1. One thing your spouse really dislikes. You know what it is. Or do you? (I’m thinking your spouse might.) What would it do for your marriage to say, “I love you this much?”
2. Little digs at your spouse—or yourself. Imagine yourself standing by the concrete foundation of your home, pickaxe on your shoulder. Would you give it a good shot a couple of times a day? What if you found one of your kids doing it? You’d be peeved – outraged. Jabs at our spouses, or at ourselves, too, pry their fingers into the bedrock of our relationships. They mess with the trust that makes a marriage a safe place, a “naked and unashamed” place.
Think it doesn’t matter when you insult yourself? Think again.
Insecurity places our value in the hands of another—who we’re hoping will restore our sense of equilibrium. Rather than finding our value in what God says about us, we effectively place someone else in His position.
When we feel good, our ego inflates. When we screw up or feel insulted, it deflates. It’s a hyperfocus on ourselves, on finding our value from created things, rather than the Creator. And it hurts our marriages.
3. Complaining. Would you believe that stopping complaining may actually increase your happiness? Author Ann Voskamp has said,
“Everyone gets to decide how happy they will be, because everyone gets to decide how grateful they are willing to be.”
Her challenge to list 1,000 gifts from God changed my life—my marriage, too. Gratitude tipped my eyes upward, rather than inward. It’s an act of worship. Thankfulness increases our faith, our peace, our joy—perhaps most poignantly when we’re suffering. It even helps us love better (pop quiz: Would you rather be the object of a complaining spouse, or a grateful one?) Gratitude can even improve your sex life. Try starting an ongoing “Glad I got it” list of all the things you’re thankful for.
4. One thing that endangers your family or marriage. Maybe it’s porn, wheedling its way into your mind, your bedroom, your respect of your spouse. Maybe it’s overeating, or driving while applying makeup or texting. Maybe it’s smoking. Maybe it’s saying “I’m fat!” (because believe it or not, even words like those set a tone in your family…and might be instructing your daughters, and your sons, in more ways than you think). Maybe it’s neglecting a seatbelt. Think you can make it till the end of the year? Not sure? Get help.
5. Being passive. Men, any chance you’re forfeiting your chance to lead your family to…your wife? To no one? Don’t lay down the opportunity to step up for your family. Who is the chief Shepherd, the chief Servant, the “Buck stops here” person in your house? Pray about the reasons you get passive. What heart attitudes lie behind you throwing in the towel? Don’t let your incredible wife be the reason you sit on your heels. Love her as Christ loves His Bride, giving up His life for her. Gently wash her with the water of the Word (Ephesians 5). Embrace courage and anticipate God’s reward.
6. Nagging. “Let it go, let it go-oh…” As fun as it is to never measure up to expectations, perhaps God’s got some different solutions toward change. Take time to talk with God about why you nag. And keep pressing into your own answers: Why? Is it a manner of regaining control? Is it how your mother “managed” your dad? Is it because deep down, there’s something you aren’t able to forgive—or something you don’t respect? Don’t go easy on yourself. Get to the root of nagging, and address it head-on. Then search, together with your husband, for some creative solutions that get the job done while, rather than tearing at your teammate; offer him the critical support he longs for.
I’m totally #thatmom–the one diving into all the weirdness with my kids, sidestepping a few eyerolls. After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have returned to the U.S., where I write and speak professionally, and we continue to work on behalf of the poor.