Now that we are entering into the holiday season, we will spend more time with our spouses and families. Some people dread this time of year. Ask the Lord to prepare your heart and attitude towards the holidays. We need to get rid of a “How can I get you to shut up and listen to me?” mindset and replace it with a “What can I do to create a safe place where understanding can take root and grow?” attitude.
Ask the Lord to give you gentleness towards each other again.
Proverbs 18:15 says, ”The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Are you being wise and seeking out knowledge about your spouse – not just regurgitating what she/he says and voicing what you had decided to say anyway? Are you truly LISTENING to the meaning BEHIND the words? This is difficult because it takes self-discipline, discernment, and selflessness.
Attitude 1: I’m right and you’re wrong. If this is your attitude, you have become preoccupied with proving to your spouse that you are right and you embark on crusades to convince her/him, which usually backfires! Ask the Lord to prompt you the moment such a situation occurs with your spouse.
Attitude 2: You’re at fault. When you blame others, you see yourself as innocent and your spouse as guilty. You’re convinced she/he should take the blame and admit guilt. A guilty person MUST be found, and you are sure it’s not you! Ask the Lord to help you not to operate with a blaming attitude, but rather to say “Sorry” when you have misunderstood a situation and acquit the other person when they have erred by excusing their mistake and forgiving them and setting them free from guilt and blame. That is what Jesus does for us every day! Remember that your fight is not against flesh and blood, but evil spirits in the air. (Ephesians 6:13).
Attitude 3: I’m the victim. If you feel you have been victimised, and that your partner is insensitive and selfish, you will not hear her/his explanation or the apology. Your spouse could express it a dozen different ways, but you won’t listen properly. Pray that the Lord reveals such an attitude if you are not aware of it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any form of sin in your life and to help you turn from it.
Attitude 4: Blind to your own faults. You complain about your spouse, but fail to see how both of you play roles in the issue. You erect a barrier against hearing your spouse’s perspective. Ask the Lord to reveal His love to both of you, to show you things in one another that are pleasing to Him, and begin to emphasise those things. You will be surprised what an impact this will have the next time either of you want to accuse one another! And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment. (Philippians 1:9).
Attitude 5: Defensiveness. Because you fear being criticised, you don’t listen to what is said and evaluate it. Instead, you reject most statements. Sometimes you expect to be criticised, so you hear criticism when it does not exist. If this is true of your relationship, ask the Lord to bring to mind something you love in your spouse, but which you have forgotten about. Ask Him to give you gentleness towards each other again. Over time, a gentle attitude will break all accusation and defensiveness.
Attitude 6: Mistrust. If you do not trust your spouse, you will believe she/he is lying before the person even says anything! If you indeed have reason to doubt her/him, it is especially hard to overcome this attitude. Pray and ask the Lord to help you forgive when necessary. Ask Him to put His love and compassion in your heart again, to make you feel towards your spouse the way He does, despite their conduct.
Attitude 7: Repeat what you think you heard your spouse say. Listening implies an obvious interest in your spouse’s feelings and opinions, and an attempt to understand them from her/his perspective. It means you let your spouse know that you hear and understand what they are saying, and why you respond the way that you do. Arguing with a critic rarely works, but finding things that you both agree on builds a closer relationship. When you listen, don’t defend yourself; but that does not mean you have to agree with all that is said. If you can find some truth to agree with, your spouse will be less on the offensive and more open to listening to you and considering your requests. As a result, your desire for change in her/him may receive consideration.
See if you can find a copy of the book “How to Change Your Spouse (Without Ruining Your Marriage)” by H. Norman Wright. It addresses these and many other issues, and may give insight into your relationship. It may also create an opportunity for you and your spouse to work through issues together: reading, praying and laughing together.