Shirley, married for 19 years, called in a panic.
“I’m sick and tired of Dan not changing. Year after year he makes promises and while he has gotten better, he is still not the Christian man I deserve to be married to. I think it’s time I gave him an ultimatum. If he doesn’t change this year, I’m going to have to leave him. I’ve already talked to my daughter and my Mom and they said they will support me through this.”
Shirley is like many of the unhappy spouses we meet in our Marriage Intensives. It is rare that we do not find that one or both spouses is blaming all of the marriage struggles on the other. The false belief is that if the other spouse will change, the marriage will be happy. Shirley brought Dan to the Marriage Intensive so that “the experts” could agree with her and tell Dan to change.
Blinded By Your Spouse’s Faults
Shirley suffered from blindness. Her physical sight may have been near perfect, but she was totally blind from seeing her part in creating and maintaining the problems in her marriage. Too many spouses cannot see their contributions to marriage problems because they are so focused on their spouse’s problems.
It is not just a problem in Shirley’s marriage, it is a problem in most marriages. And it has been problem in all types of relationships in families, the workplace, neighborhoods, etc. for a very, very long time. In fact, in Matthew 7, Jesus shared a universal law that affects all relationships.
How Can I Tell If I Am The Problem In Our Marriage?
One of the most important things you can do in your marriage is the check yourself. Invest some quality time to check for any blind spots. Check to see if you are engaging in any of these signs that you are contributing to the problems in your marriage and that it is not all your spouse’s fault.
- Deflecting Responsibility – Think through the last three arguments. Where did you take any responsibility for any part of the problem? Do you frequently assign all of the blame for the issue on your spouse. “I would not have done this if you would not have done that.” Even when you know that you are wrong, do you keep from admitting it?
- Criticism – In the last week, how many times have you noticed irritating things your spouse has done (or failed to do)? How have you communicated your frustration with your spouse (facial expression, sigh, comment, critical language, etc.)? Do you attribute your spouse’s behavior to character flaws?
- Absence – How have you tried, unconsciously or consciously, to separate yourself from your spouse? Do you keep a device handy to focus on so that you do not have to be present with your spouse? When an issue is brought up by your spouse, do you give them the silent treatment or walk out of the room/house? Are you volunteering for everything at work?
- Aggression – Do you bark at your spouse? Has your spouse stepped on your last nerve causing you to have a “fit” in the past month? Are you prickly in your interactions with your spouse so they will stay away from you? Do you secretly get them back because “that just serves them right”? Are you in a dangerous relationship?
- Gossip – Do you tell your closest friends, relatives, and coworkers what a horrible spouse you have? Would most of the closest friends in your life struggle to share a few things that you love about your spouse? Do you talk bad about your spouse to their relatives, coworkers, friends, etc.?
Once Was Blind But Now See
If you find that you are engaging in any one of these behaviors, you are part of the problem in your marriage. Although it does not feel good to discover how I am causing pain in my life and in my marriage, it does come with a gift. The gift is that the power in discovering your choices that brought you to where you are today is the same power in your current choices that you have to take your marriage to a stronger and healthier place.
- Pray for God to help you be a better spouse. Pray for peace and joy again in your marriage. Ask for forgiveness, courage and wisdom.
- Admit to your spouse you have been a contributor to your marriage problems. “I take full responsibility for… and I apologize.”
- Give your spouse grace in the areas you have been most critical of them.
- Decide the first step you will take unilaterally to begin to change your marriage for good.
- Instead of doing what you have been doing, make a commitment to have Crucial Conversations about issues when they come up.
- Get help from your pastor, Christian coaches, counselors, or a marriage veteran couple.
What do you have to say?
We love to hear from readers. Do you find that many of your friends blame their spouses for all the marriage problems? What would you add to the list of tell-tale signs that you are contributing to your marriage problems? What other suggestions would you add to the action steps? If you tried implementing any of the recommendations, what did you learn about yourself as you implemented them?
This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2016. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.