Attitudes color everything. Attitudes develop usually without you realizing it. Some attitudes you brought to your marriage and some you developed through the ups and downs of your life together. Our sinful natures naturally breed attitudes that wound ourselves and others. But you can choose to develop healthier attitudes for a better marriage.

Any couple married any length of time will tell you that marriage is not easy. But the attitudes you intentionally nurture can make the difference between a relationship that falls apart and one that is resilient. You have more choice in this than you probably realize.

You can only do so much of this work on your own, so you absolutely need God’s presence to change your heart in this process. A closed heart will lead to destructive hurtful attitudes and behaviors. And you need God’s work in you to keep your heart open, to bring healing and growth, so that the you that you bring to your marriage is the person He needs you to be.

So, survey your heart for these attitudes, and see which ones you need to address intentionally with God in moving toward a better marriage.

Instead of Victimhood, choose Responsibility

A close relationship with another sinner is a setup for disaster. Your spouse’s prickly spines seem perfectly designed to make you miserable. It usually doesn’t take long after the wedding for you to see your spouse’s anger, true sexual desires (or lack thereof), old wounds, little (or big) addictions, and general lack of maturity.

And when that happens, many people fall into a victim mindset.

But you are not a victim. (If abuse is going on, get some help!) You can choose what you do next. You take the responsibility for dealing with your own emotions, seeking healing where you need to, learning the skills you lack, setting healthy boundaries if needed, and becoming the person God needs you to be – before Him, and in your marriage.

Instead of Entitlement, choose Generosity

Contemporary culture makes it easy to think that marriage should be all about you – your own personal happiness, your needs getting met, what feels good for you. When your spouse doesn’t meet your expectations you get frustrated or angry, as if they owe you something. You (perhaps unconsciously) interpret love as, I love how I feel when I’m with you. And when those feelings change, you believe the marriage is wrong.

That’s the definition of entitlement.

Although you will experience much joy in a healthy marriage, marriage is not about getting your own needs met. Marriage is primarily about learning to love well. While your needs and desires are important, they are not the primary thing. You focus first and most on what your spouse needs, and what is best for the relationship. The care you give yourself is, in large part, so that you have more to bring to your marriage.

Instead of Resentment, choose Forgiveness

There’s not a marriage on earth where everything goes as you wish. You get hurt and disappointed. You buy into the lie that if your spouse would only change, you would be happy. And you begin to hold him/her in contempt – resenting their needs, and eventually their very person and presence.

Resenting your spouse is not the only possible response. Even if your spouse is behaving badly, you have a choice about the attitude you respond with. And forgiveness is the attitude that will set you free, and keep you free.

If it’s small stuff, let it go. Become a good forgiver. If it was truly a mistake, be truly generous with forgiveness. If it’s something deeper and destructive, you still make the decision to forgive. If your trust has been broken, this means giving your spouse an opportunity to regain your trust – over time and through real change. But regardless of what your spouse does, forgiveness keeps you free and able to decide what you will do next.

Instead of Control, choose Learning

Male or female, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to control your spouse. You remind, nag, and criticize. You try to micromanage their behavior to your liking. Maybe if you work a little harder, you could keep your spouse from behaving badly. Pouting, snide remarks, begging and pleading, using sex (or withholding it) as a weapon, punishing them – you’ve become quite skilled at manipulation.

And it’s not working. Both you and your spouse are miserable.

Instead, choose a posture of learning. Study your spouse. If your spouse has an evil heart and has made your marriage toxic, it will require significantly different steps than if your spouse is basically a person of good will in need of further growth. Invest in learning the skills necessary for a healthy marriage, such as communication, an invitation to intimacy, etc. This also includes dealing with your own baggage from the past, so you can bring a better you to the marriage.

Instead of Isolation, choose Love

You don’t get married in order to live in isolation, but many people end up that way. Your own baggage becomes exposed, so you keep the walls up in your heart and remain hidden. The prickly spines in your own nature and those of your spouse keep you from coming closer. It’s easy to let the walls between you become higher and thicker as time goes on.

And the misery for both of you continues to build.

Choosing to love is risky. Love is not a feeling; it’s an action. Loving your spouse well is messy, sometimes uncomfortable, and you have no guarantee of how your spouse will respond. But letting your own walls down and making an ongoing invitation to intimacy – knowing and being known – is what love does. Love doesn’t judge the outcome by how you feel; you let God’s love change your heart, and you bring yourself to your marriage as a growing loving person.

You keep learning to be the person God needs you to be to your spouse in your present season of marriage. That’s an attitude worth nurturing.

Your Turn: What’s your primary attitude toward your spouse? Have you thought that through intentionally? What attitude about your marriage do you need to develop with God’s help? Leave a comment below.

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