“My husband is so boring,” I heard a woman say recently. “Why can’t he be more exciting and adventurous? I’d love it if he would just stop being so predictable and plain.”
On the same day, I heard another woman say, “I am so sick of my husband’s need for constant excitement and variety. He wants me to live some kind of exotic and thrilling life with him. I just want to stay home each day and feel safe and secure. Why can’t my husband be satisfied with just a normal life where you work regular hours and spend time in the evenings with your children?”
What if we were able to just love our spouse for who they are, and not for who we wanted them to be? What would happen? What if for one week, each of us chose to unconditionally love our spouses? That’s right…“as is.” What about the fulfillment of our heart’s desires? Well, I guess we’d have to leave that in God’s court. If every married person accepted this challenge, I believe the results of that one week could spark a “marriage revolution.
So often, we go into marriage with the belief that our mate will fill a void in our life. It’s typically not a clearly articulated expectation, but it’s there nonetheless. We hope that our spouse will fully provide the happiness we’re looking for, the excitement we crave, and the security we desire. It’s as though we’re only half a person, and our mate’s job is to complete us. What an unfortunate setup for our spouse. The job would seem overwhelming, unfair, and burdensome. And yet, it seems that far too many people go into marriage with those very expectations.
A couple came to one of our Intensives recently. The husband had just finished his fourth affair. His wife sat in silence while he spoke about his relational needs. His list of needs was so long, that after he was finished, his wife said, “With a list that long, he needs four women!”
The purpose of marriage isn’t to “complete” you and make you happy. You may be happy in your marriage, but that is not the purpose. The beauty of a healthy and honoring Christian marriage is that God can and will fulfill the desires of your heart so that the weight of responsibility doesn’t lie on our spouse’s shoulders. What our spouse provides is an opportunity to grow closer to the image of Christ…whether that be through relational highs or relational lows.
What thrills me as much as seeing couples learn to love and care about one another in meaningful ways, is to see someone get excited about caring about their own heart. When people realize that God is truly able to fulfill the longing in their heart, it empowers them to pursue that avenue on their own. The fear for some in that journey is that the pursuit of God’s fulfillment might mean that their spouse gets off the hook. But when they embrace the new course of direction, they discover that, with God as the primary source, life can be experienced with abundant fulfillment and purpose. And there is a side benefit to both people in the marriage. It frees the one who is released from the obligation to do more than they were designed to do. And it frees the one who is doing the releasing from the burden of trying to control something they can’t have control of.
As you open your heart up to experience the fullness of life through your relationship with God, and others, you will find yourself growing in appreciation rather than resentment for your spouse
Take the one-week challenge. Love God this week with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And choose to love and accept your spouse…unconditionally. No strings attached. Kiss your husband when he walks in the door today. Tell your wife you love her just as she is. Tell your mate “thank you” for his or her hard work to make your life better. Leave out all the things you wish were different. Let’s see what happens. You might even decide that it’s worth doing again…and again.
Copyright © 2013 National Institute of Marriage. Tricia Cunningham is an Intensive Therapist at the National Institute of Marriage. Founded in 2003 and located in Branson Missouri, the National Institute of Marriage provides Intensive Marriage Counseling, Marriage Conferences, and numerous other Resources for Couples.