What’s a spouse to do when her marriage is flying on one wing?
Two weeks ago I wrote about submission in marriage, specifically what it’s not.
Last week we looked at the husband’s role in marriage. And today I want us to look at what to do when your spouse isn’t doing their part.
God truly intended for submission and leadership to work together.
He created marriage to be a place of unity, where two people work and pull together in the same direction, giving 101% to the relationship.
However, not all spouses have embraced their God-assigned responsibilities. So many marriages are flying on one wing.
If you have embraced your role in marriage and are desperate for your spouse to embrace theirs, a few thoughts to help you move forward;
1. Understand you cannot change your spouse.
I used to think that if I tried hard enough, I could change my husband.
One day God clued me in on something; how He loved me so much that sent His Son to die on my behalf.
But even after such a big sacrifice, He could not force the free gift of salvation on me.
Salvation is something I have to accept; in other word’s I have to use my will and say “yes”.
In the same way, your spouse will have to make the changes they need themselves.
You can’t guilt them, intimidate or manipulate them to change.
You can (should) communicate your heart and discuss areas you’d like to see growth and change.
But you can’t make them be what you desire them to be, even if it’s for their own good.
2. Be honest with yourself
In the past I’ve struggled with being a workaholic and a people-pleaser.
And when I got married, I wanted my husband to be like me. I was terrified when it became apparent he was nothing like me and did not care for my people pleasing “ethics”.
He’s a laid back man who doesn’t lose sleep over what people think or what work didn’t get finished.
Over time God began to help me to turn inward first before trying to rain fires of judgement on him.
When you think or it appears as if your spouse is not doing their part, you must pull up on your own driveway first, before you pull up your husband’s and try to call him out.
Ask yourself hard questions, “Is something really wrong with them or am I just looking at things using the wrong lenses?”
“Am I just reacting based off my own fears?”
“Am I trying to dictate the kind of relationship they should have with the Lord? What have I done/not done that may have influenced their behavior?”
Now that latter part, it’s not meant to shift blame & responsibility. But to help you see areas you need to work on yourself.
3. Pray and release your spouse to God.
This should really be #1 but I thought it’s important to have clarity on the first two areas to avoid sliding into “change-him/her-for-me” prayer.
When praying for a spouse who’s abandoned their responsibility in marriage, the tendency is to stick to a self-centered script.
We feel the pain, inconvenience and frustration of their “irresponsibility” and we want it to stop.
So we pray to God to change them so that we can be comfortable.
I’ve found that the most effective prayer originates from a place of sincerity and security in God.
A place devoid of expectations, where I’ve released my spouse from a long list of “to-be” or “to-do”. A place filled with agape love and repentance of my own sin (fear, lack of faith, anger).
4. Go the extra mile
God’s grace is sufficient to help us become what He’s called us to be, even when we are living through imperfect moments.
In going the extra mile in marriage, we are acknowledging Who we are ultimately submitting to; God, not man.
God does not necessarily give us time-frames when we pray for something. He may answer today or in 22 years time.
Our greatest aspiration, no matter what we go through in life must be to please God and to do His will.
We must come to that place where we trust Him completely, and stop looking out for #1 (us). For God is faithful.
5. Even with outside help, remember you still have to work it out.
Early in marriage, I would get really upset when a situation we’d received counseling on ended up taking longer to resolve.
In my mind, getting counseling equaled immediate solution. It took a while to understand that counseling marked the beginning of actual work.
Counseling gave us a fresh perspective but we still had to go home and work out the issues.
As work through your challenges, keep the right perspective and attitude. You can’t sit back, you can’t make demands.
You can’t hurry up the process. You have to stay engaged, humble, pliable and willing to learn.
6. Continue to do your part.
You can’t stop leading because she won’t submit. You can’t stop submitting because he won’t lead.
Continue to do your part even when your spouse is not doing theirs.
Keep in mind that imperfect situations do not excuse you from taking up our responsibilities.
Your faithfulness in difficult times can win the heart of your spouse. It’s actually one of the ways through which God might reach out and change the situation.
Sure it will be harder to follow when you feel you are getting the short end of the stick.
That’s why you have God. As you trust Him and lean on Him, He will give you the grace, ability and wisdom to do your part and build your marriage.
7. Appreciate the little steps
As you work through the challenges, be swift to notice growth and improvement and quick to let go of slights and setbacks.
Feelings eventually follow our mind and will. So lead your feelings, don’t allow them to lead you.
Don’t skimp on appreciation simply because you don’t feel like it.
Appreciating your spouse’s efforts encourages them to try again.
Also work on noticing and celebrating other areas of marriage that are working.
Building up your friendship, do things together, enjoy each other and celebrate and notice what is working!
Focus on the positive things in your marriage, not just the negative.
As you enjoy life and yourselves, it becomes easier to resolve issues and challenges.
8. Don’t quit.
Someone has to be rooting for the health of your marriage! Don’t give up!
And don’t shove things under the carpet either!
Continue to ask God to give you the right words, the right time, the right place to share your heart. Keep the issue alive, don’t let it slip away.
There’s no neutral place in marriage. You are either moving forward – working on issues, growing, enjoying each other – or drifting backward/apart – “letting go” and “letting things be”.
My friend Floyd Samons says “Passion is king and perseverance is queen”
You have to be persistent and not easily give up. Cos the Creator of marriage is on your side! He hasn’t given up on you!
I know there are no easy solutions
I know that there are no easy solutions to complex marital challenges.
My prayer and hope, in writing this 3-part series is to help you think outside the box and find some nuggets to help and strengthen your marriage. (Don’t forget to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series)
Question – Do you have additional thoughts? We’d love to hear them in Comments below.
Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash