Last week we talked about legitimate jealousy, a righteous and protective emotion that all married people will eventually feel. When time, energy, and/or resources that rightfully belong to us are given by our spouse to someone else (or something else), legitimate jealousy is a valid response.
In fact, in Exodus 34:14, even God proclaimed that this type of jealousy is part of his character.
But legitimate jealousy often doesn’t arise in a marriage for several years. All the way to the altar, couples prioritize their relationship. They focus attention on each other. Even beyond the honeymoon and into the new living situation, the excitement of the relationship keeps them going.
Then, a few years into it, they have kids. When this change occurs, satisfaction with the marriage usually begins to drop significantly.
That’s because most couples enter marriage with some kind of baggage. There may be some behavioral or emotional problems that get hidden in all the excitement. They’re disguised by in the bliss of a new marriage and even in the excitement of a new baby.
But it’s not long before these existing problems surface. A new mother may pour herself into caring for her child. Meanwhile, the father becomes more aggressive toward his career. Once they were prioritizing each other, but now they’ve allowed something else to compete for their time and energy.
A husband may be tempted to replace his marital priorities with his job, career, or interests outside the home. The greatest danger for the wife is that her priorities shift toward the children and her interests inside the home.
I hear a version of this complaint from wives: “He works all the time, and when he gets home, he’s wiped out. When he does get time off, he spends it with his buddies.”
And from husbands: “She doesn’t even know when I’m home. She’s so busy with the kids that anytime I want to get romantic or have her do something with me, she’s worn out.”
In these statements, both spouses are admitting that they feel like they’ve been replaced by something else in each others’ lives. And the jealousy doesn’t have to be related to children or work. It could come from virtually anywhere, including friends, school, parents, a talent, or a project.
If you allow anything or anyone—no matter how good or important—to strip away the time and energy that rightfully belong to your spouse, then you are violating God’s design for marriage.
If you do not correct the problem and realign your priorities, it can seriously damage and even destroy your relationship.
Pay attention to those feelings of legitimate jealousy. Make sure your spouse knows when you feel them, and why. Then, talk it out. Ask for forgiveness. Discuss with each other ways to reserve your time and energy for your marriage. Why? Because according to God’s design, it’s the relationship that matters most.