I've been making my way through a plethora of marriage books as we begin premarital counseling. Among the masses, I'm currently working my way through "Happily Ever After" by Gary Chapman. The first section was about constructive arguing--a topic for another post at another time! I just started the second part, and had to laugh that the first pages were about this idea of 'wishing he would change.' You'll appreciate the humor more when I tell you that a friend and I were just discussing that very thing this morning! Funny how God does that...gives you His two cents after you've tried to work through your own two cents.
What should we do about desiring to change things in our significant other? We of course want our relationship to be successful. We desire both of us to become better people. God is continually working in us and changing us into the men and women we're supposed to be. But is it our job to ask him or her to change?
As women, the majority of us are very introspective. Being emotional allows us to understand what's going through our heads and our hearts as different situations arise. We also understand that due to the differences between men and women, we can't really expect men to know what we're thinking. The female brain is known for being a great mystery. So we take matters into our own hands and set about trying to educate them. "What I really need you to do is _____." "If you would just ______ I'd be happier." "It would mean a lot if you _____." Do I think it's a bad thing to do this? Not necessarily, but I think it's important to recognize your motivation for doing so, to take care in your approach, and to know when it's time to stop and allow the Holy Spirit to work.
Sound good so far; sum it up for me, Tabitha!
1. Understand you and your significant other are not perfect and never will be on this earth. You're not a perfect person, I'm not a perfect person, and anyone you build a relationship with is not going to be either. It's not about finding the perfect person; it's about finding someone who's willing and committed to working through the imperfections as a team.
2. God asks you to examine yourself first. Maybe it's an attitude or an unfair expectation. Maybe it's demanding your significant other give you something you desire when you haven't followed through with his request from you. God has no problem revealing to us what needs change if we are willing to put aside our pride and humbly ask Him to show us. (Psalm 139:23-24 is a good place to start with that prayer!) Also remember that our personal issues do not depend on someone else's actions. If God asks you to be more respectful to authority, you don't get to say "I'd be more respectful, if my boss would just acknowledge my efforts once in a while." It's not about the other person. It's about you. Along the same lines, it is not our job to convict others; that is the job of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us to take the log out of our own eye before pointing out the splinter in another's eye. I believe this desire to change someone pertains to that. God asks us to work on our own imperfections first.
3. Instead of focusing on how they can better love you, focus on how you can better love them. I don't know about you, but I've seen that when someone does something nice for me--gives me a compliment, buys me a little gift, encourages me--then my natural response is to reciprocate that.
4. Rely on God to fill your needs. Are you investing in a relationship with the Lord? Or are you simply waiting around for your someone special to meet your needs? If it's the latter, I want to encourage you that there is no one in the world that can fulfill ALL your desires more completely than the Lord. He knows you inside and out--better than any other human EVER could, and His heart is so full of love for you that He would do ANYTHING for you! (And He already did on the cross!) I believe God longs to spend time with us, to encourage us, to hold us, to help us see ourselves the way that He sees us. Are you allowing Him to do so?
5. After doing the above things, I think it's okay to present a request--but it is just that: a request. It is not a time for criticism or demands or manipulation. Saying "I hate how you never acknowledge me during the day," is not helpful or loving. It will also most likely put him on the defense. Instead, approach with kindness, "I loved that text you sent me yesterday while you were at work to let me know that you were thinking about me. I was having a rough day, and it meant so much. I was walking on clouds the rest of the afternoon!" Ask yourself, 'How would I like this to be presented to me if we had swapped places?' The Golden Rule is key. It's also important not to keep nagging if we don't see the results we desired. Nagging communicates disrespect and tells him that we think he's a failure--that he can't do it on his own, and he has to have our help. This is not a parent-child relationship.
6. Pray for him. Prayer changes things. Ultimately, your significant other is not in your hands, (which is probably a good thing!). Let God be in charge of his life. God cares about him even more than you do.
My pastor and his family live by the motto 'Expect nothing, appreciate everything." I come back to that over and over again. Choose to live with appreciation for the things he does right, instead of always nitpicking what he could be doing better.
I don't write this post because I've figured it all out or because I do all these things perfectly. I write this because I was reminded today that God has taught me things and given me wisdom that is meant to be shared, not kept to myself. I'm blessed to be marrying a man who is very kind with me in presenting his requests. It is my hope and prayer that I can return the favor. I join you in this journey of trusting God to change me to be the woman He created me to be.