Suppose you’ve been married a few years or even a few months. In that case, you may have noticed that there’s a subtle emotional seesaw present. Resentment toward your spouse sits on one side and compassion sits on the other. Don’t worry; it’s in all marriages, although many of us may not even recognize it. The thing is, we often don’t notice until the resentment side gets a little too heavy.
“Resentment is the persistent feeling that you’re being treated unfairly — not getting due respect, appreciation, affection, help, apology, consideration, praise, or reward,” says clinical psychologist Steven Stosny.
Resentment tends to arise in a marriage when one spouse takes advantage of their partner or takes them for granted. Often resentment can arise from minor issues that compound with time.
Common issues that lead to resentment are:
Habitual selfish behaviors
Prioritizing a job over the relationship
Not being fully present when you’re with your spouse
Expecting too much of your spouse
Failing to celebrate your spouse
If resentment builds, it can lead to withdrawal or contempt, and we don’t want either of those present in our marriage. So, let’s try to reduce our resentment before it becomes contempt.
Reducing resentment starts with you. You may have resentment toward your spouse, and they may not even be aware of the cause. Resentment is a self-destructive habit. Your spouse may have hurt or wronged you, but the resentment has grown within you. And it feels awful.
So to reduce resentment in your marriage, let’s look in the mirror and start there.
1. Your feelings are real, so don’t deny your feelings.
You don’t have to deny that you were hurt in some way. But keeping it to yourself or burying your feelings doesn’t help you overcome them. Identify them and seek to understand where those feelings are coming from. Once you have an idea of what’s causing you to feel the way you feel, express it to your partner.
2. Write it down: how you feel, why you feel that way, your grudges, and their source.
This exercise of self-reflection can help you get to the source of your resentment. You may find that your resentment stems from an unrealistic expectation or from your perception. Now, write down why you should forgive your spouse so you can let it go.
3. Focus on your partner’s good qualities.
Remember, you married them, so there are lots of good qualities. Don’t let the mistakes that led to your resentment overshadow the positive. Choose to focus on the positive. Give grace. Don’t assume that they have hurt you intentionally. Think the best of your spouse.
4. Build a habit of compassion.
As compassion increases, resentment declines. If resentment is a habit, the only way to break it is to replace the habit with something opposite. Exercise compassion toward yourself and then toward your spouse. Have empathy; it’s where compassion begins. Empathy is trying to see a situation from another person’s point of view. Remember, there are always two sides to every story.
5. Get help from a professional (if you need it).
A counselor or therapist can help you get to the root of your resentment. If you are habitually resentful, you can reignite the compassion in your marriage with just a little help.
Choose Compassion Instead
It may not be easy, but the more compassion you have in your marriage, the less room resentment has to live. Compassion can be contagious, so the more understanding you show your spouse, the more they may offer you. Healthy relationships start with compassion, genuine care, and concern for the wellbeing of each person. If you want to reduce resentment in your marriage and help your relationship thrive, choose compassion and grace instead of resentment.
GRATITUDE IS POWERFUL IN MARRIAGE
This free guide is filled with 30 days of simple, easy-to-follow daily tasks. You’ll be guided through everything you need to fill the next month with gratitude and love! You can do it on your own or with your spouse. Either way, this guide can help you transform your marriage through gratitude in 30 days!
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Untitled-1-01.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-09-09 09:48:312021-09-14 10:19:435 Ways to Reduce Resentment in Your Marriage
Taking the time to self-reflect can help you find out.
Has your spouse accused you of being passive-aggressive? Maybe they say you’re manipulative. Maybe they tell you that you never speak your mind. Sometimes it may seem like you’ve gained the upper hand in disagreements, but it still feels like the relationship never wins. Are you passive-aggressive or being falsely accused? Well, let’s look at a few ways to shed more light on whether you’re passive-aggressive or not.
Think of it this way: You’re expressing your negative feelings aggressively, negatively. Often, this asserts your control, power, or desire to punish your spouse. However, it’s done passively or indirectly. If you’re not directly naming it, your spouse may not be sure what the real issue is.
Aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean loud, forceful, or demonstrative. But it is often intentional and pointed directly toward your spouse.
Different Levels of Passive-Aggressiveness
1. Passive-Aggressive Moments.
Many people have moments of passive-aggressiveness. Sometimes, you just don’t have the emotional energy to deal with a conflict, so you use passive-aggressive behavior to keep control of the issue. You may not demonstrate this behavior often, but every now and then, you might pull it out of your bag of tricks. You probably know it’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but the alternative at the moment isn’t worth it.
