In this podcast, I am not talking about an abusive marriage where you need to contact civil authorities or your spiritual authority to help bring change to your spouse and your marriage. I am talking about living with a person who can be rude, harsh, preoccupied, silent, or disappointing in other ways. BTW, we all are like this in an “episodic way.”
But your spouse is somewhere between being downright mean all the time and episodes of being disappointing sometimes. He’s a person caught in bad patterns that leave you despairing at times.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (7 words for the caught person and 33 to the helper)
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. – Galatians 6:1-5
Your most significant call to action is to guard your heart and tongue. If your spouse chooses foolishness, the onus is on you to be Christlike. A person who thinks and acts foolishly may not change or change soon, but their resistance to God’s Word does not prohibit you from living it out before them.
The question becomes, “What does that look like to be Christ to an unchanging spouse?” There are two templates in the New Testament. One is Galatians 5:22-23 and the other is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. You examine yourself against those two templates.
As for responding to your spouse, there are no clear-cut answers because our interactions with others fall under the big umbrella of “wisdom issues.”
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. – Proverbs 26:4-5
In many situations where one person is controlling, the other spouse can fall prey easily to the “noise” that is coming from the dominating person’s spouse. Paul gives us a filter through which to run every person’s words. It is in Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Here is a sample mind map on how to do this. And this article on taking your thoughts captive is helpful, too. The Philippians text is one of the most solid outside objectives standards by which to weigh a person’s words.
As for helping the caught person, you want to find those “civil times” when he’s not being arrogant, foolish, or shutting you down from communicating. Ask the Lord to give you those moments and then the courage to step into them to help him.
I have dozens of articles on the change process, and I wholeheartedly recommend them to you. Scroll through those articles, asking the Lord to highlight the ones that you need to apply to yourself and the ones that you can share with your spouse during those civil times.
The best thing that you could do is read my book, “Change Me – The Ultimate Life-Change Handbook” together. If you both would spend six months going through this book together, it would take your marriage to a new and better place.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).