You feel stuck. Your marriage is nowhere near what you dreamed it would be. Your satisfaction has dropped to an all time low. What do you do now?
The greatest advice no one wants to hear is that of taking personal responsibility for your own thoughts, actions, and emotions. When your spouse is hurting your feelings or frustrating you, it is difficult to hear someone say, “I hear what you’re saying, but where do you need to change?” But this question is exactly the question that is going to get your relationship headed in the right direction.
Until you recognize that God alone changes people (especially your spouse), you will remain stuck in your relationship. The worst posture we can take in our marriage is when we point the finger and blame. When we look at our spouse and think, “You are both the problem and the solution to my sadness.” What this means is that we look at our spouse’s poor behavior and believe that if only they would change, then we could be happy. But this is a lie! Check out the greatest marriage advice no one wants to hear.
The Best Choice – You Are Not a Victim
The only thing you can do to truly make an impact on your marriage is work night and day on being the best husband or wife possible. What other choice do you have? If you enter into the dysfunction of your spouse, then things are guaranteed to get worse. If you decide to do the right thing (patience, mercy, kindness, forgiveness) then at least you are setting up the relationship to change for the better.
God has given you the ability to choose. Next to the gift of His Son Jesus, this is the most precious gift you possess. It’s what separates you from all other forms of life on this planet. Making choices allows you to tap into strengths you never thought you had and exercise the power to change whatever needs changing in your life. Whatever grief or anger or pain you may feel about your marriage, you have the power within you to do something about it. You are not a victim. You are free to choose to act, to change. God has given you a huge reservoir of talent, creativity, knowledge, self-worth, energy, and love. You have the freedom to change your negative responses to your mate’s behavior and draw on these God-given assets to do the right and helpful thing. Making this choice can introduce a redemptive force for positive change in your marriage.
The Two Critical Things
For marriage choices it narrows down to two critical things every married individual must exercise: unconditional love and personal responsibility. Unconditional love means you accept and cherish your mate as he or she is. Personal responsibility means you take charge of correcting your own faults instead of your mate’s. That, in a nutshell, is it. Intimacy, happiness, growth, communication and all the other vital aspects of a good marriage grow out of these two choices. If both partners recognize this fact, there will be no victims in the marriage. Each person’s happiness will rest entirely in his or her own hands. And the end result is the safety and security that every marriage must have in order to thrive.
Do you believe this? Really believe this? Since it’s my contention that all behavior is a result of what we believe, this is a crucial question. Do you believe that you can take personal responsibility for the success of your marriage? If you don’t, then you must believe the opposite—that your spouse or circumstances are in control of what happens to you. You must believe that you are a victim. Therefore you must react and put the blame on your mate when the marriage does not meet your expectations. This is a tragedy, because when you blame your mate you not only divest yourself of your responsibility, you also reduce the choices you have to change the relationship. You forfeit the ability to control your own destiny.
Make a Promise
So if you want your marriage to be the most exciting and rewarding journey of your life, the question to ask is not whether your mate is doing enough to make the marriage work, but rather: Are you loving your mate unconditionally by taking responsibility for your role in the relationship? A good way to turn this intention into a commitment is to make a promise of it. Promise to look at yourself first, to take responsibility for your own part of the marriage, and to stop trying to change your mate. Such a promise puts legs on unconditional love. It says you are willing to put your personal dreams and needs on hold for a while and make what’s best for the relationship a priority.
Used with permission from Gary Smalley.