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.
Ok. Let’s jump right into this. One of the ways you can lose your spouse is to not accept them.
You may be thinking, “I married them, didn’t I? What do you mean not accept them?”
TO FEEL UNACCEPTED
Too many marriages fail because spouses have trouble accepting each other for who they are.
Now let me say at the outset, I’m not suggesting that you should accept abuse, adultery, addictions, or abandonment. These are things that are destructive to both you and to the marriage and should never be accepted as being ok.
What I’m talking about is accepting your spouse for the unique person they are…even if they’re different from you. (And they are!) Believe it or not, one of the things that attracted you to each other was your differences.
But after we’re married, we start trying to change those differences and make our spouses more like ourselves. This comes across as a lack of acceptance, and it feels not only disrespectful but also hurtful.
Most everyone has felt the sting of not being accepted at one time or another. Maybe…
- You were the new kid in class.
- You moved and had trouble making friends.
- You looked different than others.
- You spoke a different language.
- You didn’t get the job or position you wanted.
- You weren’t interested in the same things as others.
Whatever it was/is, you probably know what it feels like to not be accepted.
To not feel accepted in your marriage is soul-crushing. No one is perfect, but we all need to feel accepted…especially by our spouse. So, you need to help your spouse feel accepted in marriage.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HELP YOUR SPOUSE FEEL ACCEPTED?
Acceptance is one of those things that you know when you feel it, but it’s hard to define and put into words. So let me give you a simple definition of acceptance. Acceptance is simply…
Helping someone feel welcomed and wanted.
When you feel welcomed and wanted, you feel accepted. When you were dating, you worked hard to make each other feel welcomed and wanted. But the longer you’re married, the easier it is to not feel as accepted, because…
- We stop trying so hard to accept each other once we’re married.
- We let common courtesies fall by the wayside.
- We get frustrated when married life doesn’t live up to our expectations.
- We start focusing more on what we don’t like about our spouse than on what we do.
Many a spouse is hurt and withering in marriage because they feel unaccepted as a person.
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR SPOUSE FEEL ACCEPTED?
I know this sounds like a big broad topic to get your hands around, but you can help your spouse (or anyone else for that matter) feel accepted…welcomed, and wanted…in 3 really simple ways:
Greet them well.
When I come home from work, if my wife grunts out a “hey” and barely looks up from what she’s doing, it sets the whole tone for my evening. But if she smiles at me, gives me a big “Hey, I’m so glad you’re home” it puts me in a completely different and better mood. If she comes and gives me a hug and a kiss, that’s even better.
It’s funny how a simple greeting can change a spouse’s attitude…all because they feel welcomed and wanted.
Treat them well.
Now granted, they may not deserve to be treated well. Maybe they’ve been grumpy, or ugly, or hard to get along with. But haven’t there been times when you were the same way, and you still wanted to be treated well?
So whether they deserve it or not, consistently try to:
- Do nice things for them.
- Think about what they might like.
- Put them first.
- Speak well of them.
Again, you may not feel like it and they might not deserve it. But when you treat them well, they will feel welcomed and wanted. They will feel accepted. This boosts anyone’s spirits and tends to make them want to respond in kind.
Trust when things aren’t going well.
Just because you greet them well and treat them well, doesn’t mean things will always be well between the two of you. There will still be difficulties and conflicts between you that you will have to work out. But when that happens, don’t withdraw. Keep greeting them well and treating them well. Then:
- Trust that they truly love you and will eventually be changed through your actions.
- Trust God (if you’re a person of faith) that He will work to improve things between the two of you.
A FINAL WORD…
Here are two disclaimers to all of this…
- Acceptance is not a cure-all. It is not a magic tactic that fixes anything and everything.
- Nor should a spouse accept things like abuse, adultery, addictions, or abandonment. These must be corrected (usually with the help of a counselor or others) for the marriage to work.
But acceptance can be a powerful tool that can strengthen your marriage and draw you closer together. And the lack of accepting your spouse for who they are can eventually cause you to lose your marriage. And so…it’s on the list.