The List – Wait for Your Spouse to Go First

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…

Hurt.

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.

Fear.

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.

Pride.

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!”

Stubbornness.

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.

1 Samuel 31 – A Long Slow Death

Have you ever watched a movie that ended abruptly, without a resolution? You’re waiting for things to turn around, but it never happens. It just ends with a heavy “thud.”

The book of 1 Samuel ends this way.

The final chapter ends the book (and the life of Saul) with a heartbreaking “thud.” You find yourself thinking back over Saul’s life and asking, “How did things come to this?”

Though 1 Samuel chapter 31 tells us when Saul came to his end, the entire book tells us how Saul got to that point. He got there gradually…little by little. He got there by…

  • Focusing on the quick way rather than the right way.
  • Worrying more about his image than his integrity.
  • Being motivated more by fear than by faith.
  • Serving himself more than serving God or others.
  • Being impulsive rather than being disciplined.

Saul was dying throughout the entire book…little by little. Chapter 31 is just the conclusion of a long, slow death.

Maybe you’ve asked the question, “How did things get to this point?” about your own life.

The record of Saul’s life is a warning to us. If we respond to things as Saul did, we too will be dying a slow, lingering death. We may live a long life, but spiritually we will die a slow death. Remember the words of Jesus…

“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35 NLT)

1 Samuel 28 – Are You Driven by Fear?

We all have things we fear, but some people are especially driven by fear. Their life is a desperate attempt to avoid things like…

  • The loss of a loved one.
  • The loss of a marriage.
  • The loss of their health.
  • The loss of financial stability.
  • The loss of position.

This is the picture of king Saul in 1 Samuel chapter 28. You can see his fearfulness build in the previous chapters…

Now, in 1 Samuel 28, Saul is so fearful of the Philistine army he scrambles to find someone to give him advice. God is no longer communicating with Saul, because of Saul’s disobedience. (1 Samuel 28:18.) So Saul breaks his own law and seeks a consultation with a medium or witch. Saul is frantically scrambling for anything to take away his fear.

It’s a strong contrast to the calm and confident David we see in the previous two chapters.

What’s the difference? Though it sounds cliché, David was trusting God and Saul was trusting Saul. David’s only focus was on what God wanted done, while Saul’s only focus was on what Saul wanted done.

Fearfulness comes from trusting yourself rather than trusting God. It comes from trying to orchestrate your own desired outcomes, rather than trusting God to orchestrate His desired outcomes.

We are not to be fearful, but rather powerful, loving, and self-controlled. (2 Timothy 1:7) So turn from fear and trust God. He alone holds the total control of our lives. (Matt. 10:28)

Control, Coronavirus, and Other Complications of Life

In these day when our news, our social media, and our lives are consumed with the Coronavirus, one thing is painfully clear…

WE ARE NOT AS IN CONTROL AS WE WANT TO BE.

We never have been. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we have done whatever we could to subjugate and eradicate the feeling of not being in control. And we’re still doing that.

Some try to convince themselves that the government will get control of this. Others repeatedly tell themselves that God is in control of this. And others militantly follow social distancing plans and hand washing procedures to stay in control of this. These are all good things, but they still fall short of putting us at ease and quenching our thirst for control.

 

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR US TO FEEL LIKE WE HAVE CONTROL?

  • We want to feel in control to keep our fear at bay. There’s a lot of fear out there. Health fear. Economic fear. Scholastic fear. Fear is swelling because we feel we can’t control these things.
  • We want to feel in control because we lack trust. We don’t trust our government to make the right calls at the right time. We don’t trust others to do what they should do to keep their distance, or to keep food on the shelves, or to keep helping when we’re in need. Then we don’t trust God to intervene as we hope…despite what we might profess.
  • We want to feel in control, because it helps us maintain a sense of self importance. We want to feel that we’re different and special. But we feel out of control when we realize we’re no different from everyone else.

 

In one way or another, there’s a bit of control freak in all of us. But here’s the thing…

WE ARE NEVER IN COMPLETE CONTROL!

There will always be things we can’t control. It’s a given in life. The quality of our life is not dependent on keeping control of everything, but rather in how we respond to the things we can’t control.

