Roles and Responsibilities
About the Guest
Who pays the bills? Who handles the kitchen? Who disciplines the kids? Does it really matter? Tim and Lea Lundy, along with special guest Robert Lewis, explore what the Bible has to say about roles and responsibilities in marriage.
Who pays the bills? Who handles the kitchen? Who disciplines the kids? Does it really matter?
Bob: When there is disagreement among couples about who does what in a marriage, about who’s supposed to do what in a marriage that can lead to huge issues. Here’s Pastor Tim Lundy and his wife, Lea.
Tim: It’s actually one of the key areas that couples divorce over. They’re fighting over the practical roles and responsibilities. Who does what around the house?
Lea: And yet having that discussion is so important because instead of what is the standard stereotype of “you do this and I do this because you’re the man and I’m the woman,” it’s more of a “how can I serve him and how can he serve me?” I think that’s where the oneness begins to build.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear today about marital roles and about where we can flex and where we need to stand firm.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us
You know there have been times when MaryAnn and I have sat down and talked with another couple about their marriage and about their life and at the end it we’ve kind of looked at each other and we’ve thought, okay they live in some different world, some parallel universe to the one we’re living in.
It’s like I don’t know what’s going on at their house but ours is a whole lot messier than what it sounds like is happening at their place.
Dennis: I know what you mean, Bob, because there’s a lot of real life happening at our house as well and I think some people just may not want to be open, honest, maybe initially, about what they’re facing in their marriage and family.
Bob: In fact, I remember very well the first time MaryAnn and I had dinner at your house. And I remember…
Dennis: Did it scar you?
Bob: I just remember that dinner at your house looked different than the airbrushed picture on the back of the book that we had seen because that was all we’d see.
Dennis: Do you think? (laughs)
Bob: And I looked and I thought, okay, so this is a little more real than that library picture that I saw back there.
Dennis: Well, I’ve often said you can airbrush a photo. You can’t airbrush real life. We have a couple with us who have got a lot of real life coming their way. Tim and Lea Lundy join us on FamilyLife Today. Tim and Lea, welcome back.
Tim: Thank Dennis. Thanks Bob.
Dennis: Tim and Lea have five biological children, two adopted children. Tim’s got a real laid-back job. He’s one of the lead pastors of a 7,000 attendee church here in Little Rock, Fellowship Bible Church. He’s my pastor. And you’ve got a lot of life coming at you, Lea, seven children. Tell us about the two adopted, though. They’re a bit older, right?
Lea: They are. We have five of our own and have always thought along the way that we might adopt. This has been a passion of ours. Four years ago our nieces on Tim’s side of the family… His brother was struggling with alcoholism and there just came a need for them to go somewhere.
We all met as a family and looked at the options and there was no other option unless we stepped in at that time and we did. We just kind of jumped on it. I said let’s just take them in for a year, an emergency situation. And four and a half years later, they are ours. And we never thought we’d adopt up but we did. They are older than our children. They were in ninth and twelfth grade at the time they came to live with us.
Dennis: And the ages of your children at the time were?
Lea: At the time were seven to pregnant with number five.
Tim: In the same year we had a baby and brought two teenagers into the home. So we had a newborn up to an 18-year old all in the house.
Dennis: And like I said, nothing is going on in your life because you’re just a pastor. Everybody knows pastors just preach one sermon a week and it’s no big deal, right?
Tim: We were in the middle of a huge building campaign, full campus relocation, a lot of stuff going on in life. So you can imagine, between church and the span of kids at home, it really stretched us as a couple.
Bob: We’ve been talking this week about your involvement in the Marriage Oneness project, a new video curriculum that Dr. Robert Lewis has helped to create here at FamilyLife. It’s something that we’re hoping a lot of couples will bring into local churches and use in their local church.
But one of the things that has stood out about this series is the fact that you don’t give us a veneer look at your marriage. You’re very candid and transparent about some of the challenges you’ve been though in your marriage, but also about the reality that all of us face in marriage. I think there’s a need for couples to just pull back and get a little more real with one another if we’re going to do marriage right.
