If your marriage relationship is great, you already understand what I’m going to talk about here. But if your marriage is not great, what are you waiting for? You don’t have to accept being a victim. There’s great power in going first in your marriage.

Over 95% of people who write or talk to me about their marriage challenges focus on their spouse. “My husband doesn’t pay attention to me, and won’t talk to me.” “My wife won’t have sex with me regardless of what I do.” When I meet with a couple for marriage coaching almost always the initial sessions are taken up with a litany of faults the other person has committed.

Hurting people also blame their spouse for their own less-than-perfect behavior. “I wouldn’t be threatening divorce (or have to go to porn) if my wife would give me sex like she’s supposed to.” “If my husband would just show me some affection and not hide things from me I wouldn’t be so angry all the time.” “My spouse never listens, so why would I talk to them?”

This does not excuse your spouse’s bad behavior. But you have no control over them. If you’d like your marriage to be better, I invite you to embrace the power of going first.

Getting Out of the Victim Mindset

There are victims in this world. Lots of them. You might be one if you were trafficked, chained up, or beaten. Abuse and betrayal are real – and horrific. Addiction or abandonment leave deep scars. And that happens in some marriages. None of that is meant to minimize the very real problems you are facing.

But the most powerful weapon of all is that which is inside your own head. It’s what you believe about yourself. Stories abound of those in the most extreme circumstances – prisoners of war, people who experienced deep tragedy and loss, others – who demonstrated they could choose their attitude and behavior. Your spouse may be wrong, very wrong; that’s not something you can change. But you can change what you do.

If you’re reading this, you have choices.

You may have been horribly hurt. Now you have the choice to heal.

You may have had your trust broken and betrayed. Now you have the choice to forgive.

You may have been manipulated and controlled. Now you have the choice to learn to say No.

You may have been lied to and cheated on. Now you have the choice of who you will believe.

By blaming your spouse for your unhappiness you are giving them power over you. Do you really want to continue to do that? Regardless of how badly your spouse has impacted you, it’s your choice what you do next.

By taking 100% responsibility for what you can control – your own attitudes and behavior – your own wellbeing will soar. It may be a hard journey. But you can choose to take responsibility for becoming the person God created you to become.

You Go First

Waiting for your spouse to change will only lead to frustration and misery, and it continues to give your spouse power over you. Remember, you’re choosing to not be a victim any longer.

If you’re unhappy with the way things are between you, you make the first move. Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results has been called the definition of insanity. So what can and will you do in going first?

Taking positive action removes you from the victim position and makes you the leader. You can’t guarantee how your spouse will respond, but you can decide what you will do.

Here are a few ways in which you can go first:

If the communication has broken down between you, you can look at your own communication style to see where you may have contributed. You can learn about Healthy Communication in Marriage.

If your spouse is engaged in ongoing bad behavior, perhaps as an addict, you can learn about setting healthy boundaries.

If you’re feeling empty, lonely, and dissatisfied in your marriage, take responsibility for getting filled up. Find healthy godly ways to get the emotional/spiritual nourishment you need. Your spouse was never intended to fill all your needs anyway.

If there’s no emotional or physical intimacy between you, you make the choice to move closer. Work overtime to learn your spouse’s love language, and identify the barriers to intimacy in your relationship. Seek to learn the Why underlying your spouse’s reluctance. And you begin removing the bricks in the wall, and moving closer.

If there’s little spiritual connection between you, you move in that direction. Spend time – a lot of time – on your knees. Invest deeply in your own relationship with God. Make your spiritual life an invitation to your spouse, not a barrier.

If unkindness, contempt, and conflict characterizes every interaction with your spouse, you make the choice to respond differently, even when it means you will have to do the deep work in your own soul to even begin to do so.

If your marriage is toxic, you be the one to look at the truth and make intentional decisions. (There are some times God releases you from a toxic marriage.) And regardless of whether you stay or go, you make the decision to grow and live well, difficult though it will be.

What Happens When You Go First

Part of what happens will be in your control, but not all of it. But there are a couple things that are guaranteed to happen when you go first.

First, you will grow. You will feel empowered and much less of a victim. Your own sense of wellbeing will dramatically increase, and you will have a sense of becoming more of who God created you to be.

And second, your marriage will change. If you become different, your marriage has to become different. As you go first, your spouse will sense an invitation to join you in a new marriage. They may or may not join you in that. But since you’re doing something different, you will get different results.

What is not guaranteed is how your spouse will respond. But if you’re unhappy with your current relationship, the only thing you’ve got to lose is your sense of victimhood.

And that would be a great thing to lose!

Your Turn: Where have you been giving in to a victim mindset in your marriage? Have you been waiting for your spouse to change? Where are you going to go first in making a positive difference? Leave a comment below.

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