Guest post by Author Beth McCord
“Who is this person I married?”
Has that thought ever crossed your mind? I’ve been married to my husband Jeff for 24 years, but it’s definitely crossed mine a time or two!
During the early years of our marriage, it felt like we were trying to climb Mount Everest with no equipment. We got married at the ripe age of 20, and despite our best intentions to not “go there,” we repeatedly reacted in ways that were harmful to ourselves and one another. We wanted a thriving partnership, but we kept hitting the same walls over and over again.
By our fourth anniversary, we felt resentful, desperate, and hopeless. We simply didn’t understand ourselves, one another, and the fullness we already had in Christ.
I know from experience that it’s all too easy to look at your relationship during a particularly turbulent season and feel completely helpless. If you think you’ve lost control, in a way, you’re right. Your partner is inherently flawed, and sometimes their hurtful words and actions can wound you to your core. No matter how hard you try, you don’t have the power to change them.
But there is good news: It’s not your job to change them. It’s God’s job! He intricately created you and your spouse to display His glory in different ways.
Despite our best efforts, sin can make its way into our relationships. We are all broken people living in a fallen world, and that means struggles are inevitable. Even though we can’t change our partners, we can decide how we’ll respond to them. Will we compound trouble by reacting sinfully, or will we choose a better way? Will we do everything in our power to understand our mate and point them back to the truth of the Gospel?
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that our relationships should be characterized by the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Here are five choices you can make to be this kind of spouse. Whether your marriage is currently thriving or on the brink of failure, exhibiting these qualities can only help in bringing more restoration and harmony in your relationship.
1. Choose Humility Over Pride
So many times, relationships become problematic because both partners are asking, “What’s best for me?” instead of “What is God doing in and through us?” Resist the temptation of self-centeredness and arrogance, which erodes God’s design for marriage. In conflict, when it’s inconvenient, or you flat out don’t want to do it, take the time to look at things from your partner’s perspective and consider their wants and needs before your own.
Make the holiness of Christ and His commands the standard in your relationship. Pride leads us to believe we are more righteous than others and to hone in on others’ weaknesses. This keeps us from examining our own hearts, owning up to our shortcomings, and pursuing lasting transformation through Christ.
2. Choose Intimacy Over Isolation
We were created to be in relationship, and healthy relationships cannot be independent. When struggles come, our natural response is to move away from our partner. But in so doing, we miss out on one of God’s principal means of provision. Even when it’s hard, press into intimacy, bravely allowing yourself to be authentic and vulnerable with your partner. You weren’t made to do life alone!
3. Choose Curiosity Over “Assumicide”
From my experience, the act of “assumicide” is so often what gets in the way of compassion and leads to the most conflict in marriages. Assumicide is the act of assuming you know why your partner says or does something, but a wrong assumption can hurt your spouse and the relationship.
Even if you’ve been together for decades, stay curious about your spouse and the lens through which they view the world. After all, one of the main reasons God put you with your spouse is so you can complement and learn from one another, making for a richer adventure together!
4. Choose Lasting Fulfillment Over Temporary Satisfaction
When you try to find contentment outside of Christ, you go in one of two directions in your relationship. You’ll either become disinterested in your spouse when you feel they interfere with your happiness, or you will look to your partner to be the main source of your joy.
Spoiler alert: neither direction leads to a thriving partnership or deep spiritual walk.
5. Choose Alignment with the Gospel Over Misalignment
When we’re misaligned with the Gospel, our minds and hearts wander from our true identity in Christ, and we try to control arguments and issues in our own strength. But when we’re aligned with the Gospel, we know, believe and trust in the finished work of Christ, and our behavior is a reflection of our identity as His children.
If we reject God’s wise authority and replace it with self-rule, we expect our spouses to become our subjects, submitting to our perspective. Are you trying to dominate your partner and have them submit to your rule, or are you seeking the sovereign will and authority of Christ in your heart and relationship?
If you’re currently struggling in your marriage or other close relationship, it could be because it’s time to choose something different. Ask the Lord to reveal to you the areas where your relationship has gone astray and the part you’ve played. Then go to your spouse and ask for forgiveness. This is the first step toward lasting growth and change.
God is a good Father, and He won’t desert you in this process. Ask Him to meet you right where you are, and to show you how to be the best partner you can be. With His help, you and your spouse can grow into the best versions of yourselves and fulfill His specific calling on your relationship.
Beth McCord’s new book series, The Enneagram Collection, gives each Enneagram Type personal insights crafted precisely for their personality along with space to journal and reflect. This deeply informative content teaches about the strengths, challenges, and opportunities of each personality Type in order to lead to a more meaningful life, have lasting relationships and gain a deeper understanding of God and self. Learn more at yourenneagramcoach.com/journals.