My email inbox, as well as my Facebook messages box, gets filled from time to time with messages from people asking for help with their marriage problems. I’m always willing to help, as I believe God has equipped me to do just that. But sometimes there isn’t much I can do to help.
It’s not that the problem is too big to fix, it’s the perception of the problem. Many times the spouse reaching out for help is not really reaching out for help. They’re reaching out to vent about what they believe to be the source of all their marriage problems — their spouse!
So, if that is you, my advice is to stop it. Your spouse is not the source of all your problems. I know he/she is not perfect, I know he/she probably has some real issues, but you probably do too. And focusing on those problems is not going to lead you to a better marriage. Which, I hope, is what you want.
The real source of your marriage problems
Every single married couple has some sort of problems — none of us are immune. And every one of us has the same root problem. The problem is every marriage pairs two individual people (both with their own baggage, perceptions, expectations, and sin) together in a relationship where they are to function as one.
Two sinners, two messed up people, two self-focused individuals becoming one. Just issues waiting to be exposed. If one or both spouses are only focused on the issues in the other then you get frustration, blowups, and venting like the messages I receive.
The real solution to your marriage problems
As I said, there is no problem too big in your marriage. But what do you do? What is my advice to the spouse who emails me venting about their spouse and what they will or won’t do?
A better question — cause I hold myself accountable and don’t pretend to be perfect, or even great in this area — is…
What has worked for me and my marriage that will work for you and your marriage?
Here are five things you must do when you think your spouse is the problem:
- Quit focusing on what he/she is doing or not doing. Take the focus off your spouse. If you are already frustrated and you look long enough you will find something else wrong. I know the issue is there, but take your focus off it.
- Think about something good about your spouse. Does your spouse do anything good or right? Yes, of course! Put your focus on this to help you view your spouse in a different light. What you focus on will come out in your words and actions toward your spouse. Let’s not add to the problem with negative words or actions.
- Focus on what only you can do to make things better. The emails I get express a desire to have their spouse change. You cannot change your spouse, their words, or their actions. But you can change yourself and what you do/say. This has way more potential to change your marriage. So, ask yourself what you can do to make this better.
- Have a conversation with your spouse. Marriages break down due to lack of communication. Many times our spouse doesn’t even know the issue or at least know how it makes us feel. Discuss the issue, discuss how it makes you feel, and discuss what you (not your spouse) is willing to do to get a better result.
- Get some help from someone else. We talk about the impact mentors and friends have had on our marriage. There have been many times we’ve needed someone else to listen to us, provide insight, or just encourage us through. You need couples like this in your marriage.
The benefits of taking the focus off your spouse
When you take this approach to conflict resolution and problem-solving in your marriage, you open the door to peace in your marriage. Your communication with your spouse will improve when you look inside first, and you will get that deep connection you’ve always dreamed of.
And I believe those things that used to frustrate you so much about your spouse will no longer impact you like they used to. Your spouse will go from the source of all your problems to the source of your joy and love in your marriage.