Relationship status is more than a tag on Facebook, or a box you check when filling out your tax return. The quality of your closest personal relationships is likely to make a greater difference in your wellbeing than any other single factor, and if you’re married that means your relationship with your spouse. To paraphrase a nursery rhyme, “When it’s good, it’s very very good. And when it’s bad, it’s horrid.” If your marriage is not “very very good,” you need a transformed marriage.
I’ve heard from literally hundreds of husbands and wives in just the last month about problems in their relationship. Addiction, abuse, abandonment, infidelity, mental health issues, conflict over finances, lack of intimacy, unmet needs, pornography, broken communication – the list goes on. I’m sure when God looks at these marriages He weeps.
How someone else might quantify the dysfunction in your marriage is not the issue. There’s no “pain meter” on marriage misery; if it’s broken, it hurts! Marriage, love, is vulnerable. You married a sinner. Your spouse married a sinner. Two broken people married to each other is a recipe for pain!
But as the song says, “If you’ve got pain, He’s a Pain Taker.”
In your heart you know God has the answer. Then why does your marriage stay broken when you keep asking Him over and over to fix it? Why does it keep hurting so badly?
I know what God can do in a marriage. My husband and I were both broken people. Thankfully God had already begun the transformation process in both of us when we got married, and our marriage became a hugely effective way in which God brought us both so much healing.
Here are a few of the things I learned that can help you too.
Toward a Transformed Marriage
As with most of the transformation God works in us, learning to love well in marriage is a process. It’s not a “zap” and everything is wonderful. The journey becomes the very means God uses to do His healing work in you.
Specifically when it comes to marriage, here are three critical things to keep in mind.
Begin With You
You are responsible for your own thoughts and actions regardless of what your spouse does or doesn’t do. You’re responsible for finding your own mental/emotional/spiritual nourishment even if your spouse is not meeting your needs. You can’t change your spouse, so quit trying! Focus on what you can do something about, and that’s you. Tweet that.
God will often use what happens in marriage to show you things in your own character that He wants to change. When that happens, let Him do so. Among the things I had to learn in my marriage were to slow down, to communicate in a way my husband could understand, and to keep my hands off in the areas where God was working in his life.
Quit pointing the finger. Where is it that you need to grow? Is there abuse going on, and you need to set some boundaries and make some hard decisions? Do you need to learn how to communicate more effectively? Do you need to learn how to forgive? Are you the one who needs to learn what it means to pursue intimacy with your wife or with your husband? Seek God’s perspective on your role in your marriage, and let Him do what He wants to do with you.
Give God Space
You are not Junior Holy Spirit in your spouse’s life. You are not your husband’s mother, or your wife’s manager. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes; are you pushing them away, triggering their defensiveness? Yes, you have needs and feelings, but manipulating, controlling, or criticizing your spouse will only make things worse. Keep your grubby hands off, and let God do His work!
My husband made the choice to do the hard work of quitting smoking when we got married. Of course I wanted him to quit, but if I had nagged him or pointed out how bad he was for smoking I’m quite sure he would have never quit. He chose when to quit, and I gladly offered my help and support when he asked for it. That made a huge difference in his success.
You can’t make choices for your spouse. They are completely responsible before God for their own behavior – and transformation. Trust that God loves him or her more than you do, and that He knows what they need for their own transformation journey. Seek God’s perspective on what role you need to play, and do no more nor less. In marriage your spouse gets a vote, and you can’t vote for them. And know that even if your marriage does not last because of your spouse’s vote, God can restore you.
Celebrate Each Step Forward
Imagine how God looks at us. He knows the vast gap between who He created us to be and the way we are now. But He rejoices when even one of us responds to His call and makes the choice to turn toward Him. (Luke 15:7) And He celebrates every bit of transformation we experience from then on. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Do the same in your marriage. Don’t you want to do more of what you celebrate? Aren’t you more likely to do something again when your spouse shows sincere appreciation? Your spouse is the same. When you notice and celebrate a step forward, it makes it that much more likely that your marriage will keep going in that direction.
If your spouse notices something you do for them and expresses gratitude, pause and open your heart in a moment of gratitude back. When you communicate something to your spouse in a way they understand, notice and build on that. Any time you catch your spouse growing in a positive way, smile, notice, enjoy, and celebrate in some way. You’ll get more of what you celebrate! Tweet that.
In the weeks to come we’ll talk much more about the transformation journey, things I learned in my own marriage, and how you can experience a transformed marriage also. I hope you’ll stay with us, and commit to your own transformation journey.
Your Turn: Which of these three areas do you most need to pay attention to? What can you do this week to begin with you, give God space, or celebrate a step forward? Leave a comment below.
Tweetables: why not share this post?
- Do you need a transformed marriage? Unless your relationships is “very very good,” the answer is Yes. Here are 3 things I learned that will help you as you work with God toward a transformed marriage. Tweet that.
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