One of the biggest problems in marriages occurs when each spouse tries to change or fix the other. This was certainly true early on in my marriage.
My husband Charlie is wise, full of common sense, self-confident, laid-back, and capable of doing whatever he sets his mind to do. His calm manner, optimistic outlook, and independent spirit are admirable qualities.
I, on the other hand, struggled most of my life with low self-esteem. I constantly doubted myself and my abilities while trying to measure up to the standards that others set. I grew up being a glass-half-empty girl.
Charlie and I are, in most ways, complete opposites. And while it might be true opposites attract, it’s also true they spend most of their time trying to make the other person into a mirror image of themselves. If this behavior continues throughout the life of a relationship, it can chip away, break down, and cause an otherwise stable marriage to disintegrate.
The key lies in recognizing and embracing the differences. Let me illustrate by having you try an exercise I observed many years ago. Hold your hands in front of you, palms facing, fingers pointed up. Imagine your fingers are your strengths and the spaces between them, your weaknesses. One hand represents the husband and the other, the wife. Place your fingertips together and push. This is what happens when each spouse tries to be the strong one and won’t allow the other person to use his or her strengths. Nothing is accomplished. Instead, the marriage partners find themselves continually butting heads.
Move your fingers enough to fill in the gaps, and clasp your hands. Now you have a strong and stable foundation. This is a good example of allowing the strengths of your spouse to fill in where you’re weak and vice versa. Instead of butting heads and trying to change each other, you can now work as a team, each spouse drawing strength from the other.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us two are better than one (NIV). The Message puts it this way:
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps. But if there’s no one to help, tough!
The truth is we can’t fix or change anyone; only God can. But we can create and foster an environment where change can occur, no matter how long it takes. When we take a good, hard look at ourselves and deal with our own issues, our spouse will be more prone to deal with his or her issues. My former pastor once said, “There are no marriage problems, only people problems. Fix the people and you fix the marriage.”
Work on yourself and let God change your spouse.
Marriage—a good marriage—is a process, not an event. **
** Excerpt taken from Marriage: Make It or Break It by Andrea Merrell published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.