Spouses often exist in one of two cycles: A vicious one or a virtuous one. A vicious cycle feeds off negative and hurtful actions while a virtuous cycle thrives on that which is positive and helpful. The difference between the two is often a result of how spouses choose to "One-Up' each other.
*A light-hearted question loosely connected to the current episode. The goal is to learn something about your spouse…and increase your chances at dominating when you play “the Newlywed game”.
During your childhood, what are some of the ways that you and your friends would “one-up” each other?
“My sisters, friends, cousin knows Denzel Washington.”
“Well, I bet my Dad could beat up your Dad.”
“You can’t even eat a hot Taki without drinking water.”
“Oh yeah, well your mama is so...”
Ahhhh...the sounds of a middle school playground or cafeteria. Whether it’s acknowledged or not, one language that most of us became fluent in as kids was the ability to “one-up” each other.
As we got older, our one-upping was often couched in more sophisticated language. We call it “gaining a competitive advantage”, “climbing the corporate ladder”, or learning to “stand out in a crowd.”
To “one-up” someone is the practice of outdoing another by showing your superiority. It’s putting someone lower than yourself, normally by attempting to embarrass or make them feel less than.
While we may learn the language in childhood and sophisticate it as adults,
unfortunately, a “one-up culture” often makes its way into our marriages.
Say something hurtful and I’ll top it.
Give me the silent treatment and I’ll ignore in response.
Make a bad purchase and I’ll jump on amazon.com myself.
Criticize my side of the family and I’ll do the same to yours.
Many couples toss hurtful words and actions back and forth like a football,
except the ball grows in venom and velocity with each toss.
This pattern of relating creates what is known as a vicious cycle.
A vicious cycle results when the negative and hurtful actions of one spouse only serve to intensify and aggravate the other which results in more hurtful actions that worsen the dynamic.
That’s the marriage culture we get when we one-up each other to show superiority and push the other down....which begs us to ask the question:
How can a couple break free from a vicious cycle?
Surprisingly, the answer is NOT to get rid of the “one-up culture”,
it actually involves keeping it!
The problem isn’t that we “one-up” each other, it’s how we do it that's the issue.
Consider this kind of marital “one-up culture”:
“Be devoted to one another in love. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
This is the one-up culture and “marital competition” we invite you to embrace!
Two spouses who are both on the lookout for opportunities to show honor, give grace and build up the other… not yourself.
We are sure that some hear this challenge and respond, “My husband or wife would never be up for something like that. To complain, criticize, and cut down is their modus operandi.”
Unfortunately, Romans 12:10 doesn’t call us to outdo one another in showing honor as long as our spouse does as well. The idea of "outdo" is to lead the way in.
While it’s always best if two spouses will agree to pursue something like a “One-Up in Honor” culture, sometimes change will only happen when one spouse decides to lead the way.
Eventually, when both spouses begin to intentionally outdo and one-up each other in honor, you enter what is known as a virtuous cycle.
In a virtuous cycle, the positive and helpful actions of each spouse serve to edify and encourage the other which results in more helpful actions that continually improve the dynamic.
So, here’s the question:
How can you lead the way in showing honor to your spouse today?
*In the next two episodes, we will continue to inspire towards this kind of “One-Up in Honor” marital culture by looking at two primary ways we can consistently show honor to our spouse: Our speaking and acts of service.
Can you think of times in the past when you got stuck in a “vicious cycle”? (When every hurtful word or action intensified and aggravated the other spouse which results in more hurtful words or actions)
Are there any specific circumstances or conversations that tend to throw you into this vicious cycle more than others?(e.g. In-laws, Finances, Intimacy, Parenting, etc)
When you think about your normal marital conversations (whether it’s a sit-down conversation or just passing comments throughout the day), is the majority of it to encourage and edify (build them up) or complain and belittle?
What is one way that you can lead the way in expressing or demonstrating honor to your spouse this week?