Just in time for Feb. 14, I’ve got four easy words to erase from your vocabulary when it comes to talking to (or about) your spouse.
“If only he would…”
“If only she would…”
Those four words can damage any relationship. Especially the marriage relationship.
Here’s why those four words are so destructive: they place the blame squarely on the other person.
If Only (S)He Would = It’s All Their Fault
There’s no ownership there. There’s no “we’re in this together” mentality. There is just finger-pointing and blame shifting.
Here’s an example.
Wife – “If only he would be more romantic.”
Husband – “If only she would be more sexual.”
Both place the blame on the other person, which means neither person owns what is happening. The truth is that, generally speaking, wives need romance to feel sexy and husbands need sex to feel romantic.
See what just happened there? Blame shifting means the problem never gets addressed. Ever. Which just perpetuates the situation and causes things to get worse and worse over time. All because of the words, “If only (s)he would…”
When we believe that everything would be better if our spouse would do “x,” then we are ignoring our role in the problems that exist in our marriage. The plain fact is that the perfect marriage doesn’t exist because the perfect husband or wife doesn’t exist. That means that you are part of the problem. But that’s actually good news, because if you’re part of the problem, you can also be part of the solution.
The solution begins when you confront your own shortcomings and imperfections, and you stop playing the role of Mr. (or Mrs.) Fix-It when it comes to all your spouse’s issues. Simply put, your job is not to fix them. Your job is to serve them.
In Galatians 5, Paul wrote, “serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13b) I can’t think of better relationship advice than that.
At its core, marriage is two people living together as selfless servants. If you don’t want to serve, don’t get married. Just don’t. It’s not going to go well if you do.
But if you are already married, remember these words from Eugene Peterson. “People are not problems to be solved. They are mysteries to be explored.”
That was never truer than it is in marriage. Your spouse is imperfect, but your job is not to solve that problem.
Marriage really is a mystery. It’s a lifelong journey of discovery. It’s not a code to crack or a formula to figure out. It’s much more of an art than a science.
It’s a mystery how two people, who want to do nothing but serve each other, can get so much individually in return. But that’s how it works in God’s economy. You receive the most when you give the most.
So put away the toolbelt. Stop trying to fix him/her. And start trying to serve them instead.
You might just like the results.
Mike Edmisten is Senior Pastor at Connect Christian Church.