It goes without saying — marriage is tough! Strong marriages are not built overnight; they take time and commitment so before you continue reading anything below, commit to deepening your relationship with your Heavenly Father first. Then ask the Lord to help you view others, specifically your husband, through God’s eyes. Refocusing on relationships through a Godly, Biblical lens will both strengthen them and straighten out many existing “issues.” That and work!
You Are On the Same Team
One of the biggest game changers for my marriage was when I stopped automatically assuming that my husband was out to get me. Everything he said seemed like a personal attack. Shoes on the floor — he must think I am his personal maid. Didn’t finish his meal — he thinks I am a horrible cook. The girls need another bath — he thinks I’m a neglectful mother. This is one of the many weapons the Satan, the Accuser, uses to drive wedges between husbands and wives.
Men are pretty simple and straightforward. For the most part, their actions are not premeditated. Our husbands are not analyzing their next steps, keeping a running list of things they can do to set us off — thank goodness, because a lot of us wives do enough of this for both men and women 😉! A Bible study teacher once pointed out to those of us present, “We cannot control other people’s actions, but we can control ours.” How true, I thought, recalling the many times I jump to negative conclusions or assume the worst of my husband, viewing him as an enemy working against me. Instead, God sees him as a sinner, a human who makes mistakes, like me, in need of mercy and grace. Unity and harmony in marriage results from looking at our husbands as God intended, as helpmates instead of rivals.
Ephesians 4: 2-3 With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
First, if you have not read the book, Love and Respect, get yourself a copy ASAP.
While sitting in pre-marriage counseling, the pastor told us, “If I can give you one piece of advice, it would be this: criticize in private, praise in public.” I remember thinking, “Duh, I know not to completely trash my husband in front of his friends.” Right. However, respect is about more than withholding venomous remarks; it also entails treating our husbands properly, the way we want him to treat us, both in public and in private. How do we speak to him in front of our children? Do we value his opinion or go ahead and make decisions and act on our own? Do we follow his lead or do we take control when he’s dragging his feet?
For many women, (yes, my hand is raised), it is very difficult to take a step (or more), back and let husbands lead, especially if we are in leadership roles in other areas of our lives — we take charge, and everyone knows it. But like in any business, there cannot be two CEOs, and the same applies in the business of marriage. This in no way diminishes a wife’s role or devalues her contributions; neither does it make her subservient, although the world and the Father of Lies tells us differently. Men crave respect as much as women crave love and security. We do this by supporting, not undermining, our husbands and recognizing them as head of our family, which isn’t always easy. It takes much prayer, patience and PRACTICE. And sometimes, you just have to “fake it until you make it.”
I Peter 3:8-9
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
You Gotta Talk It Out
My husband I could not be more different when it comes to settling conflict. I have no issue addressing problems head on, while he typically shys away, hoping that things will just “blow over.” But when they don’t — then what was previously an annoying drizzle turns into a level four hurricane. This is true in many relationships, and over the years, I have concluded that both approaches to less-than-perfect situations are good for a healthy marriage.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Learn the value in just letting things go — yes, even those really infuriating, exasperating and maddening things (at least to you). So much “stuff” comes up most everyday, and some of it must truly be dealt with, but is it really worth a full-blown WWIII because your husband can’t seem to find the dishwasher? Typically, when confrontations lead to bringing up that “thing” (you know — your ace of spades, the gut puncher), it is because something bigger is going on, NOT because a dirty plate was left in the sink. Face the real issue honestly and and try to resolve it in a loving and respectful manner. More easily said than done, admittedly.
If something is bothering one of us, we try to discuss it before our emotions completely take over. My husband and I have actually been told that we tell each other “too much,” but addressing things that irritate, offend, or hurt us before the heat of the moment, we prevent a much larger blow up later, not to mention having to apologize for making remarks that we later regret and wish we’d never said. (Words that can NEVER be retracted and usually have a very long “shelf life.”) Try to openly dialogue with your spouse and share your feelings about certain things that really bother you. Hopefully, this will keep you from feeling like you are under attack when the feedback you receive later is not so great. It is equally important to discuss all that is that positive in your marriage and good about your spouse. This helps to better maintain proper perspective, even when “seeing red”!
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Learn To Compromise
Something is wrong in a relationship if the same person is always getting his or her way. Sure, it’s great for the one who always wins, but for the other who constantly makes concessions, it creates resentment and bitterness. Eventually, something will crack and rip everything apart.
Compromise isn’t easy, but it is vital for any institution to survive, even marriage. Wait. Especially marriage. When my husband and I decided to include the other in important decision-making processes, we added an extra layer of difficulty to our relationship, but in the long run, the result is worth the effort. When you genuinely take your husband’s opinions and advice into consideration before you act on something, you are back to approaching marriage like a team, a partnership. In addition, this clearly demonstrates your respect for him. Think about life as a relay with your husband waiting for you to pass off the baton. What a relief it is knowing you do not have to run the race by yourself! Remember, he is your helpmate.
No doubt, some topics are just too difficult to meet in the middle. In these cases, we have found it helpful for each of us to list the pros and cons of both opinions and then examine them carefully. Sometimes we come around to fully understanding and agreeing with the other’s perspective, but not always. Sometimes just in part and other times, not at all. In the end, we may not fully agree with the final decision to be made, but in the interest of our relationship, we “agree to disagree” and move on. KEY, once you decide to go with one or the other’s decision, that is that. No more second guessing, even when it does not prove to have been the better decision after all. Do not rub poor choices in each other’s face, especially in public. And “keeping score” — throw that out the window. Now. The goal is that as you individually grow to be more like Christ, together you will grow to view important matters similarly and your decision-making process will require even less compromise as you both follow a more Biblical approach.
To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16: 1-3
You Can Only Control Yourself
As I write this at 9 a.m., I have already spoken the words typed above at least five times to my daughter, but really, I should be looking into a mirror while doing so. We are so quick to point the blame at the other person instead of honestly looking at ourselves and our shortcomings. I can tell you all the right things my husband is not doing, but ask me where I fall short, and I’m suddenly struck with amnesia.
As we seek to improve ourselves in practically any way, we automatically expect for everyone else in our lives to board the same “conversion train.” How great would it be if BOTH you and your husband’s fire for the Lord were to ignite at the same time! Sometimes this happens, but more often than not, spiritual growth and maturity occur at different times within marriage. Have you ever prayed, “Lord, please work in my husband’s heart about ______”? What if we flipped that prayer to “Lord, please change my heart, and my attitude about _______ ”?
Even in the strongest relationships, when married couples are at odds with each other, especially when life isn’t so rosey, tension mounts, and they resort to accusing and attacking each other, each feeling victimized by the other in his or her own way. Sadly, this will only escalate until the marriage collapses altogether, UNLESS we women accept that our husbands are not solely responsible for our happiness; they are not meant to “fill our cups” and meet every longing and need we possess. When we place that burden strictly on our spouses, we are bound to feel disappointed and frustrated in our marriage. Watch out. That’s when the Old Serpent strikes — He wants to convince us that we will be happier and more fulfilled with someone else — you know, the old “grass is greener on the other side” argument. This happens all the time, and it could happen to any of us. Don’t let Satan deceive you, daughter of Eve.
Only the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart, including our own, which is why we must earnestly seek to be Spirit filled vessels of Christ every single day. Simply stated, although much that happens around us is beyond our control, the Holy Spirit within us, NOT our husbands, enables us to respond with hope, joy, patience, and above all, faith in the ONLY perfect One, one who loves us more than any human on earth, including our husbands.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:9-12
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