Our life group has been studying a book by David Clark, “Married but Lonely.” Almost no one in the group liked the writer’s approach, but it has opened some major conversation. Through the semester and gathering on all my past experience I’ve come to believe there is a common thread that destroys marriages.
It comes from within! The killer is not accepting your partner the way they are right now. Whether you have spoken or secret expectations for your partner doesn’t matter. If you don’t have complete acceptance of them just the way they are it sends an emotional message that says, “You aren’t good enough the way you are.” Once that vibe is picked up and it will be, distance begins to creep in.
Best friends are best friends because the person accepts you as you are. You don’t have to pretend around them. They love you when your up and when you are down. They don’t have lofty expectations for you. When a person senses that acceptance they talk freely. There isn’t a private conversation in their head, editing everything so as not to get in trouble. When you have to edit your thoughts before you speak you do not talk freely.
When acceptance is not present and distance creeps in, then any other stressors in life whether, kids, finances, where and how to worship all become issues to divide you further. When acceptance is present, all those things give you topics to pull together and discuss freely.
This truth is why dating and courtship are critically important. You have to know the person deeply and investigate how you both approach life. When you have a solid foundation of shared values acceptance should come easier.
I used to tell people in premarital counseling, If you cannot accept your future partner exactly as they are now, if you cannot be happy with them exactly as they are today, don’t get married!
If you are currently married and are disappointed in your spouse, you are in trouble and the trouble is within you! Here is the remedy. Look in the mirror at all your own imperfections and ponder whether you prefer your partner loves and accepts you as you are and treats you with grace, or if you prefer they constantly send you messages they are disappointed in you.
Spend all your energy working on your own issues and trust God is big enough to communicate to your partner whatever they need to work on, while you give them grace to grow and accept them fully as they are. As long as we attempt to do what only God can do, change someone from the inside out, He steps back and lets us give His job a try. When you stop trying to play God’s role in someone else’s life, He will step up and do what only He can do.
If you are not accepting your spouse as they are, you are destroying your own marriage!
One disclaimer, if your spouse is involved in violent, illegal or destructive behaviors, you may come to a place that you are no longer willing to stay with them. I’m not advocating accepting these things.