Friday's Followup: What does your mate need to see in order to believe that your confession was more than just words?
Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You. Psalm 25.20
Marriage has a way of altering our vision. We go in expecting our mate to fulfill our hopes and to make us happy. But this is an impossible order for our spouse to fill. Unrealistic expectations breed disappointment. The higher your expectations, the more likely your spouse will fail you and cause you frustration.
Divorce is nearly inevitable when people refuse to allow their spouses to be human. So there needs to be a transition in your thinking. You must choose to live by encouragement rather than by expectations. The way your spouse has been for the last ten years is likely what he or she will be in the future apart from your loving encouragement and an intervention from God. Love puts the focus on personal responsibility and improving yourself rather than on demanding more from others.
Jesus painted a picture of this when He talked a bout the person who saw the "speck" in his brother's eye but didn't notice the "log" in his own. "How can you say to your brother,'Let me take the speck out of your eye' and behold, the log is in your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Matthew 7.4-5
Does your spouse feel like they're living with a speck inspector? Are they routinely on edge, fearful of not living up to your expectations? Would they say they spend most days sensing more of your disapproval then your acceptance?
Perhaps you'd respond by saying that the problem is not with you but with them. If your mate doesn't want you to be so critical, they need to realize that the issues you bring up are legitimate. You're not saying you're perfect, by any means, but it does seem like you should be able to say what you think. Right?
The problem with this attitude is that few people are able to respond to criticism with total objectivity. When it seems clear that someone is unhappy with you- whether by direct confrontation or the silent treatment- it's hard not to take their displeasure personally. Especially in marriage.
After all, unlike any other friendship, your relationship with your spouse began with both of you bending over back wards to please the other. You could almost do no wrong. Your life together was much easier. You never expected that this man or woman who promised to love you could get to where they didn't even seem to like you.
So when this stark contrast becomes a living reality, your natural reaction is to resist it. Where you may have been more inclined to listen and make subtle changes during the early day of marriage, now you find your spouse's disapproval tends to entrench you. Rather than making you want to correct things, it makes you want to dig in even deeper.
Love is too smart for that. Instead of putting your mate in a position to rebel, love teaches you to give them room to be themselves. Marriage is a relationship to be enjoyed and savored along the way. It's a unique friendship designed by God Himself where two people live together in flawed imperfection but deal with it by encouraging each other, not discouraging them.
The Bible says, "Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble" (Isaiah 35.3)
Don't you want married life to be a place where you can enjoy free expression of who you are, growing with a safe environment that encourages you even when you fail? Your spouse does too- and love gives them that privilege. Make a commitment to daily let go of unrealistic expectations and become your spouse's greatest encourager. And the person they're created by God to be will begin to emerge with new confidence and love for you.
Eliminate the poison of unrealistic expectations in your home. Think of one area where your spouse has told you you're expecting too much, and tell them you're sorry for being so hard on them about it. Promise them you'll seek to understand and assure them of your unconditional love.