There are tons of marriage counseling, or even self help books that focus on building better relationships. Considering that I have not read even half of whats on the market, the free 5 minute advice that I received my mother in-law is still worth its weight in gold.
“Do not expect much from your spouse….”
Right out the gate that sounds like you should just give up and accept what is. Pretty much.
But only in the area of nagging your spouse to change certain habits that you’re not fond of, such as the the infamous toilet seat position. However, I do believe if you have dated for a sufficient amount of time, a couple of years or so, you would have discovered if their standards are in sync with yours and if their habits are worth putting up with in the long term. But if dating doesn’t reveal any yet-to-be discovered habits, as long as they are not too severe, don’t allow them to become fuel for arguments. Remember that your marriage is a commitment for better or worse, and patience is a daily requirement. Most of the “little battles” are not worth the effort of fighting over. That’s not to say that suddenly you have Vulcan abilities to not feel emotion for anything that disturbs you. Its understandable to feel frustrated and you may need to vent. How you go about venting your frustrations, hopefully in a healthy way for both parties involved, makes a huge difference in a relationship.
*Of course this statement does not mean in anyway that if you are suddenly suffering from physical or unhealthy substance abuse you just have to sit there and take it. By all means separate yourself and your kids from that environment and seek help.
“….but expect great things from God.”
I was then further instructed not to get stuck in the “Why Me?” rut, but to ask “What should I do, God.” Immediately this turns the attention away from wallowing in self loathing or I can’t believe I married into this/revenge party. It should put your focus back towards God…Proactively. Before you met your spouse, you were an individual and responsible for your actions before God. Nothing has changed that much since becoming married. You still are responsible for how YOU respond to things.
No type of upset should keep us from seeking God daily. He is the source of our strength. Without Him we do not have the patience necessary to continuously deal with our spouse and their mistakes. God encourages us in Galatians 6:9-10, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” And for those times when our frustrations overwhelm us He calls us, as written in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you WILL find rest for your souls.”
Take what the Bible says to heart and apply it to your marriage circumstances. However, do not use it to beat up your spouse with scripture taken out of context just to suit your purposes. This can happen all too easily, usually resulting in more problems. Allow God’s word to work in YOU first, and continue to pray for your spouse. Pray for them even when you have nothing to vent about. Remember, God has great plans for both of you.
Having wise counsel
Lastly, this grand revelation could not have happened without having a person in my life that I can trust to talk to openly. Meaning that this isn’t a one sided, spill to your friends, gossip fest that probably won’t end in prayer for a stronger relationship. It is a GREAT asset to have a faithful friend that will point you in the right direction, be there to pray for you, call to check up on you, really sympathize with you from experience and not just tell you what you want to hear. I greatly appreciate and respect my mother in-laws advice, largely because it is grounded in biblical wisdom. I cannot help but be reminded of Titus 2:3-5, which reads:
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”
It is crucial to know that marriage is a covenant relationship not only made between you and your spouse, but before God. If you are not right in your own relationship with God, and knowing Christ as your savior, how can you expect your marriage to work on a daily basis?
Christ’s selfless sacrifice and submission to do his heavenly Father’s will for OUR sakes, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is an example not only for marriage but in daily living. We MUST trust HIm with our relationships. Our spouses are capable of sin just as much as the next person, ourselves included. Ultimately, we need to depend on God and His word for a daily renewing of our hearts.