My weekly Q&A with J posts bring up all kinds of topics. I take a single reader’s question and answer that specific situation as best I can, hoping my advice will enlighten or apply to others as well.
But there’s always that post where you answer one reader, and it brings up the “But why didn’t you say X?” comment from another reader. Well, no one post on my blog covers everything I believe about marriage and sex. Just like you couldn’t possibly have one conversation with someone and cover all of your beliefs about life, the universe, and everything. Plus, I really am trying to answer a specific question as best I can and expect readers to tailor the advice to their specific situation.
Yet I know that I unintentionally strike nerves sometimes, and it got me to thinking about some guiding principles I have when answering reader questions. Perhaps more importantly, my marriage improved when I started using these principles toward my husband.My #marriage improved when I started using these principles toward my husband. Click To Tweet
Don’t assume the worst. If a wife reports that his husband looked at another woman, I don’t assume he’s a cheating jerk. If a husband reports his wife rejected his sexual advances, I don’t assume she’s a frigid, uncaring wife. Or flip-flop those genders, if that’s your situation. Regardless, I try to look at the actual evidence, consider all the possibilities of what’s going on, and give grace where possible.
Most people who read my blog are Christians who love their spouses, but they are imperfect — wounded, clueless, stubborn. They need a wake-up call more than a guilty verdict. The sort of wake-up call God constantly gives His people in the Bible. I assume that we’re all flawed and a bit selfish, but reachable and wanting to hold on to our marriage.
Take responsibility for yourself. I don’t think it will go well for me if I get to Heaven and say to God, “Yes, I was a terrible spouse. But my husband was even worse.” Thankfully, that’s not at all where my marriage is, but you get my point. As I’ve often said, you cannot change your spouse. But you can change yourself and influence your spouse.You cannot change your spouse. But you can change yourself and influence your spouse. Click To Tweet
That’s why my advice often focuses on the person who asked the question and what they can do to improve the situation — even if 89% of the problem is their jerk of a spouse. My answer might be very different if I was talking to the other party involved, but we have to take responsibility for our own actions. Just sitting around and blaming someone else won’t make things better. So I try to address what the individual can do to foster something better in their marriage.
Respect your differences. If I had a dime for every time a wife or husband complained about their spouse’s gender or personality difference, I’d be living in a beach-side house by now. For instance, I get it, ladies: It stinks that your husband has eyeballs that seem to pop when an scandily-clad, extra-curvy woman walks by, but it stinks for him too. Just like it stinks for my husband that I get grumpy at a certain time of the month, but, by golly, PMS isn’t a picnic for me either. Our gender, backgrounds, personalities, and more create challenges for us, because this is an imperfect world.
If lust were no challenge, there wouldn’t be scriptures advising us about it. Just like anger, nagging, complaining, and plenty of other not-fun stuff we can bring into our marriage. Of course we have to fight hard against the enemy and pursue righteousness. But let’s not bury our heads in the sand or make our spouse out to be the enemy.
Once I accepted that some things are just harder for my guy — for instance, seeing the mess — and didn’t take it personally, we could figure out an action plan to deal with the challenges. Respect that your spouse is different, then figure out where the benefits and obstacles of that difference is, and work from there.
Don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 may be the verse we most need to memorize for our marriage: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I don’t know what that harvest looks like, because it may be different from what we expect. God’s blessings come in many different ways. It’s not an absolute guarantee that if you do the right things, your rejecting wife will suddenly greet you at the door naked begging for you to take her right there on the entryway rug. Or that your romantic-clod of a husband will finally “get it” and woo you into a magical, multi-orgasmic sexual experience you’ll never forget. I wish it were that simple.
What I do know is that if you give up on making things better, they’ll never get better. It could be that your “making things better” actually involves backing off a bit, but that’s not the same as surrendering. We all know the difference between stepping back and taking stock of what we’re doing versus that hopeless, it-ain’t-ever-gonna-change-so-why-try feeling.
I’m for doing everything you can think of doing before calling anything quits. Maybe that’s my own stubbornness coming out a bit, but it’s one reason my marriage went from terrible to terrific: I simply refused to give up. Of course, you should be doing the right things — as in righteous things. But I believe in continuing to work on yourself and your marriage and keeping going until the seeds have had time to plant, grow, and harvest. Just as the Bible says.
Do you have any guiding principles that have worked in your marriage, or that you’ve advised for others with their marriage?