  • It’s not about making fear go away, but rather about going on in the face of fear.
  • It’s not about trusting someone to fix the problem, but rather trusting someone in the midst of the problem.
  • It’s not about being above everyone else, but rather being in it with everyone else.

 

WHAT TO DO WHEN WE’RE NOT IN CONTROL.

Even Christians have control issues at times, but we don’t need to strive for control, because…

  • In the face of fear, we’re told…“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV.
  • In the face of mistrust, we’re told…“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5 ESV.
  • In the face of self-importance, we’re told…“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11-12 ESV.

Like the rapids in a white water rafting trip, the Coronavirus is part of the trip down stream. It may raise our adrenaline, but we don’t have to be in control of the rapids. We just need to stay in the boat and listen to our guide.

In times of trials, you may not be able to control anything else, but you can control to whom you listen. Whether you’re struggling for control over work, marriage, children,  finances, or pandemics, the questions is still the same…to whom is your heart listening?

1 Samuel 10 – Commitment

have you ever known someone who had difficulty committing to something or someone? Have you ever known someone who says, “I’m in!” but still seems to have one foot out? Have you ever known someone who makes a decision, yet still hesitates to follow through with that decision?

Saul was this type of person, according to 1 Samuel chapter 10. Despite the prophet’s direction and all the confirmation he receives, Saul is still not complete in. You see this in how he stops short of telling his uncle about being anointed as king, and in how he hides when Samuel is trying to make him king. Saul has commitment issues.

Perhaps it was fear. When Saul encounters his uncle, he was in a town where their enemies (the Philistines) had an established garrison. Perhaps his difficulty with commitment was because he didn’t see himself as being worthy or able to do what he needed to do.

As you continue to read about Saul, he seems to wrestle with both fear and a lack of confidence. Yet, Scripture deals with both our fear and our lack of self confidence.

What about you? Where is it you have trouble committing to what God wants you to do? Is your hesitancy related to fear, or to a low view of yourself…or both.

God has already addressed our fear in 2 Tim. 1:7. And God has already addressed our lack of confidence in 2 Peter 1:3.

Always remember…we don’t have to hesitate in committing to what God wants us to do, because… “God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful” (1 Thes. 5:24.)

Deuteronomy 1 – Go and Occupy

Some people make things harder than they have to be. These people complicate things by ignoring suggestions and instructions. They like doing things their own way. They open the box and begin putting pieces together, without reading the instructions.

In Deuteronomy chapter 1, Moses begins a speech to the Israelites who are preparing to cross over into the Promised Land. In the speech, Moses reminds them that the generations before them had made things harder than they needed to be. They had turned an eleven day trip into a forty year trip, because they chose to do things their own way, rather than follow God’s lead.

God had their blessing in hand and was holding it out to them. He promised to pave the way and handle the difficulties they would face. All they had to do was go and occupy.

But their fear and discouragement led them to doubt God. They refuse His direction…and thus His blessing. So the previous generation spent forty years wandering in the wilderness, never receiving what God longed to give them.

I have a feeling I would be shocked and dismayed at how much un-necessary wandering I’ve done, simply because I was afraid to go and occupy. How many times during a single day does God hold some blessing out before me and longs for me to make it my own, only to see me wander and stumble trying to do things my own way.

God, help us to hear the words “Go and occupy” at every turn, and to respond without hesitation.

What is it that God is calling you to do that you’re hesitating to do? Spend this week asking God to give you the courage to step out in faith.

How the Heart of a Marriage Survives a Near Fatal Heart Surgery

In the following guest post by Debbie Latour, you will hear how a married couple faced a dangerous heart surgery and came out stronger in love, life, and faith.

When you’re divorced, middle aged, and are given the gift of happily-ever-after with a second marriage, your optimism for the future is renewed. The birds sing again, the stars twinkle brighter, and the dark cloud of a failed marriage gives way to a clear, bright sky.
As we age, certain aches and pains are expected. However, you do not anticipate that less than a month in to a new marriage, you’d hear that your husband has an aneurysmal ascending aorta. His cardiologist sent us home with the recommendation that its growth be monitored and checked in a year.
For the next year, I watched this incredible gift from God, knowing he had a ticking time bomb in his chest, praying that this was not the day it ruptured and my happily-ever-after came to a screeching halt. I lived that year in absolute fear.

