“Be the change you want to see in your marriage.”
The other day, in an all-women’s Bible class, the teacher voiced this quote. I’m pretty sure she adapted it from a quote we all attribute to Gandhi (though he didn’t say it), a quote which got popular during a certain political election–but I loved it.
Especially in this context.
It’s something I’ve talked about on my blog a bit and I believe it with all my heart.
If you want your spouse or your marriage to change, change yourself. You can’t make your spouse, or anybody for that matter, do anything. You have to make a change first, and most likely, your spouse will change too. He or she will see your example, see the benefits of the change, and want to do the same. Even if only subconsciously at first.
If you change your attitude, improve the way you talk to your spouse, and show respect, he or she will begin to warm up to you more, like you better, and enjoy being around you again.
Or at least I hope so.
It’s kind of hard not to like someone who’s being loving and respectful. Therefore, the way they treat you will also eventually change. It’s pretty cool how that works, right?
Note: This advice works for relationships already built on love and respect that might be going through a rough patch. If your spouse is abusive, it is NOT your fault. Changing your own behavior will not reform an abuser. If you’re not sure if your relationship is abusive, or if you need resources to escape an abusive relationship, visit Love Is Respect.
I think this phenomenon is true for a lot of aspects of life and marriage: health and wellness, fighting fair, not taking each other for granted, handling finances, communicating etc. The list could go on and on. If you change your attitude and actions in these areas, your spouse will notice.
But one area in particular where I think this is most important is spirituality.
Putting God First (and Your Spouse Second)
Maybe your spouse has fallen away from the faith and stopped attending church, stopped praying, and stopped studying scriptures.
Maybe your spouse identifies with a different religion, and you would like to start a dialogue about your faith.
Or maybe you want your husband to be the spiritual leader of your family, but he isn’t stepping up to the plate.
Whatever your situation might be, I promise you won’t get very far by nagging or complaining. You probably won’t even get very far by asking him or her to study with you consistently. Sure, they may oblige for a while just to keep the nagging at bay, but the change won’t hold. Especially if you aren’t consistent.
So lead by example.
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. –1 Timothy 4:12
Get up on Sunday. Go to worship and Bible class even if your spouse doesn’t go with you.
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. –Hebrews 10:24-25
Let him or her see you studying scripture.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. –Psalm 119:105
Talk about what God is showing you in your prayer and study time.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. –Romans 1:16
Change your own habits.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. –Philippians 4:13
And last but not least, pray. Pray for your spouse.
Praying for Your Spouse
Pray for him or her to grow closer to God.
Pray for him or her to see your example and be inspired.
Pray for your spouse to find other people in his life who are good examples in this area.
Ask God for whatever specific aspect you want to see changed.
And pray for the wisdom you need to be the encouragement your spouse needs rather than another source of negativity and stress.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. –Ephesians 6:18
In what ways have you been leading by example in your marriage? How can you do this in the future?
If you need help praying for your spouse, check out Muddling Through Again: Prayers and Reflections for a Woman’s Journey. It includes an entire section on Marriage!