2. Passive-Aggressive Habits.
Being passive-aggressive is your primary way of addressing issues with your spouse. You may even find it hard to initiate a conversation about an issue head-on. You may have become “effective” at passive-aggressive behavior. It seems to get you what you want.
3. Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.
The American Psychiatric Association defines this as a “pervasive pattern of negativistic attitudes and passive resistance to demands for adequate performance in social and occupational situations.” 2,3 This person feels impossible to tackle conflict with. Their passive-aggressive nature spreads throughout every part of their life.
What does passive-aggressive behavior look like?
Here are some ways being passive-aggressive may play out.
1. Sarcastic, snarky comments.
On its own, the comment you make may sound like a compliment. But the context is clearly meant to be negative. You and your spouse haven’t had a real conversation in weeks, but you hear your spouse chopping it up with one of their friends. You say, “You two sure do have a lot to talk about.” On its own, it seems innocent. Perhaps you’re hoping they feel the sharpness of your emotions. You feel neglected, maybe a bit jealous. However, instead of coming out and saying what you feel, you make a sarcastic remark.
2. Half-doing tasks.
Your spouse’s schedule has changed, and they aren’t doing things around the house, leaving it to you. You resent their schedule change, or you feel like they’re taking you for granted. Instead of bringing it up, you half-heartedly do the tasks like yard work, laundry, or cleaning. It’s obviously not up to standard. You’re trying to prove a point.
3. Silence or distance. (I struggle with this one.)
You gain control by not talking about anything of substance. Your conversations become surface-level or just about facts. Nothing personal or vulnerable. You build a wall between you and your spouse. You’re expressing your anger, resentment, displeasure, etc., through silence. This gives you control of the situation or at least makes you feel like you’re in control.
4. Agreeing, but not really agreeing.
Your spouse wants to go to the in-laws, but you don’t want to go. Your spouse knows you don’t want to go, and you can’t even believe they’ve asked you to come along. Instead of sharing your true desire, you agree to go not out of compassion or being a team player but out of resentment. You’re upset because they should know that you’re not ok with going.
5. Ignoring, putting off, or procrastinating.
Your spouse has asked you to do something. Your negative feelings toward your spouse may have nothing to do with what they’ve asked. However, you choose to express your negative emotions by continually putting off their request while never sharing the real reason.
Signs You May Be Passive-Aggressive… Self-Reflection Questions
While you self-reflect, consider…
How do you address conflict in your marriage? Do you clearly communicate your thoughts, emotions, and desires, or do you drop hints? Do you exhibit any of the previously mentioned behaviors? Is ist possbile that you simply avoid conflict while sending sharp signals that there is conflict?
Do you have negative thoughts about your spouse that motivate how you respond to them? How do they know those thoughts? Or do they? Is it possible you have built-up anger or resentment that comes out through simple requests?
Do you usually control the when and where you deal with marital problems? You may be using passive-aggressive behavior to control or manipulate your spouse instead of working together.
Understanding how you deal with issues in your marriage can help your marriage thrive through difficult times.
If you come to the conclusion that you are a passive-aggressive spouse, that’s progress! Even if you don’t, this can open up meaningful conversations with your spouse to figure out how to handle conflict well in your marriage. The ultimate goal here isn’t about pointing out faults; it’s about transforming conflict in your marriage into building blocks for intimacy. Becoming a better version of yourself in that process is a strong byproduct I’ll take any day.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Untitled-4-01.png5001200Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-09-08 13:37:282021-09-09 10:22:095 Ways to Tell If You’re a Passive-Aggressive Spouse
Newsflash: Sometimes your spouse is going to make you plain mad.
(Not to mention you’ll inevitably do something to annoy the heck out of them.)
Something is said, something is done without you being informed, something is left undone…
And the blood starts to boil.
Being angry is perfectly normal, and usually, things can be worked through. Mistakes and misunderstandings are a normal part of any relationship, especially a marriage.
But it’s how a person responds in their anger that can help find a resolution or derail the marriage train. Passive-aggressiveness in marriage not only throws the relationship off its tracks, but it’s also downright destructive.
