You won’t catch me ragging on any specific ministries but there are some things that everyone should know. One of the signs of a good ministry is that they work on you and leave your spouse to God’s hand. Any marriage “ministry” that claims a poor marriage is sole the responsibility of the husband or the wife is just flat out wrong and without scriptural support. As I stated in an earlier post, there’s always two sinners in every marriage. No more. No less. Anybody that tries to tell you differently is trying to sell you something.
There are ministries out there that will tell you that women are “responders” only and will only respond to her husband’s leadership or lack thereof. There are also ministries out there that will tell you that your marriage is bad because your wife isn’t submissive enough. Both of these types of “ministries” are peddling something and that something is summed up in one word, blame. If you can blame someone else you don’t have to take responsibility for any part of your bad marriage yourself.
I’m currently reading ScreamFree Marriage by Hal and Jenny Hunkle and at the beginning of Chapter Three in the book he has this quote from Psychologist Albert Ellis:
The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.~Albert Ellis
I believe that a sign of maturity is to take responsibility for our problems and what we can control. I cannot truly control anyone but myself. Oh sure I can manipulate, bully and coerce to get my way but that’s not a sign of maturity, just the opposite. So these marriage ministries that peddle the blame are shifting the responsibility for what you can control.
So what can you control? You can control yourself and your responses. Another true sign of maturity is a person who can keep their head while everyone around them is losing theirs. If your spouse snaps at you what can you control in that moment? Your response. You can choose to remain calm and discuss why they snapped at you reasonably and, hopefully, remain calm, cool and mature. Easier said that done.
So take responsibility for what belongs to you and allow your spouse the consequences of their decisions and to take responsibility for what belongs to them. One of the less mature things that any of us can do is to make it easier for a spouse to continue their poor behavior. They need to feel the natural consequences for the decisions and choices that they’ve made and they shouldn’t be protected from those natural consequences. Notice I said “natural consequences” and not “man-made consequences.” You shouldn’t create more problems for your spouse but you shouldn’t protect them from the natural consequences of their behavior either. Caveat: Any behavior that harms them or others should NOT be tolerated and should be handled in a reasonable and responsible manner.
So, when looking for ways to improve your marriage look for things you can control. If you spouse has an anger problem handing them a book on dealing with anger will go over about as well as handing your spouse a diet book. It doesn’t work. You’ll actually be surprised at how acting more reasonably, respectfully, lovingly and maturely toward your spouse will actually change their response towards you. These things don’t happen in a vacuum, they’re all interrelated.
There is no “silver bullet.” Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. Don’t buy it.