We're just going to say it plainly because it's true: Nobody is perfect! You didn't marry the angel of perfection you thought you were getting - and neither did your spouse. When the honeymoon ended and the glow of your first year together dimmed, you began to see your partner more realistically. You rubbed each other the wrong way occasionally. Probably not because you wanted to, but because your differences and flaws were beginning to show more clearly.
Let's face it: The only one who could be a perfect spouse is Jesus, Himself. Your mate is going to make mistakes, and so are you. And you're occasionally going to annoy each other or make each other angry. We're human. But you don't have to let those imperfections and differences ruin your relationship! So we want to coach you on how to learn to celebrate your differences - instead of focusing on the negatives.
Many people believe that their spouse looks at life the same way they do, but that's usually not the case. If you don't understand your mate's way of thinking it can lead to assumptions and misunderstandings when they react out of their perspective of life and not your perspective.
When you see your spouse's personality in a deeper way, you can see your differences as a blessing! You are meant to complement each other. That's why it's so important to learn and practice unconditional love in your marriage.
Grace. Affirmation. Safety. Time. Study. All are keys to unconditional love and acceptance. Here's a checklist to help you begin to measure how you are doing in each of these areas:
- Where do I need to show some grace, real grace, to the person I married? Where do I need to let go and let God do His thing with my spouse?
- Who needs my words of affirmation more than anyone in my life? Is it easier for me to affirm my kids and my friends than it is for me to affirm my spouse?
- What are we doing to build safety into our marriage so we can take the risks to love unconditionally?
- When was the last time we took time to go deeper with each other? Are we making time to connect with each other daily?
- Am I studying my spouse? Do I know his or her strengths as well as his or her weaknesses? Am I helping to build on the former and strengthen the latter so that I can best become one with my mate?
These are tough questions. Building a great marriage is not easy. As we've said before: True love doesn't always take place on a romantic balcony. Sometimes it takes place on a battlefield.
Another thing you have to consider is this: People change. Very few of us have the same figure or physique we had on our wedding day as we walked down the aisle. And even if you can still fit into your tuxedo on your tenth anniversary, you're not the same person you were when you stood at the altar. You may have a few wrinkles or an extra chin that didn't show up on your wedding photographs. That jet black hair you had may be well on its way to gray or white. Or maybe it's disappearing altogether.
In whatever ways you and your spouse change with age, one thing about you should never change: your unconditional acceptance of one another. By accepting your spouse completely at every stage of life - wrinkles, gray hair, love handles, and all - you show him or her unconditional love.
But aging is only part of the issue. Other changes occur in ways that are not as natural and are often more difficult to deal with. What happens when the person you married is no longer the person you married? Old age takes its toll, but so do unexpected illnesses and injuries. You may have also discovered that your starry-eyed expectations for your spouse were a tad unrealistic. Or you now see a side of your spouse you were blind to when you were courting. He isn't the corporate-ladder-climbing entrepreneur you expected him to be. After the kids were born, she never regained her girlish figure as you hoped. The social butterfly you dated has turned into a homebody.
On top of all that, you now realize that your spouse is human, not an angel. He or she makes mistakes, forgets things occasionally, and is sometimes short-tempered with you. How do you handle these disappointing changes and unwelcome surprises, great and small?
When you are trying to accept your spouse, try to remember how God responds to us in our weaknesses and failure. We are painfully aware of our own fumbling and bumbling as his children. But consider these passages from God's Word describing God's heart towards saints who are not always saintly:
- Psalm 103:1-3 (NLT), "Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases."
- Psalm 103:8-10 (NLT), "The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve."
- Psalm 130:3-4 (NLT), "Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you."
- Ephesians 1:7-8 (NLT), "He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding."
- 1 John 1:9 (NLT), "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."
How does God respond to us in our imperfection? He doesn't look down his nose at us. He doesn't condemn us or ridicule us. He doesn't distance himself from us. He doesn't compare us to someone who may be more disciplined or mature. He accepts us, just as we are, warts and all. How can he do it? The apostle Paul wrote, "Be kind to each other, tenderhearted forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32). God forgives you and accepts you because you are in Christ.
How does it make you feel to know that God loves you unconditionally, even when you may have trouble loving yourself? It's a great feeling, isn't it? This is how your spouse feels when you accept him or her despite his or her changes, imperfections and failures. What a privilege to serve our spouses as Christ has served us.
So, here's the drill today. Think about which areas you need to be less critical and more accepting of your spouse. Maybe it's your spouse's appearance, behavior, or weaknesses.
Then, take the ten minute challenge. Set a timer for ten minutes and write down all the positives you can think of about your spouse in that time. Then either carry the list with you or put it up somewhere you can see it - to remind you of all the things you love about your spouse.
Take the risk. Ask God to help you love and accept your spouse unconditionally. Love your mate even if he or she annoys you, even if he or she disappoints you, even if he or she doesn't deserve your love. Love your spouse with the kind of love that Christ shows you.
Published February 23, 2009
Portions of this article were adapted from "The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women," Copyright 2000 and "Renewing Your Love," Copyright 2003 by Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg, all rights reserved. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., www.tyndale.com. To order this resource or to find our more about Dr. Gary and Barb - Your Marriage Coaches, visit www.drgaryandbarb.com or call 1-888-608-COACH.
Married over 30 years, the parents of two adult daughters and five grandchildren, Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg, your marriage coaches, have a unique blend of insight and wisdom that touch people of all ages. Together with Gary's 25,000 hours of counseling experience and Barbara's gift of encouragement and biblical teaching, they are equipping thousands of families across the nation through their interactive daily radio program, conferences, and marriage and family.