It’s a pretty simple premise: a couple with some problem comes on the show and reveals the source of their tension. A panel of celebrity judges analyzes the situation and helps the marriage ref (Tom Papa) decide who wins the argument (husband or wife). It’s a pretty funny show, and not simply because they have A-list comedians on it. The problems these couples come on with are so sad that you can’t help but laugh a little. One wife refuses to let anyone sit at the dining room table because it is for “Thanksgiving only.” Another woman keeps a rather large lizard in her home and treats it with evidently more affection than she does her husband. Each scenario is different but almost all are absurd and over the top and I don’t doubt genuine hot button issues for them. So how can I justify laughing at this show when their marriages are a mess? Somebody has to!
I think the heart of a lot of these issues really comes down to something the apostle Paul warned Christians against: thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. Each of us thinks our issues are the most important, and we take ourselves way too seriously. What woman really thinks a “thanksgiving only” table is understandable? Tina Fey suggested her husband make the bathroom for Easter only and see if she caught onto the lunacy of the idea. We need to learn to laugh at ourselves and if going on a prime time television show with Jerry Seinfeld is the only thing that can do it then so be it.
The show doesn’t simply help them laugh at themselves and provide me an occasion to chuckle at how ridiculous others are, but it serves as a window on my own soul too. No I don’t floss in bed or get a weekly manicure (which one husband did), but I have my own issues that I am sure I take too seriously. When my wife and I were first married I insisted that she wash out a milk carton before she threw it away because the smell of rotting milk would get to me. Yesterday, immediately after finishing the last of the milk, I tossed one in the trash on top of two dirty diapers…I’ve seen the stupidity of my request.
I don’t suspect that ‘The Marriage Ref’ really did solve the actual marital problems of these people, but it’s a start in helping them mellow out and laugh together at themselves. The apostles tell us by Jesus’ command that we are to love one another and defer our own interests and preferences for their sake. Marriage isn’t about compromise; it’s about me giving for my wife and she giving for me. It’s not 50/50 it’s two people giving 100%. But all of that begins with not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, and maybe that means being willing to laugh at our silly demands and preferences (like Thanksgiving tables). So maybe ‘The Marriage Ref’ won’t actually provide a winner to the debate over “keeping the former husbands artificial limb,” but it might help the rest of us to take a closer look at our own stupidity and that can go along way to saving our marriages.