Recently I spent some time with a couple who has been married for a long time. By the end of the day I was exhausted. We didn’t do anything strenuous. What exhausted me was their squabbling. They don’t talk nicely to one another. Each makes their feelings and frustrations as well known by their eye-rolling, smirking, and expressions of disgust as they do by the snarky things they say. These are generally very nice people. They profess to know Christ. Still, they treat one another horribly.
Having known them both for years, I’ve spoken with each separately about the way they treat their spouse. It’s always the others’ fault. He’s childish. She’s controlling. She started it. He started it.
Here’s the problem. They’re each waiting for the other to do the right thing. They’re each waiting for the other to become the perfect spouse before they’re willing to change. It’s a good strategy if you don’t want to ever have to change. It’s a bad strategy if you want your marriage to grow.
There was a time when The Furry Guy and I were caught in a similar cycle. Most marriages go through rough patches, and we’ve definitely had ours. You know what we learned? It’s up to me. I don’t mean that we both decided that I was the problem. What I mean is that each of us realized that we only had control of our own actions, words, and reactions. If he wanted things to change, he had to make changes. If I wanted things to change, I had to make changes.
I made my choice. I decided that I would think through my responses. I would do my best to make sure that the words I spoke, my tone, and my body language were all loving and affirming. I made the choice to make his happiness my priority. It was hard work at the beginning. I failed a lot. I still fail sometimes, but it’s much easier than it used to be.
It took a while for The Furry Guy to trust that I wasn’t trying to pull something. I’m blessed in that God was working on his heart in much the same way at the same time. That isn’t always the case. However, that shouldn’t make a difference in my commitment to do the right thing. Dr. Phil McGraw calls it being the hero.
I wish one of the people from the couple I mentioned at first would make the choice to be the hero. It would make spending time with them less draining for those of us around them. I’m also sure that it would make their lives easier. While this is hard work at first, it gets easier and easier. Developing the habit of treating your spouse well is worth it.
My choice is to do my best to always be loving to my husband, whether I think he deserves it at that moment or not. What’s your choice?