Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to him at: TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
Bad things happen to good people. For as much as we try, relationship problems still happen to the best of people. We can never fully control or manage how our mate will live their life, and let’s face it—how they choose to live their life impacts us. In spite of these difficulties, however, we never have to feel like a victim. We always have choices.
While we can never completely control what comes into our lives, we can choose how we will respond to those circumstances. Even though you cannot control how your mate interacts with you, you can choose how you will respond to your mate.
As we approach the New Year, I want you to feel empowered to have the best year of your life. That requires that you to cast off any tendencies to feel like a victim. A wonderful life requires you to step back, consider your life, and explore how to make it even better—no matter how your mate or family chooses to live their lives.
Why am I challenging you to become empowered? Why do I remind you that you have choices? Because far too many people slip easily into feeling like victims. They blame their difficulties on others. Feeling mistreated, they decide they must settle for being victimized, demeaned and disrespected. Many believe that being a Christian means having to tolerate verbal abuse, alcoholism, shame and disrespect. They falsely believe their only option is to complain.
Consider this email from a discouraged woman.
Dear Dr. David. I’m very frustrated with my life. In fact, I hate my life. Even though I’m married to a Christian man, he doesn’t treat me well. He seems to have grown tired of me, and to tell you the truth, I’m kind of tired of him as well as myself. We don’t do anything exciting, haven’t gone out for the evening for years, and he seems addicted to the television.
My life isn’t any more exciting than his. I usually sit and watch television with him and then we go off to bed in separate bedrooms. Our kids are grown and they don’t have much time for us. My husband and I both work, but both of us dislike our jobs. So, you can see that I don’t have much going for myself. I’m discouraged about my life and don’t know where to start to begin to change things. Do you have any suggestions? ~ Discouraged
While you sound like you have many things to complain about, complaining isn’t going to change your life. You must take a hard look at what is going wrong in your life and marriage and set out to change them. So, let’s get on with it, okay? Here are a few thoughts for you.
You are responsible for your life. God has given you one wonderful life, and you are a steward of it. What are you going to do with it? If you wait for your husband to make you happy, you might be waiting a long time.
Stop being bored and boring. We often feel bored with our lives, but fail to look carefully at our life to see if we are actually bringing boredom into it. It is our responsibility to be interesting and exciting individuals in our marriage. We can’t expect our mate to provide all the energy to cheer us up.
Take action, one step at a time. Thankfully, even small steps can lead to powerful emotional experiences. One small step can make you feel much better. So, get out a piece of paper and make a list of ten simple changes you will make in your life.
Let the changes start with you. Don’t wait for your husband to take the lead as that may never happen. You want things to be better—go for it! You invite your husband to a movie and dinner out. You begin walking every day to get those feel-good neurotransmitters popping. You take up those piano lessons you discontinued years ago.
Invite your husband into the change process. Once begun, ask your husband to join you in revamping your life. See if he won’t get off the couch to participate in that Bible Study group at church, or that small home group. Your positive emotions will be contagious, as surely as disappointment and discouragement are contagious.
Develop long-term personal and relational goals. In addition to setting immediate goals for invigorating your marriage, ask your husband to join you in setting long-term goals for your marriage. What are changes he’d like to see from you, and what changes would you like to see from him? Get excited about making this next year the best in your marriage.
Follow through. The best-laid plans are worthless without follow through. Agree to review your goals every quarter, prepared to revise, update and re-invigorate. Encourage your husband to take a leadership role, but be prepared to co-own the direction of your marriage. Just do it!
Let’s agree to walk into 2009 with our heads held high, our self-esteem intact and our regard for ourselves and our futures filled with possibilities.
Dr. Hawkins is the director of The Marriage Recovery Center, where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You, Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. His newest books are titled The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.
Read more about The Marriage Recover Center on Dr. David Hawkin's website at www.YourRelationshipDoctor.com.
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