“I wish I had more friends,” I told my husband one afternoon. We had moved to a new state during tight COVID-19 shutdowns, and I just hadn’t had the opportunity to meet a lot of people.
“So what are you going to do about it?” he responded. Annoyed at the question, I mentally replied that I would just blame my circumstances forever and be a hermit. I didn’t want to expend any effort to make friends because I was scared to put myself out there. What if people rejected me? It felt safer to wait for someone else to do the work to be my friend.
“If you keep doing the same thing expecting different results, you’re going to be disappointed,” he said. He challenged me to go up to at least one friendly looking lady at church or our small group and ask for her phone number and a coffee date. He gave me a little nudge to leave my comfort zone, and without it I may never have budged.
Like me, sometimes your spouse may want to do something different, or see a different result in their life, but they need a little encouragement to step out of their comfort zone and take that first step. There are many reasons your spouse may be hesitant to leave the familiar and try something new — even if they really want to. Here are a few scenarios.
Fear is standing in your spouse’s way
I was letting the fear of rejection prevent me from taking a step toward making a friend. Your spouse might also be letting fear dictate their next moves. Maybe they want to apply for that promotion or accept a speaking engagement but they are too afraid because there is a chance of failure.
Fear can be paralyzing because of the unknowns ahead. But as Christians we can gently remind our spouses that we follow a God who goes ahead of us and knows every outcome. We can trust that if we are seeking Him, even in the worst-case scenario, He will carry us through it.
Psalms 34:4-5 says, “I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed.”
Your spouse doesn’t have an accurate view of their potential
Sometimes our spouses don’t have an accurate view of themselves. Maybe they want to try leading a small group or coaching a Little League team but don’t think they can do it well. Or they want to switch careers but don’t think they can learn a new set of skills. They may not see their natural giftings, or fully believe in themselves due to insecurities they carry.
This creates the perfect opportunity for you as a spouse to love and encourage them by telling them what you perceive as their gifts and about the natural ways you see God using their gifts.
Some of the opportunities your spouse may need encouragement to pursue include:
- Changing careers.
- Starting a new ministry or volunteering at a new place.
- Reaching out to a new friend.
- Moving to a different city or state.
- Trying again after failure.
- Going back to school.
- Attending counseling.
- Having confrontation.
- Asking for forgiveness.
- Becoming a foster parent.
- Going on a mission trip.
There are endless things that might require your spouse to leave their comfort zone — things that put them on the fence between staying safe and finding potential greatness.
What can you do?
Rather than assuming your spouse’s wants, find out what they really desire. One of the best ways to start a conversation is to ask an open-ended question that will help you both better understand their internal debate on leaving their comfort zone.
Let’s say your spouse wants to be more involved at church but feels unsure. A question like, what do you think your spiritual gifts are? might help them reach the conclusion that they are a good teacher and should volunteer in that way. If they do not know what their gifts are, you could suggest taking a SHAPE test, or other personality strengths test. You can even take it together and both come up with better ways of using your gifts!
Other questions you can ask include:
- Why do you think you are hesitating to take this opportunity?
- What is one step you can take towards achieving that goal?
- What will happen if you don’t take that step out of your comfort zone? What will happen if you do?
- Is there another option that would be a better fit for you and your skill set?
What do you think the Lord wants you to do? How can you find out?
Lovingly sharing what you see as their potential may do wonders for their self-esteem and desire to try something new. Provide examples of times you have seen them use their skills well. Let them know what you think they are capable of — especially in a new area they are considering.
For example, if you were impressed by the sound of their voice when they went all out singing in the car, tell them. Let them know they have potential to sing in the Christmas choir that they have been tempted to try out for. Telling your spouse about the things you notice them doing well may just spur them on to advance the kingdom of God by using their gifts to fulfill a role that God made them for. In this way, you implement Hebrews 10: 24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds… even more as we see the Day approaching.”
Leave it up to them
Ultimately it is your spouse’s choice to step out of their comfort zone. It is important that you let them choose to stay where they are if they desire. You can’t and shouldn’t control what your spouse does. All you can do is encourage them when possible.
In the end…
When my husband encouraged me to actively pursue friendship instead of just complaining, it helped me to see that stepping out of my comfort zone was something he thought I could do. And with that encouragement, I was able to get to know more women from church and even asked my next-door neighbor to grab coffee with me. I am so glad that I did because I now have more community!
Your spouse may need some encouragement to do something that is on their heart. By sharing how you believe in their potential and being willing to help them be who God intended them to be, you provide the courage they need to step out in faith. And when they are on the other side, they will be so grateful you said something positive to help them get there.