- Dr. Gil Stieglitz
Why Can't My Spouse Just Do Things My Way?
Marriage Secret #2:
"I want my spouse to accept me the way I am now."
Every husband and every wife wants to be accepted by their spouse without having to make many changes. (I talked about this in my blog article for Marriage Secret #2 - Accept Your Spouse the Way they Are Now...Not Some Future Version.) The Bible talks about this idea of acceptance in two different ways: Understanding and Adaptation. In order for a marriage to work, both men and women must seek to understand and adapt to their spouse to meet this need of acceptance in both of them.
The Bible directs understanding more consistently toward husbands, because in many cases they do not believe that it is possible to understand their wife. She is a mystery to them that just can't be understood, which is a myth, by-the-way. That's why the Bible says this to husbands:
"You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." (1 Peter 3:7)
The Bible consistently directs adaptation towards wives because it is often harder for her to adapt to her husband than for him to adapt to her. He has a deep need to see his wife adapt to his way of thinking, acting, planning, speaking, and being and so the Bible instructs wives to do this. Adapting to him is how a wife says that she loves her husband and accepts him. Adapting does not mean that the individuality or personality of the one who adapts goes away, but rather there is clear orientation that takes into account who the other person is.
"You wives must learn to adapt yourselves to your husbands, as you submit yourselves to the Lord, for the husband is the 'head' of the wife in the same way that Christ is head of the Church and saviour of the body. The willing subjection of the Church to Christ should be reproduced in the submission of wives to their husbands." (Ephesians 5:22-24, Phillips NT)
Too often people are coming to a marriage counselor for referee services rather than a coach they want to listen to. People want the counselor to tell the other person that they are right and their spouse is the one who needs to change. Usually, when the counselor does not agree and points out that one person is wrong, that person quits coming to counseling or becomes obstinate from that point on. I see it all the time. I am amazed at how many times recently in pre-marital and marriage counseling there is no willingness on the part of either person to adapt to the other. "Tell them that he (or she) is wrong!" is what one or both of the partners often say. When I bring up issues of finances, relatives, work, vacations, etc., there is no bending, no interest in learning the other person's interests, or points of view. Each one is right in his, or her, own eyes. "He should see it my way." "Her ideas won't work." Everyone is looking for the other person to adapt to him or her without realizing that they too need to adapt.
Great marriages are built on adaptation. Two people who have completely different ways of living are going to need to find ways to adapt to each other so that a new family unit can succeed. Husbands must learn to adapt to their wives. Wives must learn how to adapt to their husbands. Both parties have to see the greater good of a great relationship rather than getting their own way. If I were to ask your spouse if you really adapted to who they are, what would they say about it? Maybe it would help if we looked at some examples I know of about how husbands and wives have adapted to the other. And I've given some exercises for you to think about for your own marriage.
I remember one man who made it a habit to call or text his wife when he was leaving the office just so she would know that he was on his way home. He knew this was important to her and he had forgotten a number of times in the past when he left the office late. This was his way of adapting to his wife's need to know he was safe. I remember one woman who went down to her husband's office and learned what he really did every day so she could understand the pressures he was under and the people he was dealing with.
What are three ways you could adapt to your spouse that would lower tension in the marriage?
I remember hearing one woman whose husband was regularly late to appointments and gatherings because he liked to talk to people and would lose track of time. She was extremely punctual, so she would get so angry with him because he just could not be punctual like her. She finally embraced the idea that he was just never going to be punctual like her and she adapted to his lack of punctuality by continuing to be punctual herself and allowing him to not be without berating or embarrassing him. I remember one man who agreed to give his wife a certain amount of money every week that she did not have to account for how it was spent. She could spend it any way she wanted. This was very difficult for him, but it was an adaptation he needed to give her.
What are three ways you could adapt to your spouse and allow them to be different than you without an argument, anger, dirty looks, or harsh language?
I remember having a woman learn about the football players' wives and families so she could be interested in her husband's football team. I remember one man who took dance classes and became an excellent dance partner to his spouse so they could enjoy something she enjoyed.
What three ways could you adapt to your spouse and try something their way?
What would adapting to your spouse look like in these scenarios? Come up with other examples about your spouse and consider how you can best adapt to them.
What if they are not punctual like you are?
What if they are not thrifty like you are?
What if they are not talkative or quiet like you are?
What if they don't like to argue verbally like you do?
What if they have a different way of thinking through a problem than you do?
What if they like different vacations than you do?
What if they enjoy different kinds of people than you?
What if they have different interests than you do?
What if they are more or less social than you?
What if they receive or give affection differently than you?
We have become a self-focused generation. This self-focus is rendering good marriages nearly impossible. Great marriages require a willingness to learn, grow, be curious, and adapt. What will you do today to adapt to your spouse?
(Taken from an excerpt from Dr. Gil's new book, Marriage Secrets, coming out soon.)
I look forward to interacting with you during your spiritual journey. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how God is working in and through your life. Your greatest life is just ahead. In His service,
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