Relationships are difficult. There...I said it. We all know it. Most of us hate to admit it to our friends or family. But, it's true.
Why do you think that is? Why is it that when Joe off the street does something that we don't like, we can quickly brush it off and move on. But, when our spouse does something (or doesn't do something), our reaction is completely different?
Some of us blow up like a balloon immediately. Some of us completely shut down ("I'm fine...really"). Others of us go about our day like nothing is wrong for awhile but then suddenly the smallest thing sets us off into a tailspin. Finally, there are those of use who just won't let up...you know, the ones who may have been called a "nag" once or twice before. (Man, that word makes me cringe!)
Why are we so sensitive to our spouses anyway? ...It's because we are emotionally invested! We expect more from them because we know they love us, and we love them. Everything they say and do effects us so much more than anyone else, and rightlfully so...but it still can be annoying and challenging at times.
So, how do we learn to 1. Not take things so personally when they are not intended to be, 2. Let down our pride, forgive, and move on, and 3. Love them anyway? Don't get me wrong...this is tough stuff! I've been married for 16 years and although on paper I know this stuff so well, believe me, the true challenge is putting it into action!
While our tendency might be to be extra sensitive, easily hurt/angered/offended, hold grudges, or wait for our partner to come to us first...the truth is, none of these things lead to healthy relationships or ones that we enjoy. In fact, they can often do a lot of damage. So, the question remains? What can we do?
Here are some important and helpful things to remember:
1. It's not all about you.
Yes, I know, you are hurt. I know that truthfully, you are the "better" spouse (ha ha). I know that if we looked at who does what in the relationship, I'm sure you would come out on top. But honestly, what good is thinking that way?
What if instead of constantly nit picking and pointing out the things our spouse is or isn't doing that we don't like, we focus on what WE can do or not do to improve the relationship. What if you wake up every morning and thought, no matter what my spouse does, I'm going to do "ABC" to be a better spouse. Way to go!
2. It's not ALL bad ALL the time.
How many of you are so focused on what your spouse is doing wrong, how they hurt you this morning, how they didn't unload the dishes when you asked, how dinner wasn't ready when you wanted, how they didn't give you a hug and a kiss the second you walked in the door, how they didn't even bother to ask you about how your day was....that you completely forgot about anything positive that happened that day?
For most relationships, there are some positive things that our spouses are doing right and well. Maybe they provide for us. Maybe they do the dishes at the end of the night. Maybe they do kids carpool. Maybe they told us they loved us a few days ago. Take the time look for them, thank your spouse, and appreciate them! A perspective shift can go a long way!
3. Don't hold them to a higher standard then you hold yourself.
What? You wouldn't do that, would you?? Many of us do it...but I don't think we do it purposefully or even realize we are doing it. Have you ever used a rude "tone" with your spouse only to get after them for talking to you with a rude tone 15 minutes later? (Guilty!) How many have snapped at the children only to turn around and tell your spouse not to snap at the children? (Never!) How many of you expect a nice greeting when you get home, but don't provide a nice greeting when they get home? How many expect a spotless house when you get home but if the role was reversed, you know you wouldn't have the house looking spotless either?
I could literally go on and on with examples. BUT...the point is, often times we expect more from our spouses than we even do ourselves. I don't know why, but it happens. This is a great "STOP and THINK" opportunity. Before you get after your spouse or comment to them about a situation, stop and think, put yourself in their shoes, in a similar situation and consider, would you maybe have handled it or responded in the EXACT SAME WAY? There's a good chance that the answer is "yes"...or at least close to it. Remember that!
4. Love them in a way that speaks to them...not the way that is "easiest" for you.
If you aren't familiar with the 5 Love Languages yet, then do yourself and your spouse a favor and go take the quiz online here. Once you know what your spouses' love language is, it's terribly helpful to actually DO IT.
I'm going to be personal for a moment here. My top love languages are "quality time" and "words of affirmation" and my husband's top love languages are "acts of service" and "physical touch". Can you see the challenge here?? Complete opposites...
In our relationships, we tend to do to our spouse what we ourselves want . In my marriage this turns out to be my husband doing things for me, as that is his natural inclination. I actually have learned to love and appreciate this, however, because let's face it, it really helps me in life! But, at the end of the day, I don't feel near as loved when he does things as I do when he spends time with me or tells me how amazing and beautiful he thinks I am (like every day, ha ha)! But, it can be a challenge to adapt our words and behaviors to fit our spouses' needs rather than simply do what is instinctual for us. We have to be INTENTIONAL about it, but it is well worth it when we do! Let's be intentional and purposeful in how we love our spouses.
5. Forgive and move on!
Why is this so difficult? Why is it so much easier to allow one negative or bad thing to ruin the entire day, weekend, or WEEK! Perhaps our human pride stands in the way, or we want them to hurt like we hurt. But again, this is terribly damaging in relationships and not something to get trapped or sucked in to. So, I know you have heard it before...but forgiveness is a choice. Feelings are not necessarily there and don't need to be. We don't necessarily want to forgive. We want to just stay angry sometimes. But, how much greater would the hour (day or week) be if we just decided to forgive. Make the choice every day to forgive and move on from the little things that irritate us, offend us, or get us in a tizzy. Keep in mind, I'm not referring to major issues like infidelity, betrayal, abuse, etc. Yes, forgiveness is a part of that, but complete restoration and healing may be necessary, and I definitely recommend seeking professional help in those cases. We have a therapist for that!
This week: Let's do our best to remember it's not all about us (we have part to play too), there are many positive things happening in the relationship and focusing on them can go a long way, we need to hold ourselves to the same standards to hold our spouse, love them in a way that means something to them, and forgive them and move on!