"The greatest favor we can ever bestow on our spouses is to turn our expectations of them on ourselves. In other words, instead of longing for an ideal mate, become one."
- Glenda Revell
Isn't this a great reminder? How easy it is to fall into a rut or a funk... or both!... and begin to disparage our husbands, finding fault with all kinds of little things. A number of years ago, I made a conscious decision to practice using kind and uplifting words when speaking about my husband to other people. I had read Elizabeth George's wonderful book, A Woman After God's Own Heart, (a FAVORITE book of mine and one I re-read every couple of years or so) and in it she said,
"I have very few 'never's' in my life, but one primary 'never' is never speak critically or negatively about my husband to anyone. I try instead to practice the wise advice of a dear and godly saint at our church. Loretta smiles and sweetly coos, 'Ladies, never pass up an opportunity to bless your husband in public.' (And, I would add, don't forget to bless him to his face as well!)
George has much more to say on the topic of marriage in her book, but WOW, what if we really practiced just this one thing? I'm not going to pretend I'm perfect at this practice, but it is something I aim to do, something the Holy Spirit convicted me about and, I might add, continues to convict me right away if I slip up. Rest assured, I am thankful for the reminder. I do not begrudge the practice, but instead press on, like the Apostle Paul, toward a goal that is dear to me.
So maybe you've conquered speaking negatively in public, but the grouchy, grumpy thoughts arrive. Perhaps we've not had enough sleep or we're a bit hormonal - ahem. I know that when the negative thoughts begin to pile up, it's time to take action. Sometimes, the action I need to take is to speak kindly to him (see Ephesians 4:15) about whatever is bothering me. But more often, I need to take action with myself.
In Lynn Bowen Walker's super fun book, Queen of the Castle: 52 Weeks of Encouragement for the Uninspired, Domestically Challenged or Just Plain Tired Homemaker, she shares this memory,
"The best marriage advice I ever received came twenty years ago from a friend. It was just a few weeks after my wedding, and Andrea and I had gotten together for a game of tennis on the college campus where I'd recently graduated. After our game, I must have been telling her that marriage was harder than I'd thought. That was when she said something I have never forgotten.
'Have your ever thought about the difference between goals and desires?' she asked me. 'Your desire may be to have a happy marriage. But you can't control that; that takes two people. The only thing you can control,' she said, 'is you. So even though your desire is to have a happy marriage, you have to make it your goal to be a good wife.'
As our conversation progressed, this wise and godly friend encouraged me not to worry about whether I thought my new husband was doing a good job. The only job description I should be concerned with was my own. Was I being a good wife?
This was a new way of looking at things. Suddenly I saw that I didn't need to 'fix' my husband. If I was to be concerned with anyone's 'fixing,' it ought to be my own."
We must realize, of course, that the only person we can ever change is ourselves. If I was forced to change to meet the demands of my husband, or anyone really, it would not be authentic change and instead, there would be a growing seed of resentment from within. This is not what we want for ourselves and it is not what we want to be inflicting on our relationships either.
When ready to complain to yourself or others about your guy, see if you can stop a moment and do the opposite. This is good advice for almost any knee-jerk response we are bound to have, because that type of response is coming from our fallen humanity. Christ turns almost everything on its head: He did not follow the letter of the law, but instead fulfilled it; He did not come to be a conquering king, but a Servant King; He taught not to hit back, but to instead turn the other cheek.
So, try blessing instead of cursing. No, it's not easy, but that's why the road is called "narrow." BUT doing things God's way ALWAYS leads to blessing in one way or another and you just may be amazed at what trying things His way will lead to.