Do you feel like you do most of the work in your home? Does it seem like your spouse is more focused on Facebook, Pinterest, hunting/fishing/golf, ESPN, texting and talking on the phone, shopping on Amazon, or playing video games than pulling their “fair share” of the workload?
“…stop passing judgment on one another.” Romans 14:13
“Stop judging me!” Judging, along with criticism, can be one of the greatest killers to marital unity. While criticism looks at words, actions and results–people who judge are condemning the person who does those things. A critic may say,” That’s a terrible idea!” But a judger would say, “Whoever came up with that idea is an idiot!”
“Live in harmony with one another.” Romans 12:16
It’s no secret when there’s a lack of harmony in your marriage. You know it. Your spouse knows it. And probably the people around you know as well.
You didn’t get married and come together as one in order to live in a disconnected relationship. Your heart’s desire is to join with your spouse and be in a connected, harmonious, and loving relationship.
In his letter to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul admonished them to, “Live in harmony with one another.” But how do we live this out in the context of marriage? What are some things that we can do to lay the foundation for harmony with our spouse?
How do we rebuild trust after a poorly handled conflict? The first step is to own our stuff.
What do you do when your spouse annoys you? Do you just put up with it? Do you nag them about it? Has something become a source of irritation and put distance between the two of you?
Sometimes, it doesn’t take much for something to get under our skin, does it? Like the person driving in front of us whose turn signal has been on for miles? Or the individual who chooses the “15 items or less” line with more than 30 items in their cart? Maybe it’s the co-worker who is consistently late for meetings. But those are all situations that we can leave behind us when we go home.
The challenge comes when there are mannerisms or behaviors of our spouse that we allow to get under our skin. It may not seem like a big deal, but experts agree that these annoyances are things that need to be addressed or they will fester and become major issues in our marriage.
We are often alert to different trouble cues in our lives, aren’t we? When our car struggles to start or brakes begin to squeal, we know there’s a problem. If there’s a lump or bump on our body where it used to be smooth, we hurry in to get it checked out. When our normally bouncy healthy child turns listless and loses their appetite we can be sure they aren’t well.
But in our marriages we can often miss the cues to trouble in our relationship. We get busy, take the relationship for granted and grind our way through another day, week and month.
Here are five cues to trouble in marriage that every couple needs to guard against:
Recently we have had people contacting us for help in reconciling a severed relationship that has ended in either separation or divorce. We thought it might be helpful for you—or for someone you know—to put into practice. Here’s what we’ve been sharing…
First, good for you for wanting to rebuild what was broken. Your heart honors God because He is all about rebuilding what was broken, beginning with what Christ did on the cross to restore us in our relationship with God.
Nothing is impossible with God. That said, he does give free will and the person you love and want to be reconciled to may not respond. It is a privilege for us to join you in prayer for the restoration of your relationship, and that God will be doing a work in the other person’s heart as well.
Each of these points requires the exercise of self-discipline to carry them out.
1. Stay centered
Center in on your relationship with God first and foremost. Spend time every day reading the Bible (15 minutes perhaps) and praying. Let your prayers be focused more on the person God wants you to become than on wooing the other person back.
2. Stay humble.
Get a pad of paper or sit in front of a screen and specifically ask God to reveal to you everything you did (even the small things) that contributed to the breakup of the relationship. Don’t focus on their part—that’s your spouse’s responsibility before God as he directs them.
Write down everything the Holy Spirit reveals to you. This is only between you and God—it can be destroyed after this exercise if you so choose. Then re-read it to be sure it is complete. Do you agree fully with the list? Do you take full ownership of your part?
Once you are at that place of full ownership, then go through the list, one by one, and out loud before God, simply pray:
“God, please forgive me for ______________. I acknowledge that was sin before you and it contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. I accept your forgiveness for this.”
Do that for each item the Holy Spirit has you write down.
This list you wrote is one for you to fully own. Sadly, the “blame game” is what can stop any reconciliation in its tracks. Your spouse needs to feel safe and know that all the fingers aren’t being pointed in their direction—that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
3. Be accountable
Ask 1-3 godly and wise people of your gender whom you respect to be on your prayer team. Ideally, find people who have a long history of being married to the same person.
Ask them to pray with you and for you about the reconciliation. Use these people as your “personal advisory board.” Let them ask you hard questions (ask for it) to be sure you are ready to step up and approach your spouse for reconciliation.
4. Reach out
NOW you are ready to reach out. When a relationship is severed, there can be huge distrust and hurt. Don’t underestimate that. Sometimes we have seen spouses project anger or put up walls or stiff-arm renewed intimacy to protect themselves and see if the change that is being presented is really humble and true.
5. Go slow
Be patient. Be consistent. Listen and learn more than talk. We like the phrase, “listen to understand before speaking to be understood.”
6. Trust God
You may not know what to do next, but you can trust God to reveal to you the next steps toward reconciling your marriage.
In the end, you will have peace, confidence, and integrity. You will know that before God you have taken the wise steps that honor him to re-build your marriage.
Has your spouse ever assumed the worst of you? Have you ever assumed the worst of your spouse? Hardly a marriage escapes this happening at some point, but rarely do spouses choose to reverse the trend of negative assumptions and replace them with assuming the best.
When we assume the worst our minds are driven by fear, anger, confusion, and pride. We make dark judgments about our mate’s intentions and motives. As a result, our minds begin to conjure up scenarios about their underlying aim. Anger, hurt, and misunderstanding can well up in our heart and mind. We distance ourselves emotionally. Sometimes we may even accuse our spouse of things that aren’t at all what they were meaning to project. Ultimately, loneliness can get anchored in our marriage because there are now two lonely, well-intentioned but misunderstood people.
So how can we break free from the trap of assumptions? Here are four things you can begin today to build your marriages with right thinking:
1) Release your right to question motives
The Bible is clear that “motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2). When we assume we know and understand our spouse’s intentions, we create a scenario in which they have already lost. We lose as well because our misunderstanding leads to a misinformed reaction that perpetuates the hurt and distance with our spouse.
2) Consider the alternatives
Look at the situation from your spouse’s perspective. What might your spouse be facing, feeling, thinking? Are they under stress at work? How are the dynamics with their extended family? Are they simply expressing habits that they’ve formed over the years verses doing things to specifically spite you?
3) Listen to understand
To avoid false accusations, ask questions to get at the heart of the matter. A couple of good lead-in statements to learn someone’s thinking include:
“Help me understand….” This phrase communicates that you are the listener and your spouse is empowered to teach. It can set the stage for a healthy dialogue.
“When that happened, I felt….” No one can legitimately argue with your feelings because they are yours! This allows you to express how you were impacted without assigning blame and thus escalating the tension and division.
4) Verbalize the best
Make it a daily habit to tell your spouse things that you appreciate about who they are. Focus on character qualities such as: their work ethic, love for family, humility, drive, passion, intelligence, tenderness, mercy, etc. As you communicate these things, you will begin to think about your spouse with your mind permeated with the positive instead of the negative.
What have you done to retrain your mind so you are assuming and thinking the best of your spouse? Start today with these four steps and build your marriage!