How can you be the spouse God called you to be when you just don’t feel like doing what you know you should?
by Pam Farrel
I see it all the time. We’ve all felt it: the “Hey, what about me?” syndrome. Sometimes it sneaks up on us when we feel that our emotional needs aren’t being met — and we resent it. Or maybe we have a hard-to-love spouse and we’re tired of trying to make things work. That’s when the “Hey, what about me?” syndrome hits. When it comes, and we’re feeling sorry for ourselves — or just plain tired of trying — what can we do?
Choose to make wise decisions. Don’t rely on feelings or emotions when the going gets tough. Our feelings don’t carry us to the right decisions; rather right decisions carry us to right emotions — and positive rewards. Here are a few ways your can exercise your will over your emotions:
- Decide to take “divorce” out of your dictionary. My husband, Bill, and I have counseled couples back to happiness from all kinds of crises: loss of a child, loss of a home, all kinds of addictions, affairs, and a whole lot of “I’m tired of trying.” The Bible does give a few allowances for what we call the 3 A’s (Affairs, Abuse, Abandonment) — but just because you feel you can file for divorce doesn’t mean you should! Look at Hosea and Gomer in the Bible. That’s redeeming love, the kind of love God specializes in. If you decide before God to take divorce out of your vocabulary, then He can meet you at this decision point and begin rebuilding your desire for marriage and your desire for your mate. If you have to dig up some motivation, think of:
- your kids.
- all the time you have invested in this relationship.
- the stat that has shown that couples who are miserable now, but stick it out a few years later, rate their marriages and lives happier than those who went ahead and got the divorce.
- Just start where you can. Start by saying, “Ok God, I am deciding to stick it out.” Even if you don’t feel like you want to. Tell Him you’re willing to be made willing.
- Decide to choose joy. Sometimes life is not fair. Sometimes marriage isn’t fair. It is for richer or for poorer, sickness or health, and for better or worse. Jim and Sally Conway, in their book titled Traits of a Lasting Marriage, surveyed couples who had long-term happy relationships and the secret they discovered was that those couples had decided to be in long-term happy marriages! Deciding to choose joy, to be a happy person regardless of the circumstance, is a decision that will create happiness. If you go looking for happiness as the goal, you’ll never find it, because you have no control over circumstance and you don’t have control over your spouse. But you do have control over yourself and your emotions. If you choose joy, soon you will find you have it. Some things to help you choose joy might be:
- Finding a prayer partner of the same sex to pray — not for your spouse, but for you! Have your prayer partner pray that you can experience all God’s best regardless of the choices your spouse makes.
- Making a list of the best traits of your mate, (there may only be a few) then deciding to compliment one each day.
- Doing things you love that are not related at all to your relationship: lunch with a friend, a walk at the beach or lake, a day at the spa even. Sometimes you just need an emotional time-out to regain hope and strength.
- Decide to be the best. A woman asked me if she had to submit to a husband who wasn’t living up to his part of the spiritual leadership bargain. She said, “It doesn’t seem fair.” She’s right. It isn’t fair. Nonetheless, both spouses can’t just wait it out to see who will step up to the plate and be the bigger, better person. Someone has to choose to serve the other in love first. You can hold on to being right, but you will probably be left holding just your opinion — and not your marriage. I always recommend to women that they obey God, submit to Him and seek to please Him — then trust Him with the results in their relationship. In over 25 years, I can’t remember one woman who was ever sorry she obeyed God. Even if she couldn’t save her marriage, she saved her integrity — and her spouse’s behavior couldn’t take that away.
Life is full of choices. Obedience is a path to God’s protection for you and your future. Wisdom is a gateway to happiness (Proverbs 3:13-20). We need to remember these things and make wise decisions for life — even when we don’t feel like it.