Most women would love for their husbands to be at church more often. But for me, my husband's enthusiasm for serving the church was a problem. Sometimes my husband, Roger, was there three to four times a week — working on the lighting, attending a meeting to plan the Sunday morning worship service, helping set up the new sound system or doing any of the hundreds of other tasks that kept the technical side of our church running. And I resented every single minute of it.
I honestly thought that for me to be content in our marriage, my husband had to change. It took me a long time and a lot of wasted energy to realize that I was the one who needed to change. It was up to me to see my husband and his talents as God saw them.
Recognizing the gift
The whole time I'd known Roger, he'd been one of the most talented and dedicated volunteers our church had ever seen. I knew that serving our congregation and church staff brought Roger much joy. But I fully expected that when Roger and I married, he would change and spend more time with me. And he did cut back at church — to two or three nights a week. But that wasn't enough.
My first approach was hinting: "Wouldn't it be great to spend some time together this evening?"
My next tactic was nagging: "I wish you would be home at night. Couldn't they do without you just this one time?"
After that, it was guilt: "But don't you want to spend time with me?" (How could any man safely answer no to his wife on that question?)
And finally, I played the martyr: "I don't understand why I have to be the only one here at night to make dinner, do the laundry, pay the bills."
Before I met Roger, I had promised myself I was never going to be that person who fell in love with someone and then spent all my time trying to change him, but that's exactly what I was doing. And it wasn't working.
Yes, he cut back on his time spent serving . . . and was miserable for it. Part of the reason I fell in love with Roger was his amazing passion for helping others — and I was the one keeping him from doing what he was designed to do.
Psychologist Georgia Shaffer says, "In our relationships, we often hold tightly to the illusion that if we say this or do that, our spouse will suddenly wake, see the error of their ways and change. What usually happens, however, is we end up disappointed, frustrated and even resentful."
One of the greatest gifts I could give my husband was not only to accept who he was, but also to celebrate it. I needed to stop whining and start recognizing what God was doing in Roger's life.
When I saw beyond my own desires, I was able to come alongside my husband to encourage him. How about you? Are you trying to change your spouse, or are you helping your spouse discover and fulfill God's plans for his or her life? Here are a few ways you can encourage your spouse to be the person God created him or her to be:
Speak affirmation. You can look for opportunities to tell your husband or wife when you recognize his or her talents. An email, text or even a Facebook post saying, "I'm proud of you!" can speak volumes. When a husband knows his wife's got his back, both in the words she speaks and the prayers she offers, he is a more confident employee, church leader and parent. When a wife feels secure in her husband's love and acceptance, it gives her the confidence to follow the plans God placed on her heart.
Is your wife gifted in negotiating or your husband able to fix anything with moving parts? Be sure to recognize those gifts. If friends or family hear you, the compliment means even more.
Create time for his or her passion. Maybe your husband loves learning foreign languages or your wife enjoys biking. Time is one of our most precious commodities, so carving out space on your calendar can seem like writing a check on an overdrawn account. But one of the best ways to show your support is to give your spouse the time and space to pursue his or her passions.
Make it a budget item. I knew my husband supported my desire to write, but when he set aside money for me to buy books and take classes on writing, I had a tangible expression of his support. Of course, supporting your spouse financially is challenging when there is little wiggle room in your budget. But by looking for money-saving opportunities, such as packing a lunch for work, perhaps you can find extra cash to support each other's passions.
Check your motives. Philippians 2:4 says, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." When you have the itch to tweak something in your partner, are you doing it for the right reasons? If you learn to cook healthy and delicious meals because you want your man to live a long life, that's a gift. However, if you want him to drop a few (or several) pounds so he can reach his college weight (you know, the size he was when you fell in love with him), that's another story. Who is the "encouragement" going to benefit? If the answer is you , it's time to reexamine your motives.
Remember why you fell in love in the first place. You know those things you would like to change about your spouse? Most likely those are the same things that made you fall in love with him or her. If your husband seems careless about money and a tad too loud for your liking, I'm guessing he spoiled you a little while you were dating and was the life of the party — qualities you initially fell in love with.
Did the fact that your wife had it all together when you were dating feel like a great match for you? Her ability to stretch one dollar to two and her power to complete projects with amazing accuracy were attractive, right? But now those same traits may be described as "cheap" and "rigid."
I'm choosing to love my husband as is. After all, that is what my husband does for me; and ultimately, isn't that exactly what our Lord does for us every day?Kathi Lipp is the author of The Husband Project: 21 days of loving your man — on purpose and with a plan.