The world touts marriage as a 50/50 contract with each partner giving half and meeting in the middle. Splitting household tasks and separating bank accounts is the norm. Each spouse expects the other one to do their fair share of the physical and relational work of the marriage or the deal is off.
But God says no.
Marriage is a covenant bond where each one gives 100% more than the other deserves because that’s what Christ did for us.
We know this to be true, but the actual doing of it goes against our natural, carnal instincts. We want our husbands to be strong emotionally, grow spiritually, and make our lives easier. And if this isn’t happening fast enough for us, we certainly don’t want to be the only one making personal sacrifices in our marriage.
We want a peaceful, Christ-centered marriage where we handle our differences with grace and forgiveness, but it seems so far away. What can we do?
When we see glaring selfishness, irresponsibility, and stubbornness in our men, the last thing we wives feel like doing is working on our own sins and leaving theirs for God to handle alone.
As a wife, you have great influence over your husband, but you only have the power to change yourself.
If you try to control your husband and force changes that fit your time table and ideals, it will only backfire. Men don’t like to be coerced and God didn’t give you that authority anyway.
But why do I have to be the one to change first? you say. After all, he’s the one causing me heartache and his sin is much worse than mine.
I know this rant because this was my reasoning not that long ago.
The biggest barriers I had in making selfless changes were my own:
- Self-righteous sense of justice
By cleaving to these ungodly traits, I inadvertently allowed Satan’s ways to breed more of the same ugliness in my marriage.
I was blinded by my own sense of justice and fair play, refusing to change my ways or look deep within myself because my eyes were focused on my husband’s faults, my husband’s sins against me, and not on my own.
I wouldn’t give up my own selfishness, irresponsibility, and stubbornness, partly because I didn’t see it in myself and partly because I didn’t think it was fair I had to do the hard work while I could see no changes in my husband.
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What about him?
When your husband yells at you for forgetting something important but then turns around and forgets to do something that’s important to you, it can be incredibly difficult not to lash back, point fingers, and refuse to forgive.
Satan loves this because it keeps the conflict going and stagnates any forward progress for peace and spiritual maturity.
Apologizing, giving a hug, reaching out with a gentle touch, when we’re angry or hurt, all these things are far from our minds. What we really want to do is withhold touch, mope, refrain from speaking, and never say we’re sorry because, after all, it’s his fault why we’re here in this awful place of contention anyway.
Does this sound like you, dear wife?
“Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” John 21:21-22
Just like Peter spoke on the shores of Tiberias, we, too, are concerned with the other guy’s responsibilities, aren’t we? We want him to do his fair share. We don’t want the spotlight to be on us and what we ought to do.
But God expects us to do the right thing no matter what others do. He wants us to look within ourselves and choose His righteousness, not wait till the other guy (our spouse) makes the first move.
So what are the benefits of working on your shortcomings when you don’t see your husband doing anything toward spiritual improvement?
- You learn to trust God with every aspect of your life.
- Your children see a good example of humility and sacrificial love.
- Your marriage, over time, will be blessed by your obedience.
- God promises to reward the faithful. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9
Because even if your husband never changes, dear wife, the choice to follow God will impact the future of your children, your marriage, and your spiritual life for the better.
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Why you should make the first move?
Going first when it doesn’t seem fair is the first step to learning to forgive without conditions. (Aren’t you glad Christ didn’t wait for us to change before He gave up His life to save ours?)
Going first when it feels wrong to your angry, spiteful self, utilizes the power of God to make things right. It takes the conflict out of the enemy’s hands and gives it to God. It starts the healing process and prevents more damage to an already tender marriage.
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
When you make the first move toward grace and forgiveness—not waiting until you feel justified, or hear an apology—you start a healthy cycle of putting your husband and marriage ahead of your feelings. You put your husband’s and children’s spiritual well-being ahead of your desires to win an argument, to be vindicated, to be “right”.
Making the first move to repent of your faults when you see your husband’s glaring ones is painful, dear wife, I know, but it’s also the right thing to do.
It was the turning point for my marriage.
Without my insistence that my husband change his ways first, I gave my husband the freedom to work on his own sins guided by God and not the nagging voice of his wife.
I learned to stop complaining about all my husband wasn’t doing and make that first step toward brotherly kindness thanking him for what he was doing. I learned to smile instead of sigh, reach out instead of hold back.
This is what makes the difference between a marriage that stagnates under discontent and blame and one that blooms under the righteousness of God.
God will bless your efforts, dear wife, with the kind of marriage you’ve hoped for when you chose to make the first move toward selflessness and godly love.
About the Writer, Gleniece Lytle
Gleniece Lytle has been married for 35 years. She’s glad she finally yielded to God and put her husband and marriage first.
She lives on a remote, desert homestead in Arizona where she home schools her children and grows herbs in her garden.
Gleniece writes about contentment, godly marriage, loneliness, and biblical truth on her blog, Desert Rain. She also sends out a monthly newsletter called Abide & Blossom to encourage the weary Christian woman to flourish despite the droughts of life.