Tim: So much information can actually discourage couples because it’s not real. One of our goals in this is that we’re going to present real life with the desire that a couple who goes through this is encouraged. That no matter where you are God’s work speaks to it and marriage can be better.
Dennis: You talk about seven different topics: communication, conflict resolution, sexual intimacy, roles and responsibilities, money, family and friends, and spiritual belief. But one that I believe is absolutely critical, that you spend a whole hour on, is the subject of roles and responsibilities.
Now, Tim, why is it important that a husband and a wife understand what their responsibilities are toward one another in marriage?
Tim: Studies have shown that it’s actually one of the key areas a couple divorces over. They’re fighting over the practical roles and responsibilities. Who does what around the house? I think the Bible clearly lays out roles but a lot of times we don’t talk in practical terms. That’s why I really like this session because I think it helps a couple together determine who is going to do what around here and do we both feel good about it. Are we connected over this?
Bob: In fact, you lay out what the Bible clearly calls a husband to do and what he calls a wife to do. But then you say there’s a lot that couples can figure out on their own based on their gifting, based on their passions and based on their desires.
I think it would be good for our listeners to hear as you teach on this subject that there is some wide latitude for how a husband and wife put their marriage together. This is from Session 7 in the Marriage Oneness series and here’s Tim Lundy talking about responsibilities in marriage:
Tim: How do you decide who does what in marriage? Because when you think about a marriage there’s a lot to do. There’s bills to be paid and income to be provided. Homes to be cleaned. Food to be purchased and then cooked. The care of children, holidays, shopping, birthdays. On and on and on. But you realize, with it, that every marriage is an organization. Every marriage is an organization because where two or more are gathered, there is an organization.
And so you should realize that in that organization, like every organization, to be organized means each person will have a clear role. Each person will have clear responsibilities. I want to tell you that I don’t care where you look in life every great organization has this kind of clarity. It may be a sports team. You look out on a field. A team that is winning is a team that knows its roles and they know their responsibility.
You look at the great companies, Coca Cola, General Electric, and I can promise you they have clear organization. They know their roles and responsibility. In every part of life it only works when it’s really complex and if you know your roles and responsibility.
Beyond roles, the Bible is mostly silent when it comes to dividing marriage responsibilities. There is no place in the Bible that you find that list of who is supposed to do exactly what. You can get very creative.
There are a lot of husbands that love housework. There are a lot of wives who love yard work. A lot of wives are better at the numbers and the budget. There are husbands out there who are great at childcare. They just have a knack for it. There’s nowhere that describes where you exactly have to do it. And so the Bible gives you great freedom as you live in those roles to discover that together.
Now I want to help you in that so how do you decide who does what in marriage? I just want to give you these six practical suggestions because it can help you sort it out. You might feel the freedom of that but you want some direction in it. If you’ll follow these practical suggestions it can bring great clarity.
First, as a couple, make a list of all the work required to manage your home well. Make a list of everything required.
Secondly, discuss who does what task the best and who enjoys certain tasks and then match these with one another. Just talk through them and ask who likes doing what. Who is good at what? Who has the most time maybe in that arena and just match them up. Just go through the list.
Third, with whatever division of task you end up with each of you should feel the division of responsibilities is fair and balanced. This is where this emotional connection comes in because as you are going through the list and as you finish there, you need to step back and ask is this fair? Do you feel good about that? Do you feel like we’ve really divided this well?
I would encourage you that it’s not going to be a fifty-fifty. There is no fifty-fifty. The playing field is always changing. It’s a hundred-hundred. You both give a hundred percent in order to make this work together.
Fourth, set agreed upon standards for each responsibility. Be realistic not perfectionistic about these standards. Some of you, your problem is that you are too much a perfectionist.
You divide up the responsibilities and he tries to do it and he loads up the dishwasher and you always come by and say “no, he did it wrong” and you correct him. After a while he goes ”Fine. I’m not going to do it. You’re going to do it anyway. You’re going to do it your way.”
Now if there are certain things that you feel so passionate about that you must do, put it on your list. But things that you’ve released let it go. Let it go.