Passive-aggressive behavior in marriage is when a person expresses anger or annoyance in an indirect way.1
One person forgot to put the dishes away. The other says, Wow, look at all these dishes in here. Sure would be nice if they were in the cabinet where they belong…
One said something that embarrassed the other last night in front of friends. The embarrassed person hasn’t spoken a word to the other since thinking their silence will wake their spouse up to what they did wrong.
One spouse left their dirty socks on the bed when they came home. The other nonchalantly throws them in the trash can and walks away with a smile.
A passive-aggressive response in marriage is marked with quiet bitterness. It’s often a way to punish the offender emotionally, letting them “wallow in their sin” for a while. The “offended” seemingly avoids the conflict while putting the “offender” in a place of guilt, shame, and discomfort. It’s a power-play, a form of manipulation, and a highly ineffective way of dealing with conflict and strengthening a marriage.2, 3
Just in case I haven’t been too clear on this yet: Passive-aggressiveness is not good for a marriage.4
And yet, we all tend to act passive-aggressively at times. Fortunately, you can avoid it.
How can you and your spouse end passive-aggressive behavior in your marriage?
Talk about the importance of checking your anger before you respond.
It’s essential to pause and examine your emotions. Ask yourself, Okay, how am I feeling toward my spouse right now? I’m obviously frustrated. But am I being bitter? Am I trying to make my spouse feel ashamed or guilty? Am I expressing my feelings in a healthy way?
Agree to avoid dwelling on it.
This is when you replay the thing that has offended you over and over again in your mind. It builds negative energy and makes you even angrier the more you think about it. Decide together to talk about an issue directly, respectfully, and in a timely manner.
Practice addressing an issue directly.
Establish some ground rules for working through more serious issues respectfully. Agree to sincerely express emotions with each other. To avoid ruminating, it might be helpful to have a 24-hour rule. If either of you has any beef with the other, you’ll address it in a civil manner within 24 hours.
Have weekly check-in meetings to resolve hanging issues.
Establish a regular time to meet together over coffee and simply connect. Use that time to calmly get anything out in the open that needs to be hashed out.
Hey, would you mind putting up the dishes tonight? I think it might’ve been forgotten yesterday.
Do you remember that thing you said last night? It was a little embarrassing. I know you didn’t mean harm, and I totally forgive you already. But I just wanted you to know how I felt.
I know this is silly, but leaving socks out really bugs me. Would you mind throwing those in the hamper when you come in from work?
Consider what you each are holding back from the past.
Is there something between you and your spouse in the past that causes passive-aggressiveness to creep into your marriage? Or perhaps from a previous relationship? We sometimes don’t even realize how these events shape how we handle present issues. Wrestling with them isn’t easy, but it helps you.
Choose one of these strategies to work through and talk about as a couple this week. There’s always room to strengthen your marriage, and figuring out how to eliminate passive-aggressiveness is a major step to take toward a healthier relationship.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-4-01.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-08-24 15:41:342021-08-30 13:26:24How to End Passive Aggressive Behavior in Marriage
When the trust was broken in my marriage, I wondered if we could survive without it.
Trust is a cornerstone of marriage. When we trust our partner, we feel emotionally safe with them. This safety allows for deeper connection and drives us to endure tough times when they arise. Trust is not only important for the health of our relationship but also for our physical health.
For more than 40 years, Dr. John Gottman has been studying what makes a marriage work. He found that the number one issue for couples was trust and betrayal. During his study, social psychologists asked people in relationships, “What is the most desirable quality you’re looking for in a partner when you’re dating?” The number one response was trustworthiness.
Dr. Gottman found what many of us would agree with: Trust is essential to healthy relationships.
So, how do we build trust? Trust is created in the small moments. Dr. Gottman calls these sliding door moments. “In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.” One moment may not be that important when you think of it by itself, but if you continually turn toward your spouse in the small moments, you’re building trust. If you continually turn away from your spouse, you’re eroding trust.
But what happens when there’s betrayal?
Betrayal can come in many forms. It can be loud and big or subtle and discrete. You experience betrayal when you discover that your spouse is hiding information from you. Or when they withhold support when you need it. You feel betrayed when you cannot entirely rely on your partner.
When we feel betrayed, it’s common to ask the question, “How can I ever trust them again?” But, here’s the good news: It is possible to rebuild trust. Remember those sliding door moments? Rebuilding trust takes lots of those. It requires choosing to move toward your spouse in the small moments. Trust is a two-way street, and to rebuild trust, you both have to move toward each other. In my marriage, we realized we could rebuild trust, but it would take time and intentionality.
