by Julie Clinton
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Tim and I had a rough start to our marriage. We didn’t communicate well. Come to think of it, we didn’t do much of anything well. And of course, it was all his fault.
So, I set about trying to change him. And to my disappointed surprise, nothing I did worked!
Honestly, we were pretty hateful at times in the way we spoke to each other. Much of it was due to our youth and immaturity. Some of it was due to our circumstances. We were both going to school full-time and working. We didn’t spend much time together, and the time we did spend was focused on our differences, heightening the conflict. And we weren’t communicating what we needed from each other.
At one point, we actually separated. Tim was in the Army Reserves and left town to fulfill a training commitment. We put our things in storage, and I went home to Montana. When I look back, I realize that could have been the end of our marriage. I’m so grateful it wasn’t.
After training, Tim called my dad and said he’d do whatever it took to make our marriage work. I know that must have been difficult for him to do. He drove 36 hours non-stop from Virginia to Montana to get me. Driving through South Dakota he remembers being so tired he literally drove with his head hanging out the window. When he arrived, we decided together that divorce was not an option for us—and never would be.
I, too, made an important decision. Despite my controlling, perfectionistic tendencies, I decided that changing Tim wasn’t my job. It was his job and God’s job. My job was to work on changing myself. The truth is the only person you can change is you. Jesus spoke boldly about this:
Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, “Let me wash your face for you,” when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. (Matthew 7:3-5, MSG).
A physical law says “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The same is true for human behavior. The way you approach people triggers certain kinds of reactions from them. Satisfying relationships between people require a willingness to do two things. First, you must be willing to clearly and graciously explain to other people that what they are doing bothers you. Then, if they choose not to change their behavior, you must be willing to remove yourself from the situation or to change your response to the behavior. It’s that simple—and that complicated. In order to change a man, you must change yourself. When you change, he’ll change too.
When I stopped nagging Tim, he began to relax more around me. When I stopped getting in his face, he began to listen more carefully. When I stopped complaining and started complimenting instead, Tim began to blossom as a husband—but I needed to change my own behavior first.
I know you may get tired of always giving and not getting. I’m not talking about tolerating meanness, but about looking inward and asking yourself if you have developed negative patterns of your own. Have you fallen into a mundane, complacent lifestyle? Are things not getting done that used to? Do you need to be encouraged?
I want to end with the most important thing you can do to change your man: Pray for him. “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15, ESV).
The only person who can change your man is the Holy Spirit. And we already know “He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26, NKJV).
So rather than beat him up because of his idiosyncrasies, pray for him. Then take encouraging steps in your own life that enhance your personality, physical health, and emotional and spiritual well-being. When you do, you may be surprised at how your personal change leads him to change. Learning this lesson helped save my marriage.
Posted on Tue, October 17, 2017
by Kevin Woods