Secondly, too, consider the season of life you’re in. In that season, I have to be careful as well. I’m not one of the kids. I’m creating messes and she has to mother me. It’s like the women speaker that was addressing a group of ladies, true story. And she started her talk and she said, “How many of you want to mother your husband?” And one mother raised her hand in the back and she looked at her and she said “You want to mother your husband?” She said “Oh. I thought you said smother your husband.” I mean, if I’m living like one of the kids, that the response: “I’m going to smother you. I have enough to do around here.”
Fifth, always be ready to step in and help your mate in their responsibility when necessary. Galatians 5:13 “Through love, serve one another.” Always be willing. It’s not about “I did my list of chores. It’s a shame you can’t do yours’.” If you have some free time you step up.
There’s always going to be seasons where it’s not fair. Where one of you is under a lot of stress at work so the other steps up and helps around the house more. Or one is battling illness or maybe taking care of an ailing parent. There’s always going to be seasons where you have to come back and look at this and say I’m willing to do whatever it takes. It’s not about doing the task. It’s about serving one another.
Then number six. Never forget to express appreciation for each other’s work. Never forget to express that appreciation. Positive feedback is contagious.
I’ve told you in an earlier session Gottman said you need five to one positive to negative, where you’re just positivity expressing that. Appreciation is an emotional connection that fuels marriage oneness. There are few things that will fuel an emotionally connection like these heartfelt works: “Thank you.”
As you work through that, and not just work through it but live it, you’ll find these clear roles and responsibilities will energize oneness in your marriage. At the end of the day, it’s not about getting the list done. It’s not about having a perfect house or yard. It’s not about what you have to do. It’s about oneness.
And I would just challenge you as we end it’s about this opportunity you have with this one other person in life to sacrifice for them and to love them in tangible ways, to step up.
I heard a great story about this with Roger and Becky Zerby, as Roger developed early onset Alzheimer’s. One day he had this particularly difficult day with a lot of forgetfulness. He took his journal and he wrote these words and he left it on Becky’s pillow. She picked it up and she read these words:
“Honey, today fear is taking over. The day is coming when all my memories of this life we share together will be gone. In fact you and the boys will be gone from me. I will lose you even as I’m surrounded by you and your love. I don’t want to leave you. I want to grow old in the warmth of memories. Forgive me for leaving so slowly and painfully.”
She picked up that journal and through her tears this is what Becky wrote back to him:
“My sweet husband: What will happen when we get to the point where you no longer know me? I will continue to go on loving you and caring for you not because you know me or will remember our life but because I remember you.
I will remember the man who proposed to me and told me he loved me. The look on his face when his children were born. The father he was. The way he loved our extended family. I will recall his love for riding, hiking and reading. His tears at sentimental movies. The unexpected witty remarks and how he held my hand while he prayed. I cherish the pleasure , the obligation, the commitment, and opportunity to care for you because I remember you.”
In oneness and as soul mates, every day we get that same opportunity to express that in tangible ways. Where we say I cherish the privilege, the opportunity, the joy of being able to serve you. Folks, it’s not about what we have to do. It’s about the people we love and oneness.
Bob: That’s a powerful story but a great reminder that in the end what our goal is, is to be one as a couple.
Dennis: If you have that North Star, you can miss one another in life and not be doing life perfectly like you wish you could be. But, if you know where you’re headed you can take a step back and you can recalibrate. You’re had to do that, Tim, undoubtedly.
Tim: Over and over again. As we went through this series it just called us again to ask why we are doing what we’re doing. It doesn’t really matter what. So many people think you have to do it perfectly. You don’t have to do it perfectly. But if you’ve got a North Star on oneness it calls you back again.
Dennis: It’s really amazing how wise the scripture is. In Genesis, chapter two, it says “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one.” That doesn’t happen naturally. Most engaged couples think that it’s just going to be two magnets attracting to one another. But it’s fascinating that when you get married, the magnets get turned around. Do you ever feel that repelling in there?
Dennis: But I’m with you Tim. I believe it is absolutely essential for a husband and a wife to understand what the Bible calls them to do and to be in the marriage relationship.
