Never Alone: 5 Thoughts on Marital Responsibility and Commitment

I love talking to couples. Marriage fascinates me as not only do I want to learn more to bless other couples, I want to glean so that my marriage can grow.

My “go-to” question for couples is simple: “What do you know now that you wish you would’ve known before you got married?

I’ll admit, there are two types of couples that I love to ask that question to. The First couple is an older couple that has, minimally, 40 years of marriage. Their answers have shaped me and challenged me as their answer has so much depth to it. I hear things like “my son’s ball game should have been more important to me” or “don’t stop dating each other.” With so many years experience, their answers are more than initial thoughts. There are depths to understanding the importance of what you do today and how they shape your tomorrow. The second couple I love to inquire of are newlyweds. Their answer helps me know what to emphasize in premarital counseling. Often, communication is the initial answer. But after that, personal habits and the things connected to their spouses upbringing comes up.  Young couples take for granted what he and she are bringing into the marriage from their past/family history.

So back in March, I was hosting a Ty and Rebecca Buckingham to speak at Kfirst (BTW: buy their book). And like always, since I had their attention in the car, I decided to ask “the question.” Rebecca’s answer was priceless.

“I’m the only one that can be Ty’s wife.”

That’s more than a nice sentiment. For a young couple, that is an unbelievable revelation. It’s not an overly spiritualized, predestined approach to say, “From the beginning of time, I had no choice as I was predetermined by God to be stuck…er…blessed with Ty.” In one sentence, there is a realization of responsibility and commitment as to say, “when I made my vows to him, I made a covenant to take on a role that refuse to allow anyone else to play.”

What if you and I held that stance? What if we looked at our marriage and said, “I am the only one that can be (insert spouse’s name) wife/husband”? What does this mean?

I own my spouse’s needs.
There’s a massive difference between needs and wants (which can be its own blog) so PLEASE know the difference!!! But in a marriage covenant, I am assuming responsibility over the needs that my wife has. This fact shouldn’t be taken to an extreme of thinking we are at the “beck and call” of anything they ask for. In the same breath, we shouldn’t go to the other extreme of ignoring needs that we just don’t want to deal with.

I don’t outsource what I am equipped (or need to be equipped) to do.
When my spouse has a need, I own that need. In other words, I keep it on my radar as to make sure I can position it to be met. I don’t outsource my spouse’s needs (spiritual, physical, mental, emotional) that I’m equipped to meet nor to I see her needs as something I can defer to someone else. When Anne has a need, I start with me first. If I can’t meet it, the question comes up, “Should I be able to meet that?” If so, there’s some marital development that I need to do. The needs of marriage are what keeps me in a state of growth and health. Constant outsourcing of my spouses needs isn’t marital care but a delegation of responsibility so I don’t have to personally change. My spouses needs should start with me.

I position needs, I don’t defer them.
I recognize that there are some “needs” that are going to be met by people other than my spouse. That’s fine, but we take ownership of those needs as to position each other for them to be met. If I own (take responsibility) Anne’s needs, I can(take responsibility) own the answer to them. For example, if she needs to have time with her friends, instead of me guilting her over the time she’ll spend with them, I can encourage it. Why? I’m taking responsibility for her needs. I enjoy experiencing and watching sports. She encourages me to be with friends who enjoy the same thing as to help me find enjoyment and leisure. So instead of dictating how our needs are met, we own each other’s needs and make sure each other is in position to have them met. My spouse doesn’t need my permission; my spouse needs my unity. Because, according to Psalm 133, where there is unity,  God “commands his blessing.”

I own our issues. 
Far too often, I speak with people who are dealing with the issues of their marriage WITHOUT their spouse. Why? Because of statements like, “That’s your problem not mine” or “You’re the one with the issue.” So instead of owning the issues, we either allow our spouse to deal with it on our own or we want someone else to come along side of them.

The statement that says, “I am the only one that can be (insert spouse’s name) wife/husband” is a statement of “We.” It’s saying that if you have a problem, we have a problem. Why? Because the “two become one.” It doesn’t mean that I have the answer for everything, but it’s refusing to have your spouse feel abandoned in the midst of conflict or offense. “If you are going through something, we go through it together.”

