Deeper Things Series – Week #2
(Disclaimer: I want to be clear that the ideas I’m sharing here can work in a marriage where 1) there is no abuse, and 2) both partners are rational, responsible people willing to work on their relationship.)
This week I want to share with you the one thing that has helped my marriage more than any other concept. Over the last several years, I have put in hours upon hours of researching articles, reading books, and asking questions about how to have a great marriage. This is something that I’m passionate about. A good marriage is precious and fragile. And unfortunately, it’s something that can slip right through our fingers.
We all have ups and downs with our spouses–good days and bad. And we won’t always be in sync. That’s to be expected. But sometimes, we encounter hard patches that are much more serious than that.
At times, it may feel like you and your spouse are constantly moving in different directions. You can never see eye to eye on anything; you criticize each other; and you can’t seem to work together. You lose sight of the things you used to love about your spouse. Resentment grows and festers.
Sometimes it feels like you’ve hit the end of the road. It seems there’s noting more that can be done.
One Simple Change
But there is something to be done. Even without your spouse’s agreement or participation, you can make one simple change that will turn your whole world upside down. (In a good way.) I know this, because it happened to me.
The single best thing you can do for your marriage is this:
Realize that the only person you can change is yourself.
You’ve probably heard this before. But take a breath and allow it to really sink in. It is better to work on yourself, than to try to “fix” somebody else. Your spouse’s problem could be poor communication, unkind words, or a lack of understanding towards you. But instead of focusing on how they treat you, focus on improving yourself. Put your grievances to rest, and do what you can to change your life…instead of your spouse’s.
Take a moment to think about this. Probably two-thirds of what we do involves trying to influence or change other people. Unfortunately, more often than not, the person we’re trying to change is our partner. Especially if you’re a recovering control freak, like me!
I had no idea I was so controlling until I got married. I had always been an independent person with strong viewpoints on a lot of different subjects. I knew I had a big personality. But I had no idea I was so bossy!
This can be true of both men and women. When you make the enormous change of incorporating another person into your life, chaos is bound to ensue. Even if you and your spouse are extremely well-suited, you inevitably do a few things differently. Okay, let’s be honest here…a lot of things differently.
We have to understand that our way of accomplishing things is not the only way, or the best way. And, even if we still believe it is the best way, we cannot force someone to think how we do. It just doesn’t work. And if you try to pressure or coerce your spouse, you will alienate the person you care about the most.
Is it really worth it? Does everything have to be done “just so?”
Keep this in mind, too. You can be generally pleasant, and treat your spouse well, but still be too bossy. You don’t have to act like an ogre in order to be controlling. I had to open my eyes to this. I still tried to be a very considerate partner, and do things that would make my husband happy. But the truth of the matter was, I still had not changed the one thing that would help my spouse more than anything else.
It is so much better just to let it go. When he doesn’t want to talk, let it go. When she needs space, let it go. When he says something rude or inconsiderate, let it go. When she does that thing you’ve told her countless times not to do…shake it off and let it go. For your own sake. Focus on what you can do to change.
As frustrated as we get with our partners, and as much as we might want to change them, that anger and desire for control won’t help us one bit. The only thing that will actually help us as individuals in the long run is this–to try every day to become a better person.
This effort to grow must be kept separate from our partners’ expectations, our sense of what we deserve, and our hurt over old wrongs. We have to grow because we want to. Not to please our spouses (although it will probably have that effect). Not to please our family or friends. But simply because we want to become better, stronger people in and of ourselves. It is something to pray about, seek wisdom on, and continue to pursue day by day.
When I let go of my frustrations in my marriage, discarded my expectations for my husband, and focused on changing myself, my marriage took a 180. He was ten times happier, and began treating me with the respect and tenderness that I had wanted all along. And I finally experienced the peace I had been searching for.
An Important Piece Of The Puzzle
I want to mention one more thing here–a piece of the puzzle that can be difficult to understand. Choosing to work on yourself does not negate the wrongs that your spouse has done to you. Those things are still there, especially if the behavior continues without apology from your partner. In focusing on your own growth, you are not forgetting about the behaviors that have hurt you. Your feelings are still valid. But, look at it this way. You can’t change what has already happened. And you can’t change what your husband or wife chooses to do in the future. But…you do have control over your own personal growth.
The key here is focus. When we decide to shift our focus to work on ourselves, it becomes incredibly liberating. Because you’re no longer trying to control your partner, you don’t have to worry as much about what they do. It’s not your responsibility anymore!
Join The Discussion
I hope that this concept will be as helpful to you as it was to me. There are a lot of hurting people in the world, living in dysfunctional, broken marriages. But many of us have a really wonderful husband or wife, who’s simply frustrated and unappreciated. Give them permission to be themselves…warts and all! After all, this is what we desire from our spouses as well. Every one of us simply wants to be accepted and loved, even though we make mistakes. Extend that grace to your partner…and when you’re frustrated, look into yourself and search for ways to stretch and grow.
What marriage advice would you share if you could? I’d love to hear your perspective. Join the discussion here and on Facebook!
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