How to change your husband
Eleven months ago I married a man who was perfect in every way imaginable...and then we got married. Once you're married, you find out that morning breath is the least of your problems. You discover who the person really is, how motivated they are to pursue those dreams you talked about, and any and all bad habits and annoying tendencies. Worse yet, you realize how impatient you really are. Russell is as close to perfect as any person can be, and yet he still has a flaw or two. When I realized this, I did what any loving, wise, reasonable, calm wife would do: I began nagging.
Who am I kidding?? If you know anything about me, you know that I'm a type-A perfectionist with emotions that rise and fall like the tide. And I looooove to fix things. Things that are broken and things that aren't broken...but if you break them, you can fix them... *eyeroll*
It's pretty hard to be married to me. I don't let things rest. I don't allow the emotions to cool off. I just try to fix things as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, like many married people I know, my "fixing" takes the form of nagging.
He doesn't take the trash out immediately upon request? Nag.
He isn't as enthusiastic as me? Nag.
He doesn't pray as much as me? Nag.
Look, some of the things I nagged about weren't inherently bad. Some of them were good! But fixing a problem through negative means is a negative fix. I know that now...or at least I'm starting to understand.
One of the main things I nagged Russell about was his spiritual development. That sounds so wrong! Look I get it...I'm annoying myself. UGH! I wanted Russell to meet these criteria I came up with:
Be excited about discussing Biblical passages for hours on end
Witness to all of his friends
Lead prayer at home, with our friends, and at church
Those aren't terrible things to ask for, but making MY checklist our "measuring stick of faithfulness" was wrong. You see, I grew up as a preacher's kid. I learned New Testament Greek when I was in elementary school. I competed in Bible drills in Sunday School...and I do not use the word "compete" lightly. But Russell? Russell did not grow up studying the Bible or praying. He has been following the Lord for the last few years, whereas I have been studying the Bible since I learned to read. I was comparing Russell's spiritual growth to mine, and for that I'm so so sorry. That was neither encouraging nor helpful, and I imagine nobody has that type of wife on their wishlist to God.
Regardless if you're married or single, and if you're the husband or wife, hopefully you see some tendencies you can change within yourself as you ponder this post. Or at least, you'll have a post to send to your spouse ;) ;) JK. Really jk.
If you want to change your husband (or wife):
Step #1: Quit nagging.
Cool. That's so easy, right? Except it's not!! Not for "Type-A, crusader for perfectionism, full-time fixer" me. And maybe not for you either. But you have to. You gotta quit nagging, because at the root of nagging is you questioning God's choice for you. When I got married, I believed whole-heartedly that God designed our marriage to enhance our lives in a way singleness never would. God partnered me with a man who was strong in areas where I was weak, and who needed me to be strong in areas where he was weak. I believed that so much that I married a man I knew for less than 2 years. That's nuts, right?? But I trusted God, because He told me that Russell was the one and the time was right.
After that declaration of committed trust, AKA our wedding vows, how did I act? I nagged. My nagging unveiled my fears, as deep down as they were. Nagging showed that I thought Russell had flaws that God didn't know about. Like God couldn't choose my spouse with complete accuracy. Like I was supposed to "fix" God's decision.
But I don't believe that at all. I believe my God is perfect, all-knowing, all-seeing, never erring; and I believe my God loves me and wants the best life for me. If you believe the same about God, you have to quit nagging.
Some of you are thinking: "But Priska, I'm not in a godly marriage. My spouse doesn't believe in God. This doesn't apply to me, right?" Wrong. If you want your spouse to see your faith in God - that same One who loves you and is perfect and all - then you have to quit nagging. Here's why:
For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
That settles it, right? None of us will ever nag again. JK. But really...how are we going to shine as lights in a dark world when we're complaining so much?? A bad attitude will prevent us from reaching people with God's love. So whatever it takes, quit nagging. Even if you have to hand an airhorn to your spouse to honk everytime you nag. That's not at all a joke... You'll be happier and your spouse will be happier! :P It's a win-win.
What do you do with all of the energy you used to spend on nagging?
Step #2: Start praying.
In the last couple of months, I stopped nagging my husband about his spiritual development. Rather, I began to pray. We recently started reading and applying the principles in the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. To be clear, I didn't start reading this book as a back-handed way to get my husband to do what I want. I started reading it because God told me to read it...for me. I needed to pray better prayers - prayers of faith, not prayers of retreat. Prayers to a BIG God, not prayers to a powerless old man perched high in a cloud. After reading the first chapter, I asked my husband if he wanted to join me. He said yes. I was floored! Russell never really enjoys Bible study with me, because of my previously aforementioned hyper-competitive, fix everything, and over-examine it all approach. When Russell said, "Yes", I thought I was dreaming. I asked a second time. He said yes again.
Wow, God! You're already working, and all I did was shut my nagging mouth. Alright, alright!
We've spent several weeks just in chapter 1 learning to fervently pray for our passion for God, His Word and prayer. (Yes, we're praying for better prayers.) The more Russell & I pray together and individually, the more we focus on what God is doing, and the less we focus on what negative things are going on around us. The more we pray, the more we see how to help our friends, family and community. The more we pray, the closer we're drawn to each other. It's an amazing thing being on the same page as your spouse. Russell is my life partner, my best friend, my accountability partner, and my business partner. When we're in sync, life is so easy! The way we've learned to draw near to each other is by first drawing near to God.
Before, my prayers sounded like I was battling against Russell. Now I see, I'm not battling Russell. Rather, Russell & I are joining God's battle against the enemy, who seeks to tear us apart through petty fights that blow up into WWIII in our home. The enemy wants us divided so we do not conquer. But God gave us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us, leading us back to Him. If we are with God, we are together. It is only away from God that thoughts of conflict, anger, isolation, bitterness, winning against each other, and divorce percolate. But life doesn't have to be that way. Together is a good place to be, especially knowing that God designed this life for us long before we drew our first breaths.
God was at work, and my nagging did nothing. Our prayers, however, were changing our lives. Which brings me to step three.
Step #3: Let God change him...and you.
In the last few months, I've quit nagging (or mostly anyway) and we've began praying very specific prayers. As we prayed, we started seeing more and more that God was changing our desires and giving us passion for godly things. Then the craziest thing ever happened. While I was out of town, Russell went to lunch with a group of about 20 friends and acquaintances. A couple of my friends went out of their way to tell me that he led prayer over the meal. I've never seen Russell lead prayer with a group of people. He gets nervous that he'll say the wrong thing. But God was changing him, and this was just the external evidence of internal change.
Here's the part I want you to contemplate:
If you're married: do you nag, whine, and complain when your spouse isn't doing what you want them to do? If you aren't sure, ask your spouse ;)
If you're single: do you nag, whine, and complain when people aren't doing what you want them to do? This post isn't just relevant for married people, because whatever behaviors you have before you get married will be present in your marriage. At home with your roommates or parents, at work with your colleagues, and with your friends...do you nag?
Friend, I'm glad you're here reading this. I want us all to have happy, loving marriages, but we have to work to get there. There's a conscious effort we need to make to give up control over changing our spouses and begin praying for them, not against. Allow God to do the work: in your spouse and in you.
Next time you're tempted to nag him or her to get what you want, think about how prayer could change things. Imagine what amazing things God can do if we allow Him to truly be the Lord of our lives?
Could people around you change? YES!
Could you change? YES!
Could you be happier? YES!
Quit nagging. Start praying. Allow God to change the other person...and you.