Let’s just get right down to it–marriage is hard. Fortunately, it can also be blissful, filled with love, and one of the most gratifying relationships in your life. But, then again, it’s still hard. The worst thing is, we often make it that way ourselves. We enter into this thing called marriage with these great expectations; we expect the “feelings” of love to always be present, and we expect that our spouse will always meet all of our needs and make us never want for anything again. We have found our soul mate and they will complete us. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that theory? Pure bliss.
Well, if you’ve been married for even a short time, I'm sure you quickly realized how flawed this belief system is, and you’ve probably also noticed how flawed your spouse is too. What you probably don’t notice however, is how flawed YOU are. I know, OUCH! Sorry about that one (well, sort of). Don't worry, the pain is purposeful, keep reading...
If you’re struggling in your marriage, or even if you're not, it is crucial that you pay attention to yourself first. Let me tell you the 5 reasons why.
1) Looking at and evaluating yourself first increases your humility.
So, what’s the big deal about that? For starters, humility shows your spouse you are willing to bear with them in love (Eph 4:2). Humility lets your spouse know they are important, and that you are willing to sacrifice for them (Phil 2:3). Humility comes with wisdom, (Prov 11:2) and it increases harmony in your relationships (Rom 12:16). Most importantly, humility offers honor to God, and shows that you are willing to trust Him IN and WITH your marriage (Prov 22:4).
2) Focusing on yourself will help you become a better person.
Even if your spouse never does correct their own behavior or take ownership of their part of the problem, you can still become a better person. You will never regret working on yourself. Go ahead and take an honest look at yourself, your behaviors, your words, and your thoughts. Ask yourself what you are contributing to the problem, and then pray about it. Ask for God’s guidance, and then get to work on those things. If you begin to change for the better, it’s almost guaranteed that your spouse will take notice, and perhaps even be inspired by you to start changing themselves.
3) It shows your spouse grace, and who doesn’t love that?
If your spouse has an annoying habit or a poor behavior they struggle with, it’s likely that other people have pointed it out to them already (mom and dad may have for years!). You pointing it out for the hundredth time is not going to be the magic number where they receive an aha moment and suddenly change. It’s also likely that your spouse already hates this habit or behavior themselves, but, for whatever reason, struggles to let it go or, perhaps is afraid to. Your grace could be the very safety that they need to come to you or to the Lord for help with it. Focusing on you allows quiet time from all of the fighting and permits grace to enter in. Extending the grace that God gave you to your spouse, is after all, God’s design (1 Pet 4:10).
4) It helps you set boundaries.
When you focus on yourself, you decide what is acceptable and what is not. Perhaps, if your spouse is involved in an affair, an addictive behavior, or even speaks to you inappropriately, that is not the best time to extend grace, but nor is it the time to blow up. Instead, it is the time to decide if those behaviors are okay with you or not, and then set boundaries or make appropriate next steps. You have to focus on yourself in order to do this, or else you will continuously respond out of your emotions and keep all the focus on them, and in turn get absolutely nowhere. Even the worst case scenarios can be healed when handled correctly AND when repentance is present (<< This is a MUST!). Sometimes, focusing on yourself means you have to quit acting like a doormat. This might be the area where professional or pastoral help is needed. If it is, GET IT!
5) It helps you to know that YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR SPOUSE.
Quit trying to fix someone else, it is not your job, and, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you already know you’re not any good at it! Just work on you, and leave room for God to work on them. You can only control your responses. You can’t control what others do, say or feel. Remember though, you can put up boundaries, but ultimately, the only person you can change is yourself!
The final word is this, no matter what troubles are brewing in your marriage or what problems are already there, your marriage is never without hope. Before you throw in the towel, do it some justice, and get the help you need before it’s too late. Don’t let problems linger, address them before they take root and start growing.
Here's to Enjoying the Journey!