Do you have a spouse who doesn’t seem to change, no matter what you do? Have you said to him or her everything you can think of to say, and yet still no change? Do you often wonder, “what am I to do when my spouse won’t change?”
Below you will find something written by Beth Steffaniak, that she has used, and adapted for your use. Please glean through this list, and use what will work for your situation.
When my spouse says something critical or harsh to me, I can…
• Pray and ask God to soothe the hurt and heal the wound.
• Remember that I am a flawed and sinful human being who sometimes says critical and harsh things to my spouse as well.
• Meditate on verses like: Psalm 35:1-2, Psalm 62:5-8, Isaiah 41:11-13, 1 Corinthians 4:12-13, Ephesians 4:31, 1 Peter 3:12
• Respond graciously with the expectation that this will not only lessen the conflict. However, it may also convict my spouse of his/her attitude—even if I don’t immediately see this change.
• Remind myself that God is the “Lover of my soul.” He wants to pour His love into me especially when my spouse rejects or hurts me.
• Recall the times when my spouse has done something kind or helpful to me in the past. Thank God for each positive action I can recall.
I can also…
• Respectfully say “I’m sorry” to my mate for what is being criticized/pointed out about me. Commit to willingly work on/consider that area moving forward.
• Call/text a godly, same-sex friend to pray for me in this matter (without griping or disclosing too many negative details to that friend).
• Write out a list of things I’m grateful for in my spouse. Revisit that list any time my spouse hurts my heart like this again.
• Go for a walk and pray about how I feel with/to the Lord. (Walking often gets your brain engaged more fully and the energy expended will alleviate your tension.)
When my spouse won’t change to do the positive action I’ve requested, I can . . .
• Pray that God softens my spouse’s heart to this issue in time. Surrender it for the Lord to convict my spouse—avoiding stepping back in to “play god” in my mate’s life.
• Continue to do/model that “positive action”—not “returning evil for evil.” I will not allow an unhealthy dependency that relies on my spouse to do the right thing until I do what’s right.
• Pray that God would enable me to persevere in my marriage, even when it feels discouraging.
• Ask God to reveal to me ways that I negatively contribute to an unhealthy relational dynamic. This may cause my spouse to feel controlled or pressured by me. I need to make efforts to change this in my life.
• Model a more receptive and submissive spirit whenever my spouse asks something of me that I feel is difficult or undesirable. I will be sure not to remind my spouse of “how willing I am.”
• Remind myself of the many ways my spouse responds to my requests. I need to thank my mate for those ways whenever I see him/her doing them.
When my spouse tries to control me or manipulate me, I will…
• Run to God in prayer, seeking His comfort and protection.
• Choose not to resist—but submit to my spouse as unto the Lord. (Yes, this works for men too! See Ephesians 5:21.)
• Ask respectful questions that help me to understand what my spouse truly wants from me. I will avoid turning it into an argument or strategy to get the upper-hand—so that “I” can make “appropriate changes” moving forward.
• Pray that God opens both of our eyes to the reality of the hurt we are each causing.
• Trust that even if my spouse controls me in this moment, I never am outside of God’s ultimate control. He is always working for my/our best in this situation and in life.
• I choose to write out my thoughts in a prayer journal. I will ask God to give me greater perspective about what I’m feeling and believing about the situation or about my spouse.
• I will make an appointment with a counselor or life-coach, so that I can learn how to handle this pressure better.
• Read a book on how to communicate and set boundaries better. Then apply the principles in time.
• Begin to pray for this tendency in my spouse’s life on a daily basis. I ask God to soften both of our hearts and illuminate our minds to a better way to relate to one another.
• Do a Bible study on a character who struggled with a controlling or manipulative person. Take notes on how this character positively handled the challenge.
When my spouse is defensive or argumentative, I can choose to . . .
• Listen respectfully, humbly admit that he or she has a valid concern. Communicate that I want to know more about what my mate feels regarding this issue.
• Pray for God to soothe my heart and open my eyes to ways I can demonstrate grace and openness to my spouse. I am to pray this, despite my mate’s combative attitude.
• Practice reflective listening to be sure I am understanding my spouse’s message clearly.
• Gently ask my spouse for a break from the conversation, so that I can think on what’s been said. Suggest that we come together at another time to discuss it further.
• Grab my spouse’s hand and remind my mate that I love him/her and am “for him/her.”
• Remember that the Lord is with me, even though it feels as if I am alone in this moment. I can imagine God’s arms around me, comforting and protecting me.
• Make a point to pray for this negative tendency in marriage on a daily basis.
• After all has calmed down and my spouse and I have had time to reflect and pray on the conflict, acknowledge some of the ways I contribute to these arguments. Then work together on a plan to prevent them in the future.
• If I choose to stay engaged with my spouse, focus on respectfully communicating the hurt I feel and not the anger. Anger is a secondary emotion that often masks hurt or fear.
When my spouse avoids engagement with me, I will . . .
• Pray that the Lord would fill the void I feel with His love and comfort.
• Find ways to engage more with the Lord through meditation, scripture memorization, reading His word to get to know Him (the Lord) better. Get involved in a small group and church to experience the “hands and feet” of Jesus caring for my spiritual needs through other believers, etc.
• Find ways to engage with God’s truths and callings on my life. Work out the God-given passions that are alive inside my heart—but they are not as “active” as they should/could be.
• Prayerfully look for ways to meet the needs and desires of my spouse. I must trust that God will bless my efforts in time with either a positive response from my spouse or a joyful heart, or both!
• Respectfully and gently ask questions of my spouse about the things that interest him or her on a daily basis. I am to do this, not expecting a return investment, but rejoicing in God when it occurs!
• Look for ways to connect with/join my spouse in the areas where he or she likes to spend time. I will do this even if and especially if it isn’t what I’m interested in. (This says volumes about your love and sacrifice!)
It’s also important to:
• Plan a date that focuses on doing something my spouse has wanted to do for a long time.
• Pray for the Lord to help me persevere even when I don’t see progress or connection with my mate.
• Meditate on verses like: Isaiah 54:5-6, Isaiah 62:5, Zephaniah 3:17, Romans 8:35-38, 1 John. 3:1
• Carve out a few moments each day to affirm my spouse. Ask him/her about their day, then really stop and listen—asking follow up questions that show I care and want to hear more.
This wonderful list is written by Beth Steffaniak, who is a pastor’s wife, counselor and life coach –a wonderful Titus 2 woman of God. She shares her “messy life” (coming into marriage with “many emotional wounds and unhealthy patterns that left mess after mess”) on her web site at Messymarriage.com.
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