CAN YOU CHANGE YOUR SPOUSE?

Why do young couples sometimes find the first month or first year the hardest?  Because they typically put forth their best side when they are single. Pretense goes out the window after they say, “I do,” and they don’t.  She was waiting to tell him off for the strange habit of throwing clothes on the floor.

 

Now is her chance; he isn’t going anywhere. She begins to list his faults. It seems somehow appropriate. After all, “The two are one.” To her surprise, nothing changes. It’s like the clod’s not even listening.

 

Turn it around: he sees some things in her that shock him. She can’t leave anything alone. She is more nitpicky that he ever experienced with Mom. She doesn’t want him to lick his fingers, wipe his hands on the kitchen towel, accelerate quickly, let go with gas in the hallway, and not push his chair back to the table. He can’t do anything right, and he would rather go home to mother than listen to this.

 

So ask yourself: what has God used to change you down through the years? Has criticism? Has telling people what you think of them ever endeared them to you? What makes you think it is going to work with the one you are going to live with “til death do us part?”  Where did you get the idea that a marriage license gives you the right to let ‘em have it? Do you have it so right that you are now your spouse’s judge of appropriate behavior?

 

Paul has given husbands a clear job description in Ephesians 5:22-31: to love and to lead. He uses the word “love” four times to make sure the guys get it.  And the measure of love is Christ laying down His life. Husbands love by leading and lead by loving.

 

The wife likewise has two responsibilities: to respond and to respect. If a husband is loving his wife as Christ loved the church, most women would find it a pleasure to submit. But be careful: no husband starts there. He is only beginning to understand what it means to be married and to bear responsibility for her.

 

So don’t think that his responsibility becomes your right. If he is commanded to love you, it is not your right to demand it or to say, “Hey, where’s the love, Romeo?” You have one recourse: die to yourself and respond more to his leadership, however faulty. By telling him where he is wrong or suggesting how he can do it better not only does not work to improve him; it will backfire.

 

Has criticism worked for you? When a fellow-employee was bold enough to tell you that you needed to improve your marketing skills, did it bring a “thank you” and an immediate change? What makes you think Mr. Charming is going to respond to caustic comments? That might work in thirty years after you are more secure in each other’s love, but not in the first month of life together. Not even close.

 

And Mr. Leader, if she is not following your direction in the way that she should, you have one strategy to change her, “Submit, Lady.” Her responsibility does not become your right. Die to yourself as Jesus commanded, love her with sacrificial love, and lead her with the gentleness of Christ. In time she will get the point and learn to follow. Quit telling her to respect you. Tell Jesus.

 

So here is your assignment to work through the tension of your new marriage. Each of you gets to review your own job description. Then list three things that you can do better to insure that the ride will get smoother. Mr. Lover: how can you lead more gently, more like Jesus? And how can you love more unselfishly?

 

This is not the typical response when the sharing begins. He says what she needs to do, unless he lets her go first. Then she shares what he’s got to do. Congratulations! You are both out of line. Love is a far more effective motivation for change than suggestions at best or nagging at worst. Have you heard this testimony: “I nagged him, praise the Lord, until he changed. Glory!?” It didn’t happen.

 

Next, review the vows that you made publicly before your friends.  How are you doing with the promises? Which ones have you broken?  Is the way you are handling yourself so far going to build a strong marriage that will delight your children, or is it creating distrust and stirring up anger? God resists the proud and gives grace to humble people. Two lowly people who see their own needs and correct them are honoring God and loving their spouse. What a way to go! Go low! All your married life!

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