggle for control in your marriage.