I had no idea what I was getting into when I married my husband seven years ago at the young age of 21. I had grown up watching my parents hold hands and dance in the kitchen, and I rarely ever saw them argue. I read books about being a Godly woman and felt confident I had what it took to be a great wife. (How naïve and proud was I?) I thought I was prepared… but boy, was I wrong!
I didn’t realize how much pressure I was putting on myself and on my husband to be perfect for one another. I wish it hadn’t taken painful conversations and times of heartache for me to accept the following:
1. I am prideful and selfish.
I didn’t realize this about myself at the time, but I went into marriage expecting to be treated like a princess. I felt hurt, angry and let down when my husband would have a cranky attitude or wouldn’t read my mind about doing the dishes. I thought, if he loved me, he would know to do ____ or say ____. I viewed his lack of taking me on dates as a lack of love and interest. I became jealous of the time he spent with friends.
Instead of believing the best in my spouse, I made everything about me. I allowed myself to think he was failing me, but in reality I was failing him. Thankfully, a wise friend lovingly challenged me to stop focusing on what I felt were my husband’s shortcomings and instead focus on my own heart and actions. I was ashamed to realize how prideful and selfish I was being!
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” —Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)
Something beautiful happened when I shifted from asking God to change my husband to asking God to change me. Not only did I grow in my understanding of what it looks like to serve and obey Christ, but I also had a better attitude when it came to serving my husband (regardless of whether or not I felt served back). And SHOCKER — my husband and I both enjoyed our relationship much more when I stopped nitpicking every little thing that I wanted to change!
Do you show grace and gratitude to your spouse, or only focus on what you think he’s doing wrong? How could you better love your spouse?
2. Your spouse should not and cannot be your source of happiness and identity.
As a newlywed, I often took it personally when my husband would come home from work and want alone time instead of time together, or if he was in a bad mood, or if he didn’t want to do something that I wanted to do. I thought, he must not be happy with ME. He must not want to do things with ME. I wondered that if I was prettier, or a better cook, or knew more about sports, maybe then I would be “the perfect wife.” I would thrive under his compliments and tender love, but I would easily deflate if he didn’t notice a new top or forgot to thank me for making dinner.
I wish I could say it didn’t take long for me to change my way of thinking, but it wasn’t until around year three or four of our marriage that it hit me — if I based my happiness on the words and actions of an imperfect person, I would always be disappointed!
I love these words from author and speaker Lysa TerKeurst: "When you aren't depending on your husband to fill you up, then he can make mistakes and you are still okay. He can say the wrong thing and you can forgive him quickly. He can struggle and question his direction and you don't fall into despair. He can be your partner and your friend, because he does not have to be your savior."
As painful as it can be to have insecurities, arguments and unmet expectations, hardships in marriage can grow us closer to God. Though I am not perfect and my spouse is not perfect, our God is!
What do you think would happen in your marriage if you released your spouse from the impossible task of meeting your every need, and instead chose to lean on the Lord for joy, strength and security?
3. God calls me to show respect even when I don’t feel loved.
Oh man, do I ever struggle with this one! I knew respect was important to men before I got married, but I was unprepared for how hard it would be to show respect when I don’t feel it’s deserved. When Andy hurts my feelings, I’m tempted to say something hurtful in return. When he loses his temper, I often lose mine right back. It’s tempting to think that biting my tongue means he’ll be “getting away” with being unkind.
“Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.” — 1 Peter 3:8b-9
I can trust God to sanctify my spouse. I can choose to respond to harsh words calmly and rationally. (Or, if my emotions are out of control, I can remove myself from the situation before I say something I will regret.)
Commit to responding with kind and neutralizing words the next time you feel an argument is about to happen. Trust that God sees your efforts and will bless you for honoring Him.
4. Marriage takes work, but the work yields rewards!
Married couples often seem to either describe marriage as being the most fun ever or being a lot of work. Thinking of marriage as work sounds bad, as though something about the relationship must be going wrong. Yet consider this: do you put effort into your friendships? Do you try to celebrate your friend when she gets a promotion or show extra grace to a friend when you know she’s going through a hard time? Do you ever feel frustrated or let down by a friend, but you choose to not give up on them? It’s the same way with marriage.
Most days, loving Andy and being his wife is easy and fun and a joy. He makes me laugh harder than anyone else, I find him incredibly attractive and he is a hard worker and fantastic provider. Some days, though, I feel disconnected from him. Sometimes conversations turn into arguments, or misunderstandings leave me hurt and frustrated. But the work of choosing to believe the best, choosing to suffer long and choosing to extend grace and kindness yields beautiful results. It may take weeks, months or even years to see growth in your marriage, but you can trust that God is at work in both of your hearts.
Thank God for being faithful to work in us and trust that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Philippians 1:6b)
iBelieve.com: Go From “Me” to “We” in Your Marriage - Nicole Unice from ibelievedotcom on GodTube.
Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend. She recently started her own interior decorating business, Laura Rennie Interiors.