“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7
Acceptance in marriage is a key to feeling relationally safe. When we learn to communicate acceptance of our spouse we create an environment where understanding can flourish.
But acceptance can be hard. Unless this is learned early in a relationship, we can allow negativity toward our spouse to accumulate. We end up consciously and subconsciously conveying a message of rejection. Criticism becomes the norm. Defensiveness flares up quickly. Tempers can be short. Misunderstandings are frequent.
The apostle Paul concluded his letter to the church in Rome with comments to those who were strong in their faith and those who were weak in their faith. He said, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” In the original language, the word “accept” could also be translated “receive.” It was written not as a suggestion, but as an ongoing command. Literally it had the sense of, “KEEP ON accepting/receiving one another!”
The apostle Paul included a tangible example to follow. Applied to marriage, the way we accept our spouse should match the way Jesus accepts us. He accepted us while we were still sinners, weak, ungodly, and even enemies of the cross (see Romans 5:6, 8, 10).
So how do we build acceptance into our marriage? Here are four qualities of acceptance to build into your marriage:
1. Acceptance…sees differences in one’s spouse and celebrates them.
When we got married we saw each other’s differences and were attracted to those differences. But over time the very things that attracted us begin to get under our skin! We processed information differently. We had different perspectives on how to handle money. One us had greater concentration and discipline with their studies. The other liked to get up every ten minutes and see who else was in the library!
Initially, we tried to fix and reshape each other’s differences. We wanted to make the other into a likeness of our self. But all we did was communicate rejection. We were basically saying, “I don’t accept you the way you are. I want you to be different. I want you to be like me.” How silly and prideful!
Acceptance says, “I’m glad you’re different than me. Here’s how you’re different, and why it is so special to me.” (Michael Hyatt wrote a great article several years ago on appreciating each other’s differences. You can read it here.)
2. Acceptance…sees flaws in one’s spouse and accepts them.
We can all agree that no one is perfect. Your spouse may be messy and prone to clutter. They may leave their shoes in the middle of the hall. Their toothpaste spit may be dried in the sink. Perhaps they forget where they left their phone or their keys. Maybe they’re always running late. Or during meals they chew with their mouth open and talk with food in their mouth.
Acceptance chooses to love and embrace one’s spouse flaws and all. Acceptance nudges the shoes to the side of the hall, washes the spit in the sink, and helps find the missing items. Acceptance displays patience and grace–just as Jesus accepts you.
3. Acceptance…sees strengths in one’s spouse and accentuates them.
Some spouses choose to criticize and denigrate their mate’s strengths. Their attempts are a subtle, and not-so-subtle attempt to level the playing field in marriage, to boost one’s own sense of self-worth, or to control their mate.
Acceptance says, “You have some amazing strengths that God has given you. I’m proud of how you’ve been stewarding those strengths. I want to help you excel in any way possible. I believe in you and I am for you.”
4. Acceptance…sees weaknesses in one’s spouse and supports them.
Your spouse may struggle in areas where you are a bit stronger. They may struggle with fear or insecurity. For some it may be self-discipline. Others may wrestle with mental illness, physical illness, or depression.
You are literally God’s gift to your spouse for such a time as this. God has given you all of the ability, personality, and strength that you need to speak into your mate’s life. You are his vessel of hope and acceptance to your spouse in their season of need.
What are some ways you have shown acceptance to your spouse? How have they demonstrated accepting you? As you both grow in showing acceptance you will bring glory to God as you build your marriage!