By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
I remember the day I realized my marriage wasn’t all about me.
I’m embarrassed to say that for the first 15 years of our marriage, I never really thought too much about what my husband needed in a wife…but I thought quite a bit about what I needed in a husband and how he was falling short of my expectations.
I hadn’t put my own feelings aside long enough to say “God, show me why you brought me into this man’s life and how I can truly help him be all that You created him to be.” I hadn’t put myself on the shelf long enough to see the bigger, more beautiful picture of what God has in mind when He brings two people, who are very different from each other, together to form a union.
Now that I’ve been married for more than 30 years, I’ll be the first to admit it’s tough to leave self on the shelf. Self wants to rule. Self wants its own way. Self suffocates. And self destroys.
Yet, successful and satisfying marriages are all about humbling yourself and loving your spouse as Christ loves you.
Scripture exhorts us in Philippians 2:3-4 to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (NASB).
That’s a recipe on humility and it’s a key to making your marriage better.
Today, instead of praying for my spouse to meet my needs, I ask God to show me how I can meet my husband’s. Instead of looking at his short-comings, I must ask God to expose to me my own.
Instead of focusing on my desires, I remind myself to pray about how I can meet his. And doing this not only gave me grace to extend to his weaknesses (as I became more aware of my own) but it changed my heart. And our marriage.
It can change yours, too. Here are four ways to become a humble spouse and, as a result, reap a closer connection in your marriage:
1. Practice Selfless Love
The Bible describes love in 1 Corinthians 13 as selfless--the complete opposite of what selfishness looks like: “Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick-tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!” (verses 13:4-8a CEV).
Sometimes our marriages can look the opposite of the biblical description of love. We can be unkind, impatient, jealous, boastful, proud and even rude! There are times my husband and I are quick-tempered with each other. And God knows there are times we keep records of the wrongs done to us by one another.
But recognizing what we don’t want our relationship to look like is one of the key steps to walking together toward a newer, fresher, lovelier one.
When you are tempted to do something not on the 1 Corinthians 13 list of love characteristics, ask God to help you practice selfless love.
2. Focus on Improving Your Intimacy with Christ
It’s humbling to admit our spouse isn’t the one who needs to change, we are. And yet, it’s very possible both of you need to change. But when you take that first step in asking God to change you, you are humbly setting a pattern in which, prayerfully, your spouse will follow suit.
As you and I grow more intimate with Christ, we let our spouses off the hook to have to be our everything. When we find joy, rest, security, and peace in our relationship with Christ, our demands on our spouses become fewer because we no longer expect them to be our god.
Your spouse is designed to be your lover, friend, ministry partner. The intimacy in your relationship with your spouse can be healthier when you pursue intimacy with Christ first over trying to squeeze every ounce of life out of your spouse to make you feel like the two of you are intimate.
As you each work on growing more intimate with Christ you will likely find you are more intimate with each other.
Some spouses naturally look to one another for their affirmation, sense of worth, and validation as a man or woman. But your spouse can only give so much. You and I must look to God, our Heavenly Father, for our security, purpose, affirmation, sense of worth, and validation. As we become certain of who we are in God’s eyes, we won’t depend on our spouses to fill our soul hole.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Prostock-Studio
3. Admit Your Brokenness and That Only God Can Heal You
Marriage is tough. Especially because it amounts to two broken people living together under one roof. We often react the way we do to each other out of our pain. Certain words or situations will trigger pain in us and we end up reacting defensively or even accusingly toward our spouse.
We sometimes interpret our spouse’s words or actions from a deep place of pain and then what may have just been considered a “misdemeanor” in our minds becomes a felony. But that is living life out of a brokenness we need to take to God to heal.
Scripture tells us “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In other words, we are all broken. When we realize our spouse is not our enemy (our own brokenness is), we can take that deep place of hurt--which results in feelings of insecurity, fear of abandonment, feelings of not measuring up--and give it to God so that we don’t keep responding to our spouse out of our woundedness.
Sometimes it starts with the humble prayer: “God, heal that part of me that reacts to my spouse out of my pain.” As we sense God meeting our emotional needs, we can turn our behavior toward encouraging and helping our spouse, rather than hurting them.
4. Practice Saying “Not My Will, but Yours”
We can humbly become part of God’s work in our spouse’s life when we say “God, not what I need, but what my spouse needs. Use me to build up and encourage my spouse and make them the person you want them to be.”
When we say “Not what I need, but what my spouse needs” we are, in a sense, imitating Jesus’ prayer shortly before going to the cross, in which He said to His Father: “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:39). Jesus was literally giving up His life for ours. So can we, then, be willing to give up our own comforts, needs, and expectations for the other?
There is no more direct way to draw your spouse’s heart toward yours than to die to self and humbly say “not my will, but yours” to your husband or wife. Some practical ways to express that to your spouse include saying:
- “Not my choice of a restaurant tonight, but yours.”
- “Not my choice of a movie this time, but yours.”
- “Not my night to have uninterrupted sleep, but yours.”
- “Not my story to dominate the conversation, but yours.”
- “Not my dream to pursue right now, but yours.”
As you develop a habit of putting your spouse first, you may be surprised to find that the phrase eventually becomes “not my ______, but ours.”
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Kiwis
Cindi McMenamin is a national women’s conference speaker and mom who has been married 32 years to her husband, Hugh–a pastor and introvert. She is the author of several books including When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, When Couples Walk Together (which she co-authored with Hugh), and 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband, in which Hugh offers some interesting and eye-opening insights for wives and extroverts. For more on her resources to strengthen your individual walk with God, your marriage, and your parenting, see her website,www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.