Dan Yoshimoto, a graduate student of Dr. Gottman, found in the study that the basis of building trust is attunement. He broke down the idea of attunement with an acronym:
Awareness of your partner’s emotion
Turning toward the emotion
Tolerance of two different viewpoints
Understanding your partner
Non-defensive responses to your partner
Responding with Empathy
When we are attuned to our spouse, we are better able to build trust.
In the book What Makes Love Last? Gottman and Silver lay out the following four methods for communicating with your partner that fosters trust through attunement.
1. Put your feelings into words.
It can be challenging to articulate what you feel. There’s no shame in that. Just communicate that to your partner.
2. Ask open-ended questions.
Avoid close-ended questions that elicit one-word responses. Open-ended questions ask for a story and show genuine curiosity on your part.
3. Follow up with statements that deepen the connection.
When your partner responds to one of your open-ended questions, reflect back on what you heard. In your own words, paraphrase what they said. Don’t make assumptions, defend yourself, or bring the focus to you.
4. Express compassion and empathy.
Don’t tell your partner how they should be feeling. Don’t react defensively. Instead, hold space for their feelings, all of them, even if they feel uncomfortable to you. This creates a deeper connection and a sense of emotional safety. Your partner now knows they can talk to you about the hard stuff.
Trust is the bedrock of a healthy marriage. When it’s broken, it takes time to heal. Rebuilding trust between my wife and I wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Marriage can survive without trust, but it’s not as healthy. To have a healthy, life-giving marriage, choose to rebuild trust.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-2-01.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-08-24 14:30:522021-08-30 13:21:29Can A Marriage Survive Without Trust?
And why saying "Baby, we need to talk..." won't actually help.
My husband and I* find ourselves in the same type of argument, over and over again. Rinse and repeat. It goes a little like this:
>> I bring up something that’s bothering me. (It doesn’t matter how gently or carefully I say it.)
>> He immediately gets defensive.
>> I get frustrated that he’s being defensive.
>> He gets stubborn.
>> I get resentful that he’s being stubborn and start to criticize him.
>> He shuts down and starts stonewalling me.
>> I get extremely hurt and feel like he doesn’t care about me.
Round and round we go until someone waves the white flag. However, this never happens without a whole lotta tears and words that we wish we could take back.
I’ve always considered myself an excellent communicator. I’ve read the books, I’ve listened to the experts, I’ve honed my skills with active listening techniques, avoiding the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and using all of the “I” statements. I want to talk about the issue so we can find a solution and feel connected again. But he doesn’t want to talk. He feels attacked and condemned. Did I say the wrong thing? Was it the wrong time to talk? Does he just not care about me? Is this never-ending cycle ruining our marriage?
I had to find an actual solution.
Then I came across this quote:
“Couples are not disconnected because they have poor communication. They have poor communication because they are disconnected.”
Dr. Pat Love
In their book, How to Improve Marriage Without Talking About It, Dr. Pat Love and Dr. Steven Stosny describe the root cause of why a perfectly good marriage can fail without either person doing anything wrong. No matter how hard you try to fix the issue by talking through it, this one thing is making it worse, not better. It’s called the Fear/Shame Spiral.
Please note: the studies done by Love and Stosny looked at the relationship between men and women as group averages, not individual differences. Keep in mind that the rest of this blog speaks to men in general and women in general. Although their studies apply to the majority, they do not tell us anything about individual men and women. That being said…
Fear and Shame
The most common female core vulnerability is the fear of abandonment: isolation, neglect, rejection, feeling alone.
Most women thrive on closeness and connection. So naturally, if there is any type of issue, she needs to talk through it to feel connected again. Women generally actually view a complaint as an invitation to move closer. We’ve had a bad day, we want to talk about it. We had a frustrating experience at the store, so we called up our best friend to vent. However…
The most common male core vulnerability is feeling shame: embarrassment, weakness, failure, inadequacy.
Men tend to pride themselves on being able to please their partner. But if there is any type of issue, men may feel like they’ve let their spouse down. This intense feeling of shame activates their fight or flight response, making them shut down, stonewall, get angry, or defensive.
