There are ways to help your spouse, and there are ways to hurt your spouse. Most of the time our intentions are not to hurt or hinder our spouse, but there are times when we don’t realize that we’re doing just that.
Ten years, one “illegal” marriage, and a Boaz marriage later, you’d think that I’d have it somewhat together. The truth is it wasn’t until just recently when I had to admit that my actions were hurting my spouse more than helping him.
In the past I’d never done well with relinquishing control. I always had an answer for everything. And I sure as heck didn’t like to be seen as a weakling. I always had a Plan A, B, and C. And when things didn’t quite go how I thought they should, I’d pout like a 2-year-old toddler wanting a piece of candy.
If I wanted my marriage to thrive, I had to face some hard facts. I had to confess that I was very unlovable. I was very controlling. And more often than not my husband probably wanted to be on the corner of a rooftop. All of these combined were a recipe for hurting my husband, especially when he needed me the most.
Coming to terms with these hard truths was just the beginning. I then had to put some action behind changing it. It’s through this process that I began to rewire and purposefully do the things that were new to me. These things that had not been modeled for me because I grew up in a single-parent household… with a controlling mom… who showed that she could do better by herself.
I found myself trying lots of different things, but it’s these four that proved to be the best ways to help my spouse when I had no idea what to do:
Not saying that my husband has a lot of issues, but there is one in particular that really threw me for a loop – his addiction to pornography. This issue may not be new to a lot of people, but it rarely gets talked about unless you go looking for it.
When he first approached me with it, I thought I could fix it. And what I couldn’t fix, I expected him to fix. I expected a lot of things actually. I expected him to quit cold turkey at the thought of losing me. I expected him to consider it such a horrible sin that he could no longer bring himself to continue. I expected him to see it as adultery.
And after expressing and verbalizing all of these expectations, they did nothing but shut him out and break him down more than what he was already doing to himself. What I learned throughout our journey with his addiction was that I had to drop MY expectations. This doesn’t mean that I stopped expecting, but my expectations turned into those that aligned with our Heavenly Father and what Scripture said.
I started to focus more on what was expected of me. I am not expected to threaten, belittle, or attempt to change my husband in my own power. Nope. Scripture says quite the opposite actually. I’m expected to subject myself to my own husband in every respect because he is the head.
Scripture even says to be subject to your own husband, so that if any are disobedient to the Word, they, without a word, might be won by the behavior of their wives. This speaks volumes to me. This causes me to question my behavior, especially in moments I want to react in my flesh. This encourages me to seek the expectations of the Father instead of myself.
This is something that goes hand-in-hand with the next suggestion but still deserves its own mention. We are living in a day and age where work, kids, social media, and everything in between has our attention.
We barely make time for ourselves, let alone for our entire family to be together. How much more does the nurturing of our marriages get pushed to the side? How many date nights (or days) get left off the calendar? How many meaningful conversations get substituted by work meetings and deadlines? Quite a few if you ask me.
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Bryan and I are blessed to both be able to be home but this doesn’t mean that we are always available to meet each other’s needs. There have been times when you’d think we were just roommates instead of soulmates. It took us coming to terms that truly being available for one another would help more than we’d ever imagine.
Specifically speaking about my husband’s addiction – I had to be available to be there when he needed to vent, or when he wanted to confess. This leads me to the next way to help your spouse when you have no idea what to do…
I’m not talking about just hearing your spouse. And I’m not talking about the kind of listening where you’re preparing a comeback as soon as they take a breath (you know what I’m talking about). I am talking about really listening to your spouse.
Genuinely listening. Over time, this kind of listening opened a breakthrough moment in the way Bryan and I communicated. It began to soften both of our hearts in ways that sparked our marriage. He became more comfortable with sharing his issues and struggles while I became more welcoming in my demeanor.
It’s a win-win. When I started listening to him to really listen, it made for more meaningful conversations. Our conversations now end on good notes instead of nasty disagreements. This type of listening also makes the next way work wonders…
Before dropping my own expectations, being available to Bryan, and really listening to him, my prayers wouldn’t amount to much. They’d be filled with “change him, make him see”. Once I dropped my expectations, I could begin to see that I needed prayer for clarity, understanding, and wisdom. When I make myself available I can see other ways to pray for Bryan and our marriage. And when I am truly listening to him, I hear things I can pray specifically for.
Stormie’s book Power of a Praying Wife also helps me a lot too. There are very few books that I return to once I’ve read them, but this is one that doesn’t collect dust on my bookshelf. Her prayers are spot on. I can see my husband through so many of them and when I’m doing the aforementioned, I can see the benefits.
We’re reminded in Scripture that wickedness of heart can hinder our prayers, and while we might not consider being bitter, angry, and a hindrance to our spouse wickedness, it sure isn’t good. So we can’t go wrong by doing things the Bible way! Not to mention, the Father knows our spouse better than we do, right?
Hopefully you are encouraged to try these things in your own marriage, if you aren’t doing them already.
CHIME IN: I’d love to hear some marriage advice from YOU! What are some ways you help your spouse when you have no idea what to do? Please share in the comments below!