Read more

How Teenagers Bring Out the Worst in Their Parents

I typically write posts focused on marriage, but this post is going to veer more into the area of parenting. Specifically, parenting teenagers, and more specifically, how teenagers bring out the worst in their parents.

As a former youth pastor, I have a special place in my heart for parents of teens. And, as the father of two grown children, I still have the twitches that can only come from teens or Turretts.

Read more

Fearing Forward – The New Year

Some face a new year with much anticipation. Others face a new year with some fear and dread. As you look back over the last twelve months, maybe your life took some hits. Maybe your marriage is still reeling from things you could never have foreseen.

The following guest post by Connie Law Plummer will help you prepare for a new year with new uncertainties.

Generally, I am not in a hurry to put Christmas away.  To me the season passes so quickly that I savor the days after Christmas and enjoy reflecting. Gods love, His care, my blessings, my family, the year that is winding down; all of these fill my heart as I look at the lights on our tree   And usually, I am excited at the prospect of the new year and what it brings. But if I am honest, this year I am feeling something different, something akin to fear.

At what other time of year are we so aware of the passing of time than while we count down to midnight on December 31st?  This year I am keenly aware of all I did not know this time last year.  Though I knew we were adding a new grand baby to our family ranks, I did not know she would require specialists and surgery and emotional strain for all of us, in addition to the joy she brought.   I did not know that I would hurriedly pack a suitcase and make a middle of the night drive to stay with another grandchild in a town two hours away, while his sister was rushed to a major pediatric medical center in another city for emergency surgery.  I did not know that I would pretty much desert my husband for a while to help out at the hospital with the newborn while her mother tended her other daughter, the recipient of that surgery.

As I looked at the Christmas lights at the close of last year, I had no way of knowing that four close family members would step out of this life and into the next so unexpectedly and tragically.  Each death unrelated to the other, and three coming in rapid succession.   I didn’t know that a great deal of my year would be spent loving the people around me who were grieving so deeply.  I didn’t know.

And so, I look at the lights this year, and feel hesitant about stepping forward into next year, like my hesitancy is going to keep time from advancing.  If this year was so costly, how can I dive into another year and risk more pain? So I examine my choices.  Hide out, refuse to take down the tree, and refuse to acknowledge the New Year?   Will that stop anything?  Will that cure my fear?

After sorting through all of these thoughts, here is where I land.

  • When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)
  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

So here we go………Happy New Year!

Connie Law Plummer

Genesis 27 – Fear and Striving

Some people are afraid of not achieving what they desire. They picture success as getting the right job, having the right house, raising the right kids, and taking the right vacations. They are driven by the fear of missing out on what they want.
Others are afraid of losing what they’ve already achieved. They pour their time and energy into improving and protecting their house. They hover over their kids, desperately trying to keep their grades up, their company right and their mistakes low. They give up family time for work, out of fear of looming cutbacks. These people are hyper-vigilant and hyper fatigued because they are driven by the fear of loss.
Both types of people operate out of fear, and that’s what they’re left with…fear.
In Genesis chapter 27, Isaac fearfully scrambles for something God has already revealed was his, and Esau fearfully scrambles for something God has already revealed was not his. (Gen. 25:23)
We are so fearful we’re going to miss something, and we work so hard to ensure we don’t miss anything. Scripture tells us this is wasted effort apart from God. (Prov. 16:33) (Prov. 20:24) (James 4:1-3) (James 4:13-15)
In his song “Prince of Peace,” the late Rich Mullins eloquently described our fear and striving with these words: “I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than take what you give that I need.”
How would your life change if, instead of scrambling to get what you think you want, you instead sought the peace and presence of the God you already have? How would your life change if, instead of trying to protect yourself from loss, you counted it all loss for the sake of something greater? (Philippians 3:7-8.)
Bret Legg is the Teaching and Counseling Pastor at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, GA.