Day 21 — The Best Way To Help Your Spouse Change
31-Day Marriage Devotional
“Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” — (Romans 2:4)
There are several ways to motivate your spouse to change. Here are six of those ways. As you go through this list, examine your heart to see which ones you tend to employ the most often when your spouse is not changing according to your expectations.
- The Shame Approach: Pointing out how dumb that thing was that your spouse did.
- The Guilt Approach: Comparing your spouse’s poor behavior with someone else’s good behavior.
- The Threat Approach: Yelling the consequences of your spouse’s sin if they continue in it.
- The Condemnation Approach: Putting your spouse down or making fun of him/her in front of others.
- The Critical Approach: Always pointing out your spouse’s faults, no matter how small they may be.
- The Cynical Approach: Though your spouse may have done something good, you know his/her intent was selfish.
How did you do? Did you see yourself in any of those approaches? All of the methods I have suggested can work, especially if your spouse willingly gives you that kind of power over them, or if you manipulate them into submission.
If any of these methods are the ones you employ, you may be an exasperating person. If you continue to use these methods, your marriage will stay weak, strained, and non-redemptive.
Let’s say your observations about your spouse are correct. Having the right perspective does not automatically mean your methods for change are correct. There is a process for change found in the Bible, and it can be redemptively useful. This approach finds its anchor in the gospel.
There are many ways to say it, but for now, I am going to simplify by calling it being nice. How are you doing at being nice to your spouse, especially when he/she is not meeting your expectations? (cf. Matthew 5:44–45; Luke 6:27)
The primary motive to be kind should be because of your desire to magnify God’s name by putting His Son on display in the context of your marriage. You want to make His name fantastically great for His glory and the benefit of your spouse.
If you get good results because you were kind to your spouse, you can praise God for the good results. Personal blessings that happen for loving God and others more than yourself is a thing to be praised, not an idol to be worshiped. Potential impure motivations are why you want to guard your heart against using niceness as a tool rather than being obedient regardless of outcomes.
The “Encouragement Approach” does not mean you should overlook sin. You should not ignore your spouse’s sins. But finding fault is not typically that hard. What you may have to do is train your mind to encourage your spouse. Adamic people do not natively make encouragement their practice. But when you do encourage, redemptive things happen:
- Your spouse is encouraged.
- Your spouse gains insight into how Jesus lived.
- Your spouse learns good and acceptable behaviors.
- You both can praise God for His work in your lives.
- The encouraged spouse is built up in the faith.
- You strengthen your relationship with your spouse.
- You have more liberty to bring future critique to your spouse.
Time to Reflect
Do you have a well-tuned Got-It-Right-Antenna? As you might imagine, this takes more time and is harder to perfect than being a nitpicker. Catching people doing well takes effort but when you do catch them getting it right, it motivates them toward change because that is what God’s kindness does.
For the next seven days, I want you to sharpen your “got it right antenna” by observing, catching, identifying, and acknowledging your spouse getting it right. Each time you “catch your spouse” doing something good, let him/her know. Work hard at becoming an encourager.
Originally published at Rick Thomas.