I’m in this for the long-haul.
Lastly,  Rebecca’s response is a reminder that marriage more than a promise made at an altar but daily decision. The statement brings both focus and determination to every single day. It says, “Today is a new day, a fresh start, and a new opportunity to be the spouse I need to be.” It perfectly mimics the faith journey with Christ. We don’t just “set it and forget it.” It is a daily decision to follow Christ. It’s a daily decision to lay down selfish ambitions and to walk in oneness.

My challenge to you today: Make that determination to look at your spouse and say, “I’m the only one that can be her/his spouse.” Own his/her needs. Refuse to let him/her feel alone. Make the daily commitment to journey together.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encouraging my effort.
Celebrating our progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: My new book of my blogs came out. Click on the image to order yours!!

Marriage Blog: “It’s just not me.”

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We’ve all used it to get out of things we don’t want to do.

“Do you want to ride the roller coaster?” “No. It’s just not me.”
“Do you want to try escargot?” “No.  It’s just not me.”
“Do you like country music? “No. It’s just not me.

It’s kind of our nice way of telling people that we have absolutely no interest in what they are offering.  As long as you say it in a nice tone, it’s amazing the stuff it can get you out of.  It’s like a “get out of jail free card” for moments in public places.

FreeJail

Sadly, it’s a line used to often in marriage.  If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times.  I have heard the line used all over the place and in numbers of situations.  Casual conversations with couples, in small groups, dining, counseling…well, you get the picture.  I’ve heard it too much

“All he/she wants to do is talk…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants to get all romantic…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants to be involved in volunteering together…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants is sex…it’s just not me.”
“He/she is more the disciplinarian for the kids…it’s just not me.”
“Well that’s just his/her thing…it’s just not me.”

thats not me

cop out  n. An excuse designed to shirk responsibility.

That’s all this line really is…a cop out.  It’s the marital line we use to shirk responsibility of being an “other-centered” husband/wife that serves our spouse.  (as I type this, I’ve noticed there has been a common thread being woven through my latest blogs…And that thread is simply being a spouse ready to take up not just the JOY but the responsibility of serving our husband/wife.)

We live in such a self-centered ego-driven manipulative culture that is fascinated in pleasuring self.  As blunt as it sounds it’s completely true.

“I have to receive something for me to be happy.”
“What do I get in return if I do what you want?”
“If I get what I want, then you can get what you want.”
“I don’t feel like it. He/she just has to deal with it.”

We feel entitled to have our own needs met with little thought what our spouses needs are.  We justify our actions by calling their “needs”  as “wants” as to calm our conscience.  It is no wonder why people start emotional and physical affairs.  We send out our spouses empty and thirsty and we get upset when someone has stepped up to the plate to fill them up.  Note: I’m not giving ANYONE the excuse for having an affair.  Affairs are wrong no matter how you package them (Matthew 5:27-30).  But as a spouse, we cannot empower what the enemy is wanting to do in our marriage by neglecting our spouse as well as give our significant other an excuse to go looking for attention elsewhere.

Proverbs 5:18-19 Bless your fresh-flowing fountain! Enjoy the wife you married as a young man!  Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose – don’t ever quit taking delight in her body. Never take her love for granted!

This last part is what this blog is all about. The longer we are with someone (we’ve been married for 16 years + dated for 3 years) the more apt we are to taking them (their wants and needs) for granted.  We assume too much and neglect them.  I would love to assume I’ve never given the excuse “it’s just not me”, but honestly, I think I used it last weekend when she wanted to go for a “romantic walk” on a beach and I was comfortable in the shade.  I’ll say it this way: the more we put off our spouse, the more we push away our spouse.  It could be a walk, a conversation, a date, sex, or a simple cup of coffee, but to ignore them is to take them for granted. And to take them for granted is to stifle the love and passion in your marriage.

Be a listener to your spouse.  Then take that next step from being a listener to serving your spouse.  Get past the “it’s not me” phase and realize, if you are married, whether you like it or not, IT IS YOU! Never take your spouse for granted.

Thanks for letting me ramble…