Bob: One of the great things about the way you put this together in Marriage Oneness is that after you’ve taught through this materials, now couples are in a position where they have to sit down and ask what about us? What about the way we do things? What about the way we assign chores and responsibilities and who does what? And all of a sudden they’re not just leaving with new information but they’re leaving with a new strategy, a new plan for their marriage.
Dennis: Well, they got a whole list in here: paying the bills, doing the laundry. Here’s one: disciplining the kids. Does that ever cause any problem in your marriage, Tim?
Tim: Every day!
One of the great things about having the list is it just helps you have the conversation. You may not change at all but so many couples have never sat down and had the conversation about who’s going to do what. And do I feel like it’s fair?
Bob: I remember, Lea, sitting down with a pre-married couple one time and asking them before they got married, “okay, in your marriage who will keep the checkbook?” Who will do the laundry? Who will take out the trash?” I just had them write it down without talking to one another. And then I got the list back. I said. “so you think he is going to do it and you think he is going to do it.”
And we talked about why they think that. “Because my dad did it or my mom did it.” That was just the expectation. But I remember them looking at one another and thinking,” now wait. I thought I was marrying a trash-taker-outer and I’m not?” It is these kinds of practical issues in marriage that ultimately we’ve got to work our way through with a goal towards oneness.
Lea: I think though, in the practicality of if, having that discussion like Tim was saying, is so important. Because in that, even if we just sit down, and he just says “do you need me to do the laundry tonight?” It is sometimes just the offer that will give me the energy to move back into that space and get it done myself. But just the fact that he offered it.
And, I think also, approaching it with each of us coming at it with an attitude of humility instead of what is the standard stereotype of you do this and I do this because you’re a man and I’m a women. It’s more of how can I serve him and how can he serve me. I think that’s where the oneness begins to build.
Bob: If I offered to do the laundry, it would scare Mary Ann into getting it done quickly! I’m afraid it would come out pretty messed up!
Dennis: I was actually thinking, Tim and Lea, you need to come over for dinner some night and help Barbara and me. I’m looking at the list: buying groceries. I’m really getting tired of buying all the groceries. I don’t remember this but: putting the kids to bed. I think we shared that pretty equally. Purchasing gifts. Savings and retirement. Initiating date nights in order to spend time together communicating. Planning family fun.
This really is great material and the things that I really like about it, Bob, is that Tim and Lea allow us to peer into their lives and as you talked about in visiting our house, see the mess. And see that they’ve got a couple of human beings hammering out life, attempting to be followers of Christ. I’ve found that in hearing those stories, at least from you Tim, it brought great hope to me.
Tim: I think it should provide hope to many men out there
Bob: And, of course, we’re hoping that a lot of listeners will catch a vision for what we’re talking about here and say we could do this in our church. We could get the LifeReady Marriage Oneness curriculum, go to our pastor, get his okay, and then get come couples together and go through this. I’ll tell you, you could do it as a small group or in a larger setting in a church.
But when you do it with a dozen or more couples, what you’re going to find is not only is it good for each of the couples individually but that the couples who go through it together are going to get to know one another. A lot of great relationships form out of that.
Go online at FamilyLife Today.com and find out more about the LifeReady Marriage Oneness video curriculum that’s available from us here at FamilyLife. Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for information about the LifeReady Marriage Oneness video curriculum or call toll-free 1-800-FLTODAY, I-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”
Now let me take just a minute and say how much we appreciate those of you who listen regularly to FamilyLife Today. In fact, I’m going to be down in San Antonio, Texas at one of our Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to say hi to some of our FamilyLife Today listeners from South Texas, those of you who listen on KSLR where I used to work in San Antonio. I’m looking forward to being there and greeting some of you this weekend.
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When you make a donation to FamilyLife Today online at FamilyLifeToday.com you can type the work “COURAGE” in the online key code box and we’ll send you a copy of the devotional Growing Together in Courage. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone and just ask for a copy of the devotional on courage by Barbara Rainey and we’ll send it to you. And again we appreciate your partnership with us. Thanks for your support of this ministry.
We hope you can be back tomorrow when we’re going to talk about conflict. It’s common to every marriage. The key to a healthy marriage is not how to eliminate conflict but how to deal with it when it occurs. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can tune it.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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