In this Marriage UPGRADE, Dianne Barker shares some practical ways to face the things that bother us in our marriages.
“Here’s the big irritation in marriage,” Dianne says. “I don’t like you and I can’t change you.”
That would make me laugh, but I (Dawn) remember a few painful days in my own marriage when I thought that same thing. Haven’t you?
Why would anyone marry a person they don’t like?
During our two-year courtship, love, youth and ignorance hid the “red flags.” Both of us projected our best to impress and please each other. We managed to conceal major flaws all the way to the altar.
Marriage—living together 24/7—exposed our major personality differences, and I noticed James had a few characteristics I didn’t like. I got the impression he didn’t like me so much either.
We grabbed our tools and started to work, thinking we could actually change each other.
I can smile now, sorting through the attic of fifty years of spouse-improvement projects covered with dust. None of my attempts to change my husband worked, nor did his attempts to change me—although both of us had good intentions and determination.
Change came in my life, my marriage and my husband when I set my own heart to seek the Lord and obey Him.
Concentrating on my responsibility—to accept my husband, love and pray for him, and leave the results to God—brought astonishing change … in me. It began with one verse. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
My seeking the Lord has nothing to do with any other person or circumstance. As I learned to apply His Word to my daily walk, I discovered my obedience took care of many issues. My anger is my issue with the Lord. My critical spirit is my issue with the Lord. My stinkin’ attitude is my issue with the Lord.
If my husband has an anger problem, a critical spirit, a stinkin’ attitude, his issues are with the Lord, not me. I can do nothing about that except pray and respond to him in a Christ-like way.
When I became concerned with my individual, personal walk of obedience, I discovered doing what God says not only made me happy but also blessed my marriage. My sole responsibility is pleasing my Father’s heart.
Is your spouse all you desire? You cannot make your husband be kind, ambitious, or skinny. If you’re waiting for him to become all you desire before obeying the Lord, I have bad news. That won’t happen. God calls us to follow him with our whole heart…then He will work.
But you can do something! Pray your spouse into “better.” The Prayer of Jabez is a good place to start: “Bless him a lot today, enlarge his territory, keep your hand on his life, and keep him from evil” (see 1 Chronicles 4:10).
If you really want to change your husband, try these tools.
- Apply your heart unto wisdom (Psalm 90:12).
- Make your focus pleasing God (Psalm 19:14).
- Accept your husband unconditionally and take responsibility for your actions/reactions (Matthew 7:1-5).
- Give what you want to receive. Go first (Matthew 7:12).
- Practice unlimited forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15).
- Forget the past and keep a forward focus (Philippians 3:13-14).
- Let “covering” love become a habit (1 Peter 4:8).
Marriage is a marathon. Finish well!
Which tool will you begin using today to change your marriage?
Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media. (Post adapted from Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, available soon at www.diannebarker.com)
Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.