So you bought a fantastic looking marriage book… you read the first few pages and think: This is totally all about our relationship… this author really gets us.
Then you take the book home and read the wisdom and advice the author has to share. Most Christian marriage books are full of good stuff, so “light bulb” moments abound as you turn the pages.
After a little bit, you begin to get the author’s main thrust… this is the key idea that’s supposed to revolutionize your relationship… and it just might.
Here’s where the myth comes in… and it’s a pretty big one. In some books, there’s a sort of implicit guarantee, and it goes like this: “If you do what this book says, your spouse is bound to come around.” And a promise like that is a very attractive thing.
After all, as a marriage book author, I understand that many times the individuals who read my book are married to someone who wouldn’t give it a second look. So often, the person looking for help is married to a person who doesn’t see a problem with the relationship, doesn’t care, or isn’t interested in making things be better. Just let me inject a bit of brutal truth here: there is no formula anyone can give that person to make their spouse get with the program. If so, it would be the highest form of manipulation.
How do you “set the table” for change?
1. Focus on growing personally; be who God has called you to be.
Whether or not the other person does eventually come around, you will be living under the umbrella of God’s blessing.
Read the marriage books; go to the seminars. Learn all you can. Make it your goal to grow personally and relationally. You can’t go wrong if you follow that path.
Respect the other person, even if you don’t respect their decisions.
It’s possible in your quest to develop personally and grow relationally for you to quietly develop a sense of superiority. When you find yourself thinking that you are in some way better than the other person… look out! Researchers tell us that contemptuous attitude is a relationship ender.
3. Be genuine when you interact with the other person.
Maybe you’ll read a marriage book or magazine article and have a real break-through and experience personal growth or change. That’s great. Just don’t fake growth or change. Your spouse will sniff that out, and you’ll lose ground.
4. Don’t bother debating, arguing, or teaching your spouse about where they’re wrong.
Debate doesn’t have a place in personal relationships, because it never produces a positive outcome. The very nature of a debate or argument is that you need a third party to decide who “won,” since both arguing parties are assumed to be fully persuaded of their position. Since you probably won’t hire a referee to live with you all the time (and you’d probably dispute his calls anyway), it is better to seek to understand than to be understood.
5. Let God do His thing.
Only God has the power to change someone’s heart. And He works actively through good and badcircumstances (Rom 8:28). Work hard to be patient—give God a chance to bring the other person “to their senses” (Luke 15:17). In the mean time, it’s worth noting that those who seem the most “lost” get God’s attention first, so if you’re in a relationship with someone that’s making bad decisions, they are definitely on God’s “radar” (Luke 15).