Your Spouse Should NOT be the MEASURING STICK for your PROGRESS. Too often we use our spouse’s mood or reactions to determine how much we’ve grown physically, spiritually, or emotionally. We assume that because they know us so well, they will give us honest and encouraging feedback. The problem is you have likely Unintentionally Wounded your spouse many times, in the past, and their view of you may be more jaded at times than supportive. Instead of focusing on how well you have done this past week, and praising you for it, they may still be Subconsciously nursing a grudge from a month ago, or struggling to forgive you for retriggering an older wound. Just because your partner doesn’t acknowledge your progress, doesn’t mean you aren’t making any. Make sure you share your successes with other, healthy people in your life, who aren’t sharing a bed with you. Just because your spouse may look good in the outfit, doesn’t always make them the best cheerleader (Hebrews 6:10).
BROKE Don’t Fix BROKE. We tend to subconsciously seek out people who can’t love us the way we would like, validate us the way we need, or help us get to where we should be. Since our brain is naturally resistant to change, it tricks us into seeking help from people who aren’t capable or mature enough to give it, thus causing us to feel disappointed, which ultimately Justifies our brain’s desire to go back to Old, Comfortable, and Predictable Habits and Behaviors. If you Really want to Change, make sure you get help from someone who can get you where you want to be, and not from someone who will help you justify staying where you’re at (Proverbs 24:6).
Creating a BIDDING WAR in Your Marriage. A Bid, in a relationship, is the Simplest Verbal or Nonverbal attempt at communication we make. We use Bids to “feel the waters” to see if it is safe to go deeper. For example, your spouse may say something innocent like “It sure is a nice day today,” or “Isn’t that a pretty sunrise?” These statements may seem to be simply polite conversation, but is actually your partner taking the emotional temperature of your relationship. They want to see if you will turn towards them or turn away. Your soft or harsh response, to their surface-level conversation, will tell them to either move closer to you, or to keep their distance. Healthy couples recognize each other’s bids, and turn towards each other, 86% of the time (I Peter 4:8).
When it comes to CRITICISM, try to be more FUTURE-ORIENTED instead of Present-Focused. We tend to be less defensive when people ask us to do something differently next time, versus when they are pointing out something we are doing wrong now. For example, it is easier to hear from a friend, “Next time, would you mind showing up a little earlier?” as opposed to “I can’t believe you are late again.” Future Criticism can create a sense of Hope, while criticizing what someone just did, or is presently doing, reinforces futility (Ephesians 4:29).
Oftentimes, it’s not the Current Stimuli that is causing us to get angry, but rather the reason we give to JUSTIFY RELEASING Pent-Up Pressure. For example, I might blow up at my spouse for putting the toilet paper on wrong (there is a right way by the way), when I’m really subconsciously using this seemingly minor incident to release built-up tension from a major issue I have not dealt with, such as missing a house payment or dealing with the fallout of a recent argument. Just because anger is the easiest way to release unwanted, negative pressure doesn’t make it healthy. The next time you find yourself blowing up over something minor, ask yourself, “Is there any unresolved issue in my life that may be indirectly fueling this explosion?” and then take active steps to deal with that issue. God never intended your loved ones to be your emotional punching bag (Proverbs 29:11).
LISTEN FOR YOU, not just for them. We would all agree that being a Good Listener makes the other person feel more valued and cared for, but what’s in it for you? The truth is that when you take the time to really hear what someone else is saying, and resist the temptation to get defensive or give your opinion, you are actually Indirectly Valuing Yourself. Your brain tends to reward effort over results, and being a good listener takes a lot more energy and focus than speaking. People who are good at Active Listening tend to be less anxious, have more confidence, and have healthier relationships. The next time you find yourself struggling to stay engaged in a conversation, remind yourself that you are Worth the Effort, and then lean in and really Listen. You may be surprised at how good you’ll feel (Proverbs 18:13).
The reason FORGIVING YOURSELF is more difficult than Forgiving someone else is because you can Forgive someone else and choose to NOT have a Relationship with them. You can Never End Your Relationship with You. Our tendency is to keep punishing ourselves until we have paid some subjective, internal penance, but f God is able to remove your sin from you “as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)” and “remember it no more (Hebrews 10:17,” than why are you still holding on to it? You’ll never move forward, as long as you’re still holding on to the past.
SIN BETTER. Many of us have said things like, “If I could do that over again I would not have…” We sincerely believe that if we could live a moment over again, from our past, that we would not have sinned. The truth is that we would have still made numerous mistakes, just not ones as destructive as our original choices. We may have not chosen drugs or alcohol, for example, but we would’ve found some other, less consequential, method for medicating our pain, that still would not have been God’s best for us. Until we get to heaven, we will continue to sin, because we are all trapped in bodies that are Naturally Opposed to God’s Will. So, stop beating yourself up for a past you cannot change, and stop creating for yourself standards you cannot meet. Simply say this statement to yourself once a day. “I’m thankful I’m not where I once was, and I’m grateful God has given me today, to keep Trying to get to where I want to be.”
Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV: 18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
You Don’t Have A PLAN, and that’s Your PROBLEM. Most of us are not naturally self-disciplined enough to use our free time well. We’ll think to ourselves, “I have a whole Saturday coming up, with nothing on the agenda. I’ll be able to get a lot accomplished.” But instead of being productive, we end up frittering the day away. Even if your plan was to sleep in till noon, and then watch college football till bedtime, you would get more accomplished than just allowing the day, or your mood, to dictate your day. Good Intentions without a strategy, is simply wishful thinking.
Proverbs 21:5 ESV: 5The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
ELIMINATE the “USED TOs in your Vocabulary. While it’s natural to say things like, “I used to be thinner in college,” or “I used to be happier at my other job,” these types of statements keep us stuck in the past, wishing for something that is often no longer attainable. Reminiscing about where you Were, rarely helps you Deal with where you Are.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV: 10Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.