Then We Spiral Down
When a woman feels like her spouse isn’t showing up for her in the way she needs (whether that’s something like forgetting to switch the laundry or not speaking her love language), it activates her core vulnerability of feeling fear and anxiety. Her complaint, request, or comment, however unassuming it may seem, sounds like criticism to her husband, which triggers his core vulnerability — feeling shame. He’s let her down, he’s not provided or protected her, and all he has done for her has been overlooked.
In other words, he feels like a complete failure. Flooded with the stress hormone cortisol, his body immediately goes into fight or flight, and he feels the need to defend and withdraw. This, of course, feels like abandonment and triggers her fear and anxiety even more, which triggers his shame more. And round and round they go. No matter who started it, the Fear/Shame spiral is a vicious cycle that just breeds more and more disconnection and hurt.
YOU CAN BE HAPPILY MARRIED.
And no, that’s not just a fairytale. Sometimes we settle, we coexist, we go along to get along, or we just try to keep the damage to a minimum. There are no perfect marriages. There are also no unicorns. So what? You can always Maximize Your Marriage. You know what’s NOT a mythical creature? Your marriage being BETTER than you could ever imagine.
To help you write the next chapter of your marriage story, each module features…
A simple, easy-to-understand video lead by marriage experts,
A download to help you personalize the key concepts for your marriage, and
Action items to transform your marriage as you go through the course.
You’ll have access to two marriage experts every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement. (THIS is what makes Maximize Your Marriage customized & personalized!)
The only way out of the Fear/Shame Spiral is by recognizing you’re in it and empathizing with your spouse’s core vulnerability. It’ll take a lot of intentionality because it’s difficult to relate to your spouse’s core vulnerability since it’s not the same as yours. Also, it means you’ll have to step up and be compassionate to your spouse when you least feel like it.
Understanding what your spouse is feeling and why they’re feeling it allows you to speak into their fear or shame and provide reassurance. This shifts the focus of the argument from the what to the why and enables you to have a more authentic and productive outcome. While you can’t avoid fear and shame altogether, you can transform them into an opportunity for connection.
Do This For Your Wife:
Routinely connect with her at these four crucial times during the day:
When you wake up in the morning
Before you leave for the day
When you return for the day
Before you go to bed
Open your heart and mind to her, let her in. (Be vulnerable and share your feelings.)
Have sex regularly. (This is how they feel most connected to you.)
Be physically affectionate every day. (A kiss, a hug, a hand massage, a butt slap…)
Catch him doing something right! Acknowledge and appreciate what he does for you. If you feel like complaining about something he’s NOT doing or doing “wrong,” remember: Behind every complaint, blame or criticism is a desire.Your husband really does want to please you. So cut to the chase and tell him your desire instead of your complaint:
“I love it when you…”
“Thank you for…”
“It makes me feel supported when you…”
“I really appreciate…”
Connection is the Cure
The good news: You won’t need to talk about your feelings if you already feel connected. The Fear/Shame spiral is a sign of disconnection. So if an issue arises when you’re already feeling connected, it’ll be less likely to trigger that fear or shame. The tension can be managed easier, with less hostility and more sensitivity to each other’s vulnerabilities.
Life is messy, chaotic, and we are not perfect people… which means disconnection is inevitable. But when that fear and shame sneak back into our marriage, I’m confident that we will now recognize it and stop the spiral by reconnecting.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/AdobeStock_140431758-scaled.jpeg13672048Tamara Slocumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngTamara Slocum2021-08-24 12:26:562021-08-30 13:11:06The #1 Thing That Can Secretly Ruin Your Marriage
You won't believe how it benefits you, your spouse, and your relationship!
Compassion is important in marriage!
Did you know that there’s a whole science behind compassion in relationships? Seriously! Ok, bear with me, even if you’re not a researchy-geek like me (I promise I won’t make this sound like your high school chemistry book.) Because compassion is majorly important in marriages, even more so than you might think. And research has a lot to say about it.
Just like anything sciency, it’s essential to define terms well. And sometimes compassion, empathy, and sympathy get mixed up. Let’s untangle that.
Sympathy = You share the same feelings or experiences with someone else. They hurt, you hurt. You can sympathize.
Empathy = You don’t share the same feelings or experiences, but you choose to imagine what it might be like. They hurt; you don’t but can put yourself in their shoes. You can empathize.
And then we come to compassion. This is when you empathize/sympathize with someone (say, your spouse), and you’re prompted to show kindness in their situation.
They hurt. You empathize/sympathize. You say something to lift their spirits. Compassion!
