Women are not the only ones who need to take their primary needs to God in the relationship. If a husband is expecting his wife to be his all in all, he, too, will be disappointed. She can only give so much. He must look to God, his Heavenly Father, for his affirmation, sense of worth, and validation as a man. As he becomes certain of who he is in God's eyes, he won't depend on his wife to fill a hole in his soul.

Marriage is tough. It shows us how selfish we tend to be. It shows us how much we need God to mend the brokenness in our lives. It shows us how far we really need to go when it comes to being Christ-like in our individual lives and in our marriage. But when we get a glimpse of what God wants to do in and through each of us to help us become more like Himself, we find we have an awesome privilege and responsibility in front of us in this arena called marriage.

To be part of God's work in our spouse's life is to say "God, not what I need, but what my spouse needs. Use me to build up and encourage my spouse and make him (or her) the person you want them to be." When we say "Not what I need, but what my spouse needs" we are, in a sense, imitating Jesus' prayer shortly before going to the cross, in which He said to His Father: "Not my will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:39). Jesus was literally giving up His life for ours. So can we, then, be willing to give up our own comforts, needs, and expectations for the other?

There is no more direct way to draw your spouse's heart toward yours than to put yourself on the shelf and say "not my will, but yours."  

  • Not my choice of a restaurant tonight, but yours.
  • Not my choice of a movie this time, but yours.
  • Not my night to have uninterrupted sleep, but yours.
  • Not my story to dominate the conversation, but yours.  
  • Not my feelings to protect today, but yours.
  • Not my dream to pursue right now, but yours.

As you develop a habit of putting the other person first, you may be surprised to find that the phrase eventually becomes "not my ______, but ours."

Can you leave yourself on the shelf long enough to truly put your husband or wife first? It doesn't come natural. At times, it doesn't come easy. But it does bring priceless - and precious - results. You will end up drawing your hearts closer together. 

Published on January 6, 2010

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and the author of several books including When Women Walk Alone, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, and Women on the Edge.  This article is based on her book When Couples Walk Together, which she co-authored with her husband, Hugh, a pastor.   For more on their Southern California-based ministry or for free resources on troubleshooting your marriage connection, see www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.