You and your spouse are both uniquely one-of-a-kind, wonderfully made, and immensely valuable.
Could you say this about your spouse at the moment? Did you believe it when you first committed to doing life together? Do you still believe it now? Especially if you’re in the middle of a grinding-it-out season in your marriage?
We were stuck going nowhere
When it feels like you just can’t get on the same page, it’s easy to lose track of why you chose to spend your life with this person in the first place.
One afternoon— when my husband Carey and I were experiencing a hard season in our marriage— I turned into our driveway and came face to face with a shocking sight. The right side of our driveway was supported by a retaining wall and Carey’s Mazda was precariously perched part-way over the retaining wall, the car’s underside resting on the curb. The back tires were in free air.
My first thought? This is a picture of my life. How our car ended up there, I could only imagine. Probably Carey was running out to his event, rushed, distracted and not paying attention. He went over the edge, and to me that day, the car’s resulting position was an apt picture of our marriage. We both felt stuck.
We were blind to the goodness in each other
In that season of our marriage, we both knew our relationship wasn’t working, but we didn’t know how to move forward. The truth is, Carey had and still has many amazing qualities— he’s a loving father, a gifted leader and communicator, and an attuned team member. But during the dark days of our relationship, it was hard for me to even see the positive.
All I saw was the Mazda dangling over the curb, along with all that seemed chaotic and broken about our relationship.
Even though we would both have agreed with what King David wrote: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful…” (Psalm 139:14), we had lost sight of how this was true of each other. We couldn’t see past each other’s weaknesses while we were struggling. We were essentially blind to the goodness in the other person and found ourselves stuck as a result.
Your spouse is wonderfully different
Maybe the ways you’ve both responded to your differences have been natural or explainable, but have also been counterproductive. You desire a soul mate, but you may seriously doubt your spouse’s ability to assist you at all with self-expression or personal growth. Your partner’s outlook is just so different from yours.
Can you recount the ways your spouse is ‘wonderfully made’? While you’re at it, can you recount the ways you are, too?
What if you were able to see the differences between you and your partner not as deficiencies but as purposeful designs? What if your spouse isn’t tragically or defectively different from you, but wonderfully different? What if the next step on your journey of moving closer together lies in setting your narratives and your broken selves aside, and allowing your souls to really see and appreciate the inherent value in each other?
This may be a mindset shift you have to sit with. It may take a lot of patience, self-examination, wisdom-seeking, counsel, and time to shift your focus away from your partner’s faults and weaknesses and toward all the ways they reflect God’s image.the inherent worthiness of your partner.
Pay attention to positive vs. negative communication
Start by paying attention to how much positive versus negative communication you’re expressing and receiving.
Researcher Dr. Brent J. Atkinson has studied how using positive messages can help build a stronger relationship. He highlights the importance of a 5:1 ratio of positivity to negativity in a successful marriage. This means a spouse should express appreciation, affirmation, or another positive emotion (which includes flirting and sharing affection) five times for every one complaint or criticism.
For Carey and I, focusing on the good in each of us was an important part of repairing our emotional intimacy and transforming our marriage. We also learned that part of turning us around involved curbing the flow of negative communication and steering more toward the positive.
If you’re not really in the mood to affirm your partner while you’re struggling with each other, I get it. Maybe like our suspended Mazda tires, you feel like there’s no traction. For Carey and I, by the grace of God, that feeling passed over time. Prayerfully and intentionally shift your thoughts about your spouse. Even admire out loud their in-born strengths and admirable qualities. We’re believing with you that your persistence will pay off.
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?