So, sympathy/empathy are only the beginning of compassion. One study even suggests being empathetic is good to a point, but it can actually affect you negatively unless it’s followed up by compassion.1
So compassion is more than a feeling. (Classic rock fans, anyone?) Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, compassion isn’t really beneficial unless it’s put into action. One researcher describes compassionate acts as “caregiving that is freely given.”2
Think about this in your marriage.
No matter what your spouse experiences, good days or bad, you can:
Y’all…we should be doing this all the time in our marriage!
Why? (Here we go with the science again…) Research3 tells us compassion is good for you, your spouse, and your marriage!
Compassion toward a spouse predicts higher levels of daily relationship and life satisfaction for both people. (Don’t miss this: happiness in marriage goes up on a daily basis! Who doesn’t want that?)
Compassionate acts benefit the emotional and mental well-being of the person receiving them (in this case, your spouse).
The person who is acting compassionately toward their spouse also experiences a positive effect on their well-being, even if the spouse doesn’t necessarily recognize the compassionate act!
Bottom line:Compassionate acts do a marriage good.
It makes you a better spouse. It makes your spouse a better person. And it makes your marriage more loving, intimate, and strong.
Let’s consider one more reason why compassion might be one of the most important qualities in marriage. No matter who you are, most of us would agree that the world could always use a little more compassion. What if the real power of compassion in our world begins with compassionate action in our marriages and families? We know kindness is contagious.4 As they say: as families go, so goes the world.
So, inject some compassionate action into your marriage — for your spouse, for you, for the world.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-1-01-2.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-08-10 09:45:532021-08-24 14:34:41Why Compassion is One of the Most Important Qualities in a Healthy Marriage
I think one partner in every marriage has heard or thought the phrase, “You don’t care.” I’ve learned to interpret that in my own marriage like this: I’m not showing any compassion.
Compassion is where empathy meets action.
It’s the difference between caring and showing care. You want your spouse to know you can feel their pain, and you’re willing to do something about it. And studies show that you’re better off for showing compassion whether your spouse acknowledges it or not.
Do you want to be more compassionate to your spouse? Sure you do! Here are some tips.
Put your energy into understanding.
Compassion starts with listening for understanding. Listen, not for how you can fix it or be right, but to understand your spouse’s thoughts, emotions, and desires. The Gottman Institute’s research tells us, “Most of the time, when your mate (or anyone) comes to you with an issue that has made them upset, they don’t immediately ask for advice. They are silently asking for your understanding and compassion. They want to feel that you are on their side.”
Action: Respond in a way that demonstrates you understand or that you want to better understand. Avoid trying to fix the issue.
Step outside of yourself.
Things affect people differently. You may not react to disappointment, pain, or betrayal the way your spouse would. If you respond differently than your spouse, try laying your preferences down and allowing your spouse to be true to themselves. Accept them as they are and support them.
Action: Validate your spouse through words, physical affection, and comfort.
Never forget: your spouse is human, too.
He’s your husband. She’s your wife. The parent of your children. Your knight in shining armor. Your queen. All that may be true. But they are also a person with emotions, ups and downs, disappointments, and unrealistic expectations at times. They make mistakes, and they might have a lapse in judgment here or there. In other words, we all have our imperfections. Treating a spouse as though they shouldn’t make mistakes will block compassion.
Action: Give your partner space to be human. Give them grace when things don’t go their way. Avoid placing unrealistic expectations of perfection on them. Don’t treat them like a title: husband/wife, parent, provider. Instead, treat them like they’re your favorite human on the planet.
Stop what you’re doing and go “all-in.”
Sometimes when your spouse is having a difficult time, you have to just turn the TV off. Silence those cell phone notifications. Cancel a social outing. Remind your spouse that the world can go on, but right now, “my world is stopping until you get what you need from me.” Do this before there’s a panic attack, nervous breakdown, or an explosion of pent-up anger.
Action: Ask, “What do you need from me at this very moment?”
Each of you brings different strengths and tendencies to the relationship. Our tendencies can sometimes leave us vulnerable to mistakes. For instance, your go-getter spirit can cause you to overcommit your time, which causes stress. Your kindness can allow others to take advantage of you. You often have the choice to criticize or be compassionate toward your spouse.
Criticism will help point out all their “flaws.” Compassion will look for ways to cover their blind spots.
