I (Michael) have struggled with weight issues for more years than I care to admit. Sometimes I can feel like my addiction to food is as intense as a person’s addiction to heroin. Currently I am down 25 pounds and am developing what I like to call a “Lifestyle Revolution.”
If you have not noticed yet, the keyword being used thus far in this introductory paragraph is “I”. I have the weight problem and I am the one who is going to need to get the help and encouragement to change.
For many years Amy and I were extremely conflicted about my weight issues. I am the luckiest man on earth to be married to Amy. If you have read our first two books, “More than a Match” and “Don’t Date Naked,” then you already know about our love story. The very first time I laid eyes on my bride I was instantly in love with her! Of course I now understand that what I was really feeling toward Amy was more like, infatuation, but it certainly grew from there into a beautiful and authentic appreciation and love! But I was so enamored, that I actually became a male cheerleader to get her to notice me and to fall in love with me too (because she was a cheerleader at Baylor). This is a long story, which we unpacked extensively in our first two books. But when I married Amy, I married the woman of my dreams!
Then we started having children! Each time Amy got pregnant she would relax on her very healthy eating habits. I can remember driving to the ice cream store in the late evenings because Amy had cravings, and naturally I would buy something for her AND something for me. Three kids later I was massively overweight. I probably averaged close to 25 pounds per kid. I know this might sound strange, a man sharing how having children caused weight gain, but it is true. What really bothers me, thinking back on those days, is that after Amy would give birth, literally within two weeks she would be back to her pre-pregnant weight! It was totally unfair.
Once our third and final kid was born, I announced to Amy that I was finished putting on all her pregnant weight for her! Obviously I understand that Amy getting pregnant was not the root cause of my weight gain. But my weight gain caused Amy a lot of frustration.
[Now it’s my turn to talk – Amy]
I’ve never had a problem with being over weight. My problem was feeling a pressure to be under weight. As a collegiate cheerleader I felt the expectations of weight and guys talking about how hard it was to lift a certain girl. I never wanted to be “that girl.” I dealt with my need to be the lightest by eating very little. I don’t believe I was ever anorexic but I felt a need to control of my weight at an intense level. Watching Michael gain weight at the beginning of our marriage was difficult. I could not understand why he couldn’t control his weight like me. I tried to “help” by presenting health information, commenting on his sugar and fat intake, criticizing and shaming him.
For years we fought and fought over eating habits. The more I tried to get Michael to eat better and exercise, the worse things got. It was almost like I was a major hindrance to him losing weight. I struggled with this issue for many years, trying to get him to change. And for years it seemed like the problem only got more severe. We would fight and things would get ugly with name calling from both of sides.
Until one day, God finally got through to me and convinced me of a different strategy to help Michael. Back off. It was like God said, “If you stop pushing so hard maybe I can get through to him. He will always have an excuse if you keep opening your big mouth and messing everything up.” God talks to me that way- I don’t know if He does the same to you but I need to be whacked up side the head sometimes.
He also asked me this question, “How much anger weight have you lost?” God knew that was my biggest struggle. I thought about it and responded with, “Maybe 10 to 15 lbs.” God answered, “And how much do you still need to loose?” I felt like the biggest heel, “A lot” Then my biggest whacking, “Then why don’t you focus on that because I could tell you all the health reasons etc. why you need to loose anger weight.” It was true and I knew it. I went to Michael and said, “Oh Michael, love of my life, I am so sorry for harping on your junk when I have just as much of my own. I will love you for as many days as we have together and I will not allow myself to miss out on a single day longer by focusing on your weight. Please forgive me.”
[Now I’m back – Michael]
Several years ago Amy approached me with her new insight about my weight issues. I can vividly remember her releasing me to God for help with my struggle. Suddenly, once Amy handed me over to God, I had no one to blame for my weight problem but myself.
Have you ever tried to change something in your spouse? Maybe your spouse is addicted to smoking, drinking, drugs, pornography, lying, or is resistant to a relationship with God. Whatever the problem is for your spouse, trying to change it for them will only make it worse! Haven’t you tried it before?
How did that work for you? This is a question we love to ask audiences at our live events. How did that work for you? The crazy thing about us people is that we will keep doing the very things that we have already proven to be unsuccessful. If you want things to improve in your marriage, what we are hinting at is to try something different. Try handing over your spouse’s issues to God. We know this sound incredibly cliche, but it is completely necessary. Remember, however, our disclaimer at the beginning of this book. We are not telling the abused individual to simply hand over the abuse to God and then stay in the marriage. Safety is your primary concern when in an abusive marriage.
We know some of you reading this are getting ready to toss it in the trash. In your mind you are thinking, “I’ve tried that, giving it over to God, and it did not work!” This kind of thinking is destructive. Why give up on God? How long have you tried? One year. Five years. Fifteen years. How much time is enough time to allow God to change your spouse? Our belief is that we should never put a time limit on God’s will. We cannot understand the plans of God and we must be unabashedly patient with God. The Bible never gives us an out on relying on God! Where’s the verse that says we can quit? God is a God of healing and restoration. Our job is to get out of the way and allow God to do His.
“They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:25 (NLT) In our interaction with our spouse and their sin against us, we must be gentle. Being cruel, rude, or critical to our spouse is a losing formula. We cannot sin against our spouse because our spouse is sinning against us. We can relax in the knowledge that God wants the best for us and our spouse. God is the change agent for our spouse:
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:2
When we are struggling with the messes of our spouse we need to spend our energy on God. We need to “fix our attention” on God because if we spend our energy and focus on what is broken with our spouse, we know how it will end. Even if your spouse does not believe in God or is being resistant, God can still make an impact. God is much bigger than people who resist his influence and authority.
The above article was written by Michael and Amy Smalley and is an excerpt from their book, The Surprising Way to a Stronger Marriage: How the Power of One Changes Everything, which is published by Focus on the Family. In this book, “relationship experts Michael and Amy Smalley provide the tools to help you right-size your expectations about your mate …reboot your relationship with the Trillion-dollar Question …and communicate, validate, ‘lean in,’ and forgive —even when your spouse doesn’t.”