Advocates – not Adversaries
Some of you have healthy, vibrant, joy-filled marriages that are a great source of security and love in your life. It’s not perfect, but it sure is good! If so, please consider finding another couple or two to mentor. Believe me, some couple out there could really use your encouraging example. Others reading this post are not so content. Your marriage has sadly become a source of discouragement and pain, and you aren’t sure what to do, or even how you got here. If you find yourself in this group, or even just need a boost to a good marriage – read on (then pass it on to someone else).
Most of us did a great job being a loving, supportive, encourager to our spouse back in the days of dating, courtship, and engagement. Everything was so fresh and new, and your sweetheart just seemed so perfect and easy to serve wholeheartedly. You felt compelled to do kind, loving, encouraging things for this wonderful person who could make you feel good with simply a word or a smile. Then you got married, saw the real-life unedited version of one another, disappointed each other and hurt each other a few times, and suddenly it wasn’t so easy to focus on blessing them. You started putting more and more energy into protecting and defending yourself. Before you knew what happened, you had become an adversary of your imperfect spouse, rather than an advocate of your beloved sweetheart. Following is a very simple explanation of what leads to being either an adversary or an advocate to your mate:
When you spend your time and energy being concerned with what your spouse has done, is doing, or might do to offend you – you automatically put yourself in a role of adversary toward your spouse! Who wants that?!! Who wants to have their own husband or wife as their number one enemy? No one that I know. It’s miserable to be on either side of this equation. No one wants to be attacked (verbally or otherwise) by their mate. At the same time, no one likes realizing that your own spouse is guarding him/her self against you. This thought pattern keeps you stuck in a cycle of blame, defensiveness, sarcasm, pain, and retreat. Some of you know all too well the painful daily existence of living in a relationship pattern like this. So, what is the antidote? How do you turn this ship around, especially if you have spent years caught in this cycle?
Retrain yourself to spend your time and energy being concerned with what you can do to bless your spouse, and you will eventually become your spouse’s greatest advocate! Now that sounds better, doesn’t it?!! Don’t we all want someone that believes in us, encourages us, protects us, and loves us? Especially our spouse. So, what does it mean to “bless” your spouse? It means simply this – doing what you know will make her or his life better. It means encouraging your husband who is frustrated and angry. It means being kind to your wife who is saying things that are anything but kind. It means making your home a place of refuge where your mate knows it is safe to be open and honest. It means making the effort to find out what your spouse really enjoys, then doing your best to offer that – even if it is awkward for you.
You may find yourself thinking, “But my spouse doesn’t deserve blessings from me right now! You don’t understand how badly he/she has hurt me!” Well, I may not know you or your spouse, but I’m guessing you are probably right. Your spouse has disappointed you, hurt you, or even attacked you. If so, they don’t deserve an attitude of blessings from you. But guess what – you don’t deserve it either! How many times have you disappointed, hurt, or even attacked them through your words, actions, and body language? Yet, despite your own failings, you want your spouse to be kind, loving, and encouraging to you. If that is what you want, I suggest you take the lead. This change of attitude and perspective – what I would call a heart change – is very simple in concept, yet very challenging to live. But believe me, it is so worth it!
If this all seems vaguely familiar to you, perhaps you are thinking back to your childhood days when someone taught you “The Golden Rule.” You aren’t in kindergarten anymore, but it is still the best way to live – in marriage, and every other relationship in your life.
If you need help making this adjustment in your mind and heart, give me a call at 387-2287, and I would be glad to work with you in person. In addition, I would highly recommend Gary Chapman’s excellent book – “The Five Love Languages,” as well as a forthcoming book by Hal Edward Runkel – “ScreamFree Marriage.” (Check www.screamfree.com for details. I am confident from reading his previous book, hearing him make his seminar presentation, and our personal conversations that this book will be a powerful tool to revolutionize your marriage.) For other helpful resources, try some of the links on my page or check out my section on recommended reading. Feel free to email me with specific questions – Roger@hopeforyoufamily.com.