Note: We are currently in a series called “The List.” The list refers to a list of ways you can lose your marriage, and is based on information gleaned from over 20 years of counseling records and watching marriage fail.
“You go first.” “No, you go first!” “Why should I be the one to go first? You go first!”
Parents hear this from their kids when those kids are facing something challenging, scary, or something they just don’t want to do.
But this also occurs between spouses. It just sounds different. It sounds more like, “Well, it would be a lot easier for me to do what you want if you would just ___________.” Or, “How can I do that when you’re still doing this.” This is the married version of “You go first.” “No, you go first.”
SO WHO GOES FIRST?
So many marital disputes boil down to who’s going to go first. We usually know what we need to do. We just don’t want to go first. We want our spouse to make the first move toward making things right.
But waiting on your spouse to make the first move makes things worse. And doing that long enough can cost you your marriage.
You should be the one who goes first in trying to make things better.
Now some of you are thinking, “Why should I be the one who goes first! You don’t even know the situation! You don’t know what my spouse has done! How can you say I should be the one who goes first to make it right?!”
Well first, let’s talk about why it’s so difficult to be the one who goes first.
WHY IS GOING FIRST SO HARD?
If you push back against going first, that’s perfectly natural and understandable. Going first is difficult. Here are some reasons why going first is so hard…
Maybe the reason it’s hard for you to go first is that your spouse has hurt you. Maybe they’ve hurt your feelings, or your pride, or your sense of fairness. And just like any wound, burn, or broken limb, that hurt has made you very sensitive and guarded.
Perhaps it’s hard for you to go first because you’re afraid of being taken advantage of. Maybe you’re afraid of getting hurt again. When you’re hurt by your spouse, it can make it harder to trust them going forward, for fear that they’ll do it again.
This is a subject none of us what to admit, but pride can often get in our way of going first. Our pride causes us to think things like: “Why should I go first? They’re the ones who messed up!” “If I go first, they’ll think I’m weak.” “I can’t go first. Then they’ll think they can get away with anything!”
And finally, we often let our stubbornness get in the way of going first. We’re convinced that we’re right, and we’re going to stick to our guns no matter what. We’re not going to compromise our principles…no matter what.
WHY GOING FIRST IS SO IMPORTANT.
I know going first is hard when you feel you’ve been wronged. I struggle with it all the time. But despite how difficult it is, going first is important for the following reasons:
It breaks a stalemate and gets things moving.
When there is hurt or disagreement in a marriage, it creates an emotional and behavioral log jam. Just like a log jam in a stream, love can’t begin to flow between spouses until someone makes a move to remove a log and get the love and behaviors flowing again. It’s within your power to get things flowing again, by going first.
Going first also makes it easier for your spouse to respond positively. You may be thinking, “It’s not my job to make it easier for them. They should do what’s right, even if it’s hard!” But that’s a two-way street. If you want them to do what they should do so it will be easier for you to respond to them, then you have to be willing to do the same.
It starts to change attitudes.
We feel like our attitude needs to change before we can take the right action. But it’s actually the other way around. When you do the right thing, it starts to change your attitude…making it easier to do the next right thing. When you do the right thing, it not only positively affects your attitude, it positively affects your spouse’s attitude also.
And when you lovingly go first and do the right thing, it makes it harder for your spouse to blame you for their actions. In effect, going first takes away their ammunition.
It’s a tangible expression of love.
Love is expressed more in what you do than in what you say. If you say you love your spouse, but then wait for them to go first, your words of love mean little. You’re basically saying, “I’ll love you, only if you do what I think you need to do.” That’s not love, that’s bartering. Love sacrifices what you want for what your spouse needs.
It makes logical sense.
You can’t force your spouse to change. Trying to force them to do something (like going first) is disrespectful, offensive, and insights resistance. Don’t you feel the same way when they’re trying to force you to do something? So it’s illogical to try to force them to do something they don’t want to do and expect it to make things better.
Any change made in a marriage…no matter who makes it…will have an effect on the marriage as a whole. So, even if you believe your spouse should go first you ging first, will change things.
It’s a spiritual principle.
And finally, if you’re a person of faith, the idea that you should go first is backed up in the Scripture.
Matthew 5:23-26 says that if your “brother” has something against you, you should go and make things right between you. But later in Matthew 18:15, we’re told that if you have something against your “brother,” go and try to make it right with them. If you sum up these two passages, I always should be the one who goes first.
A FINAL WORD…
In marriage, both spouses should strive to go first. But I know it’s hard to be the one to go first in trying to do the right thing; especially if you’re feeling hurt or fear being taken advantage of. But going first can make a real difference in your marriage. It can get things moving again, change your attitude, and make it easier for your spouse to respond in kind.
But here’s a caveat… I’m not saying if you always go first, everything will always be great in your marriage. It takes two people, working together, to make the marriage work well. You going first and doing the right things does not ensure that your spouse will do the same.
But, Romans 12:18 tells us…“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” That verse infers that it may not always be possible to live peaceably with someone. But it is possible for you to do what “depends on you.” And that involves going first to try to make things right in marriage.
Because if you consistently wait for your spouse to go first, it will be detrimental to your marriage. That’s why…IT’S ON THE LIST.