Marriage is a 3-legged stool

3 legged heart stool

Marriage is a three-legged stool. The wife is one leg; the husband is another; and the marriage is the third. God sits on the stool and the children sit on His lap. The secret to a blessed, joyful family is to keep the three legs of the stool even and strong.

When husband and wife agree or can compromise, there’s no problem. But sometimes issues come up where there simply is no compromise. It’s gotta be either his way or her way. That is when you must not fall into thinking marriage is 50-50, that’s it’s just about husband and wife or husband vs. wife.

The third leg matters. Give it a vote. Consider which of the two choices are best for the whole marriage, including God and the kids. Sometimes the right decision will come clear and the partner who doesn’t get his/her choice can more easily accept losing without resentment.

But when you cannot work through it on your own, decide jointly on an impartial, but Godly arbiter. It doesn’t need to be a minister, but that’s often the best choice. The important thing is that you agree together beforehand that you both trust this person to hear both sides and cast the deciding vote for the marriage.

Dearest and I have had a few deal-breaking level issues in our 35 years. One time, we picked a priest, another a marriage counselor, and a third time, we went to a financial counselor. The key thing was that we both agreed that we each had only 1/3 – not 1/2 – stake in the marriage and that this person would be the one to cast the tie-breaking third vote on behalf of the marriage itself.


Filed under Christianity, Marriage & Family Life

5 responses to “Marriage is a 3-legged stool

  1. I admire the 3-legged stool characterization of marriage. However, I have a hard time allowing a stranger, however qualified, to cast “God’s” vote in the marriage in any circumstance. If God has not spoken to the two of you, after you have both softened your hearts and sought all the outside advice you can get, then I can only think of one God-approved way to go. I take it from your description of your process that the St. Paul method is out of the question, then?


    • chrissythehyphenated

      Not at all. That’s a good article … just what we were taught and have practiced. But sometimes, circumstances are bigger than we are.

      We had many difficulties that we settled with our 3-legged stool thing on our own and overall I end up submitting. I’d say he gets his way 100% of the time and I get mine about 95%.

      But on the three I mentioned, we got to an impasse where he was the rock and I was in the hard place. He wasn’t listening. He wouldn’t pray. And I was desperately unhappy. When I offered a third party with an expertise in the area we were struggling with, he agreed.

      Every single time, the expert ended up telling him that what I wanted was the better option and he should stop being such an ass. I’d give you an example, but I don’t think it would be fair to him. He’s grown a lot. So have I.


      • Example not necessary. I believe you. I admit to many circumstances where I was being an ass when we couldn’t agree in our marriage, as well. It’s a good thing many of us are blessed with enough time to grow into the arrangement, I guess. We certainly have needed every day of it.

        Good answer, BTW. I really have no problem with seeking outside help when the head-butting reaches an impasse. I only had a question with your wording that made it sound like you were asking your husband to give up his decision (and quite possibly his “headship” of the family) to the vote of a stranger. That’s something I bristled at, but possibly because I still struggle with a little lingering bitterness on that count.

        This is no longer true, but for many years, my wife resented her own father’s domination of her mom, who submitted willingly, in the spirit of the gospels. DW’s reaction to any indication of leadership from me was “No stinking man is gonna tell me what to do. You’re not my father.” While this attitude might have come in handy in *some* marriages, it didn’t work too well with me, because I was already deeply committed to my own submission to God, to our marriage and to her. Would it have killed her to consider the shallowest form of submission in some instance? My perception of her submission rate after 20 years of marriage was hovering around 0%, and it seemed to me very dysfunctional.

        That all changed later as we both deepened our faith, she finally acknowledged that I was NOT her father, I stopped being an ass (most of the time) and we began to function as one. After that, things got a lot smoother, which is good. The way things are going in the world, we all need as much harmony at home as we can get, right?


        • chrissythehyphenated

          Definitely yes on the harmony at home. The world is hard enough!

          And thank you for explaining why you bristled. I thought I had been clear that going to a third party was only for “deal breakers” by which I meant “a problem so huge that it will end only with divorce, murder or suicide.”

          My issue with hubby’s parents was very different in that he was constantly trying to shove me into being his mother. I noticed the potential very early, because we lived with his family for about 5 months in the beginning.

          Where my folks were dysfunctional parents in that my father was more or less absent while my mother was domineering in an unhealthy way (my gf called her Queen Spider), there was no question their marriage was about two adults and that she submitted when he requested it.

          But at Dearest’s family home, the father was very present to the children, but had an adult-child-living-at-home relationship with his wife. D. turned 30 on our honeymoon and had lived at home most of that time, never having to pay for room and board. I even saw his brother blow off $150 bill for long distance calls he had made, telling their mother, “Sorry, Mom. No can do. I bought a new stereo for my van.”

          Our problems were far more about him refusing to take on his proper role as husband and father than about me refusing to submit. I WANTED us to be a Godly team, but when he acted like a spoiled 4-year-old who wouldn’t do his chores, I was left with few options. I’m just glad something in him wanted to be a better man so that when I suggested a third party, he agreed, and when that party told him to stop being an ass, he tried.

          And I had to learn patience and a prayerful attitude about his slowness to change, which was good for me too. My mother was heavy on the contempt and I go that way too quickly myself. I’ve learned with time that my man is like a train. It’s really hard to change his direction (habits, attitudes), but once his “track” has been moved, he’s incredibly reliable about that new behavior.


          • Marriage is a challenge in a million different ways, isn’t it? You were clear enough about the “deal-breakers.” I just didn’t understand. It’s always hard to be explicit when you’re trying not to be explicit. You were doing a good job being non-specific about DH, and that’s a good thing. Sorry to probe.

            You both deserve a lot of credit for patience and commitment. I know just what you mean about your inherited tendency toward contempt. I got roughly the same thing from my dad, and it was really tough to break, but it was necessary and good to break that habit. Contempt and condescension don’t work with family, possibly not with anyone. Anger? Sometimes, but not the other c-words.