Action: Be the spouse that recognizes blind spots. And with a generous spirit, help fill the gaps. For example, be the friend to your spouse that they are to others. Do a little more housework when your spouse is stressed.
Pillow talk and morning coffee…
Compassion is at its best when we intimately know the recipient of our compassion, a.k.a. spouse. We don’t learn them through osmosis. Sometimes the only way to get the answer to being more compassionate is to talk about it. This is the perfect kind of conversation to have at night while lying in bed.
Action: Give your spouse undivided attention before bedtime or during morning coffee. Ask, “What does the word compassion mean to you?” What does compassion look like to you? What do I do that makes you feel cared for or understood?”
Sometimes we can be our kindest, most understanding selves toward strangers, but I’m here to tell you: it should be the other way around. The ones closest to us should be the first recipients of our compassion. Admittedly, it takes intentionality. Remember that your favorite human is the one you said “I do” to. And now that you remember it, treating them like it will help them believe they really are your favorite.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-1-01-1.png5001200Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-08-10 09:30:092021-08-24 13:47:36How to Be More Compassionate to Your Spouse
A solid foundation can help couples handle whatever comes their way.
Our closest friends just got married. My wife and I grabbed dinner with them a few weeks ago, and it reminded me of how fun (and frustrating) the newlywed phase of marriage can be. Our friends are clearly in a season of re-learning everything they thought they knew about marriage and each other. Seeing this reminded me of just how uncomfortable the first few years of marriage can be and how NORMAL it is for couples to struggle.
So, without further ado, here are 13 tips for newlyweds (gathered from experts, therapists, and research) to help couples navigate the first few years of marriage.
1. Listening is key.
I can’t express enough how crucial healthy communication is. It’s foundational to any relationship. Remember, communication has two parts: speaking and listening. Listening is vital in communication. Become a better listener and tune in to your spouse.
2. You won’t always agree, and that’s ok.
You’re not going to see eye to eye on everything. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. I strongly suggest coming to a mutual agreement on big things like significant purchases, career choices, family size, and holidays. But in small things, it’s ok to disagree.
3. You’re both going to grow.
A wise leader once told me, “You’ll be the same person in five years as you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet.” Basically, what you learn and who you build relationships with will mold who you become. You’re both going to grow. You’ll be different people in five, 10, or even 25 years. Grow together and encourage each other’s growth.
4. You both may see the world differently.
You and your spouse have different life experiences that shape your worldview. My wife and I grew up in different countries and cultures, so we see the world differently. But we try to see the world through each other’s lenses.
Dating keeps you connected. Get creative with your dates. It doesn’t always have to be dinner and a movie. And it doesn’t always have to be in the evening. Schedule dates, put them on the calendar, and prioritize that time together. (Need some date ideas? Check out http://firstthings.org/date.)
7. Make sex a priority.
Talk about it. Schedule it. And do it. Sexual intimacy actually increases the emotional intimacy in your marriage. You both may have different sex drives, and that’s ok. Again, talk about it. Sex is an essential part of your marriage. (Check out our course, MARRIAGE COURSE | Discover Deeper Intimacy In Your Marriage!)
8. Boundaries are crucial.
In-laws, social media, opposite-sex friends, technology, money, friends… the list goes on and on. Boundaries matter, and they aren’t bad. Think of them as guardrails. They’re there to keep you on the road and going in the right direction. Talk about them and establish them together.
9. Conflict will happen.
Your marriage is made up of two imperfect people. Conflict is gonna happen. One of you may see conflict as a sport; the other may avoid it at all costs. You can’t make conflict disappear, but you can learn to manage it in a healthy way.
10. Assume the best about your spouse.
Your spouse may do something that bothers you or hurts you. Don’t assume they did it on purpose. You are both learning about each other. Assume the best and give them grace.
11. Be your spouse’s #1 cheerleader.
Your spouse has goals. Talk about their goals and find ways to support them as they work to achieve them.
12. Be committed.
Your wedding day shouldn’t be the only day you define your commitment. It’s a daily choice that you make known to your spouse.
13. Have fun, and lots of it.
Maybe it’s dancing in the kitchen, playing games, being goofy, or having Nerf gun wars. Whatever it is, make your marriage fun.
The first five years of marriage can be uncomfortable and beautiful all at the same time. Whether you’re a newlywed yourself or you have newly married couples in your life, these 13 tips can go a long way to help newlyweds build a solid foundation for the rest of their lives together.