This one tip will transform your marriage. Truth is, I’m not sure you are going to like it. However, if you are in a hard spot in your marriage, this must-follow tip will make a huge difference. It might not be immediate, but I believe it will make an impact. Even if your marriage is in an OK or good spot, this is a tip for everyone.
I want to preface this post with the thought that you need to protect yourself and your kids. If you are in a marriage that puts you in harms way physically, you need to find protection and get help. That said, I have seen marriages in really gross places find hope and healing, and I believe in marriage. I want to help give you tools to fight for your marriage because I believe the covenant you made with your spouse is important – for you, for them and and for your kids.
So what is the big tip I am offering today? It’s a phrase I have learned in a marriage ministry I am a part of at my church. The marriage ministry is called ReEngage, and the curriculum is amazing. It is a Christian-based marriage enrichment program, and it encourages you to put God at the center of your marriage and life. Beyond that, the phrase we often say at this ministry is, “Draw a circle around yourself, and fix everything inside of that circle.” Is that what you wanted to hear? My guess is no. I know that when I am in the thick of it with my husband I’m more likely to use mental phrases like, “If he would only…” or “Why won’t he change?” Often times we see our spouse as the bigger problem. Why? We are an egocentric people and often view things from our point of view, and our point of view seems perfectly reasonable.
The truth is, your spouse might be the bigger problem. Despite that, you get to control how you respond. I can tell you that I’ve walked through this marriage thing with a a lot of people now. I have heard arguments or marriage circumstances from the wife’s point of view where I leave saying, “Wow. He’s a jerk.” I’ve then heard the same story from his point of view and thought, “Wow. She is impossible.” The fact of the matter is that there are two sides to every story. I don’t know if you understand how much power you have to change your marriage. He or she may be the bigger issue, but you still have the capability to make a huge impact on the second most (God being the first) relationship in your life.
How to Be the Change
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- Change Your Perspective – Many people go into a marriage carrying the Jerry McGuire lie, “You complete me.” Believing that lie replaces your spouse with the purpose of God. The truth is, He is the only one who can complete you. If you have holes and you are empty, your spouse is not going to complete you. It’s not fair to put that expectation on your spouse. In the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, it is said, “Marriage is meant to make us holy not happy.” Marriage is a refining process. God will use your spouse to make you the best you if you allow it. It will most likely be painful, but like diamonds, the pressure is what creates the value and beauty. The problem is people go into marriage with the thought that the other will complete us and make us happy. We want to leave our marriage thinking it didn’t work so we have to find someone else to complete the task. It won’t work. God will complete you if you allow Him.
- Change Your Response – There is a cycle pointed out by Emerson Eggerichs in his book and marriage series called “Love and Respect” called “the crazy cycle.” The main idea is that people get into a circular pattern – the husband not acting loving toward his wife and the wife responding to her husband with disrespect. It starts with one of the spouses, and then it just continues in this pattern. Someone needs to break the cycle and respond better, and it needs to be you. After all, you are the only person you can control. If you step out of the cycle and begin showing love or respect to your spouse in the way she or he feels it, the crazy cycle ends. Period. Therefore, when you feel unloved by your husband, you need to respond in a respectful way. Easy? No. However, as you respect him – in front of his peers, in front of his children and in private – you will most likely see a change in how he responds to you. It goes the same for husbands. If you start by unconditionally loving your wives in a way that is meaningful to her, you will see her begin to respect you. Your response needs to change to make a positive impact on your marriage.
- Show Empathy – Try to walk in your spouses shoes. Being a stay at home mom wasn’t easy for me. He would walk through the door, and I had no consideration of how hard work may have been for him that day. Instead, my perspective seemed to be that I had definitely had it worse, and I had not received a break from these kids for days. He, at least, was able to leave the house and have a change of scenery. You see, it was all about me. He’d come home, and I didn’t quite understand why he didn’t just offer me a cocktail and tell me to go spend a couple hours to myself while he took care of bedtime. Of course all of that should be followed by a massage. There was no empathy, on my behalf, of the stresses of his life – both from work and from within our family – stresses that I was often creating. Selfishness is a HUGE factor that negatively impacts marriages, and I can raise my hand and say I let it impact ours. My husband would confess the same thing, and it set us at odds. If we can try and see the world from our spouse’s perspective and show empathy, it will make a change.
- Serve Ferociously with a Happy Heart – We are called to follow Jesus’ example. What is that example? “That’s the way it is with the Son of Man. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.” – Matthew 20:28. We are also called to “Do everything without complaining and arguing” – Philippians 2:14. I know that I often have to do a check on my attitude and actions. Do I have a servants heart? Not always…maybe not even often. I tire of serving my family. I can let it show. I often have to check my attitude. Am I being too naggy? Am I treating my husband as another child or as my beloved boyfriend? Do I respond with a happy heart or bitterness? I wrote a post called, “I have everything I ever wanted. Why am I so unhappy.” I have obviously struggled with my own discontentment, and I let it impact my marriage. I needed to learn what it means to serve others and to do it graciously.
Changing ourselves is never easy, especially if we feel like our spouse is the one being the most ugly. Let me tell you that I have been in the midst of marriages struggling with infidelity, pornography, verbal battles and more. No matter how grievously one of the participants is, each marriage has found success when an individual or both partners claim their own stuff they contribute positively to the marriage and decide to work on themselves rather than try to “fix” the other person. There are two of you in this marriage and neither one of you is perfect. You have brought sin. You have brought pain. You are contributing. You can make changes within yourself to positively impact your marriage. It might take some big soul searching, but the list above should help you begin to identify the changes you can begin to make to have a huge impact in your family.