No one wants their marriage to be bad, yet so many marriages continue to languish in various states of dissatisfaction, irritability, and outright hostility. What is it that keeps so many spouses wishing they had a better marriage, but never getting one? Often, people blame it on their spouse or their circumstances, but that approach leaves them feeling stuck and powerless.
In John 5:1-9, there’s a story about a man who had been sick thirty-eight years and lying near a pool of water with other sick people. They all believed that occasionally an angel would agitate the waters, and the first one in the pool would be healed. (I know. It sounds far fetched, but how many people crowd around a lottery counter believing that if they could just get the right numbers their problems would be over.)
Jesus sees the man and asks, “Would you like to get well?” What was Jesus thinking? Why wouldn’t the man want to get well? Why else would he be camped out at the pool with all the other people who want to get well?
The man answered Jesus by saying, “I can’t, sir, for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” (John 5:7 NLT)
This man’s answer reveals some things about him:
- He didn’t believe it was possible. His response to Jesus’ question was not “Yes, I would like to get well.” Instead he said, “I can’t…” His negativity prevented him from seeing the possibility.
- He shifted responsibility to someone else. Jesus asked him what he wanted, but his answer focused on what others wouldn’t do. He made other’s lack of action responsible for his condition, rather than assuming responsibility for himself.
- He blamed someone else for his problems. He said, “Someone always gets there ahead of me.” When he blamed others, he went for the sympathy vote and made himself the victim.
Jesus didn’t discount anything the man said. Instead, he turned the man’s focus off of other people and onto himself. He challenged the man to take responsibility for himself and his actions. He told him, “You stand up. You pick up your mat. You walk.” Jesus went on to heal the man, but not before the man did what he needed to do.
There are many spouses in difficult marriages who have lost hope that their marriage can be better. They believe their spouse is to blame for all their unhappiness. Consequently, they believe it’s their spouse’s responsibility to make their marriage better. And since they can’t see their spouse changing, they become hopeless and eventually bitter. (Prov. 13:12)
Now I know that you can’t force your spouse to act as they should. I also know that some spouses can be very hurtful and harmful. But, just like the man at the pool, you can focus on how they hinder you from being the spouse you should to be, or you can focus on taking responsibility to be the spouse you should be.
For you, “stand, up, pick up your mat, and walk” might include…
- Focusing more on your mistakes than on theirs.
- Focusing more on the good things about them than on the bad things about them.
- Responding with words and actions of kindness, rather than bitterness.
- Treating them with the love and respect you would desire for yourself.
- Giving them the benefit of the doubt more often than not.
I know it’s easier said than done, but these are just a few of the ways you can take personal responsibility for making your marriage better.
And one more thing…when you take responsibility for making your marriage better, don’t do it in a militant, pushy, my-way-or-the-highway kind of way. This just shifts from blaming them to beating up on them. Take responsibility in a loving, gracious, and kind way…even when you don’t feel like it.
Taking personal responsibility to do the things you need to do to make your marriage better, will not insure that your marriage will get better, but it will remove many of the obstacles that stand in the way of your marriage getting better.
Which takes us back to the original question: Do you really want a better marriage?
What do you need to do to shift from blaming your spouse to taking personal responsibility for making your marriage better? Whatever it is, swallow your pride and begin doing what you need to do to make your marriage better.
Copyright © 2018 Bret Legg